Although it can be found selling surprisingly cheaply if you look around online, Panasonic's P42S30 doesn't exactly 'leap off the shelf' at you. Its design is old-fashioned and chunky, it uses plasma technology rather than the more fashionable LCD technology, and its pictures initially look pretty dull and lifeless - especially if you make the mistake of using the TV's strange Normal picture preset.
Nor is it over-burdened with features. There's no 3D, there aren't as many picture adjustments as you get on higher-end Panasonic TVs, and there's no streaming from DLNA PCs.
You do still get Panasonic's Viera Connect online platform though - even if this is at the time of writing rather short of content.
Take a punt on the P42S30 despite its lack of overt glamour, though, and it's unlikely that you'll be disappointed. For in a normal domestic environment rather than a bright shop one, its pictures display some great characteristics, including an excellent black level response, some natural colours (with HD in particular), a wide viewing angle, and sharp motion handling.
If your room is particularly bright you might find the P42S30's images a little too dull for comfort. And if you can you should certainly try and step up to one of Panasonic's NeoPlasma models if you can afford it, as these deliver a marked improvement to pictures. But overall, film fans in particular will likely be very impressed indeed with that the P42S30 has to offer for its money.
It's really refreshing to be able to watch pictures on a cheap TV that aren't affected by motion blur, and which contain really credible black levels - complete with an impressive amount of shadow detail. It's also great to be able to watch a flat TV from a significant angle without colours and contrast diminishing.
Viera Connect shows potential too, and looks set to improve radically in the coming months.
Pictures don't look as vibrant and bright as those from your average LCD rival TV. Also, the Viera Connect online system doesn't have enough content on it right now, and uses a rather long-winded interface.
There's some occasional dotting noise over motion too, and a few more colour calibration options would have been helpful.
Finally, the set's design is a bit bland and chunky.
Unlike most of Panasonic's more high end plasma TVs this year, we can't quite bring ourselves to give the P42S30 an unqualified recommendation.
For while its impressively natural, contrast-favouring pictures are ideally suited to people who love watching films, its lack of brightness and vibrancy relative to most LCD TVs could be a turn off for people with very bright rooms or who prefer dynamism and punch to black level depth and motion clarity.
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