A respectable screen, but the price is too high
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Not to be confused with Fujitsu's similar-looking but better-equipped (and HD-ready) P42HTS40GS, the P42VHA40ES is the brand's entry-level plasma display, with a price tag hanging a tempting touch below £2,000.
That modest outlay gets you a nicely turned out bit of kit. The screen itself is elegant and understated, and the part-glass swivel-stand is surprisingly classy. It's a world away from the functional dreariness of the Akai, reviewed on the previous page - until you check out the remote control, which looks more suitable for an office-based monitor than a home cinema TV.
The fact there's no built-in TV tuner further points to this screen's corporate origins. Still, at least it means set-up couldn't be simpler: just plug your video sources in and Bob's your uncle. However, you'll have problems if you have more than one video source that outputs via Scart (and, let's face it, most of us have two or three). With only a single Scart available, the average user is going to have to dip back into their wallet for a connections switching box.
Still, at least the P42HTS40GS boasts a progressive scan-capable component video input, along with standard S-video and composite video sockets and a VGA input for PCs. A couple of stereo audio inputs (including a 3.5mm plug for PC audio) are also supplied.
Like all the budget models in this roundup, the P42VHA40ES has a native screen resolution of just 852 x 480, so can't be expected to match the latest high-definition screens when it comes to performance (although such a resolution may actually prove to be better suited to lower-grade sources, like TV broadcasts). But while the set was lacking a little when it came to displaying fine detail from our test disc, it's still much sharper than some cheap screens - thanks no doubt to Fujitsu's AVM II processing technology.
The Motorcycle Diaries' subtitles and captions fairly jumped off the screen during our test, and brightness and clarity was impressive throughout. AVM II also incorporates MPEG noise reduction, and automatically adjusts settings depending on the light conditions in the room. Even in bright ambient light we enjoyed a good clear picture, so the latter would seem to work effectively. But the while the former was reasonably good, making things look crisp and smooth, we still noticed the odd blocky artefact or bit of grain lurking in the backgrounds of our test disc.
The P42VHA40ES's colour reproduction is more impressive, however. Lighter areas of mist and cloud from The Motorcycle Diaries were rendered smoothly, while the dark greens and greys of our the Peruvian backdrops looked lustrous and deep. Colour banding does creep in during darker scenes - in the night sky, for instance - but is generally kept in reasonable check.
Sound comes courtesy of a pair of separate speakers (not pictured) which, as with the Akai, can be attached to the screen or left off if you wish. Audio quality is decent. It's nothing to write home about, but will certainly suffice for general TV viewing or a spot of console gaming.
The P42VHA40ES offers plenty to enjoy, with pictures that boast good colours and a reasonable level of sharpness. However, it is expensive, and yet doesn't offer much in the way of either performance or features to justify the higher price - especially as a canny online shopper should be able to get hold of an HD-ready plasma of this size for just a little more money.
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