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Plainly put, 1080p (aka 'Full HD') is the pinnacle of hi-def. It's the highest-quality format of high-definition video available in the home today, but unfortunately not every HD Ready television or projector on the market is able to display it -- in fact it's only supported by a very small proportion.
Luckily for movie-hungry videophiles, the number of compatible devices is increasing rapidly, and prices are also dropping -- hence LG launching this 42-inch 1080p LCD television at £1,300, which sounds very reasonable.
The 42LY95 boasts plenty of places to hook up HD gear. LG has stocked the TV with two HDMI inputs, one component video input and one VGA PC monitor input -- all of which can accept a signal at a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. So, in theory you can connect four high-definition video sources at once (you should be so lucky).
Also provided on the back panel is a pair of Scart inputs, plus an optical audio out that allows you to connect to an external sound system. A side panel offers S-Video and composite video inputs.
The television itself is reasonably stylish. Glossy piano-black plastic abounds, which hardly sets it apart from the competition but it manages to look fairly handsome whether switched on or off. The build is encouragingly solid, too, if not quite as rock steady as the average plasma TV. Size and weight are both fairly low, thanks to small speaker panels, a narrow frame and the lack of a heavy glass screen; this is actually one 42-inch TV most people will be able to move around on their own.
A swivelling desktop stand is supplied with the TV, and it comes with its own cable management clip, so you can keep those pesky wires tucked behind the support and out of sight.
1080p compatibility is the standout feature here. 1080p sources are fairly thin on the ground at present: you'll need a Blu-ray or HD DVD player, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or a PC to get real 1080p video footage.
When using the HDMI or VGA inputs you are also able to set the picture to 1:1 pixel mapping, so that the entire source image is displayed pixel for pixel. Many televisions trim a little from the edges of a 1080i or 1080p picture, but here you can see the whole thing if you wish -- it's a particularly useful feature to have if you're hooking a PC up, as it means small text will remain sharp and easy to read.
Not only that, but the two HDMI ports will accept a 1080p picture at 24Hz -- so you'll be able to get a '24p' picture from an HD DVD or Blu-ray player. 24p is an image running at 24 frames per second, the native speed of CineFilm. HD DVD and Blu-ray discs allow you to watch your movies at this speed, rather than at the standard 50Hz we're used to. 50Hz movies are actually sped up slightly (to fit PAL broadcast standards), so 24p actually provides a much more accurate reproduction of a movie.
Getting the TV up and running is as simple as the thought processes of the average Big Brother housemate. There are speedy auto-tuning functions for both the digital and analogue tuners, and the menu screens are clear and laid out just as you'd expect them to be. The remote control helps. It has large, chunky buttons, logically placed, and some of them actually light up for use in the dark.
You can adjust almost all aspects of the picture and sound, but LG has helpfully included several presets, including an 'Intelligent Eye' picture mode which automatically tweaks the image to suit your room's current light levels. It doesn't replace a bit of judicious human adjustment, but comes in handy all the same.
Feed the television some 1080p content and you get a fantastic picture -- although we're not entirely convinced that a 42-inch screen is really large enough to demonstrate the format's added detail and smooth motion. Unless you're sitting very close to the screen, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between 720p, 1080i and 1080p material.
Still, it all looks excellent on the LG, and for several reasons. First, the image is sharp when it needs to be: stick on a football match via Sky HD and you'll be able to pick out tiny details such as individual blades of grass on a football field, and the faces of spectators will be frighteningly crisp.
This TV also does a good job of colour reproduction. It comes with 'Wide Colour Gamut', which essentially means that certain colours appear to be incredibly bright and saturated. Reds are a particularly notable example: the England footie team's away shirt looks incredibly vibrant on this screen, to the point where several people in the testing room enquired as to whether something odd was going on with the broadcast. It's not for everybody, but then that's what the TV's colour adjustment settings are for.
While the black levels of the screen aren't especially impressive, they are fairly respectable for an affordable LCD TV. Large areas of black can look slightly weak at times, but during general viewing you'll be unlikely to notice anything bad enough to put you off the programme you're watching.
Motion is smooth and free from smearing, which, along with the vibrant colour reproduction, makes the TV well suited to gaming.
The TV's virtues of blazing colours and smooth motion mean it also does a fine job with standard-definition material. DVDs look great here, and even pictures from the built-in Freeview tuner look reasonably clean and noise-free after a touch of tweaking in the menus.
Sound quality also gets the thumbs up from us. Don't expect anything particularly bassy or crystal clear, but the small speakers deliver strong audio in a wide arc -- sit directly in front of the screen and you get the impression that sound is coming from spots quite far to the left and right of it.
All things considered, this is a great buy for £1,300. While it might not be quite large enough to really show what 1080p can do, you're still guaranteed a sharp, vibrant image with an HD source.
The fact that it supports 1:1 pixel mapping for 1080i and 1080p means that PC users are also well catered for, and the design and usability are both rock solid.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield