Given the price-cutting carnage currently dominating the flat TV world, Loewe has done a startlingly good job of maintaining its status as a 'premium' brand. But today it seems even Loewe wants a slice of the 'mainstream' action, as it turns to plasma technology in a bid to produce a big-screen TV with a genuinely competitive price.

The 42in Modus L 42 costs just £2,000 - around the same as Pioneer's entry-level 42in plasma opposite. But there are signs that Loewe has had to compromise to hit this price, as the TV's finish is slightly more plasticky and the design slightly more plain than we're used to seeing from the German brand.

Connections aren't all that good either - especially the inclusion of just one HDMI when such a large TV should surely have two. The one piece of good news is a CI slot, which shows the Modus employs a digital tuner. Aside from this and the fact that it's HD Ready, arguably the most important feature is its Image picture processing system. This proprietary Loewe engine has been developed to enhance contrast levels, improve the richness and tone of colours, make the picture sharper, and reduce noise levels.

There's a decent spread of other features too - though it's a shame that accessing them requires a horribly fiddly remote and some deeply tedious onscreen menus. The TV delivers a depressingly hit and miss performance with a test run-through of Million Dollar Baby, recorded in HD from Sky.

Starting with the hits, the TV's black levels are impressively deep. The darkness surrounding the ring during Maggie's final fight thus looks profound, giving the picture real depth. Colour tones are impressive too, doing a deft and believable job of rendering the subtle skin tones on show in Frankie's gym, while also bursting into vibrant life during the film's rare external scenes.

It's impossible to ignore the amount of noise in the picture, though. For starters, as Maggie bounds around the boxing ring her face is sometimes blighted by plasma's fizzing noise problems. But extensive dot crawl is also regularly apparent.

Hollow inside

Colours tend to stripe in shadowy areas too. Also harsh edges can look jagged while standard definition pictures generally look soft. Although black levels are impressively deep, dark picture areas also seem hollow. No such inconsistencies blight the Modus L 42's sound, which enjoys an exceptional combination of richness, raw power and a wide frequency range.

At first we admit we were genuinely intrigued by the idea of Loewe launching a 42in TV at a truly mainstream price. But as our tests conclude, we have to say that as marketing experiments go, the Modus L 42 isn't especially a successful one.