Panasonic is currently the king of plasma TV. So much so, that its LCD screens often get overlooked. Now, though, it's joined the LED market, with a range of TVs from 19-42in. This set, the TXL42D25B, is the biggest in its arsenal.
Is it good enough to challenge the LED lineups of Samsung, Sony et al?
The advantages of LED of CCFL are now well-known, and include energy efficiency, thin screens, improved brightness, and wider colour gamuts. But there's more to a good HDTV than how it's lit, and thankfully Panasonic hasn't eschewed other technology.
The TX-L42D25B features the latest version of a technology called In-Plane Switching (IPS). This produces a wider viewing-angle and addresses one of LCD's traditional bugbears.
The TV is also capable of playing a variety of media types, including JPEG photos, MP3 music and DivX/ MPEG/AVC-HD video formats. Multimedia alternatives to USB are present in the form of an SD card slot and networked playback. The latter gives you a choice of any DLNA-compliant media servers that may be on your home network and is one of the brand's Viera Tools.
On top of this is VieraCast, Panasonic's on-line entertainment and information portal. This enables access to on-demand video clips from the likes of Eurosport and YouTube. Skype is also supported, and if you buy Panasonic's optional USB camera, video phoning becomes an option. Networking is wired, although a wireless 'dongle' is available optionally, but I'd prefer to see the function built into the set.
The TX-L42D25B is also one of the UK's only TVs to boast no fewer than three types of TV tuner. One current trend that hasn't made it into the screen, though, is native 3D support. As far as Panasonic is currently concerned, 3D is suited to its plasma panels.
A way with hues
Up and running, the Panasonic's colour reproduction stands out – whether the green grass on a football pitch or the red blood in Ninja Assassin. I viewed both of these in HD – Freeview for the football, and Blu-ray for the movie – but the chromatic capabilities also extend to SD DVDs.
The latter cannot, of course, hope to get close to HD's detail, which is simply sublime, but the screen's upscaling acquits itself well. It's just a pity that none of the TX-L42D25B's armoury of electro-trickery can tame the feathery artefacts that spoil a fair few standard-def digital broadcasts.
Contrast ratios and black levels were commendably good, especially after calibration. Of the picture tweaks on offer, 'intelligent frame creation' had a remarkable effect, especially with 60Hz film-derived video such as Region 1 DVDs. The judder disappears to the extent that the result could almost pass for genuine 1080p24.
The splendid images are let down by a gutless sound system that's suited only to uncritical viewing. For movies and music, add on an audio system via the rear-panel analogue and digital audio outputs.
As a first foray into LED tech goes, the TX-L42D25B impresses – it's definitely the best LCD screen I've yet seen from Panasonic. Well worth auditioning if you're looking for a new 42in set.
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