"Truly Outstanding"on by Markhan
Pros Clarity of image, versatility, ease of use are all outstanding
Cons Should include a standard HDMI hookup
Summary To get this good a picture and just barely tip over the 2000.00 mark is truly a find. The first night, my wife spent her time remarking at the gorgeous color, while I concentrated on the high image quality. I spent a month educating myself in plasma television and spoke to over 25 different companies and almost that many technical people. When one buys real estate, the word is location, location, location. In plasma, the word is picture quality, picture quality, picture quality--not connectivity, style, tuners, speakers, etc. OK, these aren't inconsequential and must, of course, meet your needs, but they mean nothing if the picture doesn't deliver. Think about it before you buy: If you have home theatre sound, a cablebox with tuner (for 4.95 a month my cable company furnishes me with a two-tuner DVR with hard drive and they take care of it. Why pay for a television well-equipped with things I don't need).
So anyway, I considered all the input from LCD fans, Pioneer fans, other brand fans, and decided that because we aren't video gamers and have no need for PC hookups, AND because our application is always for movies, DVD's or occasional broadcast television in the evenings, plasma was the clear choice. DO get the optional HDMI board and an upconverting DVD player. The board installs easily and delivers outstanding. The Samsung DVD-VR325 delivers outstanding results with its unbelieveable versality and upconverting technology. You won't do better on price or features-plays, records, upconverts, front panel connections, VCR & DVD.
Finally, I dealt with Mike Anastasio at PCConnection.com. What a great experience with this person and this company--fast, courteous service, clear communication, outstanding prices/advice, and shipping at the speed of sound. Example: The monitor arrived and I discovered that I still needed to purchase a pedestal stand. Called at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and the stand was at my door in 42 hours--and no I did not pay a premium for faster delivery! Keep in mind that you can't get this monitor at retail stores, so mail order is your best option. I was a bit nervous about that, but these folks made it a pleasure. Best of all, it's not a "drop ship and good luck" situation. For 30 days, if anything goes wrong, PC sends a replacement right away--thjen warranty kicks in. One thing, please note that Panasonic WILL NOT service this unit in home because its an industrial product. You'll have to take it to an authorized service center. And finally, note that this 8th generation monitor is BETTER than the 7th generation product in Pansonic's current 42" consumer plasma televisions.
Pros Truly great picture; solid cabinet; beautifully minimalist
Cons Deep blacks become subltly, unexpectedly brighter, then darker again
Summary While in shipping, my TH-42PHD8UK took a hit to the back, side of the cabinet, leaving a superficial dent in the metal. My TH-42PHD8UK still works fine, which has impressed me mightily. This truly must be an industrial model and not a consumer product.
(On that note, I'm afraid I cannot recommend Butterfly Photo as a place to buy this TV: it took many e-mails and phone calls from me to finally get them to give me the *correct* shipper and tracking number, only to have the plasma sent to New York state rather than Massachusetts, the state where I live... I finally got the TV, but with superficial damage, from having been in the shipping pipeline for so long.)
I'm also comforted to see the phrase "made in Japan" on the case, as opposed to "made in China" or "made in Korea". It makes me think of my KitchenAid mixer that's still made in the USA, despite most KitchenAid products being made in China: Panasonic must want to still make its flagship products closer to home, rather than farming the work out.
The picture is gorgeous on this TV, and I suppose my monster cables were a wise purchase: another reviewer noted that his low quality cables really degraded the picture.
As another reviewer noted, if you are particularly picky about picture quality, and cherish deep, rich blacks, you'll notice the plasma "cheating" every so often, by turning the blacks a bit grayer to presumably hit some "high note" that is elsewhere on the screen. If you want to see this black/grey shift in action, watch The Godfather on DVD, and you'll really see this plasma doing its black/grey shifting thing, in its attempts to bring you the best picture possible.
As a fan of deep, rich blacks, I wish this wouldn't happen (I'd rather the screen sacrifice brightness to preserve blackness), but that's the only criticism I have of the picture. And I should note that a room-full of other people watching The Godfather on this TV with me didn't notice the shifting at all. The blacks are still better than most tube TVs I've seen, and the color balance and crispness of the picture are breathtaking.
