Samsung is now selling a plasma TV for a penny or two under a grand that measures a colossal 42 inches.

Drop-dead gorgeous, the LE42Q97HD's connectivity is impeccable, too, as we find an exceptional three HDMIs and a component video input for HD video duties. Plus, you get jacks for a digital tuner and a PC port. The only slight disappointment is that the HDMIs don't handle 1080p inputs.

So far there's nothing to indicate how Samsung has made such a large plasma TV so affordable - and this excellent theme continues with a healthy feature count. A new Ultra FilterBright system eliminates up to 90 per cent of ambient screen reflections, while a new Optimal Light Filter element reduces light diffusion as the picture emerges from the TV for greater brightness and contrast and levels.

Also on board is a Movie Mode that adds in extra image frames to make motion smoother, and all manner of fine-tuning options such as gamma adjustment, a black level booster, an edge enhancement and Samsung's DNIe processing engine for improving colours, black levels, contrast and detailing.

Remarkably, the LE42Q97HD's lowly price isn't reflected in any truly significant way in its performance. Black levels, for instance, are a revelation for such an affordable flat TV, avoiding almost all the customary greyness during dark scenes.

Colours are vibrant, too; not quite as richly so as with Samsung's best LCD TVs, but easily good enough to build on that dynamism created in the first instance by the exemplary black levels. Colours are consistently authentic in tone, too.

HD sources, meanwhile, appear decently (if not quite outstandingly) sharp, detailed and clean, especially as motion suffers less with smearing than on Samsung's LCD models.

Our only performance quibbles would be that SD sources can look a touch noisy at times, and that the optional Movie Plus Mode causes enough image lag to soften the picture up, especially over skin tones - so turn it off.