When this set first hit the shelves just a few months ago, no one thought 1080 lines of vertical resolution was possible on a plasma display. Despite all the advances the AV world has made over the past 12 months or so, this type of detail on a plasma screen was surely some mistake. Such thinking now seems obsolete, thanks to Hitachi, who first made the qualitative leap.

So, how has Hitachi turned AV dreams into reality? This 42in gas giant uses AliS (Alternate Lighting of Surface) technology to make native 1080i pictures possible. And the good news doesn't stop there either - the 42PD9700 manages to pull it off in fine style.

Aesthetically, the set sports a striking black surround offset by silver speakers. It also retains the swivelling electric stand that was such a hit in earlier TVs in the Platara series.

Connectivity is also as comprehensive as we've come to expect with sets of this size, price and ambition, with a brace of HDCP-capable HDMIs and all the analogue socketry you'll need, including component video and three Scarts (of which two carry RGB, as well as a CI slot for upgrading to pay TV and an SD card reader.

Setting up is easy: Hitachi's usual, uncluttered menu structure provides straightforward access to some sophisticated picture tweaks including 3D comb filtering and line/colour transient improvement. It does many things and nearly all of them extremely well, especially when delivering HD material.

The 42PD9700 produces one of the clearest pictures on the market today, with awesomely sharp edges combined with almost totally noise-free crispness. This is bolstered by a mastery of blacks and greyscale that conveys convincing depth.

Colours are also spot on: they are well saturated when needs be and also subtly nuanced and restrained when required. The whole lot melds together without the banding issues that can plague some plasma screens. Progressive pictures at lower resolution (720p) are similarly awesome and you'll barely notice the slightly softer finish to what is still a supremely enjoyable picture.

In contrast, the inferiority of SD content is woefully apparent: colours look less lifelike and there's distracting 'tizzing' around edges. Overall, though, this is an excellent screen that proves you can get quality and innovation for sensible money