Panasonic TH-42PX60U 42-inch Plasma HDTV Page 2

0606_panasonic_remoteI found the menus simple and intuitive, and Panasonic wisely resisted sprawling the picture controls over many different screens, choosing instead to group them all together on one menu for easy access. Color temperature control includes Cool, Normal, and Warm settings. I found Warm to be closest to the industry-standard neutral gray, though even at this setting the screen still had a reddish cast. After some quality time in the TV's service menu (see Test Bench for details), I was able to bring the color temperature very close to dead-on across the full range of brightness levels for which we calibrate. I also tinkered a bit with the Black Level control in the user menu. As expected, the Dark setting delivered darker, more natural blacks, but, unfortunately, it also obliterated much of the detail in dark scenes. The Light setting proved a better compromise, so I left it there for all my critical viewing.

The Panasonic also offered a nice range of controls for tweaking picture geometry. The aspect-ratio options selectable from the remote include five choices that cover most any situation. Plus, the TV's Zoom setting can be adjusted in the picture menu to raise or lower the picture, in case essential information is cut off along the bottom edge. The vertical stretch can also be tweaked to your heart's desire.

PICTURE QUALITY Besides its great story and wonderful special effects, the DVD of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a veritable torture test for televisions. This first chapter of C.S Lewis's classic series of adventures exposed the Panasonic TH-42PX60U's problems, while also highlighting the things it does well.

Early in the film, when Lucy (Georgie Henley) first steps into Narnia, the magical land is covered in snow. The Panasonic did a nice job of preserving detail in these bright scenes. It did crush the most intense whites, causing a loss of fine detail in the brightest parts of the forest, such as some of the snow-blanketed branches high in the trees. But this wasn't as bad as I've seen in a few other flat-panels, especially some LCDs. And despite it, I still saw Lucy's footprints in the snow, and much of the other detail in the snowy trees.

In the following scene, when Lucy wakes up from her nap in the house owned by Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy), I noticed that the TH-42PX60U has some trouble with dark source material. The house's walls are mostly made of stone, but the Panasonic failed to reproduce most of their fine texture. This very dark scene also revealed the TV's tendency toward false contouring, a visible banding that occurs in what should be a smooth transition between two areas of the picture with different degrees of brightness. Thankfully, this banding was most prominent in transitions between dark portions of the picture, which hid the effect somewhat as long as scenes weren't too dark.