When it comes to display technologies, rear projection is usually viewed as the backward and quite possibly in-bred cousin of the likes of plasma and LCD.

The criticisms are many: while the new flat panel aristocracy is trim and tidy around the waistline, rear projectors wear the kind of bulk more often associated with a sumo wrestler. What's more, the picture they create is wonky and, frankly, a bit cack, while their connectivity is rubbish.

But over the past few years we've seen the emergence of a new breed of rear projectors. The technology dictates that this kind of screen will never rival the litheness of a plasma TV, but darn it if some of this lot don't actually look pretty attractive.

And in terms of performance, even more striking improvements have been made, mainly due to manufacturers' adoption of superior DLP projection technology.

Rear projector pluses

This evolution is characterised by rear projectors like this one, the French designed of its box, so preventing grubby paw prints from spoiling the sheen.

An excellent range of connections is provided on the side and rear panels of the Axium. Of chief importance to those interested in high definition compatibility is the DVI input, which is fully HDCP compliant; this means that it will work both with the current crop of HDMI and DVI outputting DVD players and with any future devices that use all-digital video outputs - including HDTV receiver boxes. The DVI connection also has its own companion stereo audio input.

Other connections include a VGA PC input (located at the side), component video input, a trio of RGB capable Scart sockets and digital audio in and outputs. We really can't say that there is anything important missing, apart from perhaps an HDMI input, which would be nice if only for the sake of completeness.

The Axium isn't just a display - it's actually a television, and as such comes with an aerial input, an analogue tuner and peripheral features including Teletext and Nicam stereo. Granted, we were a little disappointed at the lack of a digital tuner to complete the setup, but adding an external Freeview box is hardly an expensive option these days.

Due processing

Wisely, Sagem has fitted some image processing technology in the reliable form of Faroudja's DCDi. Now a popular choice among consumer electronics manufacturers, DCDi scales-up video signals, increasing detail and sharpness while simultaneously de-interlacing to eliminate jagged edges and flicker.

We tried it out briefly with the built-in TV tuner and were very impressed: a quick glimpse of This Morning left us open-mouthed at Philip Schofield's silvery locks, which had never looked so silky smooth.

DCDi also works well with higher quality sources like DVD and games consoles, although we did find that the former exposed a couple of small flaws that are often associated with DLP projection technology. First, there's the infamous 'rainbow effect' caused by DLP's colour wheel.

Although Sagem seems to have done a fine job of eliminating it in the main, we did notice the odd occurrence here and there - but it's not a huge problem. The other is the occasional appearance of a motion artefact during quick horizontal pans; again, this is nothing too disruptive, but you notice it all the same.

Get past these niggles and the advantages offered by DLP are numerous. This is most notably reflected in the Axium's brilliant contrast range, which enables it to run the entire brightness gamut from deep black to piercingly clear white; just try replicating that on a plasma screen - it can't manage it.

Overall, we're incredibly impressed by Sagem's Axium screen. It's very easy on the eye - both in terms of casing and screen ability - it's able to accept HDTV, and boasts a picture quality that gives the current range of top LCD screens more than a run for their money. Speaking of which, it will set you back £2,000; for a 45-inch high definition display that sounds very reasonable to us.