This plasma screen comes with nothing, which you will hate if you seek one-step setup, but which you will absolutely adore if you are a geek or a value seeker. When you buy this plasma screen, you will have to buy a stand for it, and you will likely want to invest in extra input cards and some pricey cables. To my mind, it's all worth it. And I'm so, so glad that there are no ridiculous clock-radio speakers on this plasma, and no silly cable tuner. And thank, you, Panasonic, for making the cabinet graphite black, instead of the cheesy silver that is making a comeback in consumer electronics. I've already got a stereo, and I've already got a cable box. This plasma screen takes care of the picture, and assumes you've got the gear to take care of everything else.
Pros Excellent picture, flexible inputs, clean ergonomics
Cons Black level shifting, no in-home warranty
Summary This monitor was delivered to my home a couple of weeks ago. We're still in the process of setting up the TV room (no couch...yikes!), so it hasn't gotten a lot of use yet, but I've seen enough to pass on my opinions.
I'm not a trained video expert, but I've been watching tv for years. My current tv is a Toshiba RP CRT with HD DirecTV. I've set up the new plasma with an HD DirecTiVo. I bought an optional DVI blade for the monitor, and run the TiVo HDMI output to the DVI input. Currently, the sound is through my old NHT bookshelf speakers driven by the internal amp on the plasma.
It is important to note that this "TV" is really a "monitor", 'cause it doesn't have any sort of internal tuner for television broadcast. You can't just plug in your cable or an antenna. Any signal must be processed through an external box (cable/satellite/computer/DVD/etc.) and passed to the display through cables. It also does not come with a wall mount or stand.
The picture is great, even on standard definition broadcasts. The TiVo doesn't have a "native" output option, so I generally just have it upscale everything to 1080i, although I can also set it to output 480i/p for SD stuff. Either way, the SD looks acceptible. It's better than the Toshiba's picture with SD input (it's a 16:9 display, too), but the standard definition picture doesn't justify dropping this much money on a TV. I generally watch 4:3 format stuff in "full" mode, or have it stretched by the TiVo. I tried to use Panasonic's "just" mode, which does less stretching in the middle of the picture to minimize visible distortion. Ouch! I've read lots of posts where people really seem to love "just" mode, but it makes me ill. It's like watching tv through a fishbowl, with weird distortion and zooming. It's possible that the effect is increased by the "rectangular" pixels used on the 42" and 37" HD displays, versus the "square" pixels used on the 50"+ displays, but I honestly don't know. My Toshiba has a similar mode, which works great, but the Panasonic plasma just doesn't pull it off well.
The HD picture, though, simply blows away my Toshiba RP CRT, which also claims to be an HDTV. No comparison. Much richer and deeper images. It's simply fantastic. The display handles HD content(from HBO/Showtime/etc) flawlessly, and HD sports broadcasts are stunning. And then I get sad because I have to go back to the SD content that dominates the airwaves these days. Thankfully more and more stuff is being shot in HD, but the vast majority of cable/sat/OTA stuff is low res.
Per the recommendations of several on-line reviewers, as well as Panasonic itself, I'm taking it easy on the panel for the first 100 hours or so. I turned the contrast ("picture") way down, along with brightness, so I can't be sure the picture's as good as it's going to get. Once I've broken past the 100hr mark, I'll use an Avia or DVE disc to calibrate the display. Even if it doesn't get better, though, it's still the best money I've ever spent on a display.
I have several friends with Samsung DLP displays, and my parents have a new Sony Wega LCoS tv, so those are the modern displays that I can compare this to. And, honestly, they all look great to me. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them (that I've seen). The deciding factors for me were price (see below), picture quality, Panasonic's reputation for good price-performance, and the ability to hang this display on the wall in my small viewing area.
As for ED vs. HD, I've only really checked out ED panels at Best Buy, etc. One thing I've noticed, though, is that my Best Buy has a whole wall/room set up with RP/DLP/LCoS tv's, but (mysteriously), the plasmas are found down several aisles. I can't be sure, but I'd put money down that this is because the difference between ED and HD is most visible at less than 8'-10', especially in the 42" and 50" ranges. So the 5' wide aisles really accentuate the lower resolution on the ED sets. Beyond that distance, they pretty much look the same (this is based largely on my research and not so much personal observation). My room is small, so I spent a little extra on the HD version. If you're more than 8' from your 42" display, I'd strongly recommend looking at an ED (such as the TH-42PWD8UK).
Panasonic's commercial panels come with plenty of inputs and a good look-and-feel to them. It's a thin black bezel with NO buttons/controls on the front panel. The buttons are on the bottom edge, and the only things visible on the bezel are a silver "panasonic" logo and the green/red power LED. Once I get the install cleaned up, it will approach the "painting on the wall" look that I was shooting for...much better than the cluttered look of many panels out there with buttons, labels, speakers, etc. to mess it all up.
