After being the source of a flood of cheap electrical equipment in the Nineties, 'Made in Taiwan' isn't a label that has ever inspired confidence in us consumers. If you need proof that things are changing fast in the Far East, however, take a look at this 42in plasma screen from Tatung. Not only do its smart looks belies its very reasonable price, but it also displays a touch of genuine class.
Twice as nice
The TPT4202 is surprisingly well connected for the price, with the highlights being two component video inputs - one that can take high-definition (from some sources, at least) and progressive scan pictures - two Scarts (one RGB-capable), a normal TV aerial input and a standard 15-pin PC input. We've seen plasmas costing more than this that don't offer such a respectable selection.
The Tatung is less impressive when it comes to features, however. There's nothing remotely out of the ordinary - just a single tuner picture-in-picture option and anti-screenburn measures.
Initially, we weren't blown away by the TPT4202's pictures. We quickly spotted low-level grey and green dot noise over the picture, along with occasional minor colour banding. To give the screen a real workout, we ran our test disc, Alien vs Predator. We found that colours weren't particularly dazzling, as evidenced by the relative lack of impact of the movie's fight sequences. And what should have been acutely sharp, textured scenes actually looked a touch soft on the Tatung.
The longer the monster mayhem played, however, the more we were able to see past the TPT4202's flaws and spot a few notable strengths. For starters, the screen produces a picture that's bright enough to look radiant without tiring the eyes, while a decent contrast range gave enough black level response to provide plenty of depth to the on-screen action between the two legendary screen monsters.
What's more, while they're not especially vibrant, the TPT4202's colours do look believably toned and natural. There was a more authentic hue to everything - even the slimy alien's skin - than we have a right to expect on a budget screen.
Poetry in motion
Plasma technology has traditionally exhibited a problem with dot crawl behind horizontal motion, but the TPT4202 handles this well. Movement looked smooth and devoid of any distracting blurring during our test disc. Overall, then, the Tatung manages to provide a picture that is satisfying, without being spectacular.
The TPT4202's sonics impressed us. It delivers a surprisingly wide soundstage that disperses subtle sonic effects well, and isn't afraid of bass. It's initially surprising just how much a decent audio performance can enhance even the best screens out there. And that Tatung has managed to provide an involving audio performance at this low price point definitely pushes our overall opinion of the TPT4202 up a notch.
The Tatung TPT4202 suffers from fairly low resolution, and does lack the cuttingedge picture technology that pushes the screens from Pioneer, Panasonic et al into the premiership of plasma performance. But this is to be expected at this price level. It also lacks next-generation all-digital connections like DVI or HDMI, to take high-definition feeds from Sky's broadcasts, planned for next year.
Still, if you're happy with DVDs for a while, the TPT4202 delivers very likeable images. Unlike a lot of budget TVs, this good-value screen won't leave you wondering why you wanted a flat-screen TV in the first place.