If the price is right, plasma's days as king of big screens could be well and truly numbered
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As well as being one of few companies to actually extend its range of CRT sets recently, JVC also unveiled a line of eye-catching designer plasma and LCD screens. This isn't one of them. Separate from JVC's domestic department, the GD-V422PCE comes from designers in the corporate display market.
However, JVC Professional claims that this unassuming silver-finished screen is actually more suitable for videophiles and home cinema buffs than the gorgeous - yet slightly disappointingly specified - PD42B50. That screen, which comes with a TV tuner and BBE sound system, has a display resolution of only 852 x 480, whereas the GD-V422PCE sports a rather more impressive 1,024 x 768 pixels.
What's more, while it may not look as good as its cousin, this screen's simple silver finish is nevertheless inoffensive enough to slot into almost any style of room décor without looking out of place.
Connectivity here is sparse, however, with - shock, horror -no Scarts on offer and the only other high-quality video input being rare BNC plugs in place of the far more common RCA variety. This input is a joint component and RGB connection (you select which you want to use in the on-screen menu), and can be used for progressive scan DVD players and Scart-outputting gear - as long as you buy an adaptor. RCA-to-BNC adaptors, for their part, are relatively inexpensive and widely available. The only other video connections on offer are an S-video input and an analogue PC input. And oddly (especially considering that this is a professional display screen) there's no DVI socket for a digital PC video connection.
Setting up the screen is very simple. Apart from perhaps adjusting the over-bright picture settings a little, there really isn't a lot you need to do, and the on-screen setup menus are easy to navigate. The remote is ugly as sin, but actually feels nice to use and evidently a fair amount of thought has gone into the layout of the buttons.
JVC's earlier PD42B50 may have been packed to the gills with video processing technology, but we much prefer the image created by the GD-V422PCE. The higher resolution means that detail is easier to render - there's simply less need for the scaling technology featured in the brand's other model. What's more, when we gave our test disc, The Motorcycle Diaries, a spin, we found colour reproduction to be excellent. In the busy streets of Buenos Aires there were few contouring problems arising from gradual shifts in tone.
JVC quotes a contrast ratio of 3,000:1 and a brightness rating of 5,000cd/m2 (a typo perhaps!) on its website, but we feel that in these respects this screen is very much the equal of the PD42B50: it can create reasonable depth, superior to that of most plasma screens, but nothing seriously out of the ordinary.
Audio options are limited, which will suit most home cinema aficionados fine - they can add their own surround sound setup. JVC has provided a pair of speaker outputs, and you can either connect these to your own speakers or buy some slim matching ones of JVC's own design (£200). The sound quality is decent enough, but if you're buying this as part of a high-end home cinema system then it certainly won't do the job properly.
All told, we agree with JVC that this screen is a more serious home cinema display than the PD42B50, simply because it is capable of creating a slightly superior image. In all other aspects - connectivity, styling, usability, features - it falls short, but is a decent screen for watching DVDs. Audio is also fine, with built-in Virtual Dolby and a limited but good-performing subwoofer providing excellent sound from the flat panel NXT technology, which allows much of this LCD's frame to act as a speaker.
The 42PF9986's image can't be faulted, with colours and blacks looking exceptional and very few traces of problems with smearing over motion. So when Philips reveals its new lineup of LCDs this year, we expect it to cement LCD's reputation once and for all. And if the price is right, plasma's days as king of big screens could be well and truly numbered.
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