Samsung's least expensive 42-inch plasma, the SPN4235, has a lot going for it, including built-in dual-tuner picture in picture, a DVI input, and an ultrathin design. But the set's principal selling point is its affordability. An online price of less than $3,000 puts the 4235 on a par with models such as the Sampo and the Gateway , and the three panels have comparable pictures, as well. This plasma is fine for viewing everyday TV in brighter rooms, but serious home-theater fans will want more.
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.
All plasmas are thin, but a 3.1-inch depth makes this Samsung one of the flattest TVs we've ever seen. The bezel measures just 1.3 inches from its outer edge to the screen--that's a lot of picture in a very slender frame. The 4235's silver competitors seem designed to stand out, but this set does the opposite, blending in with an industrial-looking charcoal gray.
Despite its low price, the 4235 does come with a pedestal, and a wall-mounting kit is available for $199. You can also buy the $149 matching speakers; none are onboard.
The set's menu system is pleasantly simple. The remote isn't backlit, but it keeps everything fairly well organized. It's also preprogrammed to control A/V gear from other companies.
Like most other manufacturers, Samsung designates its low-resolution panels as EDTV (enhanced-definition television) models. The term is confusing since the 4235 can accept and display an HDTV picture when connected to an external HDTV receiver. The set's 852x480 pixels aren't nearly enough to convey the full impact of the 1080i and 720p high-def resolutions, however, so if you want the ultimate in picture detail, step up to a higher-res panel.
The 4235 has a good feature set. Heading the list is dual-tuner picture-in-picture, which enables you to watch two channels or sources at once (click here for more). The second window can be side by side with the first or inset, and you can watch a video source and a PC source simultaneously. For regular TV, you get a choice of five aspect ratios. Panorama, for instance, stretches the image's sides more than its center; the mode is unavailable for progressive-scan and HDTV sources.
We counted four color-temperature presets; Warm2 comes closest to the ideal. There are three picture presets, and happily, each input can remember its own adjustments for contrast, brightness, and so on.