Ever since the introduction of plasma TVs, the one question on everybody's mind is "When can I afford one?" These sleek flat screens have taken their sweet time to fall in price, but Dell's W4200HD does mark a sort of mini milestone in plasma pricing. Dell currently charges $2,599 (and sometimes less, depending on frequent promotions), and while the W4200HD isn't quite as cheap as similar-looking EDTV models, such as the company's $2,199 , it does deliver sharper high-def and computer images. There's a lot to like about this panel aside from the price: it includes speakers, a stand, and a built-in over-the-air digital/HDTV tuner, and it has one of the most comprehensive input bays we've seen yet on a plasma TV. Its picture performance isn't the best on the market, especially with demanding darker images, but its excellent feature set and clean high-def images will be enough to convince less-critical viewers.
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The panel's dimensions of 40.6 by 24.8 by 3.3 inches (WHD) don't include the matching stand, which adds another 3.25 inches of height and 6.3 inches in depth. Unlike most makers, Dell includes the stand free of charge, although naturally you'll need to invest in your own wall mount if you want to hang the W4200HD like a piece of art. Dell also included a pair of wall-mountable speakers, complete with removable stands, so you can choose to use them or not depending on your setup.
The W4200HD's remote is identical to ones we've seen on later Dell TVs, and we like its slick styling and blue backlight--although we wish more buttons than just the numeric keypad lit up. The user menus are clear and well laid out.As we mentioned at the outset, the W4200HD's native resolution of 1,024x768 outdoes that of step-down EDTV models with the amount of detail it can deliver with high-def and computer sources (more info). That resolution matches most other high-resolution 42-inch plasmas currently on the market, with the exception of 1,024x1,024 ALIS panels such as the Hitachi . The W4200HD can display TV, DVD, HDTV, and computer sources.
In terms of conveniences, the W4200HD comes fully loaded. While it lacks CableCard, it does come with a built-in HDTV tuner. Its PIP/POP function allows for numerous combinations of big and small inset and side-by-side windows, and you can view just about any sources, computer or video, side by side (you can't watch DVI and HDMI together, however). The five aspect-ratio controls include both horizontal and vertical position adjustments, just like a compute monitor, and all five work with all input sources. Unfortunately, the 4:3 ratio uses black bars instead of gray, which means the set is more susceptible to image retention (burn-in) with 4:3 material. Users who begin to notice signs of burn-in will appreciate the ability to run a full white screen (complete with timer) to even out pixel wear.
Picture tweakers will find the familiar array of color temperature presets (four) and global picture presets (four), although more-advanced functions such as selectable 2:3 pull-down and noise reduction are absent. The plasma also includes independent input memories.
Anybody who looks closely at the W4200HD's spec sheet will probably do a double take at the prodigious input section. This plasma puts forth a total of 13 renameable inputs, and conveniently the menu can gray out inactive ones for quicker access. The crowded back panel includes one each of DVI, HDMI, and VGA connectors; two component-video; two S-Video; two composite-video (all with stereo audio); and one RF input each for digital and analog TV. The jack pack is rounded out by the aforementioned side-panel inputs with composite and S-Video; a composite A/V output; and both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs.