This superb and impeccably specified performer justifies every penny of its hefty price tag
Plenty of inputs
Some negligible plasma niggles
A bit pricey
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Panasonic is one of the few remaining plasma champions; more fool the competition if sets like this are anything to go by. Decked out in elegant gloss black, this full HD digital television is a hymn to all that is good about gas.
Never a company for showboating gadgetry, Panasonic lets its panels and processing do the talking, and those of you expecting motorised swivelling or ambient lighting, might find yourself a little disappointed by the relatively sparse bell-and-whistle count.
What it does have, though, are plenty of the regular, everyday tools that you can never have enough of, such as a trio of HDMI inputs, an SD card reader and an optical digital output for sending signals from the Freeview tuner to external amplification.
The chief bonus is the pixel count, though, with the set specifying the full 1,080, which means owners of this set won't have to worry about high-definition compatibility for the foreseeable future.
Video feeds, meanwhile, are spruced up by the company's successful own V-real processing suite, a selection of proprietary tweaks that has helped Panasonic score some rave reviews over the last year or two.
You might also cast a cursory eye over the Viera link system that brings all your (Panasonic) kit under the control of one remote, and a set of sliders for adjusting your picture and audio that include pseudo-surround sound and SRS bass boosting technologies.
The 42PZ700B is as easy to use as it is on the eye. The menu system is clear and self-explanatory, set out in a navigable architecture that is intuitive and laid out in an unfussy font.
The user interface marries up impeccably with the remote, which is a model of sensible ergonomics, sporting large buttons that are thoughtfully placed and spaced. A child could get this TV tuned in and tweaked in minutes, and even if you get yourself into a hideous pickle with the picture and sound settings you can always put the telly back to its default configuration.
The advent of high-definition has raised the bar for bigscreen performance and it takes something pretty special to exceed expectation. The 42PZ700B, though, has what it takes and then some. It is testament to the panel's remarkable all-round quality that its 1080p resolution is possibly its least exciting attribute, so let's get the detail part out of the way first.
There is lots of it. Probably way more than you'll be able to take in at a single glance and it makes pictures blown up to 42in look amazing.
The extra texture afforded by those millions of pixels give images an apparent depth and scale that you'd struggle to better outside a multiplex. If you're the sort of person who likes pointing out each individual dot of stubble on actors' chins to your friends, you are going to love this panel.
It is arguably not quite as exacting as the finest LCD jobs, but the level of resolution on display is more than any sane mind will know what to do with. Standard-definition discs look absolutely immaculate, with Blu-ray or HD DVD raising the game to positively mind-boggling levels.
The real soul of this Panasonic's performance, though, is its ability with colours. Sets such as this show exactly why so many people still cleave to plasma in the face of the relentless march of LCD; the naturalism on display leaves liquid crystal standing.
Our test disc of Kingdom of Heaven, for example, looked totally reinvigorated, and it's not often you can say that about that particular medieval murk fest. Hues hitherto suppressed in the mire of the wintry opening scenes suddenly come forward to lend the (still sombre) palette nuances and subtleties way beyond the usual variations in brown, grey and green.
At the other end of the spectrum, the garish tones of the Fast and the Furious are handled with considerable verve, with the fluorescent bodywork of the cars, azure skies and whizz-bang CGI rendered in all their high-octane glory, but also held in check by careful and convincing flesh tones.
The black levels are also magnificent with any material, with an apparently bottomless lower register and superb greyscale landing another couple of blows for gas screens everywhere.
Even plasma's inherent tendency to create colour banding is minimal on this panel and won't detract from a superbly cinematic experience.
As has become the custom with Panasonic sets, the audio is better than it has any real right to be, with the integrated speakers providing an accurate and detailed soundstage with enough low-end thump to handle movie soundtracks to satisfactory effect. The pseudo surround options are adequate, but we'd recommend sticking to plain stereo or, better yet, hooking up to a proper surround system.
You need to weigh up that £2,300 tag against the fact that it's one of the best plasmas we've seen and is properly futureproofed to boot. It's your call, but we know what we'd do if we had the money.
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