Sony KE-P42M1 review

A larger-than-life flat panel

Our Verdict

Sony's KE-P42M1 perhaps has the edge over its rivals - marginally

The P42M1 is no shrinking violet. It's blinking huge, in fact. Maybe a bit too much so, if truth be told. Still, its dramatically curved edges and bold chunkiness can't be accused of ugliness.

In keeping with, tragically, the whole of Sony's current flat panel TV range, the P42M1 is bereft of any sort of digital video connection. This immediately denies it a) the industry's new 'HD Ready' badge and b) compatibility with Sky's HD broadcasts when they start. A set of component jacks can take analogue HD stuff, but the lack of DVI or HDMI options really is a hammer blow. And that's not the end of the bad news, since the P42M1 also lacks any sort of PC compatibility. In other words, when it comes to connections, the LG gives this Sony a really quite severe pasting.

At least things start to look up on the features side, thanks to the P42M1's excellent Wega Engine picture processing. Distilling it down to its bare essentials, Wega Engine delivers enhanced fine detail levels; all-digital scaling for reduced noise; richer, more naturally toned colours; and smoother contours and colour gradations. It's a darned shame, though, that Wega Engine's extra details are only mapped with the P42M1 onto a measly 852 x 480 native resolution... Chalk another one up to the higher-res LG panel.

Tricks to be found in the user menus, meanwhile, include noise reduction, a couple of anti screenburn measures, a 'Dynamic picture' contrast booster, Dolby Virtual audio processing, and a low power mode (a growing trend with plasma TVs). As with all Sony's Wega Engine TVs, the P42M1 is a very respectable performer. Unusually for panel-based technology, it's actually at its best with TV tuner and Sky digibox programmes. Pictures from such relatively low-rent sources are impressively natural, avoiding the slightly processed look witnessed on the LG, and enjoying supremely believable colour tones with all but the trickiest of skin tones.

The P42M1's black levels are in the same ballpark as the LG's, meanwhile, but its white balance is arguably better. The picture also looks slightly less noisy with TV sources (but it's far from immaculate here thanks to occasional colour banding, green dot crawl, and blurring over fast-moving objects).

But the P42M1 falls down with progressive scan and high definition sources. Here the Sony's lack of resolution versus the LG catches it out, as HD sources in particular look softer. Even some broadcast fare looks a touch soft on this Sony plasma. The P42M1 loses out to the LG sonically, too. It's certainly not bad, avoiding distortions and keeping dialogue arguably clearer during loud scenes than the LG. But overall the Sony's audio is flatter and less involving, lacking both the frequency response and soundstage width of its rival.

Sony's KE-P42M1 perhaps has the edge over its rivals - marginally - if you're just after a new TV to work with purely standard definition sources.

But if you're any more ambitious than that - and we suspect most of the people reading this surely are - the LG RZ-42PY10X's massively more flexible and future-proofed connectivity, together with its superior progressive scan and high definition performance, make it a much more far-sighted choice.