Samsung's 42Q7HD attempts to recreate the recent success of the company's impressive and affordable LCD range using plasma technology for a bigger screen experience.
For the price, it does a pretty good job -- you won't find many budget screens as attractively designed or extensively equipped with high-end features, including HD compatibility, integrated Freeview and advanced picture-processing systems.
Single input options limit its versatility, especially if you want to connect several high-definition sources, and picture performance is slighted by blanched black levels that separate the screen from more illustrious models. But, for around £500 cheaper than the class leading screens in question it's a sacrifice that most budget buyers should be willing to make.
Samsung leads the way in the affordable style stakes, and not many budget-priced plasmas can claim to be as stylish as the latest 42Q7HD. The gloss black frame is underscored by a brushed metal speaker system and pedestal stand, and is guaranteed to attract admiring glances. Even the gently tapered, homogenous remote is eye catching compared to its typically ugly and oversized contemporaries.
Several essential controls have been neatly integrated into the side along with a set of easily accessible standard AV inputs. It's a thoughtful feature for camcorder or games-console owners who want to make quick, occasional connections without having to delve behind the screen -- especially if it's wall-mounted.
Rear panel connectivity is reasonably impressive, although flexibility is limited by only featuring single input options. For instance, the solitary HDMI digital input only allows you to directly receive high-definition content from a single source. That means if you want to use several HD sources, say Sky's HDTV receiver and an upscaling DVD player, you'll have to frustratingly switch cables or invest in expensive adaptors.
Similarly, only one of the two Scart terminals is RGB enabled leaving the other to cope with compromised picture quality -- not ideal if you want to connect a standard DVD player and satellite receiver. Nonetheless, there are component inputs that can be used to support progressive scan DVD players and some high-definition sources, like the Xbox360, while simultaneously freeing up alternative connections. PC owners can use the standard VGA terminal with accompanying PC audio input for computer or media centre applications.
The screen's sexy design and affordability make it easier to ignore its somewhat slighted connectivity. But you could be found wanting if your system comprises more than a few components. Plus, several (admittedly more expensive) models do offer greater versatility and convenience using multiple inputs.
Samsung's 42Q7HD is undoubtedly attractive, but the underlying technology proves it's more than just a pretty panel. The future-proof specification includes high-definition compatibility, an integrated Freeview tuner and several advanced picture-processing systems that are all too often absent at this price.
The proprietary DNIe digital engine uses various technologies including a 13-bit colour processor to enhance individual elements of the picture such as colour, contrast and detail. And there's a DNIe demo mode that allows you to judge the difference yourself using a split screen to emphasise the improvements in depth, definition and noise reduction.