Haier, a manufacturer of air conditioners and other majaps (major appliances), is yet another company outside of the traditional consumer electronics arena looking for a little slice of the plasma TV pie. Its 42EP14S is a 42-inch EDTV plasma that's one of least-expensive models in its size class, costing around $2,300 online. Like other budget plasmas we've reviewed, we can't recommend the 42EP14S for serious home-theater use, but it performs well enough to possibly fit the bill as a family room set where critical viewing is not an issue. That said, with cutthroat Internet pricing, it faces stiff competition from better-performing, equally affordable panels, such as .
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The design of the 42EP14S is nothing to write home about, but its minimalist-styled chassis will blend well into most decors. The frame and the included stand are finished in bright silver. A row of buttons are hidden along the bottom, but the frame, aside from a couple of logos, is bare.
Haier includes a tabletop stand and offers an optional wall-mount bracket ($149), as well as an optional pair of speakers ($199). Without those speakers, you'll need to use an external audio source to get sound--the panel does not have built-in speakers.
The remote is smallish but fits well in the hand. We like the way the buttons are laid out, but they are all pretty small, and the menu system is awkward to navigate. For example, changing inputs calls up a menu that doesn't respond quickly enough, and in the middle of the cursor control is an Exit key (we would've expected Enter to be placed there).Features are quite limited on the Haier 42EP14S. First, although it has no problem displaying 720p and 1080i HDTV pictures, its EDTV resolution of 852x480 pixels isn't high enough to convey every detail. In practice, HDTV sources will look only as detailed as DVD on this set, and computer sources are likewise limited to that resolution. Of course, you'll need an external HDTV tuner to watch high-def anyway; Haier does include a regular TV tuner.
Three selectable color-temperature settings give you the ability to choose the most pleasing color palette, although only one was viable to our eyes (see for more). The aspect-ratio controls were a pleasant surprise: we counted six total, and all of them worked with standard and high-def sources. Picture zoom and freeze round out the notable features on this panel.
Connectivity is also limited. There's one DVI input, one component-video input, one S-Video input, one composite-video input, one VGA input for PC hookup, and a set of A/V outputs.
Another downside: the panel doesn't have independent memory per input, so you are stuck with one setup as far as picture controls are concerned. Also, the DVI input lacks any control over picture parameters such as contrast and brightness, which makes it next to useless as a video input for anybody with a discerning eye.