Panasonic TX-P42X50B review

By making the mediocre look marvelous, this great value HD-ready TV makes a compelling argument for plasma

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Should you buy an HD-ready plasma? Its popularity is on the slide – just one in nine flat TVs bought are plasmas – but that's got more to do with existing production capabilities and 'slim' TV marketing than it has about pure picture quality.

The proof is right here in front of us; the TX-P42X50B is the most versatile, best value all-round TV for a living room we've seen this year.

We liked

Some might get distracted by apps and 3D, but it's a TV's core picture quality that will ultimately endear or repel you to it once it's in-situ.

Happily, the TX-P42X50B achieves the former at a canter; motion is smooth, while colour is both natural and well saturated.

It may not indulge in home networking, but the TX-P42X50B can not only handle a plethora of digital video formats, but plays them in excellent quality, too.

Relatively powerful audio is yet another plus point. However, the icing on the cake is something that's endemic to plasma; a ultra-quick response time of a puny 0.001ms, which by our calculations makes it about 6,000 times faster than most LCD/LED TVs. No streaks, blur or resolution loss here.

Given their popularity, it's also nice to see an SD Card slot in the TX-P42X50B's side.

We disliked

Despite the overly large 61cm depth and a lacklustre Freeview HD EPG, the TX-P42X50B's only major drawback is its HD-ready panel, which means 1080p material from Blu-ray lacks that extra sparkle in still shots – so those with Blu-ray ambitions should consider spending a few quid more on a Full HD plasma panel.

However, the prescence of just two HDMI inputs is likely to be more problematic.

Final verdict

With the TX-P42X50B, Panasonic makes a compelling, though possibly last-ditch, argument for plasma as the tech of choice for living rooms.

In the Twenty-Teens the question shouldn't be 'Why plasma?' but, instead, 'Why not plasma?' since the TX-P42X50B handles both motion and standard-definition TV far more smoothly than any LCD TV.

Perfectly suited to the mix of resolutions on Freeview HD, the TX-P42X50B is ideal for film fans – though only those primarily watching DVD and not concerned with ultimate 1080p resolutions.

In short, Blu-ray owners might want to look elsewhere – and DVD collectors after a TV that's kinder to standard definition discs might want to move to the TX-P42X50B from an LCD TV.

It's far from the most advanced plasma around, but the TX-P42X50B is reliable, consistent and offers high-quality images in an easy-to-use package.

Plasma isn't dead yet.

Also consider

The TX-P42X50B is Panasonic's only HD-ready telly, with the closest being a huge step-up in terms of spec; the 42-inch TX-P42UT50B has VIERA Connect smart TV apps, a Full HD resolution and even 3D compatibility. It sells for around £600.

Contrast isn't as good, though the user interface is a little fresher on LG's HD-ready plasmas; the 42-inch 42PA4500 (£349), smart TV app-laden, 42-inch 42PM470T (£499) and 3D-ready 42PW450T (£440).

Meanwhile, Samsung offers a couple of HD-ready plasmas from its Series 4; the 43-inch E450 (£480) – which is broadly similar to the Panasonic TX-P42X50B – and 43-inch E490 (£600), the latter of which offers 3D, and can stream digital files over a home network.