There's just no way we can really express in words just what a beast the Panasonic TH-103PF9 plasma screen is.

We can report its weight: 350kg.

We can tell you it took a five-man team - with a small crane - three hours to get the screen into our test facility.

We can let you know that you could fit four 50-inch screens into its 103-inch area and still have inches to spare.

We can tell you that people who've already had one have had to go to such extreme lengths as hiring their own construction cranes to lift the screen to their flat, or making holes in external walls for the screen to fit through.

But none of this can truly prepare you for the simple reality of what it means to have a 103-inch TV in your home. For that, you just have to visit one of the handful of stores around the UK that carry one, and experience it for yourself.

What we can do, however, is let you know how this true AV behemoth performs.

The TH-103PF9 is a screen, not a TV, since it doesn't have a built-in TV tuner. But then, anyone likely to get such a screen will have a Sky HD or Virgin Media hi-def receiver to accompany it.

The TH-103PF9's connectivity is complicated as it uses connection modules rather than shipping with a standard set of jacks. The idea is that you just pick and choose connections to suit your needs. Modules available inevitably include HDMI, component video, Scart and PC options.

Very full HD

The TH-103PF9 is one of a handful of plasma screens with a full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and Panasonic has made the most of this HD-friendly pixel count by ensuring that the screen can handle 1080p sources, and by providing a setting whereby the screen will show 1080-line sources pixel-for-pixel, with no overscan processing.

We're pleased to discover, too, that the TH-103PF9 enjoys practically all of the picture innovations that have worked such wonders on Panny's more sensibly-sized plasma TVs this year, including V-Real image processing; Panny's Real Black Drive contrast booster (Panasonic quotes an impressive 5000:1 contrast ratio); and 16-bit colour processing to deliver a claimed 4,096 steps of gradation.

The TH-103PF9 produces pictures far better than we'd have thought possible on such a monumentally large screen.

Especially eye-catching are its deep and convincing its black levels. Dark scenes in Alien (watched in hi-def on D-VHS) look believable, 3D and detailed. If the creature is lurking in a dark corner, you don't have to worry about not spotting it.

Also very impressive is how sharp the picture looks. The TH-103PF9's size really emphasises the benefits of hi-def pictures' extra resolution, doing full justice to the intricacies of the Nostromo's set design.

More good news comes with the TH-103PF9's colours, which possess a fair degree of vibrancy, endless subtlety of blend and some overtly natural toning, even when it comes to the frequently tricky skin (and chitinous exoskeleton) tones Alien throws up.

Other ticks in the plus column include a general freedom from such traditional plasma nasties as fizzing over motion, green noise in dark areas, and dithering over skin-tone peaks. And motion that, while a touch juddery at times, is at least noticeably clearer than that exhibited by most LCD-technology flat panels.

The only real problem we have with the TH-103PF9's pictures is the fact that they're not particularly bright. This is to be expected to some extent, but it does mean that you'll probably need to watch it in dim light to get the best experience.

Another, smaller niggle is the fact that standard-def pictures can look a touch rough. But actually, it's hard to see how standard-def pictures blown to such a size could look anything other than a bit grubby, so it's hardly fair to blame the TH-103PF9 for the fact that our sub-standard-def pictures just aren't made with such prodigiously large screens in mind.

Paying the cost

We can't wrap up this review without talking about price.

At £58,750 (inc VAT), plus installation fees and the charges for the crane to move it, and the demolition and rebuilding work required to get the thing inside your home, the TH-103PF9 is clearly a product that only lottery winners, stockbrokers and professional footballers will be able to buy.

Plus, of course, it looks mighty costly compared with a projector that could get you the same sort of image size.

Yet if you've got the dough and you want truly massive AV images without the various lifestyle hassles caused by accommodating a projector, then the TH-103PF9 is a solution as satisfying as it is monumental.