Toshiba's 2006 range of LCD TVs has been packed with features, boasting performance levels that's consistently won high praise. So there's no reason to expect that Toshiba's new plasma TV, the 42WP56P, will be any different.
It certainly looks in keeping with the LCD models, thanks to its deep grey screen surround with silvery outer trim. In fact, the design actually looks better at this 42in size than it does on the smaller LCD screens.
However, while trying to connect up my high-definition sources I suddenly realised that I couldn't - there are no component video inputs or DVI/HDMI inputs, and, although there's a PC jack, it's not confi gured to receive high-defi nition video. So this TV is not only not HD Ready, it's not even HD capable!
It's been a long time since I saw a plasma TV so completely uninterested in the joys of the high-def revolution. The 42WP56P does at least provide all the necessary TV options (though Scarts are limited to two, only one of which can take RGB signals).
Given the lack of HD interest demonstrated by the 42WP56P's connections, it's no great surprise to fi nd that the set's native pixel resolution isn't up to HD speed either: just 852 x 480 (WVGA). What's more, there's no sign of the Active Vision scaling and picture enhancing system found on Toshiba's LCD models.
Oh well - at least the claimed contrast ratio of 3000:1 and maximum brightness of 1500cd/m2 show some signs of home cinema life.
At least the set carries a reasonable rack of features amid its onscreen menus. These include a set of four different methods for countering screen burn; an automatic colour management option; adjustment of the bass colour by tweaking individually the hue and saturation for the red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan parts of the picture; MPEG noise reduction (odd given that the set has no digital TV tuner); and a cinema mode for improving the appearance of motion.
Starting out (in the absence of any HD options) with a combination of Sky Digital and DVD via the RGB Scart, my mood towards the 42WP56P starts to soften as it delivers likeable results for such an affordable 42in TV.
Black level is far more profound than I'd anticipate for the modest price point. For instance, the darkness of the LA night during Tom Cruise's rampage in Collateral looks mostly free of the tell-tale grey mistiness seen on sets with less depth. There's also enough subtle shading and greyscaling to make dark areas look like a genuine, three-dimensional part of the picture rather than merely some fl at black cut-out.
The 42WP56P's colour fi delity is nothing if not excitable. Saturations with vivid material like the Sky News channel or Ice Age on DVD are full-on and solid, while the tone is - if not always completely authentic, being too warm even after calibration - at least eye-catching.
Even more unexpectedly, the 42WP56P works nicely with standard analogue tuner pictures. In fact, so clean, bright and vivid do analogue broadcasts look that I actually found myself wondering for a moment if the set didn't carry a digital tuner instead.
Combine all these plus points and you've arguably already got a picture that's better than you've any right to deserve for the money. But don't take this to mean that the set completely hides its budget mentality.
For starters, the picture is far from the sharpest in town, with the lack of native resolution denying you some of the fi ner textures seen on higher-specced rivals.
Also, as hinted earlier, skin tones can sometimes look either peachy or orangey. Some mid-dark tones can seem slightly noisy as well, while fi ne details can succumb to colour moiring.
The 42WP56P is one of the heaviest plasma TVs I've come across in a while, but at least this bulk is put to good use with an unusually powerful audio performance. There's a wide mid-range underpinned by a solid bass response. The impact of all this was reduced a bit on our review sample, though, by traces of hissing and distortion from time to time at high volumes.
While the 42WP56P is by no means a bad performer, I still don't anticipate that anyone reading this will want to buy it for one simple reason: its complete and utter disregard for all things HD. In fact, given that just a couple of hundred pounds more could get you LG's HD capable 42PX4DV, even the Toshiba's star attraction - its price - arguably isn't that attractive after all.