Too many sacrifices have been made in pursuit of a low price tag
Accepts 1080p feeds
Good hi-def performance
Ropey Freeview performance
Disappointing black levels
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LG's latest 42in IDTV offering, the 42PC55, is the UK's cheapest big-brand plasma, a wallet-friendly £900. It's a great price for a big-screen TV, but our sensors were on red alert, as we're convinced that something has to give to get the price this low.
Things got off to a good visual start, as the 42PC55's styling is suitably contemporary. A glossy piano-black frame lends this TV a cool allure, set off nicely by the discrete sloping speakers along the bottom of the screen.
The 42PC55's on-paper specification also appears to hit the spot; there's a HD-friendly native resolution of 1366x768 pixels, peak brightness of 1,500cd/m2, and a dynamic contrast ratio of 15,000:1.
Considering the low price tag, connectivity also impresses. There are two HDMI inputs for rigging up your hi-def AV kit, two Scarts, component video input, an RGB PC VGA input for using this screen as a computer monitor, and, tellingly, a CI slot.
Not only does the 42PC55 come with Freeview capabilities (including a seven-day EPG), there's also an analogue tuner, covering both bases pre- and post-analogue switch-off.
But it's the performance of the digital tuner that lets down this LG 42in plasma TV the most, with mediocre pictures at best. Standard-definition pictures suffer from inauthentic skin tones, despite our efforts to tweak the picture settings.
While showing an episode of Doctor Who on BBC Three, the 42PC55 struggled with the picture so much that we were flummoxed by what was human and what was alien. If you're only planning to watch Freeview occasionally, you may find the lurid pictures acceptable, but in general, that's just not good enough.
Picture sharpness is also an issue. The sharpness control is way too enthusiastic, giving images a weird halo effect, and you have to turn the setting right down before you get an acceptable picture. Contrast levels are reasonable, but black levels leave something to be desired.
We're not about to write off the 42PC55 completely, as things improved considerably with HD feeds. Watching Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit on Sky HD, motion and levels of detail do their best to undo the harm done by the lacklustre SD picture performance.
It's a shame that the 42PC55's good HD performance is accompanied by some average sonics. Those speakers may look pretty but we suspect that you'd want to employ the services of a home cinema system for the best audio results.
Overall, the 42PC55 shoots itself in the foot with a mediocre performance with standard definition and Freeview material.
There's just not enough here to compete with the stellar efforts of some rival IDTVs, and in that competitive context, £900 seems like less of a bargain than it first appears.
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