As for inputs, even the stripped down standard configuration is okay for many applications, with some caveats. If you have old-schools inputs, such as an SD TiVo or a VHS player, the panel has an S-video and composite video inputs. For current sources, there is a component input, but you'll need cables with BNC connectors (it's a type that twists onto the panel) or RCA-BNC adapters ($4/ea at Radio Shack). There is also a VGA input that can be set to accept RGB (computer) or Component signals. To use that input with your cable box or DVD, you just need to buy a component-VGA cable. Then there are also two empty slots available to plug in Panasonics optional input boards. You can buy these boards ("blades") with component inputs (RCA or BNC), a DVI input w/an audio-in mini-jack, and/or an HDMI audio/video input. The DVI and HDMI inputs have the added benefit of supporting 4096 gradations vs. 2048 through component. Be aware that the current HDMI board (the "7" series) will work with this panel, but apparently won't support the 4096 levels...but the "8" series isn't available in the US yet. The current DVI board supports the increased levels, which allows for smoother gradations with less "banding" between colors. At least that's the theory. I can't claim that I would know the difference, but the DVI board is cheaper than the HDMI board, so I figured it was win-win. Note that DVI and HDMI are related standards, so boxes with HDMI output can connect to a DVI input through an adapter (and vice-versa, at least for video).
The only negative that I've seen so far is a strange black-level shifting that occurs during tv viewing (I haven't hooked up a DVD source yet, so I can't comment on that). It's kind of hard to describe, but in some scenes, you can see the blacks in the picture become "grayer" (for lack of a better turn). It's most obvious in any letterboxing on the screen, but can be seen across the whole picture. I almost hate to mention it, 'cause I think it's something most people won't notice until they know to look for it. I will say that I've seen the same thing on my Toshiba RP CRT for years, so either I'm sensitive to it, it supposed to happen, or there's something wrong with my eyes. It may very well be the poor "DC restoration" CNet notes on some of the other Panasonic plasmas (42px25, I think, is one of them). It may also be something designed into the plasma for burn-in protection or image correction or whatever. I simply don't know.
Also, while this monitor does have a one-year warranty from Panasonic, it looks like in-home service is limited to Canadian purchasers on their commercial models. That's a bummer. I recommend buying the plasma with a credit card like AmEx that will double the manufacturer's warranty, and I recommend against extended warranties. That's based on personal experience and the conventional wisdom that electronics will break in the first year or the fifth year (and later), but tend to be pretty stable in the 2nd and 3rd years. And I figure that any product which consistently returns the largest profit to the seller (yes...warranties) can't be that great a deal for the consumer.
I bought this monitor from VisualApex.com for $2084. Don't forget the optional mount/stand and any input blades you may need. The VA people were fantastic, and the unit shipped in record time. Shipping was a little expensive, but the lack of sales tax compensated nicely. Shipping included the Peerless flat wall mount and the Panasonic DVI blade, which shipped separately from the monitor. This was my first experience with VA, but I've found them to be well thought of on AVSForum.com (an excellent source for plasma and HDTV info), and now I wouldn't think of buying anywhere else, even for less money.
eBay is by far the best source for cables that I've found. Keep in mind that I believe that any reasonably built cable will do the job, and that high priced cables are for suckers. But that is just one non-audio/non-videophile opinion.
Pros Sharp, quiet, versatile performer
Cons None yet encountered in everyday use
Summary Spectacular picture (in daylight and at night, from any angle and with input from either DVD player or HD cable box. The Panasonic appeared to have best rendering of human faces, compared with neighboring sets at several stores where itÕs stepbrother (the Panasonic TH-42PX50U) was on display.
Quiet and cool. Plasmas have a reputation for using a lot of power and generating a lot of heat, thus, requiring noisy fans. The power consumption of this model is listed as 337 W compares with other plasmas, but, even when weÕve had the monitor on for 7 or 8 hours, there is no more heat felt at the back and top than I can recall from regular TVs IÕve had. You can put your hand on the top, where the most heat dissipates, and it just feels like a mild hand warmer. As for noise, I have to lean over the top and put my ear close to the ventilation holes to hear what sounds like, if itÕs a fan, an incredibly quiet one. Even with sound on the home theater system muted, none of us can hear it, while standing a foot in front of the unit.
