Welcome to the forum! Have you got a few days/weeks/months to hang out here? j/k
Before anyone can make recommendations we'll want to know more about your viewing habits (whether you'll be watching mostly regular TV, DVD or HD), your budget constraints (if any), and any specific features you're looking for (attached speakers, built in tuner, etc.) and your planned room setup (how far will you be from the screen) would be helpful as well. There really isn't a 'best' 42 (as far as 'one size fits all' kind of thing), just a best for each persons' needs. You'll also want to browse around the forum for a bit if you haven't yet to start with and look at threads discussing the current models.
I asked myself the same question about 6 weeks ago when I decided it was time a plasma graced a rather stark wall in my house.
As you can see on the left, I'm still in the low double digits in posts, so I'm also new to this forum. In fact, I came to this forum in the first place in order to help me answer this very question.
Following on deeann's comment, selecting best plasma (or car, or vacation, etc.) is more about you than about the models out there. For example, how much are you willing to spend? Are you willing to increase your budget by a few $k if you aren't 100% satisfied with what you'll get for your initial budget?
I learned from this forum that for a good part of 2003, the Pioneers, Panasonics and Fujitsu's were highly regarded, and Sony was often mentioned as well. Now there's many more players crowding the field.
For me, digital connectivity was important, therefore I leaned towards the panels with HDMI capability. This was because I wanted to get a panel that would be as "forward compatable" as possible, and I'm willing to bet that HDMI will hold its own for the next 5 to 10 years (...?...).
Although I researched the technical details to death (I'm an engineer -- I can't help it), you can't judge picutre quality without using you own eyes.
So... I went forth into the untamed wilds of downtown Toronto and tried to lay eyeballs on as many different models as I could. Initally, I was leaning heavily towards the Panasonic models (there's an AV store in Toronto, Bay Bloor Radio, that had 8 or 10 different 42", 43" and 50" plasmas side-by-side, making comparison easy). I learned in this forum about the "green push" in the dark end of the Pioneer models, and the blacker-than-black of the Panasonics. Then I looked at the new 4th generation Pioneers -- wow!... spent more time reading this forum... went to different stores (Best Buy, Future Shop, 2001 Audio/Video) ... etc...
In the end, I increased my initial budget by 50%, switched up to 50" rather than 42" and got the Pioneer 1110HD. Having said that, I would have been equally thrilled with the Panasonic TH-50PX20U/P, and many in this forum will think I'm nuts for not going Panasonic. The balance tipped in Pioneer's favour not because of the plasma itself, but because I was setting up an entire home theatre (receiver, DVD, etc.) and the rest of Pioneer Elite line (59Avi DVD and 55Txi receiver) closed the deal for me.
Now, I drive a 2003 Honda Accord. My neighbour drives a Toyota Camry. I would recommend you buy an Accord, and she would recommend a Camry. They're about the same price, and they're both great cars. My parents-in-law's next door neighbour has a Ferrari Enzo ($1M CDN, or $750k US). His car wallops the arse off my Accord (duh!).
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