Product Review

Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK 42" Plasma TV

Part II

September, 2006

Ofer LaOr


The remote control is fairly simple and provides discrete access to most of the important functions on the display. I found it a bit hard to navigate with the remote, and it does require some getting used to. The limit on three slots + RGB input literally puts the upper input limit of the display at four inputs, which is not really enough. I would hope that Panasonic either adds more slots or allows several inputs to use a single slot (e.g., a dual HDMI input). HDMI switchers are still a bit expensive (unless your A/V receiver comes integrated with this feature), and almost everything works with HDMI these days.The remote allows for ID selection, which means you can use more than one screen around your house without worrying about causing mayhem when you switch to a particular input.

Audio wise, the display allows for a set of analog stereo inputs for each of the source inputs, but does not decode HDMI audio. In any case, I would strongly advise against routing audio through a plasma display use your A/V receiver instead. 

Aspect ratio control is fairly standard. Panasonic's JUST aspect ratio for fitting 4:3 sources onto its 16:9 frame, works quite nicely. It combines a bit of zoom with non-linear distortion and some top/bottom trimming. The result does lose a bit of detail above and below the image, but the screen appears to be very natural and undistorted. Horizontal pans and tickers did not leave me seasick, which is a good sign. Something strange with the JUST setting is that it behaves quite differently depending on which input is being used. For example, it was nearly unnoticeable with the S-Video input, but was much more pronounced when the component input was in use. 

PIP functionality is pretty simple and generic, but I found the functions to control it overly confusing, and I ended up continually press buttons until it somehow worked and provided me with what I wanted. Panasonic should really rethink their strategy on how to control this feature. 

The color gamut test was quite interesting. Blues are lacking (as usual with plasmas), but are closer to the ideal than any other plasma I have tested thus far. Reds and greens are further out than the ATSC/NTSC standards require, which is good. I'm seeing some improvements to the blue situation with each generation of plasma, but I am quite hopeful they can finally cover the entire ATSC color gamut soon.

The first graph below shows the RGB levels before calibration, and the second one shows RGB levels after calibration. The third graph shows the color gamut.



Panasonic defaults to an S-curve gamma. This type of graph sacrifices black and white level detail by emphasizing mid-level detail. This does bring out better looking pictures (in most people's eyes), but is less accurate and not quite what the video-editor/director of the movie intended.

The default color temperature graph at S-box mode is in a word: terrible. It fluctuates all over the place and requires a significant amount of effort to calibrate.

The gamma curve when the display is set to 2.2 comes out at roughly 1.91. With color temperature set to WARM, the display shows a nice gamma curve with two small bumps at 30 IRE and 50 IRE. The color temperature graph is also a lot more stabile when S-Curve is not in use.

With the screen set to gamma=2.5, I was able to measure 2.16 gamma before calibration and 2.19 after calibration. 

The sharpness filter on the screen should be set to zero, and I consider it this display's worst feature. Using a simple 10 IRE bar graph (HDMI input), sharpness at any point above 0 yields an unwieldy white edge line in between the shades. This will translate into heavy edge enhancement artifacts in real world content, so keep this setting at zero.


In summary, the Panasonic TH-42PHD8 plasma TV is a good display, which can be viewed from up-close, and provides great features at an attractive price point. Its burn protection is smooth and non-intrusive, and delivers a good compromise between functionality and picture quality.

- Ofer LaOr -

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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