It’s a real shame that the general public is so badly misinformed about Plasma display technology, but this hasn't deterred Panasonic, who, having made a huge investment in it, are soldiering on regardless. In fact, their latest Plasma refinement, called NeoPDP, brings us higher contrast ratios, thinner TVs, and, of course, higher levels of eco-friendliness than ever before. That last point won’t be too surprising to anybody who knows Panasonic - the company is, after all, greener than a CRT that needs degaussed (sorry, couldn't help the geek joke). We’ll be finding out just how eco-friendly the display is later on in this review.
These are great achievements on their own, but consider also that Panasonic has made these advancements affordable to the general public. This G10-series NeoPDP HDTV can be had for around £1000 (at the time of writing, DigitalDirect.co.uk has the TV for a fantastic £949.00 with a 3-year warranty!), and sits comfortably in the middle of the new ranges. Feature-wise, it has the now-common 1920x1080p Full HD panel, basic networking functionality, as well as Analogue PAL, Digital Terrestrial (Freeview), and Digital Satellite (Freesat HD) tuners. It leaves out features such as the Viera LINK Internet connectivity and THX Certification, which creep in on the higher-end models.
Anyway, since I've been a big fan of Panasonic's mid-range TVs in the past, let's jump in and see what the TX-P42G10 does do!
Oh, one other thing relating to styling: Panasonic have redesigned the remote, for the better. I felt the previous remotes were a little too “clicky” for their own good, despite being otherwise well designed (the buttons have always been logically placed and easy enough for anyone to read). Well, now all of the buttons are nice and soft, so using the remote feels that little bit nicer. The TV actually feels more responsive as a result.
The menus on show here are the same as on Panasonic's previous displays, but thanks to the new remote control, they're a little quicker to navigate. Pressing MENU on the remote brings up the Viera Main Menu, where we can access Picture, Sound, and and Setup submenus.
The top level adjustment in the Picture menu is “Viewing Mode”. You can select from either Cinema, Dynamic (yikes!), or Normal. This display doesn't feature per-input settings, but rather per-Viewing Mode settings. So, you can only have three different configurations, and even then, the modes aren't equal (configure both “Cinema”and “Normal” with the same settings, and they'll still look different). Fortunately, this wasn't an issue for me because any per-input controls could be set on my AV receiver.
The video tweaks here are all fairly self-explanatory. Of note is Colour Management, which as usual, isn't what it sounds like. Selecting it pushes the red, green and blue primary points futher past the official Rec.709 HDTV standard, creating less realistic colours, whereas leaving the option off brings things very close to accuracy, and is the better choice. Still though, this wording is a little misleading - come on Panasonic, Toshiba and Samsung often provide a full 3D colour management system in their basic LCD TVs – I'm sure with your engineering experience and semiconductor operations, you can build this functionality into your screens somehow.
Moving on, we have Eco Mode, which adjusts the average picture level for maximum energy efficiency (surprisingly, it sometimes made the image brighter rather than darker). Lastly, P-NR is a spatial filter which softens specific areas of the picture; which is sometimes effective at combating mosquito noise in Digital TV feeds.
There are video controls tucked away in the other menus, too, though. The “Display Settings” screen allows you to change the colour of the side-bars which you can choose to appear to preserve the aspect ratio of 4:3 material (from black to light grey), and the “Other Settings” screen features controls to enable or disable Intelligent Frame Creation and Picture Overscan. If you're worried at the idea of Intelligent Frame Creation, then you'll be reassured to know that it's very, very conservative – unlike the goofy-looking “fast forwarded” effects you often see on LCDs and some other Plasmas. Regardless, the subjective motion resolution of this TV is so excellent even with the mode off, that I can't imagine anyone reaching for this control.
The Picture Overscan control, by the way, IS stored per-input. This is very useful because it's best to leave it off for sources such as Blu-ray Disc and DVD, but leave it on for TV broadcasts, which often contain noise or jagged edges in the extreme edges of the image.
Calibration: Before and AfterAlready very happy with how things looked to the naked eye, I brought out my new i1Pro calibration device, so I could see to what extent the TV was adhering to industry standards.
The TX-P42G10 doesn't feature any user-accessible Greyscale/White Balance controls, so selecting “Movie” mode with the “Warm” colour temperature preset was the closest I could initially achieve to accuracy, without busting into the service menu (which I did 10 minutes afterwards). After setting the Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Sharpness using basic methods, I measured these results:
One thing you might notice from the RGB Tracking chart is that while the levels are out of place, they are quite uniformly so. As a result, the image didn't look too bad at all, and in theory, it means that bringing things into line with D65 standard should be fairly hassle-free - provided that we can find the adjustments necessary. You might be wondering, “if it already looks so good, is it really worth altering the settings?” Quite frankly, yes – because the point of calibration is to bring the display's characteristics as close to industry standards as possible (and also to match the individual display to the other components in the system).
So, after carefully altering the necessary parameters in the service menu, I managed to achieve the following:
One thing I'm less delighted about is the fact that there is no 3D Colour Management System on this display, so performing this level of fine-tuning on the TV’s Primary and Secondary colour reproduction is basically impossible. This didn't dull my enthusiasm that much, though – the colour reproduction still meets the criteria for “Excellent”, even although we can't make it as perfect as possible.
