The rise of flat panel technology has arguably pushed TVs into the realm of functional works of art, but we have seen few plasma and LCD screens that can compete with JVC's latest in the looks department. Coupled with its optional steel and glass stand - from swanky Italian design studio Bellini - the black-framed PD-42B50 is truly stunning to look at. Okay, so it will set you back an extra £500 on top of the basic £3,000 price tag, but when did this kind of style ever come cheap?
If you're not tempted by the designer stand, the screen is also suitable for wall mounting and it's one of the few plasmas to come supplied with a fixed wall bracket. The only significant black mark against it being stuck up above your fireplace is the fact that all the connections are located at the back of the screen itself, and not in a separate AV box, which means you'll need to find a way to hide the glut of unsightly cables.
The connections on offer are pretty standard: a component video input and a trio of Scarts (two of which are RGB compatible) are the chief AV sockets, and PC owners may be interested to note that there is also an analogue D-sub input for their computers. Sadly, there is no sign of an HDMI or DVI input, so this screen isn't the ideal partner for a digital video-outputting DVD player, shame.
On the audio side of things, there are the usual suspects (several phono inputs) as well as a centre channel input, which enables you to use the TV's built-in speakers as the dialogue-carrying centre channel speaker in a multichannel surround sound setup.
As with its connections, the PD-42B50's specs don't make for particularly impressive reading on paper. The 3,000:1 contrast ratio might sound mighty tasty, but companies generally measure these figures in different ways and consequently it's wise to take them with quite a hefty pinch of salt (make that a handful). Perhaps the biggest cause for concern is the resolution of just 852 x 480 pixels, which seems particularly paltry when compared to the 1,024 x 1,024 and 1,280 x 720 panels used on a host of other rival manufacturers' screens.
JVC's decision to include its proprietary DIST system goes some way towards atoning for this flaw. DIST includes technology that increases the detail of the image by scaling it up, so the low resolution doesn't really seem apparent when you've got this in action. Detail is given a noticeable boost, with the edges of objects sharpening. The technology can be toned down or turned off if you prefer, and with DVDs we found that less was most definitely more, with the softer, smoother edges suiting the likes of The Two Towers better than starkly defined lines; video games, on the other hand, look quite superb.
The screen's contrast range is excellent, with rich, deep blacks and bright, light colours achieved. Colour banding is almost non existent and movement is handled with a minimum of blurring and juddering. The only significant flaw in the image is a noticeable 'grid' effect that occasionally pops up in areas of solid lighter colours, but overall it doesn't affect the picture to an alarming degree.
Accompanying the picture is some top-quality stereo audio courtesy of the BBE sound processing system, although if you're spending big on a screen it's well worth investing in a surround setup to accompany it. There is a virtual surround mode available, but it might prove a little too OTT.
While the performance might not quite be up to the standards set by certain other plasmas, there's no doubting that it does a good job where it counts. Add the styling and high quality design, and you've got a classy - if not mindblowing - plasma TV.