ItÕs also been said about plasmas (when comparing them to LCDs) that the typical shiny surface will produce distracting reflections in bright lighting. Even when the afternoon sun is behind us (and sunlight is coming through the row of windows right behind the couch) we see only minor signs of it on the screen. IÕm watching ESPN now, with the back door open and the blinds on those windows drawn up. When the screen is totally black I can see a low reflection. When thereÕs a picture on the screen, I see none.? I didnÕt check a lot of websites for an outlet from which to make the purchase. DTV City had an informative website and was highly rated by another website specializing in reviewing plasma displays. The sales people were low-keyed and willing (and able) to answer all my questions, during several preliminary inquiries, without pushing to sell it to me. The price of $2399 was not the lowest, but they also added a two-year in-home warranty for free (through Nov 1) and reasonable prices for delivery and third-party installation, so the bottom line came out lower on this website than others I compared. It cost $60 extra to specify an exact delivery day, so I shaved $60 off the total delivery price by opting for ÒcurbsideÓ rather than Òinto-the-houseÓ drop-off. It turned out not to matter, since it was a warm, sunny day and the delivery guy not only patiently took me through the detailed inspection that DTV City specifies but then said: ÒLetÕs bring it inside before we uncover the unit to check the screen.Ó
We had ordered a Peerless Tilt/Swivel stand for $299 and I had been supplied with the telephone number of a local Audio-Visual equipment installer to assemble the stand, attach the display to it, and set up the cables from the HD-DVR Comcast box, a Kenwood receiver/tuner and the DVD. Finding the assigned installer unpredictable and, in the end, impossible to reach, I and my family assembled the stand, attached the monitor to it, and figured out where all the cables went to and from. It took us about three or four hours, with a dinner break, but we were also hooking up a Kenwood HTB-S620DV Fineline Wireless Home Theater System -- keep in mind that this is only a monitor...you can buy matching speakers that attach on the side, but we had to fit it into a 41-inch wide space and itÕs 40 inches wide without the speakers. There is no tuner in it, so you canÕt just plug the cable pin into it and get a picture. You need a video-powered source (cable box) and a sound source.
IÕve never seen a widescreen that doesnÕt stretch the picture horizontally in some broadcasts or DVDs. This oneÕs ÒJustÓ and ÒZoomÓ settings, however, fill the screen (we like the ÒJust AspectÓ best) with a great picture. Zoom cuts out less than other Zooms we have used, while the ÒJustÓ settingÕs widening is as good (non-distorting) as any we can see on the displays at Best Buy and similar stores, plus it enhances display of basic Comcast stations.
The CNET editors did not review this specific model, but listed some negatives for its 50-inch big brother: ÒDoes not include a stand, a tuner, or speakers; sparse input selection; doesn't include a digital input; cannot change aspect ratios with HDTV sources; floats blacks.Ó If you want a stand, instead of wall mount, consider the Peerless Tilt/Swivel. Being able to easily swing the set around lets us watch it from either the kitchen or the family room. As for Òno tuner or speakersÓ, IÕm not sure IÕd categorize that as a ÒconÓ for a monitor -- thatÕs what a monitor is...like a monitor youÕd get for your computer, you wouldnÕt say itÕs a negative that you canÕt plug it directly into your cable modem box and surf the net because you have to buy the computer to put between the two. If you have a cable box for HD, that tuner will be overriding your TV tuner anyway. As for speakers, why get a display like this and then listen to the little speakers youÕd get built into a full-featured (monitor, tuner, and speakers) unit? We picked up a Kenwood HTB-S620DV Fineline Wireless Home Theater System for $439.99 from J&R. It shipped the day we ordered it and provides more surround sound than we thought we could get from a system that eliminates running wires to the rear speakers. The Kenwood system comes equipped with a single-disc DVD player with Progressive Scan Digital quality. The wireless transmitter/receiver provides full Surround to any corner of the room. Active EQ and Dolby Sound (along with six speakers, including a subwoofer) create as much deep and rich sound experience as the typical family room can usefully contain.As for CNETÕs Ò doesn't include a digital inputÓ, IÕd say that both a pro and con. Yes, you have to buy the HDMI or DVI input board, but that gives you the option of matching your monitor to your specific setup. For example, the Motorola dual tuner we received from Comcast comes with a DVI connection, so we could order the optional DVI board instead of the more common HDMI (which then would have required a converter). Finally, IÕm not sure if the 50-inch unit that CNET reviewed differs from our 42-inch Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK, but we can change aspect ratios with HDTV sources. We can do it easily by pressing the Aspect button on the remote. Each press cycles to the next of the aspect ratios -- Zoom, Normal (for 4:3 picture), Full, Just (displays 4:3 picture at full screen size but with justification algorithms in effect), Panasonic Auto (used to handle a mix of 16:9 and 4:3 programming, acting similar to Just mode).
