LG's 42PC55 offers you 42 inches of plasma loveliness and a glossy piano-black finish that will look stylish in any lounge. If you're on a budget and are after a large, affordable screen that will cope with hi-def, this is ideal
As 1080p televisions continue to become more popular and people start to demand the latest technology, the prices of 720p screens are going to drop. This is great news if you're in the market for a high-definition screen but can't afford (or don't want) the top-spec system.
The LG 42PC55 is a 720p TV, which will probably appeal to those who want a nice big telly for their lounge but don't want to empty their bank to get one. The 42PC55 is certainly going to impress with its big screen and funky piano-black finish.
The glossy black 'piano' finish on the LG 42PC55 makes it look pretty stylish. As we've seen with other glossy TV frames, the finish does reflect quite a lot of light. This, coupled with the reflective glass screen, means that this TV is better suited to dark rooms rather than brightly lit ones.
At the side of the TV, you'll find the usual composite video input and S-Video in -- ideal for hooking up your camcorder or games console. This is a pretty handy feature, and it can be especially useful if you wall-mount the TV.
To the rear there is a generous selection of inputs, including two HDMI, two Scart sockets and component video in. There is also a VGA input for connecting your PC or media centre to the TV, the usual resolutions are supported. There is also an optical digital out, to enable you to get better sound quality from Freeview broadcasts via an external amplifier.
The remote control is fairly long but it feels pretty good to hold -- it's not overly heavy and the buttons you'll want to use most often are all within easy reach. The remote also features a button that allows you to adjust the brightness of the screen, without going into a menu. This may sound insignificant, but it's actually quite handy to be able to adjust the brightness without drilling through dozens of menus.
When you first turn the 42PC55 on you'll be presented with the tuning menu. The TV tunes in both analogue and digital services at the same time -- it's not especially quick at doing so but it does the job.
We have found the menus on LG televisions to be pretty good -- they may not be the most beautiful things we've ever seen, but everything is where it should be. There are menus for configuring the tuning setup, picture, sound and various other options. The picture settings include things like colour temperate adjustments and LG's XD engine.
The XD engine aims to increase the picture quality by making pictures look more natural. Depending on what you watch, it can either make a pleasant difference or be barely noticeable. Some people will like the results; others will prefer an unprocessed image.
The 42PC55 is also happy to accept a 1080p input. Obviously, being a 720p screen it can't display it in all its glory, but it will downscale to the panel's native resolution. While this isn't as good as actually supporting 1080p, it's a handy feature to include.
One problem we had with this television is the glass screen. This is standard on plasma screens, but it causes problems in well-lit rooms and means that unless you watch in total darkness you'll see a lot of reflections in the screen.
Watching high-definition video was a pleasant experience -- we thought the picture was decent, but not the best we've seen. The TV deserves a credit for producing very strong colours, which make watching Happy Gilmore very enjoyable. We did notice quite a lot of on-screen 'sparkles', especially on pictures that contained bright areas of solid colour. Our HD DVD of Serenity showed this up during a scene of a vast desert -- it's not the sort of effect that will bother you if you're sitting a couple of metres away from the screen but it's still far from ideal.
Sound from the 42PC55 was a disappointment, too. There was very little bass, which made both music and action scenes a little weak sounding -- we've heard far more dynamic sound from smaller 32-inch screens. The only saving grace is that the optical digital output does at least enable you to hook the TV up to an amplifier.
Standard-definition DVDs via an upscaling player looked pretty good. The speckling was present, but it seemed to be exacerbated by the comparatively low quality of DVD. Other than that the colour seemed reasonably vibrant, and there was plenty of detail in the picture.
Freeview performance on the LG is acceptable. There are some picture problems, some of which are made worse by the low quality of Freeview generally, however we have seen televisions deal with this problem better. The main issue was the general noise on the picture.
Another flaw was that shadows or areas that have subtle changes in shade could become 'graduated' rather than a smooth colour transition. For example, in a shadow where there was an area of black which faded to grey, we could see distinct bands of colour visible.
We also noticed some ghosting. This was at its worst where there was a distinct, sharp edge to something -- we could see a faint halo effect around it.
For a current street price of around £900, this plasma is pretty sensibly priced -- for your money you get a large screen with some pretty decent styling.
Both picture and sound quality are a bit of a let-down, though. The image quality on high-definition material suffered from speckles and noise in bright areas, and the sound lacked bass and felt decidedly lightweight while watching movies.
If you are on a budget this TV will appeal, but there are other TVs available for similar money if you are prepared to accept a smaller screen.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield