With the imminent arrival of high definition, LG intends to popularise the HD Ready plasma market by introducing a range of impressively specified screens at entry-level prices.
Models from the new PX5 series are equipped with a high-resolution panel and digital connectivity capable of displaying high-definition content from broadcast signals (i.e. Sky's forthcoming HD service) or a compatible DVD player. Both digital Freeview and standard analogue tuners have also been integrated into the stylish, glossed design. And memory card sharks will also be able to view digital photos and play MP3 music through the large 42-inch screen.
The good news is that the fully equipped 42PX5D is altogether less expensive than most of its rivals -- only £1,700. The bad news is that cutting costs leads to a few compromises with usability and, to a lesser extent, picture quality.
It's official, black is back. And the 42PX5D's bold design, encased in a dark lacquered uniform, comes straight from the Darth Vader school of style -- undeniably striking but equally imposing if you don't have the space.
The screen's oversized construction, which stretches to integrate a pair of permanently mounted speakers, is comparatively heavier than similar-sized models. It arrives unsteadily supported by a swivelling pedestal stand, although basic wall-mounting options are also provided. The sleek front panel is entirely uncluttered by controls, which are all neatly concealed across the screen's underside to preserve the clean appearance.
Also out of sight, at the side of the screen, is a pair of memory-card slots that will accept up to nine different card formats. This allows the screen to access information from digital devices like camcorders, cameras, MP3 players and handheld organisers. Hidden on the opposite side is a standard set of AV inputs that can be used to grant easy access to devices like games consoles and camcorders -- although there's no specialist DV input.
Otherwise, all connections are efficiently arranged at the rear. There's an enviable amount of space between sockets, which means they can be comfortably reached without relying on blind faith. A complete hierarchy of video connections is headed by an HDMI digital input that will accept high-definition broadcasts or signals from a compatible DVD player. The HDMI input will also support DVI sources using an HDMI-to-DVI cable.
Elsewhere, analogue video connections include a choice of three Scarts, although only one is RGB-enabled, leaving the other two with lower image quality. There's also a set of component inputs that will support progressive-scan video provided you have a suitable player. Sonically speaking, there's less choice with only standard stereo inputs and a single RCA output included, and no digital audio options.
PC users can connect to the screen using either the HDMI input or a separate RGB PC input, which is supported by a PC audio input and PC memory-card slot.
The front of the screen displays more badges than an enthusiastic boy scout, all of which boast the wealth of technological specifications at its disposal.
The 42PX5D's high-resolution XGA (1024x768-pixel) panel and digital connectivity earn it an HD Ready badge that means it can display high-definition content up to 1080i -- essential if you want to receive Sky's HD broadcasts when they arrive next year. Until then you can watch terrestrial or Freeview broadcasts from a pair of integrated analogue and digital TV tuners.