Re: New Plasma 42" (which one?)
Plasma's are pretty much a grab bag.
You can go as cheap as $900 for that size or up to $4,500 for the Pioneer Elite, which is head and neck above the rest of the entire plasma world. Yes, it is expensive, and you would be right to consider the likes of Vizio for $999 for the same size.
Which is best depends on you and your needs.
FWIW I still have a Panasonic Plasma in my bedroom, great set, mine is now a model or two old. What would I replace it with? Well, it goes without saying if I could I'd go the Pioneer Elite 60" Kuro 1080p @ $7,500 though, it's a big bite! We all were talking about the TV issue @ CES and I hate to say it but it really seems that the lower priced manufacturers are not only closing in on the upper end ones but setting the market trend.
As for 42" sets, I like the Samsung 81 model, the Pioneer Elite model, and the Sony XBR4. Not sure if you'd get into any of these for the price you want, and honestly if you are tight on a TV, go cheap as they are the most rapidly developing market in HT right now and who knows what will be out next year!
Ken Taraszka, MD