A respectable budget set, but pictures do exhibit some flaws
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While not afraid to shout loudly from the rooftops about the launch of its HD-ready LCD range, Toshiba has kept remarkably quiet where its latest entry-level plasma telly is concerned. We don't think there's anything particularly sinister in that - in fact it could be because this set actually appears rather dull.
The 42WP56 is almost the archetypal cheap plasma. It's got a 852 x 480 native resolution, passable but underwhelming looks and a distinct shortage of interesting features. Take connectivity for example: on the rear there's a VGA input for computers and a couple of Scarts (only one of which is RGB-capable). The side panel has composite and S-video sockets. And that's it. Not exactly awe-inspiring.
There isn't much in the way of picture processing technology either, with a couple of simple noise reduction functions thrown in alongside the basics. And there isn't a digital TV tuner.
As we mentioned earlier, the 42WP56 isn't particularly stylish - there's a whole lot of grey plastic here - but one thing it does have in its favour is the surprisingly narrow frame surrounding the screen: there are no huge speakers sticking out on each side, which helps give the impression that the set is a little smaller than it actually is. It could be a nice touch for those planning on wall-mounting their screen. Alternatively, a desktop stand (non-swivelling) is supplied.
Like most Toshiba TVs, the 42WP56 is a breeze to set up and use, with quick auto tuning (for the analogue tuner) popping up the first time you switch it on, and a responsive remote control that sits nicely in the hand.
What's most important, of course, is the picture quality. And while it's safe to say that the 42WP56 isn't going to win any awards here, its pictures are decent given the price and basic specifications. Giving our The Motorcycle Diaries DVD one last spin, we found that its bright, daylight scenes were sharp and well defined, with reasonable detail. Colours were pleasingly vibrant, too, and colour banding - so often the bane of the budget plasma, as this roundup has already shown - was kept to a minimum.
On the downside, however, the 42WP56's contrast range isn't particularly striking, and areas of the image from our test disc that were supposed to be black sometimes more closely resembling a dark, muddy grey.
What's more, careful scrutiny revealed a number of digital noise speckles (or 'mosquito noise') in backgrounds and around more intricate details. This effect was especially noticeable in our DVD's more gloomy or foggy scenes.
The 42WP56's audio is pretty decent for the price. We don't expect miracles from built-in speakers on budget screens (and the speakers here are tiny, situated in a thin strip just below the screen), but the Tosh made a fair stab of our movie's soundtrack. This is possibly due to the presence of SRS WOW technology, designed to ensure big performance from small speakers.
We certainly wouldn't class the 42WP56 as outstanding, but it does an impressive job for a £1,300 TV. The picture quality, while not sock-blowing-off good, is decent enough, while sound and styling are fine and user-friendliness is sky high. If your budget is limited and nothing less than 42in will do, we'd certainly recommend that you consider this set over others of a similar price point. It's a flawed, but worthy, screen.
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