Toshiba's latest Regza LCD shaves about half a grand off the price of its nearest rivals in this class, yet still manages to bristle with features and be stunningly attractive to boot.
The piano lacquer frame is relatively logo-free and, with its simple lines, is an object lesson in restrained elegance. Even its boomerang-shaped, silver stand manages to swivel as smoothly as it looks.
Toshiba has an admirable policy of arming its better sets with every connection it can think of and the 42X3030 has the works. Twin HDMI inputs head the list and are ably augmented by component video and a pair of Scart sockets, of which one is RGB.
Other points of note include an optical digital output for routing Freeview audio to an external system and a dedicated subwoofer output for adding a separate bass bin for some extra low-end thump if required. You won't find a four-pin S-video jack as this medium-quality analogue connection has been ditched, presumably on the grounds that its function is covered by the HDMI and Scart jacks.
Toshiba's own, all-conquering Active Vision LCD processing polishes up the pictures and there is a generous list of video and audio pre-sets plus no fewer than 10 aspect ratio options, including an 'Exact Scan' mode that displays whatever you're watching in its pure, unadulterated state without stretching or scaling it.
The spec includes an awesome 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. That's more than two million dots' worth of detail at your disposal and yet the set changes hands for just over a grand. Not bad, eh?
This Regza is as friendly as they come. The company's standard-issue remote control is one of the most elegantly straightforward zappers you'll find, with large, well-spaced buttons, all of which are clearly labelled. This dovetails seamlessly with an attractive, pastel-shaded menu system that
has been designed and refined to intuitive near-perfection. Tweaking the image and audio is simplicity itself, despite the extensive board of image adjustments, and the initial installation procedure is efficient and so simple that you'll be settling down in front of Freeview within just a few minutes.
Performance is a two-way split between distinctly average standard def on the one hand and pretty superlative HD on the other. Of course, this has a lot to do with the respective quality of the different types of feed, but it's clear where the 42X3030's preferences lie.
Start off with regular DVDs and you'll find them slightly softer than you might have been expecting. We may have been spoiled by a hi-def-rich diet over here recently, but old stalwarts such as Ice Age and Elektra look a tad past their best when blown up to 42in.
Motion glitches, now being processed out of existence on most modern flatpanels, also appear to have come back with a vengeance, with Scrat's hyperactive acorn-chasing skit in Ice Age suffering from some distractingly visible lag and judder.
The colour palette is pretty good, though, with the solidly saturated, hyper-reality of the animation and the Hollywood sheen of the live-action movie receiving even-handed, accurate treatment. Blacks are also pretty decent for an LCD, although there isn't a huge amount of variation in tone and in total black-out conditions depth is replaced by washed-out greyness.
This set wants hi-def, though, and the jump in quality when you move to HD DVD is remarkable. The colours are even better with the day-glo, rolling headaches masquerading as cars in The Fast and the Furious benefiting from a punchy, vibrant performance.
It's got range, too, as shown in the pitch-perfect fleshtones and effortless flipping between neon-lit night-time and the glare of the desert scenes. Contrast is good, detail is practically mind-boggling and the whole is blessed with the kind of richly cinematic verve that's usually the preserve of plasmas.
Audio isn't this set's strongest suit, but it's serviceable enough. The large panel equals some decent-sized drivers with a reasonable amount of dispersion and there are plenty of bass-boosts and pseudo-surround options to tinker with, should you feel so inclined.
We didn't, for the most part, and the standard, unadorned audio proved to be more than adequate for TV broadcasts and coped faithfully with movies, although the bass (as ever with built-in speakers) is slightly on the weedy side.
We are still not entirely sure how Toshiba managed to squeeze out such a well-specified set at this size for this kind of money. It is by no means the best 1080p screen on the market today, but we can't think of another 42in LCD that offers so much for so little.
It has its faults, to be sure, but would make a solid base for a decent home cinema system and has the video chops to satisfy most non-enthusiasts. The 42X3030 is a flawed gem, but at this price, it can't be ignored. In short, we'd advise you to stick it on your shortlist.