Poor old plasma's getting squeezed these days, as LCD keeps extending itself to ever bigger sizes. The arrival in the UK of LG's biggest LCD TV to date, the 42LC2D, will thus provide cold comfort. As its name suggests, this beauty moves in on 42-inch turf, until recently occupied exclusively by plasma. But in this case we're not sure plasma really has that much to worry about.

We described the 42LC2D as a beauty, and we meant it. With its high-gloss black screen surround, sleek metallic strip under the screen and tastefully back-angled speakers, it delivers a style boost to any living room.

Things aren't so beautiful on the connections front, as there's only one HDMI. Still, the news certainly isn't all bad, as you get a PC input, three Scarts (only one can carry an RGB signal though), component video inputs, plus a CAM slot, and a digital audio output that alerted us to the presence of a digital tuner.

The 42LC2D is HD-ready, with a native resolution of 1,366x768 sealing the deal. Other specifications find a promising claimed contrast ratio of 1,600:1, and a fair claimed brightness of 500cd/m2.

As with all LG's large flat TVs, it carries the company's XD Engine picture processing for improving colours, sharpness, noise reduction, movement (especially during fi lm viewing), and fine detail levels. Available user-adjustable options include tweaks for flesh tones, green tones and blue tones, plus two noise reduction routines - one of which is aimed at the pesky blocking noise seen on some digital TV broadcasts.

Aside from only having one HDMI, so far the 42LC2D has barely put a foot wrong. But sadly things go downhill a little when you start watching it.

Tale of two TVs

Numerous factors contribute to the 42LC2D's disappointing performance. The worst offender is video noise. Standard-definition material from the 42LC2D's tuner seems beset with fizzing and grain. More alarmingly, so does a great deal of HD fodder. A usually pristine DVHS 1080i transfer of Alien, for instance, looked like its pictures were made up of tiny buzzing flies rather than stable individual pixels. And none of the TV's noise reduction systems solved this problem.

Black levels are also flawed in that they suffer a bluish tone that can make dark scenes look empty. Related to this, colours during dark scenes can struggle to find that natural tone now achieved by LCD rivals. Finally, while watching NTSC material we weren't impressed with the 42LC2D's handling of motion - though we accept this probably won't affect very many UK viewers.

The pictures are good in other areas. Colours are vibrant, the picture's bright for such a large LCD TV, HD pictures can be detailed, if the noise is ignored, and black levels go deep despite the blue tone. But with some stellar bigscreen LCDs appearing, it's the niggles that linger in the memory.

Things are better with the sound, as the unusually wide soundstage combines power with deep and controlled bass and well-rounded trebles.

But as sound comes second to pictures when you're looking for a great TV, the 42LC2D's relative audio strengths make its picture flaws even tougher to take. A year ago this would have ruled, but there's stiffer competition today.