Video ProcessingI continued putting the TX-P42G10 through its paces by subjecting it to Video Processing tests, to see how well it could Deinterlace and Scale (“Upconvert” in marketing speak) standard definition signals to its 1920x1080p panel for display. I did this by subjectively evaluating the quality of Freeview Digital TV broadcasts (which can look pretty shoddy on even the best of displays), as well as using a DVD player outputting native video (that is, having it send 480i and 576i on upconverted signals direct from the disc, to have the TV do the processing).
First up were the Cadence Detection tests on the PAL Silicon Optix HQV test disc. In the past, Panasonic's TVs haven't performed too well in this area, and this one was the same: there is no 2-2 Cadence Detection, so movies played from a non-upconverting DVD player didn't look their best. (In fact, even the American/Japanese equivalent, the NTSC 3-2 test, failed, which is less common). In addition, using the SMPTE RP-133 Resolution test pattern showed that the scaling process wasn't capturing very much detail, especially in the horizontal direction.
The great thing about these issues is that they can be sidestepped completely by using an Upconverting DVD player, or an AV receiver equipped with deinterlacing and scaling of its own. Because a lot of people will have such devices, I don't feel that the Panasonic's lack of SD processing capability is a huge issue.
Gaming PerformanceNormally at AVForums, video games aren't part of the testing procedure. However, at Panasonic's Amsterdam convention, the gamer in me was delighted to hear the company's executives actively promote the fact that these latest displays, apparently, only have 2ms of input lag.
Input lag is the delay introduced by the TV's video processor, which delays frames reaching the screen. In the past, I've reviewed TVs which delay the image appearing up to 45 milliseconds, which sounds like nothing, but can really put you at a disadvantage in fast-paced online games, and can seriously dent the immersive, interactive feeling.
I'm happy to report that video games did indeed feel fantastic on the TX-P42G10, running with Intelligent Frame Creation either Off or On, in the calibrated Movie mode. Panasonic also provide a dedicated “Game” preset, which is quite interesting because it caused a tiny bit of PWM noise to appear in dark areas, suggesting that an optimised-for-speed drawing technique is being used. It also seems to use the usual Panasonic trick of using a different gamma curve (the image appeared punchier), which may also be the cause of this. Regardless, games just felt fantastic fun. There is literally almost nothing between you and the image.
One thing to note is that the common Plasma issue of phosphor trails will rear its head, depending on what you're playing. This inherent quirk of the display technology didn't bother me too much, but this is all down to the individual.
Energy ConsumptionAs promised, I took the time to measure the power consumption of the TXP42G10. These measurements were taken while displaying a full black (0 IRE) screen, a 50 IRE screen, and a full white (100 IRE) screen, using the calibrated settings. Uncalibrated power consumption is likely to be considerably higher. And the results:
Mode / 0 IRE measurement / 50 IRE measurement / 100 IRE measurement
Calibrated, Eco mode off: 81 watts / 262 watts / 418 watts
Calibrated, Eco mode on: 81 watts / 268 watts / 416 watts
Picture Quality: SD
Why? Well, these are sent out using the aged MPEG-2 codec at unfathomably low bit-rates, so are typically heavily softened (pre-filtered) prior to broadcast, anyway. So, the damage here is essentially minimal.
With this out of the way, there's really only the other aspects of the image to admire: the calibrated greyscale, lack of other intrusive video processing misfeatures, and the fairly sensible (albeit imperfect) colour gamut, made even poor quality Freeview TV channels look surprisingly good! Better DVD material (being sent to the TV upconverted to 1080p) was as you'd expect, but of course, with more and more titles becoming available on Blu-ray, it's hard for me to still get really enthused about most releases on this format.
Picture Quality: HD
Regrettably, I don't have a satellite dish, so can't test the Freesat HD functionality. However, I did input 1080i test patterns to the TV as a fall-back solution to get some idea of how the TV should perform, and had no cause for concern.
Plenty of readers are going to be wondering about Contrast performance, given that this is one of the benefits of Panasonic's NeoPDP research. Going from memory, I would say that these screens are just behind the Kuros in terms of contrast performance, but they reveal more shadow detail and are as good in this department as the Panasonic Commercial TH-65VX100.
- Fantastic contrast and black level performance
- Extensive connectivity options (Digital Terrestrial, Digital Satellite, Analogue Terrestrial, HDMI...)
- Excellent greyscale accuracy once calibrated
- Imperfect, but still very good colour performance
- Sublime detail thanks to 1:1 1080p input
- 24p input is handled correctly, judder-free
- Portrays Digital TV broadcasts in an unusually favourable light!
- Video gaming is incredibly responsive
- Incredible value for money
- No Colour Management System for perfecting colour performance
- Standard-def video deinterlacing and scaling are lacking
Panasonic G10 (TX-P42G10) Plasma TV Review
Let's not forget the excellent Greyscale accuracy (once calibrated, that is!), the convenience of having both analogue, digital and digital HD satellite tuners in one device, and the fast response for gaming. Even the sound from the TV's own built in speakers isn't too bad - I found it to be totally serviceable for TV programmes and older games.
The only limitations of this display are ones that can either be side-stepped by adding a high quality video processor (whether that's in the form of an upconverting DVD player, a dedicated processor device, or an AV receiver with processing built in), or ones that I can happily tolerate given its other strengths and price. Highly recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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