The whole family continues to be wowed by how the Panasonic TH-42PHD8UK renders TV shows, HD movies coming through a Comcast cable box, and widescreen DVDs.Updated
Started with a $2399 price tag for this unit (DTV City threw in a two-year in-house warranty for that price). Add delivery charge and a DVI or HDMI connector board, some cables to connect our sound system, DVD< and cable box...and we had a fantastic large screen setup (as large as made sense for our family room, where people sit at various angles, about 9 or 10 feet away...sometimes 12 to 15, if we're at the kitchen table). Heat is only warm to the touch at top vents after 6 straight hours...you could leave your hand there and not feel you have to pull it away. Quiet...I have to lean over the top and put my ear near the top vents to notice a whisper-level fan. I can watch a DVD movie, with a ballgame shown picture-in-picture and switch the ballgame to the larger screen if something exciting is happening.Updated
We have had no problems using this display everyday for two months. The "aspects" button allows us to cycyle through what Panansonic calls "full display" (what you typically see on display in a sports bar - whole picture stretched horizontally to fill screen); "just" (Panasonic's feature which keeps actors/players in center of screen normal and unstretched and you only notice "full" type stretching at the margins; and "zoom," which fills screen with the largest non-stretched (i.e., normal" view, with a slight loss of edge detail) picture (unlike the DVD zoom feature we were used to on our old TVs, this zoom loses very little of the full picture in return for a movie-like image that gives the impression of viewing a larger than 42-inch screen). Also, a friend, an engineer who works for a company that does research development of improvements to plasma and other flat-panel displays, read the comment (posted in response to the "fanless, I don't think so" comment) about a "Break-in" period. His response was that, while all those cautious methods would, technically, yield the best picture for the longest time, nonetheless, if you ignored all that advice and used the brightest and most color-saturated "dynamic" setting right from day 1, you'd only notice a slight decline in picture quality after -- at the soonest -- about 10 years of everyday heavy usage. I don't think I've kept any set as my primary "TV" for that long.Updated
The "POS/SIZE" button + the "Aspect" button = full and accurate picture. Press "Aspect" until you have selected the "Full" screen choice. Then press the "POS/SIZE" button. Using the large round selector at the top of the remote (with the four dircetional arrows), press the down arrow until you select "V Size". Then press the right arrow as far as it will go. You will have stretched the picture vertically and eliminated the "short, fat people" distortion that "Full" can produce. To further fine tune the picture, wait a few seconds, then press the up arrow to fo to "H Size". Press the left arrow about 3 to 6 times and you'll end up with the picture (no cropping, as with Zoom, which is a pretty good choice, usually), but without the stretched out look of "Full" Aspect or the side distortion of "Just" Aspect.
Pros No uneccessary parts, awesome picture, great price
Cons Buying extra HDMI boards, actually inserting them was no big deal. No in home service, I really wanted to buy a TV from a local reatiler to take advatnage of the repair in the home process. Instead
Summary I did a ton of reasearch before getting this unit from BestBuyPlasma. I looked at all of the offerings from Best Buy (retail store) and Circuit City. They could not touch the Panasonic for price and quality, besides they all inlcuded stupid speakers and a tuner that I was never going to use.
The set looks great hanging there on the wall (I did have to spend several long hours fishing cable.) with clean simple lines.
I ordered two HDMI boards from eCost for about $123 each. DO NOT ORDER THE HDMI BOARDS FROM BestBuyPlasma!!!! BestBuyPlasma had a nice price on the TV and thier web site states thier poilcy is to have low prices but the HDMI boards are priced at $100 over the MSRP from the Panasonic web site. Just goes to show it pays to shop around.
I have one HDMI from my Comcast Motorola HD DVR cable box and the other from a Samsung P-50 HTIB. I plan on hooking up a PC to the unit so that I can do Picture in Picture with web content (my footbal fantasy leauge) and TV.
I live in the Denver CO area and the plasma produces no buzzing noise.
I really wanted to buy a TV from a local retailer to take advatnage of the repair in the home process. Instead if it breaks I will have to ship it to somewhere in CA, so it better not break. Do yourself a favor and buy this TV. I think buying the HDMI boards is a good idea, you will not want to mess around with it once you mount it on the wall. You will not find a better TV for the price.