Samsung PS42V4SKX £1600

31st Jul 2005 | 23:00

Can Samsung prove that looks aren't everything?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

A low price from a big-name brand, but also a low resolution and imperfect image

Like:

<p>HDCP-capable DVI input</p><p>Digital Natural Image engine to boost contrast</p>

Dislike:

<p>Low screen resolution</p><p>Some softness and noise in images</p>

Samsung might be the new shirt sponsor of Chelsea football club, but is this 42in model classy enough to make Stamford Bridge its home? Well, it doesn't look like a champion. In fact, the functional grey exterior leaves this screen looking more like an austere Eastern European football stadium than 'the Bridge'.

Things look more promising when we look beneath the skin, however. For starters, we would expect the PS42V4SKX's low price to go hand-in-hand with a reduced features list, but it's good to see Samsung's acclaimed DNIe picture processing is still on the team sheet.

The screen also has all the firepower it needs on the back line, with the highlight being an HDCP-capable DVI input.

But sadly a screen resolution of just 852 x 480 pixels means that such footage will have to be scaled down to fit the screen. Still, other inputs include component video (for carrying progressive scan pictures from a DVD player and analogue HD signals), composite video, S-video and two Scart inputs (one RGB) - not a bad haul.

So, HD-ready it isn't, but what does the Samsung have in the way of picture power? Primed for both high-definition TV (despite the low resolution) and ordinary TV tuner pictures, that Digital Natural Image engine (DNIe) promises a four-pronged attack by boosting contrast ratio and detail while improving colour saturation and making motion more clear (not that this is a major problem with most plasmas).

With performance, it comes as no shock that the Samsung reproduces colours with aplomb - this is the main benefit of plasma over LCD. They were vibrant and well saturated on our football footage, even at this low resolution, and blacks were also represented with enough depth and detail courtesy of a good contrast performance.

Soft touch

Still, there's no escaping the fact that the PS42V4SKX has a leaky defence: namely that the football appears soft and at times noisy, even with DNIe in full flight. Thankfully, however, (scaled-down) high-definition footage looked a little cleaner, as did pictures fed through that DVI input from a DVD player.

Audio is a slight return to form, as those side-mounted speakers give a decent (although a hardly England-class) performance. They provide punch to music and easily cope with both crowd noise and mumbling commentators.

The PS42V4SKX makes a decent showing considering its limited arsenal. Its low screen resolution is something that we would steer clear of if possible - there are plenty of plasmas around with more to play with - because it severely limits how good high-def footage can look.

That's not to say HD doesn't look good on this TV, though, it's just that the DVI input does seem rather wasted on such a low-resolution screen. Those of you who want HDTV would do well to look elsewhere, even if that does mean saving up a few more pennies before entering the TV transfer market.

At the final whistle, the PS42V4SKX is a good-value solution for those with big-screen ambitions and small-time budgets. Which, frankly, is most of us. HD-ready it ain't, however, which leaves us thinking that this is more of a UEFA Cup contender than a Premiership Champion.

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