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The 42PC1D might be a mid-priced hi-def plasma (available for a smidgeon over £1,000 if you're willing to shop around), but LG has stuffed it full of some high-class features. The main point of interest is the freshly developed Clear Filter, which sees the heavy glass panel used by most plasmas replaced by a thin veneer of plastic. Equally important is LG's own XD Engine picture-processing technology, now in its second generation.
The screen is HD Ready, meaning that it has the necessary resolution (1,024x768 pixels in this case) and connections to show high-definition pictures from a Sky or Telewest HD box, Xbox 360 games console and future kit such as HD DVD and Blu-ray players or the PlayStation 3.
The Clear Filter has a dramatic effect on the design of the plasma, if not its looks. For one thing, the lack of a glass panel cuts down on the weight of the set. Now don't get us wrong: you're not going to be lifting this baby up one-handed any time soon (it weighs a not inconsiderable 30kg), but it makes moving it around a little easier. Sticking it up above the fireplace will also put less strain on your walls than you'd get from the average plasma.
The second immediate benefit of Clear Filter is that it almost completely eliminates on-screen reflections -- the plastic is not completely smooth, so unlike glass it doesn't reflect everything in the room. This makes viewing, especially during the day, a much better experience, as there are fewer reflections getting in the way of what's on screen.
The connection selection is superb considering the low price of the set. Round the back you'll find two HDMI inputs, three Scarts (two of which are RGB capable), a component video input and a VGA connection for hooking it up to your computer. The inclusion of two HDMIs is particularly noteworthy, as this means you'll spend less time tinkering with your cables if you want to hook up more than one bit of HDMI-toting kit at a time (like an Xbox 360 and a Sky HD box). There are some basic AV connections on the left-hand side of the screen too, but oddly no S-Video input -- which won't affect many people but could prove irritating for camcorder owners who use this output.
The remote control is the low point in terms of design. The button layout is fine, but the buttons themselves feel slightly unresponsive while the silver finish looks a touch cheap.
You couldn't say the same about the television itself. While calling it a work of art might be stretching it somewhat, it's certainly a handsome piece of design. LG, like most of the big manufacturers, knows that it's hard to go wrong by using lots of black and a little bit of silver on a big telly, and the inclusion of a nifty white power light is a nice touch.
LG has kept things fairly simple here. The menu system is detailed enough to keep tweakers happy (there are plenty of picture adjustment options, for instance) but at the same time it has a neat, uncomplicated look that ensures you can navigate to where you need to go in a jiffy.
Automatic tuning for both the digital and analogue tuners is done in one swift (or reasonably speedy, if we're being honest) action, which is a nice change from most televisions, which make you tune the digital and analogue terrestrial tuners separately. If you prefer to view something from an external source -- say your DVD player or Sky box -- it's merely a matter of cycling through them with a button on the remote.
In keeping with its 'simple is best' theme, the television keeps it fairly light on the features front. XD Engine is a picture-processing technology that runs constantly in the background. It combines a raft of different processes, including the likes of deinterlacing, scaling and colour optimisation, in order to increase overall image quality.
The 1,024x768-pixel display resolution is rather unusual for such a large screen. As any computer buff will know, a 1,024x768 resolution is designed for screens with 4:3 aspect ratios. The 42PC1D, of course, is a widescreen TV with a 16:9 ratio, so the pixels have been made rectangular in order to fit the screen correctly. Thankfully, as Panasonic's excellent TH42PX60 plasma TV shows, also with the 1,024x768 resolution, it doesn't necessarily mean that the screen is worse or less capable of showing detail -- the human eye is more receptive to horizontal detail on a screen than it is to vertical detail, so the LG's resolution shouldn't be automatically viewed as a weakness over screens with 'proper' widescreen resolutions like 1,366x768 pixels.
When it comes to the crunch of providing a good picture, this TV outperforms some costlier rivals. Feed it some hi-def video and you get a superb image, bursting with detail and colour and conspicuous by its low noise levels.
Fast motion, such as you see with the frenetic swordplay and magic of Oblivion on the Xbox 360, doesn't draw out any nasty judder or artefacts -- and there's plenty visible even in the darkest of dungeons, thanks to the TV's fine black levels.
LG rates the contrast ratio as 10,000:1, which sounds insanely high, and yes, the black levels are very good -- but not up to the eye-bogglingly amazing standards set by Panasonic with its TH42PX60 plasma (which, funnily enough, also has a 10,000:1 claimed contrast ratio, but is much more expensive).
Standard-definition pictures are also impressive, whether from the built-in digital tuner or a connected Sky+ box or DVD player. There is MPEG noise noticeable here, despite the best efforts of the XD Engine, but overall it's a fine performance for the price.
Sound quality is decent, but nothing to write home about. Despite the inclusion of a SRS TXT virtual surround mode, we didn't really notice any all-enveloping effects popping up behind us.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide