LG continues to apply downward pressure on plasma TV pricing with its latest 42in offering, which includes a built-in digital tuner for a measly £1600. But does the low price come at too high a performance cost?
There's nothing particularly cheap about the 42PX4DV's build quality. The black inner screen frame and grey outer frame are a great aesthetic match, and the finish looks solid and opulent rather than plasticky.
The inclusion of an HDMI digital video input is pleasing, guaranteeing compatibility with next-gen digital and HD sources. What's more, there's a set of HD-capable component video jacks, a trio of Scarts, a D-Sub PC interface, and even a CAM slot for adding extra functionality - Top Up TV - to the digital tuner.
The presence of component and HDMI jacks does not make this TV HD Ready, since its native resolution is just 852 x 480. The set will accept HD video - but has to scale it down to the screen's resolution.
On hand to help with this is the latest generation of LG's XD Engine picture processing, for boosting image clarity, colour saturation and tone, contrast, brightness, colour gradation, and frame rate handling.
Also worth mentioning is support for the 8-day Freeview EPG, separate adjustments for fleshtone, greentone and bluetone, and both 3D and MPEG noise reduction.
The 42PX4DV's pictures are very creditable. Its black level performance is deep, natural and textured enough to give genuine solidity and depth to darker scenes. I'm not convinced the black levels justify LG's extravagant 10000:1 contrast ratio claim -but our Tech labs do confirm a real world contrast ratio of 640:1, which can be considered excellent - it's certainly good enough to add extra scary 'what's lurking in the shadows' impact during a DVD run-through of Scream.
The 42PX4DV also proves adept at suppressing plasma's issues with colour banding, dot crawl and fizzing noise over moving objects. It also serves up a wide ranging, vibrant palette and nearly natural (7200k) colour temperature. Elsewhere, the XD Engine helps standard-def DVDs and TV broadcasts from the built-in digital tuner look acceptably sharp.
Predictably, XD Engine can't stop the LG appearing softer with high-definition material than PDPs with higher native resolutions. HD viewing on the 42PX4DV looks relatively good when downscaled, but frankly if you intend to subscribe to Sky's initial HD offerings, or hope to exploit the graphical potential of the Xbox 360, buying a standard definition plasma is a false economy.
Also, the LG has a minor tendency to exaggerate MPEG noise during HDMI viewing, suggesting some MPEG noise reduction is missing in the chain.
In terms of audio, the 42PX4DV delivers smooth and reasonably deep bass, a clear mid-range, and no nasty harshness when the going gets tough.
The lack of native high-def resolution here is a shame, but its all-round performance and future-proofed compatibility still qualify the screen as a budget bargain.