LG 42PC1DV £950

26th Mar 2007 | 23:00

LG 42PC1DV

Will the LG's price work in its favour?

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

It's cheap, but unfortunately its quality is just about as low as its price

Like:

<p>Good black levels</p><p>Decent price</p>

Dislike:

<p>Far too much noise</p>

LG'S 42in plasma screen wears its main attraction on its sleeve - for its £950 launch price makes it a new member of the extremely small sub-£1,000 42in plasma club - and quite possibly one of the bargains of the year. But is there a catch? There's nothing suspicious in the set's looks.

It's better built than many of its more expensive rivals, and while its aesthetics aren't anything to write home about, they're hardly cheap and nasty. However, the first cracks start to appear with an examination of the 42PC1DV's connections as we spot only one HDMI - making connection to SkyHD and an HD DVD/Blu-ray deck difficult.

At least elsewhere the connectivity is good, including as it does component video jacks, three Scarts, a PC input, a digital audio output and a common interface slot. A digital tuner, meanwhile, is another very welcome inclusion you might not expect to find on such an affordable TV. Heading deeper into the 42PC1DV's specifications, we turn up LG's proprietary XD Engine image processing.

This works on no less than six separate aspects of the TV's picture to improve its overall appearance, as well as providing a few user adjustments in the onscreen menus. These include individual adjustments for the tones of skin, blues and greens; MPEG noise reduction for smoothing out the shimmering and blockiness that are common in digital broadcasts and a more standard noise reduction routine.

Other features of note include picture-in-picture tools, and a phenomenally high claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1. There's certainly nothing cheap about that. However, perhaps inevitably, the 42PC1DV does have one nasty surprise up its sleeve: a native resolution of just 852 x 480 pixels. Which means that, although it's capable of displaying (downscaled) hi-def material, it can't call itself HD Ready. Ouch.

Of course, this is a budget set and, as such, is not really aimed at the sort of person to whom top-spec pictures are of paramount importance. But this doesn't satisfy another concern we have about the 42PC1DV: the similarity of its name to LG's considerably better specified 42PC1D.

Muscle definition

The version of the set without the V at the end is HD Ready, and also throws in LG's Direct Colour Filter technology for reducing 'secondary imaging' during off-axis viewing. These are two really significant differences that LG surely ought to have defined more clearly than simply the addition of a single letter to the name of the inferior model. We shudder to think how many people might have bought a 42PC1DV thinking they'd got themselves a great price on the 42PC1D.

There's nothing significant to complain about when it comes to using this model. LG's onscreen menus are clean, attractive and generally well organised, and although a little plasticky and overcrowded, the remote control does at least put all the buttons you need most in pretty handy positions.

Although the 42PC1DV is arguably one of the best sub-£1k 42in screens around, with a few genuinely appealing elements to its pictures, its budget nature is clearly apparent in one key flaw: video noise. There's a general graininess to the picture - whether watching standard or high-definition - that's seldom less than distracting and at times can really become pretty ugly.

It doesn't help, either, that pictures with any MPEG blocking or shimmering noise from the digital tuner or from an attached Sky receiver seem to have these artefacts exaggerated, even if you employ MPEG noise reduction.

In terms of the 42PC1DV's strengths, its black levels are far and away the most accomplished we've seen at this price point, as dark scenes remain free of the greyness and shallowness usually seen on budget sets. Colours are also phenomenally rich, and this is achieved without serious tonal issues, as even skin tones tend to look totally natural.

There's even a decent degree of sharpness to the picture, especially during HD viewing, despite the TV not having an HD resolution. Finally, motion is handed well, with minimal loss of resolution and very little sign of plasma's traditional motion dithering problems. Ultimately, though, there's just no getting around the fact that the single aspect you most remember about the 42PC1DV's pictures is its video noise.

The built-in speakers have the raw power and frequency response to produce a really quite rich and dynamic soundstage that wouldn't be out of place on a TV costing twice as much. Tough call this because, on the one hand you get 42in of adequate pictures for an absolute song, while on the other, you only have to shell out a couple of hundred pounds more to get a TV that outperforms this one and boasts a true HD Ready resolution.

In the final analysis, it's up to you to decide if you're willing to compromise on quality for the sake of the seductive price tag.

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