In spite of striking a deal with Sony to supply all of the Japanese giant's core plasma screens, Samsung's own plasma talents have seemingly been on the wane, with the last few Samsung plasma TVs failing to excite. So what's the story with the new PS42P4A?
If its looks are anything to go by, the PS42P4A could rock. The combination of an opulent gloss-black bezel with silver trims works effectively, making it one of the best-looking in the test.
Although the PS42P4A doesn't boast an HDMI input, digital glories - and Sky high-def compatibility - are catered for with an HDCP-compliant DVI jack.
Analogue high-def/progressive scan is also available via two component video inputs, there are three Scarts for more run-of-the-mill sources, while PC users have both ordinary VGA and DVI connection options.
The star attraction here is Digital Natural Image engine - Samsung's proprietary picture processing system for improving motion, boosting contrast and fine details, and ramping up colour saturations. Beyond this there's just a pseudo-surround processing system, automatic Film Detection, and an LNA system for boosting weak incoming analogue signals.
I have previously not been blown away by DNIe, finding its effects either negligible or actually negative. But with the PS42P4A the system finally comes of age, delivering pictures that are a quantum leap over previous Samsung efforts. Especially striking is the general stability on show, as the processing tackles plasma's dot crawl problem with aplomb, and manages to take the noise out of incoming signals as well.
The contrast range is limited, though. Once correctly calibrated, the screen delivered a Tech Labs contrast of just 110:1. That said, its pictures retain a pleasing amount of depth, without any detriment to the authenticity of the screen's colours.
DNIe noticeably improves fine detail levels too - not quite as much as Philips' Pixel Plus 2 systems, perhaps, but then there are no nasty digital processing-induced side effects either.
Inevitably DNIe hasn't suddenly progressed from being disappointingly anonymous to complete perfection in a single step, though. There are still areas for improvement.
With lower quality sources (high-def and progressive ones generally look superb) DNIe can't stop gently glowing block noise appearing with certain colour hues; occasional rainbow-like banding of background colours; and sporadic dotty trails behind motion.
Although it lacks the well-rounded timbre of its betters, this panel is far from ordinary. Samsung has stepped up a gear..
If you're after a dedicated home cinema room fed by progressive, and ultimately HD, sources, the PS42P4A is worth an audition. It's beautifully presented and not overly expensive.