Product Review

Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" Plasma TV

Part I

September, 2006

Ofer LaOr



● 42" Diagonal Plasma Flat Panel Display
● Resolution: 1024x768
● Formats Supported: 480i, 480p, 525i,
    525p, 540p, 625i, 625p, 720p, 1035i,
● Inputs: Component, S-Video, Composite;
    HDMI Optional
● Contrast Ratio: 3000:1
● Viewing Angle: 1600
● Half Brightness Life: 60,000 Hours
● PiP, Picture-Next-to-Picture
● Power: 337 Watts, 50/60Hz
● Dimensions: 24" H x 40" W x 3.5" D
● Weight: 69 Pounds
● Street Price: $2,300 USA



The Panasonic TH-42PHD8 is a bit "old", in technical terms, as the new generation 8 and 9 Viera models start coming out soon. Still, this is an interesting display and surely worthwhile to test, especially since this model will probably be available at discount prices when the new ones become available.

The Design

This HDTV (1024 x 768 XGA resolution) plasma has a simple bezel, intended to be less pronounced and flashy than its Viera counterparts. Instead of deciding which inputs might be appealing or important for you, Panasonic simply implemented a built-in VGA input (also capable of receiving RGsB and RGBcvS signals) and three expansion slots. These slots are capable of hosting a large variety of input terminals, including standard inputs (component, S-Video, composite), digital inputs (HDMI, DVI, HD-SDI, SDI), and more exotic ones (wireless connection, SCART input, BNC connections, etc.) 

The user gets three slots to use as he sees fit. Not all input terminal cards will work with all slots (e.g., The HDMI module will only work in slots 1 or 2), and some boards are larger and require two slots (the component/S-Video/ composite board). In my case, I tested the unit with a dual-slot version of component/S-Video/composite module board and a series 8 HDMI module. 

This version of the component module has five BNC connectors. Although series 7 displays could configure this input to behave as a SCART RGBcvS input, the PHD8 refused to do so. It only allowed me to configure it as either component or RGBHV inputs.

Under Test

A major flaw in previous Panasonic HDTV displays was a lack of support for European HDTV standards with its digital HDMI/DVI inputs. 720p50 and 1080i50 are now fully supported on the HDMI input, and in my tests, showed a great image, with no visible judder. 

The 42PHD8 offers a more advanced video processing solution than previous Panasonic displays. SDTV did not comb, even in extreme situations. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of sharpness for SDTV video content. As more and more content is now provided in film mode (3:2 cadence) these days, I would not expect most customers to be bothered by this. I believe Panasonic uses O-plus video processing (recently purchased by Intel). 

The typical noise/grain created by Plasma's time modulation technique for creating intermediate shades of gray was very soft here. The display is not noisy and can be viewed even at extremely short distances without a problem. 

Black levels for the display measured slightly higher (lower is better) than competing displays by NEC and Pioneer. I would expect equivalent Viera models to slightly improve on this. Whites on this model measured somewhat lower than on other displays, contributing to a low 550:1 measured contrast. This occurs due to a protection mechanism in the Panasonic plasma which prevents bright whites from being abused (and abuse is actually what we need to perform accurate measurement).

The panel appears to be capable of 3000:1 contrast ratio, and this mechanism should contribute to a longer panel lifespan and less burn-in situations. On the downside, the panel is virtually incapable of being used in "retina-burn mode", which means it is less than ideal in commercial situations with high ambient lighting. 

A black area between the panel and the gray bezel causes the display to appear quite dark, particularly when the room is dim. The plasma uses an "air filter" like previous models, which does cause a slight reflection when viewing sharply contrasting content at an angle. I had to enhance the image you see here in order to make it more pronounced.

This type of filter is gone in newer plasma panels by other companies, which contributes to higher viewing angles and less light being wasted. In normal conditions, this type of problem would be unnoticeable at normal viewing angles. 

The panel has the typical XGA 1024x768 resolution laid out in 16:9 aspect ratio (pixels are rectangular). This resolution could be accessed at native rate by an external processor through HDMI, but only at 59.94Hz. 

As previously described, the internal processor in this plasma model tends to be overly cautious and assumes video mode when possible to prevent combing. Combining the display with a good DVD player (OPPO 971 or a Panasonic DVD player) running at 720p through the HDMI input, the image is significantly sharper and more detail is brought out. Black level details are pronounced and accurate.

The display really shows off its capabilities when combined with an HDTV source. Both 1080i and 720p are handled beautifully by this set. The detail level on Lilu's face in The Fifth Element (my camera and photographic skills rarely capture a picture that truly illustrates the feel of a particular scene, but I think I succeeded this time) was just plain incredible.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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