The review below is based on our own opinions.
Wife adores sport, especially football, athletics and skiing.
Been using our well-made Sharp 26" CRT TV for a good number of years (and still going great) but too small now for our poorer eyesight vision.
A new technology TV that HAD to provide crystal clear fast moving scenes without blurring or ghosting (for sport)
And one that was of a decent size for an affordable budget buying price.
In effect, a no frills, basic budget TV that meets our requirements.
Done the obligatory research, like we all do, about the pros and cons of each technology, screen size, typical manufacturer selling prices, and actual retail prices both on the high street and on the web, into: Plasma, LCD and LED TVs.
Our choice of technology, after researching many hours, was a foregone conclusion at this point in time: it had to be Plasma Technology.
Some had said: "Oh no, not Plasma. It's not very good. They're not very bright and they don't last long and you get screen burn and image retention." Reading up all about it we'd have agreed more readily with the comments some 5-10 years ago, but not now. Plasma technology has advanced greatly over the years. Granted, treat a Plasma with neglect and you could invite some of those so-called problems into your lounge.
Plasma TVs ally themselves more closely to CRT TVs than LCD/LED TVs. Both Plasmas and CRTs use phosphor technology emitting light to form a TV image and so produce good images. Screen image burn-ins can occur on both CRT TVs and Plasma panels. In all the years you've had a CRT TV how often did you burn images into your CRT TV's screen? So, follow today's well founded basic guidelines and together with the use of Plasma's built-in "preventer" technologies a Plasma TV can last for years (provided all the component parts remain healthy, but this does apply to all TVs).
Average Plasma panels can have lifespans of up to 100,000 hours.
We've never had a Plasma so have no real experience to fall back on but based on the above criteria, the hours with the techno-specialist review sites and real-world user feedback sites we were more than satisfied that Plasma was the way to go for us.
So, the manufacture, brand, model and price.
Well, here, it's all about personal choice - how big a screen is it going to be and how deep is your wallet? If you're not a fanatic when it comes to one's TV and how one is going to use it (e.g. home cinema surround sound theatre - here, Plasmas are a must have) then for the everyday consumer we read that one shouldn't be spending more than £500 - £600 (but this is a personal choice).
Also, pick a screen size that fits your intended environment. Bigger is not always better - a 60" TV in a box room isn't going to look too good, you'll pay through the roof, and it'll cost you more to run.
40-to-46" TVs seem to be the current sweet spot for consumers on size versus price today.
Settled on Panasonic as they are the major manufacturer that is continuing to invest heavily in Plasma technology (of course, alongside their growing range of LCD and LED TVs).
And, their Plasma technology is second-to-none, whilst other manufactures are moving out of the Plasma market and pushing more into the "cheaper" quicker ROI mass-market LCD arena.
This then moves one onto price - Plasma technology (with 3-chamber RGB pixels which are on or off) is more expensive than LCD technology (a full backlight always on + LCD pixels with RGB filters) whilst the newer LED technology (individual LED backlight pixels with colour filters) is pricier than LCD and can be easily at Plasma prices or more at this time. Today's TV mass-market is some 80% LCD/LED, 10% Plasma and 10% CRT because of manufacturing costs, pricing scales, revenue returns and marketing.
Since this was going to be our first Plasma TV we wanted a bigger TV than our 26" that would deliver quality at a budget price. We found this 42" TX-P42S30B Plasma TV, a consumer under-rated but well-received by reviewers, little gem at a fantastic price. On the web one can buy it today for around £428 (as we write). At Christmas 2011 it was selling for £399. It comes with quite a decent set of features for the price being paid for (but obviously less than its related upper models); however, the 2011 S30B model does come equipped with equally new technologies as its pricier models and its quality can be indistinguishable to its step-up G30B model when in use.
