You don't have to look far to spot the shelf appeal of JVC's LT-42DR9BJ.
At around just £750, it's exceptionally affordable for a 42-inch LCD TV with a full HD resolution. But has it cut too many corners elsewhere?
Besides its appealing combination of price and full HD resolution, the 42DR9BJ is also a rather attractive TV -- so long, at least, as your tastes run to retro. Its glossy black finish, harsh rectangular sculpting and elongated, bright blue power light look like something straight out of the 1980s.
There's good news concerning the 42DR9BJ's connections, too, as we uncovered three HDMIs and a digital audio output alongside most of the usual analogue-based stuff.
Given how cheap it is, we really didn't expect to find the 42DR9BJ sporting any image-processing technology of significance. In fact, however, it's the proud owner of JVC's DynaPix HD system, designed to work on colours, contrast and fine detailing.
Other noteworthy features include an MPEG noise-reduction system, a 'Digi Pure' contrast-optimisation system, and the ability to play 1080p/24 sources -- something that some recent JVC TVs have notably lacked.
The best news of all about the 42DR9BJ, however, is that its unexpected bag of video-processing tricks really does help it produce some very good pictures. As anticipated, their single greatest strength is their sharpness with HD material, as the DynaPix HD engine helps the full HD screen bring out every little pixel of detail from even the most precise and textured of HD sources.
The processing also helps standard-definition pictures look much sharper than usual, while colours with standard definition and HD alike are terrifically vivid and richly saturated.
Turning to the 42DR9BJ's audio, the set manages to produce a really powerful, bass-strong and dynamic sound stage -- thanks in no small measure, we imagine, to the TV's use of JVC's sterling MaxxBass audio system.
Disappointingly, the 42DR9BJ's generally solid connections include no D-Sub PC input. You can connect a PC via the HDMIs, but you're only guaranteed satisfactory results if you match the PC's resolution to the TV's 1,920x1,080 native pixel count.
The 42DR9BJ's remote control also did its best to put us in a bad mood, as the ill-conceived positioning of the key 'rocker'-style menu-navigation joystick within a circle of much-used outer buttons led to untold accidental wrong-button presses.
In terms of performance, while the TV's pictures can look spectacularly good when showing bright footage, they become rather less satisfying during night-time scenes. This is because the 42DR9BJ falls prey to that classic LCD problem of limited black level response, so that dark scenes look slightly grey and flat.
The 42DR9BJ also fails to avoid another classic LCD issue: motion blur. There's slight resolution loss and smearing when objects move across the screen, especially during camera pans. This made us wish JVC had managed to include 100Hz processing alongside the DynaPix HD engine.
Finally, although standard-definition sources are made to look sharp by the 42DR9BJ, they also exhibit one or two rogue colour tones and, with digital sources, exaggerated MPEG noise.
Despite not fully overcoming a couple of common LCD failings, the JVC LT-42DR9BJ is sufficiently good in other areas to outperform its low price. In particular, its sharpness with HD sources elicits the maximum value from its key, full-HD resolution.
If push came to shove, we'd still rather buy Panasonic's cheap-as-chips Viera TH-42PX80 plasma TV, despite its lower resolution. But, if you absolutely have to have full HD without breaking the bank, the 42DR9BJ certainly deserves an audition.
Edited by Charles Kloet