Pros: It's a Panasonic! Built-in speakers. Plenty of input connections.
Cons: Many early manufactured TH-42PA20U's may have faulty part which causes TV to power off.
This is an admittedly quickie review of the Panasonic TH-42PA20U.
I'm not an audiophile or videophile, so I won't attempt to compare the picture or sound of this set to other plasma TV's. I purchased this specific model for four reasons:
1) It's a Panasonic. The brand is known for making well- built, high performing plasmas.
2) This model has an abundance of inputs for connecting external equipment; other "monitor-only" models I've seen typically have fewer inputs. The TH-42PA20U includes a TV tuner (181-channel NTSC), so that extra inputs are available for other equipment. Admittedly, most people won't be utilizing the set's tuner. In all, the set has 3 composite video (2 rear and 1 on front panel), 3 S-video (2 rear, 1 front), 2 rear component video, and 1 rear DVI. Two RF inputs are available for antenna/cable. You can quickly connect a PC using the RGB 15-pin input on the front panel. A headphone input is also located on the front panel.
3) This model has built-in speakers. For me, that's a space- saver for a small bedroom where a surround system is impractical. Audiophiles won't be impressed with the pseudo-surround sound (adequate, but nothing special).
4) The price (3700.00 on the Net) was reasonable for a plasma of this caliber.
The picture on this EDTV (not HDTV) does look impressive, but the quality of your TV signal ultimately determines whether you'll be able to appreciate the true potential of this set. I have digital cable which typically displays a somewhat degraded picture because of the digital compression of the signal. The degradation is more obvious on the plasma TV compared with my projection screen TV. DVD's are a different story- they look fantastic on the Panasonic.
One Big Caveat:
This set was purchased soon after it was released- August 2003. In January 2004, the set began shutting off after 2-3 hours of use. It made a high pitched sound just before shutting off. At this point, the front panel LED blinks in a specific sequence which aids in diagnosing the problem. The TV has to be reset (unplugged and plugged in) in order to turn it on again.
We called the local repair shop and confirmed the LED blink sequence. They were well aware of the problem and had already repaired several (7-8) TH-42PA20U's with the exact same problem ("faulty transistor"). Another review of this model mentions a similar shut-off problem occurring after months of normal use. I don't know if Panasonic has fitted more recently manufactured sets with an updated part.
We are scheduled to get our set repaired (under warranty) next week- apparently the part is easy to replace.
Our set was repaired in less than 30 minutes. The repair person didn't perform any diagnostics before replacing the part- that's how certain he was of the problem. We have had no problems during the 2 weeks since the set was repaired.
With hours of use each day, our set has had no issues in the 1.5 years since it was repaired.