An extended guarantee is another point to consider. One well-known high street name retailer was (could still be) selling the TX-P42S30B at £499 with a free 5-year guarantee - not bad at all, but were all out of stock at the time. Buying a guarantee separately can easily cost an extra £100 to £200 - very pricey when considering buying a budget TV. We also read that with today's advancements in technology with noteworthy manufactures an extended guarantee are not really needed. However, this is where you ultimately take your chances and take pot luck that all the components work well for years to come. We decided not to get an extended guarantee and take our chances with the components. We also read some poor reviews about the extended guarantees associated with this TV on this site.
There are many web reviews on this model's specification, how to set it up and how to fine tune settings. I'll not repeat them here as, if one is seriously considering buying a flat Plasma TV, one will no doubt do one's research into which type of technology, and hence advantages and disadvantages of owning one over the other, is the better for your specific needs based on what one's personal criteria and budget are going to be.
What we'll say though is:
(*) the TV has a built-in Freeview HD Tuner (the analogue channels are switched off in our region),
(*) it does NOT have 3D (we're not interested in this to-settle-down technology yet),
(*) it's a "Smart" TV and can connect - wired Ethernet or USB Wi-Fi - to Panasonic's cloud-based internet service (which is being eagerly expanded to catch up to its rivals' standards) but it's NOT an internet enabled web browser based TV (like "Google" TV + their pricey),
(*) it's Full HD @1080 (60p, 50p, 24p, 60i, 50i), HD @720 down to SD @480 (60p, 60i) with 600Hz motion technology frame rate and 0.001ms response time
(*) 3 HDMI connectors (not the 4 on the more expensive models),
(*) 1 AV in/out SCART connector (that also takes RGB in),
(*) 1 SDXC card slot for playback of photos, video and music
(*) 2 USB for attaching external HDD drives and Wi-Fi dongle (but it's not a DLNA-enabled home network TV),
(*) plus various other connection types for other devices,
(*) support for jpeg images and various video formats, and
(*) decent 2 x 10W speakers
Avoid the calibration specialist reviews on the web as they can go into the minutiae of colour channels, gamuts, luminance and delta errors - well beyond the needs of general consumers like ourselves wishing to buy a TV at a budget price - reserve these reviews for the more expensive models (£700+) as one cannot fine-tune calibrate the TX-P42S30B out-of-the-box that easily from the consumer perspective.
The S30B competes directly with other LCD and LED TVs of its size at this bargain basement price level and picture quality/motion clarity is just superb over its rival technologies that just don't produce the same levels even with their fix-it shutter/flicker-free technologies today.
Its contrast is superb (2,000,000 : 1) and blacks are blacks and shadow details are great - not the fuzzy leaking greys for blacks of the other technologies. Keep the contrast around the mid-way setting for the first 100 hours or so to allow the phosphor to settle in (but experiment with the settings to get a nice feel for the first few weeks).
Colour is more natural than those dynamic vibrant punchy images you get on LCDs/LEDs.
Brightness can be muted in brightly-lit environments (that's why in retail shops LCD/LEDs look super stunning next to the more muted Plasmas); however, one can easily control the amount of ambient light in one's own home and this is where Plasma's clarity comes home to roost. In very bright well-lit rooms LCD/LEDs, perhaps, may be more suited but the more expensive Plasma TVs have better anti-reflective filters on the screen.
One can view Plasmas like one can view CRTs from all angles unlike LCDs/LEDs which are fussy.
Fast moving scenes are really captured faithfully with no blurring or ghosting.
Films in HD are just stunning too and even more so with the lights dimmed and the picture mode set to "True Cinema".
The basic mono-filter on the glass does its anti-reflective job really well for us in our lounge. When the TV is off and from the right angle one can see reflections but they are not highly reflective like on CRT TVs but a muted haze reflection which we are not aware of.
Plasmas have strong glass covers like CRT TVs as opposed to LCDs/LEDS which when you press look and feel feeble like a laptop display and pressure distortion can been seen. So, Plasmas are heavier than LCD/LEDS because of the glass.
The S30B is solid and sturdy and can probably take a bit more knocking from toddlers than LCDs/LEDs (just subjective though and so wouldn't recommend it). Read more ›