Whenever there's talk of 'luxury' in home cinema circles, the name Bang & Olufsen inevitably crops up. The brand has an unmatched reputation as a purveyor of home electronics that cost that bit more and give you that little something extra. Or rather, that cost shedloads more and offer that BIG something extra - usually in the form of uncompromising design statements, cutting-edge features and tip-top quality standards.
The Beovision 5 plasma initially seems to epitomise the B&O way. With a gorgeous frame wrapped around both its 42in screen and equally large speaker section, plus its unusual floor-standing stance, it's a masterpiece - rendered all the more likable by the fact that both the aluminium frame and the felt speaker cover can be purchased in a variety of colours.
Things begin to go pear-shaped with the connections however. There are no component video inputs, no digital video ins and no PC ins - which means there's no way of getting progressive scan or high-def pictures into the screen. This would be disappointing on a £2,500 plasma; on one costing five times this much it's unforgivable.
The Beovision 5 isn't exactly stuffed with cutting-edge features either. And while the gorgeously hefty remote boasts a few unusual universal and macro talents, it's hardly the most intuitive handset to use. Otherwise it's more or less left to B&O's 'borrowing' of Philips Digital Natural Motion (DNM) circuitry for smoothing motion to make up the features numbers - hardly satisfying for a £12k telly.
When it came to checking out the Beovision 5's performance with our Kill Bill Volume 2 test disc, we found pictures to be good, but nothing more. The biggest strength is contrast. This screen has been around for a while now, but it served up more details and depth of field in the dark shot where Budd walks into the 'My Oh My' club than many a plasma upstart.
Colours are impressively rich, and the shot of The Bride and Pai Mei against a blood-red backdrop looked bright and free of noise. And detail levels are good enough to show the gore and dirt on The Bride after her coffin escape.
However... motion is frequently accompanied by a DNM-caused halo artefact, and what should be smooth colour transitions tend to band into rough-looking rainbowlike stratas - an old-school plasma problem that really has no place on a £12k screen.
Still, B&O's audio expertise is spectacularly evident in the Beovision 5's sonics. The active speakers possess a gloriously rounded but detailed tone that injected the sort of 'hi-fi' prowess into Kill Bill 2's sound mix normally only found with a high-level external separates audio system.
For all its butt-kicking sonics and sensational aesthetics, it's hard to recommend the BeoVision 5. The Vivadi Saturn boasts the sort of features we now expect at a five-figure price point, while the B&O's pictures and connections are both showing their age - especially with the lack of HD and progressive scan. It's high time B&O delivered something new.