Samsung's PS42Q97HD is ahead of the game when it comes to connections, offering three HDMIs where most of its rivals can only manage two. These HDMIs come on top of standard features like a component video input, PC port, Scarts and digital tuner support.

Perhaps the PS42Q97HD's single biggest instant attraction, though, is its price. Commonly found for £900, it is remarkably cheap for such a large, well-specified plasma.

Among these specifications are a 1,024 x 768-pixel native resolution and a massive 15,000:1 claimed contrast ratio. Ultra Filterbright technology is built into the screen's glass to soak up as much as 90 per cent of reflections caused by light in your room, while Samsung's DNIe image processing works to improve contrast, colour and motion.

There are two other image processing systems: Movie Plus for making motion smoother and Edge Enhancement, but we'd suggest you avoid them both as they tend to cause more problems in the picture than they solve.

Performance

Provided you follow this simple advice, though, and also ignore the crazily over-the-top Dynamic picture preset the TV ships with, the PS42Q97HD can deliver pictures far better than you've any right to expect for £900.

Take black levels, for instance. While we don't entirely buy the whole 15,000:1 claim, there's no doubt that the screen's presentation of black is profound, believable and only just short of the outstanding efforts of the Panasonic opposite.

It also impresses with the vibrancy of its colour response, and the amount of fine detailing on show when playing HD sources. Plus video noise during HD viewing is at an absolute premium and motion looks both reasonably judder-free and devoid of plasma's tendency to generate fizzing noise over moving skin tones.

Keeping our feet on the ground are just a couple of flaws. First and worst, the PS42Q97HD isn't as accomplished with standard definition as we'd like, rendering digital tuner sources with rather a lot of video noise. Secondly, there's a tendency to show rich reds with a slightly orange tone.

Even with these glitches, though, the PS42Q97HD is a phenomenally attractive proposition, especially to anyone struggling with a post-Christmas cash crunch.