Panasonic TH-42PW7 review

This plasma screen's strictly for AV enthusiasts

Our Verdict

The good visual points far outweigh the bad, but not providing a digital connection is hard to forgive

For

  • Can look great with standard-def digital TV and video

Against

  • Bland looks

    Monitor design will not appeal to all

    No digital connectivity

Panasonic's Viera range of designer TVs have wowed everyone with their distinctive design, but it's the brand's hardcore monitor panels which have traditionally set the benchmark in performance. So how does this new 42-incher fare?

Compared with the dramatic attempts to add style to your living room made by most of the other screens in this group, the TH-42PW7 looks bland in the extreme. Its thin silver rectangular frame design is about as exciting as socks.

Suggesting a screen intended more for the boardroom than the living room, the only connection the TH-42PW7 gives you as standard is a single VGA PC input and serial jack. For anything else you have to splash extra cash on slot-in connection modules for three provided bays.

Modules available include ones with composite, component, S-video and Scart connections, with a Scart one usually bundled as standard with a home-use sale.

Unfortunately, there is no digital (DVI or HDMI) module, although dealers have been advertising one as available. Panasonic, however, has denied that this will be the case.

Panasonic made a horrendous cockup with its recent designer Viera plasma TVs by not having them accept the 720p high-def format likely to be used by Sky with its high-def broadcasts.

The 42PW7 accepts this format, but only via analogue component jacks at VGA resolution. The panel's native resolution is a modest 852 x 480 - meaning that all high-definition signals will be scaled down to match the resolution of the panel.

As usual with a Panasonic PDP, the TH-42PW7 boasts an extravagant contrast ratio claim: 4,000:1, although our Tech Labs rate the screen at 195:1 in actual contrast - achieved through the latest incarnation of the company's Real Black Drive system. This system also promises 1,024 shades of gradation.

User adjustments include anti-screenburn measures, picture-in-picture, a black level extender, gamma presets, and adjustment of the red and blue elements of the white balance.

All the familiar picture strengths are present, of which the black level response has the most impact. The set has a naturalistic contrast level that's very beguiling. Also notable is the lack of picture noise.

However, while the TH-42PW7's colours can look spectacular, their tone isn't always entirely convincing. Also, perhaps because of the relatively low screen resolution, the picture isn't the sharpest.

As this is a monitor only design, no speakers are supplied.

The softness of Panasonic's current plasma pictures is becoming apparent in today's high-resolution world, though overall, the good visual points far outweigh the bad. However, not providing a digital connection is hard to forgive - especially as this is likely only be bought by serious AV enthusiasts...