Update: this model is also available as the 46 inch TX-P46S10, although we have reviewed the 42 inch model below.
While Panasonic's high-end TVs have been performing extremely well this year, its budget models are more of a mixed bag, so we have no idea what to expect from the mid-range TX-P42S10B.
Externally the P42S10 looks reasonably serious and well-built, but also just a little bit dull. And it's not particularly exceptional when it comes to connections, as we find a fairly routine three HDMIs and no jacks for internet or PC connectivity. On the upside, there is an SD card slot for JPEGs and AVCHD video.
The P42S10B starts to warm us up with a full HD resolution – an extremely rare discovery on a 42in plasma TV. Plus, it boasts 400Hz Sub Field Drive processing, whereby the normal PAL image refresh rate of 50fps is upped to 400fps by adding new frames of data between the actual ones from the source.
Another eye-catching figure is the set's claimed 2,000,000:1 maximum contrast ratio. Admittedly, the set's native (with no dynamic contrast adjustments working) contrast figure is a much lower 30,000:1. But then that still looks pretty tasty versus the native figures of 2,000:1 or less that are still commonplace in the LCD world.
We should point out that the P42S10 is built around Panasonic's 'traditional' plasma technology, rather than the brand's impressive new NeoPDP system, and only has a Freeview tuner onboard.
The pictures prove predictably good, but don't quite achieve greatness. Their biggest strength, of course, is their black level response. Dark scenes in films contain areas that actually look black, while there's still plenty of detail on offer in the shadows.
The P42S10 also looks enjoyably – if not emphatically – sharp and detailed with HD sources, thanks to its V-Real processing and native full HD resolution. What's more, thanks to the 400Hz engine the sharpness isn't diminished by as much judder during motion as you get with cheaper Panasonic plasmas.
While good with HD, however, the P42S10 can look slightly soft when showing standard-definition material. Also, even the engine can't entirely remove judder, and pictures, especially SD ones, can suffer from slightly rogue colour and skin tones.
Finally in the negative column, pictures generally lack brightness versus most LCD rivals, and Panasonic's own, more expensive NeoPDP plasmas. For all their flaws, though, the pictures are good overall.
So it's nice to find them accompanied by some potent, dynamic and lively audio, which combines solid bass levels with a well-rounded midrange and harshness-free trebles.
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