Now here's something you don't see every day: a cut-price 42in plasma that doesn't look deathly dull. The opulent looking black bezel combines well with a silvery outer frame.

However connectivity is poor. The PDP4211EU has no digital video inputs so it won't display Sky's upcoming high definition TV broadcasts or digital signals from DVD players with digital outputs.

Even worse, although the HiSense set has a component video input, it's not configured for high-definition or even progressive scan video signals. A standard D-Sub PC jack lets you receive (scaled-down) HD sources via a PC, but otherwise you're left with just a couple of Scarts and the usual S-video and composite video options.

An ugly onscreen menu accesses precious few interesting features except for MotionDetect, which claims to improve the look of movement.

Performance

The pictures aren't a total horror show, but at the same time they're seriously flawed... The most pleasant surprise comes with the set's black level response. Dark film scenes enjoy rich, deep blacks that don't show a trace of the sort of grey misting that has affected first-generation budget plasma screens. As a result, dark scenes look enjoyably solid.

The PDP4211EU's colours are also reasonable. Saturation levels are high and images are largely unsullied by moiring or dot crawl. But that's where the good news ends. The most immediately noticeable problem is the way motion judders and jerks, especially during camera pans. Even with MotionDetect the picture still stutters enough to make you feel sick.

My other bone of contention concerns is the near total failure to address such classic plasma problems as colour banding and dot interference over horizontal movement, intimating that this set's video driver is very basic.

Along with ringing around hard edges and a generally soft, detail-light finish, and the words 'you only get what you pay for' start to sound very appropriate... I didn't receive any speakers with the HiSense plasma - but a pair of my own revealed the onboard amplifiers to be at best functional.

Wrap up

For colour fidelity and contrast, the PDP4211EU doesn't disgrace the ultrabudget plasma market. But then it undoes this good work with a host of fundamental glitches, and fails to offer digital or easy high-def support. No surprise, it's not on for a Best Buy then.