For a company known mostly for its high-quality audio gear, Marantz has committed a home cinema faux pas by leaving off Scart connections from its PD4220V.
Granted, those of us with flatscreen TVs ought really to be taking advantage of all-digital connections, or at least using component inputs, but the lack of a Scart might easily scare some people off this screen (many screens still have three Scarts). So might the lack of a TV tuner, which technically puts the PD4220V in the 'monitor' rather than TV class. Which, perhaps by accident more than design, is perfect for our group test!
Flying the flag
There's nothing unappealing about the look of this flagship 42in plasma screen, as it is elegantly wrapped in gun-metal. The accompanying remote isn't anywhere near as sexy, but then we suppose you can't have it all.
This is definitely true when it comes to connectivity. Component inputs are a fantastic solution for DVD players, but what about games consoles, VCRs and digital TV receivers? The lack of a Scart throws up these problems, but there are composite and S-video inputs on offer, as well as analogue RGB (via BNC) and D-sub sockets - so if required you could connect a Scartoutputting device to one of these ports using an adaptor.
The BNC RGB sockets can also be used for a standard component video connection (a second RCA-type is available). Lastly, the PC connections: analogue VGA and digital DVI. The latter is only compatible with computers, and not with DVI and HDMIoutputting DVD players. When you consider that Marantz was one of the first companies to produce a DVI-compatible DVD deck, this oversight becomes all the more baffling.
Another thing that may rankle with those looking for the best picture performance is the display resolution of just 853 x 480 pixels. With the likes of Philips and Hitachi launching new plasmas boasting a 1,024 x 1,024 pixel count, and Pioneer's 43in model 1,024 x 768, this is less than impressive. That said, the screen is compatible with HDTV signals, and we found it did an admirable job of showing HDTV-quality WMVHD video from a connected PC.
Look on the bright side
We don't want to focus too much on the flaws of this screen, because once you've set them aside there's a lot that is worthy of considerable praise. First and foremost, image quality is very good. The contrast ratio of 1,500:1 is superior to that of many rivals, and blacks and dark areas from our The Motorcycle Diaries DVD were rendered well - if not quite with the same panache as from the latest screens from Panasonic and others. Colour reproduction is decent, and while there's occasional contouring in backgrounds and smoky scenes, gradation from light to dark tones is fairly smooth.
Quick movements - such as Che and Alberto's ragged motorbike run through the streets of Buenos Aires in The Motorcycle Diaries - did cause occasional blur and artefacts, but no more than you'd notice or expect from most screens within this price range. And there's a built-in de-interlacer (which, pleasingly, can be overridden) that ensures the picture remains flicker-free and objects are smooth.
Marantz has made the decision not to include any speakers with the PD4220. There is built-in amplification, however, and clip-style stereo speaker outputs at the rear of the set in case you should require them.
The PD4220V may lack advanced features and Scart connections, but movie buffs after a hang-on-the-wall model should add this to their short list.