Anyone spending this sort of money on a TV doubtless wants a degree of aesthetic opulence for their money - and the P42MRX1 certainly has that. Boasting the purest form of Sony's already-classic 'floating' design, the screen is surrounded on all sides by a transparent glass frame, creating the rather wonderful impression that the picture is just hanging in mid air, as if by magic.
The good looks extend to the multimedia box the screen ships with. This box is generally well laden with connections, being able to handle PC as well as video sources, high definition and progressive scan signals via a set of component jacks, plus all the usual RGB Scart/S-video/composite video suspects. The disappointment is that there's neither DVI nor HDMI jacks for direct digital connection.
More interesting connections - namely a trio of RF terminals and a slot for a conditional access module - are connected with one of the P42MRX1's key features: a built-in digital tuner. The tuner is pleasingly backed by a typically authoritative set of digital functions, including a very sophisticated electronic programme guide and fast digital teletext.
The other fundamental feature is the Wega Engine. We've been hugely impressed with Wega Engine on smaller Sony screens we've seen in the past, so let's hope it holds up on this 42in outing...
Happily it does - though arguably not quite so devastatingly well as we might have have hoped that it would. The colours on show are particularly striking, combining one of the most natural tones we've ever seen on a plasma TV with breathtaking vibrancy and an almost complete dearth of noise.
While we're on the subject of noise, we also have to give massive credit to the purity of the Wega Engine system. Unlike practically all systems found on rival TV screens, it seems to throw up nothing in the way of nasty processing side effects whatsoever, going about its amazingly sophisticated business - in real time, let's not forget - as if massively improving pictures was the easiest job in the world!
Quest for success
Sadly, the P42MRX1's Wega Engine incarnation isn't absolutely the most successful we've seen due to little glitches in Sony's core plasma technology rather than in the Wega Engine process. We spotted occasional evidence of the old quartet of traditional plasma weaknesses: fizzing behind movement, colour banding, mediocre contrast/black level response and green or grey dot crawl over dark areas. Yet we know from experience that some other manufacturers' screens can certainly handle these old-school issues better.
To be fair they aren't much of an issue with high definition or progressive scan pictures, with which the 42MRX1 is as good as anything else we've seen. But with RGB Sky feeds or Freeview broadcasts their presence is undeniable.
There are no such negative traits with the P42MRX1's audio performance. We can't help but feel that the built-on speakers slightly spoil the design ethic, but that said we absolutely love the power, dynamic range, clarity and richness of the sound they produce. Stunning.
With all the evidence in, let's return to the key question we posed at the start of this review: does the P42MRX1 persuade us that it's worth its price hike over the competition? And the answer is... not quite. There's no denying that it's a stunningly designed screen, loaded with lots of lovely features and capable of a truly sensational AV performance thanks to Wega Engine. But the level of overall consistency we'd have liked to find if we were to feel completely confident about recommending a £6kplus 42in TV isn't quite there.