First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A LCD TV
A no-frills LCD TV, but it needs to be cheaper
The Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A is a 42in Full HD CCFL-backlit LCD TV. Three or four years ago this television would have been top-of-the-line, but in 2011 it's just another entry-level flat panel. Its basic specifications mean that it capably handles free-to-air digital and analog TV and DVD movie viewing, but despite good detail levels in ideal conditions the VIERA U30A struggles with high-contrast video material.
- Good detail (in perfect conditions)
- No 100Hz
- Poor contrast levels
Panasonic's VIERA TH-L42U30A LCD TV is fine for everyday DVD or TV watching, and its Full HD screen can display good levels of detail in ideal conditions. Its antiquated CCFL backlight means that for high quality Blu-ray movies, the screen's contrast is disappointgly low. If you can get a great deal on the U30A (at least $200 off, we'd hope) it would be an acceptable deal, but otherwise we'd pick the only-slightly-more-expensive LED-backlit VIERA E3A.
Price$ 949.00 (AUD)
Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A: Design and setup
The Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A looks near-identical to other Panasonic LCD and LED TVs, with a two-tone dark grey on light grey finish. Like the more expensive VIERA E3A, the U30A is reasonably thin (despite its LCD backlight) and its stand isn't bulky.
The VIERA TH-L42U30A has pretty standard connectivity for an entry-level, mid-size LCD — the three HDMIs (one on the side) and two USB ports (one on the side) are what you're most likely to be using, but there are also a few analog composite, component and VGA video connectors for hooking up older A/V devices. There's also an Ethernet wired network port that you can connect to access media files from your networked computers or from the Internet. Nothing here is out of the ordinary, but if you plan to hook up more than a couple of devices over HDMI simultaneously you'll need to either plug the third into the side socket or buy a more expensive TV.
Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A: Picture quality and video performance
The Panasonic VIERA U30A is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum of Panasonic's LCD, LED and plasma TVs, and this is visible if you're watching them side-by-side. View the VIERA U30A in isolation, though, and the differences are harder to identify. If you're going to be predominantly watching free-to-air digital or even analog TV, the VIERA TH-L42U30A doesn't disappoint. DVDs (which have a native resolution of 480p or 576p) also generally look good. Similarly, pick a single 1080p Full HD frame from a Blu-ray movie, and the U30A can display it well.
It's when you're looking at a reasonably complex scene in a Blu-ray movie — our favourite opening scene in the excellent The Dark Knight, or the ending minutes of the not-so-excellent Terminator: Salvation, for example — that the Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A's limitations are exposed. There's no 100Hz refresh rate to smooth out video, so Blu-rays expecially look slightly choppy and jittery in scenes of fast motion. The CCFL backlight — no fancy LEDs in the U30A — is poor at dealing with high contrast scenes, where there's bright white against dark blacks. Colours are good but not perfect, seeming a little under-saturated in most of our viewing. We generally used the VIERA U30A's Normal viewing mode, but used Cinema in a dark room and Dynamic in a bright sun-lit area.
Panasonic VIERA TH-L42U30A: Conclusion
We think that if you can find this TV or its 32in VIERA TH-L32E30A counterpart for a great price, it would be a good purchase — if you can handle the limitations of the screen there are no crippling flaws. We'd hope to see the 42in model for $700 or less, ideally. If you can't find it around this figure, we'd actually shell out slightly more for the more capable LED-backlit Panasonic VIERA TH-L42E3A or an LED TV from a competing brand like Samsung or Sony.
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