Despite the rise to power of LCD TVs in the BIGscreen buyer's consciousness, there's plenty of life in the old plasma dog yet, as this latest flagship offering from Panasonic demonstrates.
The £2,300 TH-42PX600 42in plasma screen may not be blessed with supermodel good looks, but it's exceedingly well connected.
Two HDMI inputs storm into focus, ably supported by three Scarts, a PC input, component video inputs, a CI port for adding subscription channels to a (built-in) digital tuner and an SD card slot. Via the SD card slot, you can play MPEG4 movies and JPEG stills, for the more multi-media inclined plasma purchaser.
Feature-wise, this Panasonic holds its own against its LCD equivalents. There are neat picture-in-picture facilities and a redesigned speaker system that uses separate woofers and tweeters to deliver its expansive soundstage with plenty of bass.
Impressive V-Real picture processing is also incorporated, which is great news for standard and high definition viewing alike: V-Real adds detail to standard-def images as well as improving the accuracy of red, green and blue colour handling at pixel level.
Real Black Drive is also lurking within, waiting to enhance those all-important black levels. With a test HD feed of Lord of the Rings, it doesn't take long to realise that the TH-42PX600 is a fabulous performer. For starters, those black levels have never looked better - dark sequences involving Gollum look positively subterranean in their accuracy and realism. No greyness here - this is the real plasma deal.
Colours too tick all the right boxes, with natural tones and good blends adding to the impressive performance. Motion is smooth, crisp and a joy to behold and the high definition action sequences look as sharp as a tack. Add a complete absence of video noise to the stew, and you've got a convincing case for plasma over LCD.
Standard definition material doesn't reach the dizzy hi-def heights we've just described, but pictures are pretty damn good. Sonically too, this TV floats our boat - at times you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to a separate speaker package.
A fabulous set, and more proof that when plasma delivers the goods it can be argued that it eclipses its LCD competitors, particularly at a whopping screen size as this. Do we really have to send it back to the manufacturers?