TVs are funny things. You can spend a massive amount of money on one or a comparative pittance. The question is: at what point do you get the perfect combination of value for money and performance?
LG thinks that, at around £650, its HD Ready, 42-inch 42PQ6000 plasma TV will hit the right note with recession-conscious customers. We have to say that LG might be right. Plasma TVs certainly endear themselves to people who watch plenty of Freeview and standard-definition content, and this model even has an eco mode that aims to reduce the ongoing running costs. So, is it the perfect TV?
LG has a habit of making TVs look pretty cool. Gone are the days when the Koreans trailed behind the Japanese in terms of industrial design. Now, the likes of LG and Samsung are chasing Apple more than they are Sony. The 42PQ6000 is a truly lovely-looking set.
The most impressive design element is the single sheet of class covering the front, which gives the TV's appearance a really pleasant uniformity. There's a power indicator LED on the bottom right-hand side of the screen, but, apart from that and a small LG logo, the clean lines are uninterrupted.
Even the speakers are hidden, firing downwards. This is a slick way of improving a TV's appearance, although it can sometimes be at the cost of audio clarity. We'll find out if that's the case with the 42PQ6000 later in this review.
At the side, you'll find a USB socket, S-Video and composite video in. There's also a cheeky HDMI socket lurking there too. At the back, there are two Scart sockets, two more HDMI inputs and component and VGA connections for analogue high-definition sources.
It's fair to say the 42PQ6000 isn't exactly brimming over with special features. It's an entry-level, 720p TV for people who want something to watch Freeview and DVDs on. We doubt the target audience is heavily into Blu-ray or other HD material.
Even so, the 42PQ6000 has some good additional functionality. Firstly, it can play standard-definition DivX and MPEG-4 files from USB memory sticks. As you'd expect, image and MP3 support is also present and correct.
The set's eco mode is also worth a cheer. LG allows users to pick between 'off', 'intelligent sensor', 'low', 'medium' and 'high' settings. The intelligent-sensor setting monitors the ambient light, and reduces the TV's brightness as and when it's appropriate. We found the medium setting to offer a good compromise between brightness and power economy.
Plugging in the TV and getting it going is a very simple process. There is, however, one issue that we noticed straightaway -- this TV retains an image very easily during its first few hours of life. Once we'd finished tuning in the channels, a ghostly impression of the set-up menu remained for a few minutes.
We can't emphasise enough how little this matters though. Image retention is very temporary, and, while it could panic people seeing it for the first time, as soon as you start using the TV, the retained images slowly vanish, and everything returns to normal. Additionally, panels are much less susceptible to image retention as they get older.
After finishing the set-up, we watched some Freeview. The picture quality on this TV when handling standard-definition content is fantastic. We tweaked the brightness, colour and other settings to get a good, accurate image on-screen, but, right from the start, we were impressed. If you watch plenty of standard-definition material, this TV is likely to please you.
The set's handling of HD material is slightly less impressive, but purely because the screen's resolution is 1,024x768 pixels. While HD images look sharp and clear, they don't jump out of the screen as they would with a 1080p TV. But none of this really matters -- this TV isn't aimed at 1080p fans, and it actually handles downscaling of HD images pretty well. We did notice that there were slightly jagged edges on some text at times -- possibly an indication that the scaler isn't optimised for text on HD video.
Even so, watching movies like The Dark Knight and Casino Royale is very pleasant indeed. The image looks smooth, with beautiful, bright colours. There's a decent amount of detail and we were very impressed by the incredibly smooth and natural motion. Overall, the set's HD performance is very enjoyable.