After seemingly years of moaning at Fujitsu for making its plasma screens too expensive, someone at the Japanese giant seems to have listened to us. For the company's latest 42in plasma TV, the P42HTA51ES, is a really very affordable £1,995. What's more, unusual for Fujitsu is that price includes a pair of speakers and a built-in TV tuner. Marvellous. Or is it?
It's pretty decently constructed, at any rate. It feels quite solid, the main chassis is appealingly slender, the colour scheme is subtle without being bland, and there's some gentle but welcome styling in the form of subtle curves on each edge.
Connections deliver a welcome surprise in the inclusion of two Scarts alongside the already mentioned tuner jack. Fujitsu isn't renowned for making plasma TVs as opposed to tuner/Scart-free plasma screens, so it's nice to find that the P42HTA51ES has its sights firmly set on the living room. That said, it doesn't go the whole TV hog, since it lacks both phono composite and four-pin S-video inputs.
HD support, meanwhile, comes from an HDMI port and a set of component video jacks, with PC users catered for by a D-Sub computer connector.
A curious-looking but still HD Ready 1,024 x 1,024i native resolution is achieved via the use of Alternate Lighting of Surfaces technology, whereby extended phosphor areas are used, and a system for lighting the gaps between pixels, as well as the pixels themselves, allows the set to effectively double its perceived horizontal resolution.
When it comes to other features, we have to start with a negative, as the built-in tuner is analogue only. Unsurprisingly considering the set's price, there aren't that many other features besides Fujitsu's AVM II image processing system. Allegedly this tackles MPEG noise, jagged contours, colour tones, and mosquito noise. But if AVM II really does improve the P42HTA51ES's pictures, we'd hate to see what they look like without it.
One single, but severe key problem is colour tone. First, what should be bright hues invariably look muted and drab. And second, early plasmas' old problems of deep greens looking off-key, reds looking orange and skin tones looking sickly, all return to haunt us.
Looking past these really quite basic nasties, the P42HTA51ES has a few decent strings to its bow. Fine detail levels are adequate for the money, and dark parts of the picture enjoy a decently deep black level effort. There's not much video noise around either, aside from some gentle fizzing over horizontal motion. And the provided speakers are accomplished too, with plenty of power at their disposal, fair bass handling and an open mid-range.
But tragically all these good points are cancelled out by the bizarre colour problems, leaving us wondering - yet again - why Fujitsu can deliver the goods with its bigger plasma tellies, but seems to struggle when it drops down to 42in.