NEC's 42XR3 is the smaller brother of one of our favourite plasmas, the 61XR3. Because of its huge size (and therefore price), the 61XR3 was only suitable for businesses and the super wealthy, and while this 42XR3 is still more expensive than most at this size, the performance will win over anyone who has picture quality high on their list of priorities.
There are still problems though -- the lack of a Freeview tuner offends us, especially as the set doesn't have an RGB Scart input. And even though the NEC is a strong picture performer, it can't work miracles when you're forced to watch digital TV through a lowly S-video connection. As a result, you'll need to be geared up for high definition if you want to get the most out of this plasma, but if you've budget left over after this hefty investment, you'll have the centrepiece of your digital home.
Understated design makes the NEC 42XR3 a lovely plasma to look at. The screen's sheer size is amplified by a small frame that boasts no distinctive marks other than its manufacturer's logo. Some TVs are badged up to the nines with Dolby logos and picture technology trademarks, but NEC is far too modest for all that gubbins.
While we like the way that the connections are housed down the side of the TV as opposed to underneath (it makes them far easier to access), it's been at the cost of a couple of Scart inputs that any television, digital or not, still needs to offer. When you attach the speakers, there's another design flaw to be found -- any fat cables in your collection may not fit in correctly.
We use high quality Monster interconnects here on CNET.co.uk, which not only have thick cable protection but also have magnetic shielding around the terminals. Our DVI cable had to sit in a rather uncomfortably bent position on the TV. Luckily we only had to do this for a couple of weeks, but we certainly wouldn't do it for a prolonged period.
The remote control is very simple -- a small grey unit with very few buttons. This means you don't have to worry about granny getting all confused when she comes over for Christmas. But unlike most premium plasmas, the remote control won't work with other pieces of equipment such as DVD recorders. Unlike Pioneer or Panasonic, NEC doesn't make supplementary electronics. Instead it's coming from the business side, where simplicity is key. We certainly have no complaints.
Despite having one of the most basic TV remotes in the history of the world, the plasma itself can be set up for a number of different uses. We like the way the analogue audio inputs can be selected for use with any of the available inputs. This may sound confusing, but it means that you can run music from one source over video from another -- handy if you're having a party, for example.