Thomson 42PB220S4U review

Will Thomson's 42in plasma prove itself a heavyweight?

Our Verdict

It all looks good on paper, but the picture noise is too much to ignore

For

  • Good sound

Against

  • Excessive picture noise

Sky made Thomson the initial manufacturer of its set-top boxes when it launched its high-definition TV service, so it's good to see that the prolific TV maker is now producing screens that are high-def compatible. The latest will receive HD via its DVI input, while a 1,024 x 1,024 resolution means that it will display broadcasts without downscaling them (high-def needs at least 720 lines to be displayed correctly).

The 42in 42PB220S4U is unusually chunky and heavy for a plasma - let's just hope that's due to all the high-tech gubbins inside! And it does at least wear its bulk well, with a sturdy finish and tidy-looking speakers fitted flush to the screen frame.

Connectivity ticks all the right boxes. Aside from the all-important DVI input, there are three Scarts, a set of component video jacks for analogue HD and progressive scan fodder, a built-in tuner and a VGA PC jack.

Key among the 42PB220S4U's reasonably long features list is Hi-Pix - Thomson's processing system for adding twice as many lines of detail and richer colours to pictures. What's more, the version on this screen has been specifically tailored to work with high-definition.

Other extras of note include audio delivered by digital amplification, that HD-ready resolution (courtesy of Fujitsu's AliS processing) and a twin-tuner picture-in-picture option.

The Thomson's specs had left us looking forward to great big-screen images, but a run-through of our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas test disc was a bitter disappointment. Even the psychedelic antics of our movie's drugged-up protagonists couldn't distract us from the 42PB220S4U's main flaw: picture noise.

Fed via Scart, component video, even DVI - the story is always the same. Backgrounds, like the expanse of desert as our heroes race along in their bright red convertible, suffered from fizzing, dark areas often showed green dotting, and hard edges were prone to ghosting and/or haloing.

Green undertones

Other flaws that sucked the joy out of our test disc were the way shaded areas had a green undertone, some occasionally unnatural colours and slight juddering and edge fizzing during camera pans.

If wouldn't be fair of us to leave you with a completely negative impression of the 42PB220S4U, however. For instance, its contrast range is actually very healthy. Scenes with a strong mixture of lights and darks showed this best - such as those set among the lights of night-time Las Vegas. Bright colours looked radiant, while dark areas exhibited true blacks. Such complex shots were also impressively detailed.

The average picture performance is made all the more disappointing by the fact that sound is above average - helped greatly by an onboard subwoofer, which allows the Thomson to reach much deeper into low frequencies than most plasmas.

While elements of the 42PB220S4U's performance are enjoyable, no amount of good contrast, detail and bassy sound can persuade us to ignore the ever-present picture noise. Such distracting flaws make an HD-ready TV all but pointless.