Sony's usual picture options are all available, and are presented on a handsome menu system that sits in the bottom left of the screen instead of obstructing the whole picture. You can format all material to fit the screen how you like, so you can cut off the top and bottom of 4:3 to make it look more natural on screen. It's best to stick with the Smart mode though, so the television will recognise all sources and format them automatically.
In terms of picture presets, you can only choose between Live, Movie and Personal picture presets, with the latter offering full control of your brightness and contrast settings. If you find the picture needs more contrast, you can boost it with the Dynamic Picture Mode. Once you've got used to it, it's unlikely you'll ever turn this mode off. You can also engage a Power Saving feature that will dim the brightness of the backlight, but unless you're particularly energy-efficient, there's not much point in hampering your viewing pleasure. Sony's Screen Saver flashes the screen with white pixels to neutralise them. You may find this useful if you're paranoid about screen burn.
Without HDMI or DVI connectivity, the Sony isn't high-definition compatible, but it will scale down 720p and 1080i material automatically. We used Denon's DVD-2910 player to transmit 720p/1080i signals over component, and Sony's internal processing scaled it down for us. Pretty pointless, but if you ever invest in a high-definition DVD player and it supports component output, then the KE-P42M1 will at least offer support.
The visual fidelity of Sony's plasma is actually very good, although you lose all fine detail during camera pans. While that's a characteristic of plasma technology, the other traditional effects are less noticeable. Thanks to Wega Engine, contrast depth is good. The fine shadows on human faces don't blur into a horrible mess, and the colours always look natural. During Finding Nemo, the deep blue of the ocean and the vibrant red of the clown fish's skin showed no colour bleed at all. Use component inputs and you'll get a further enhancement to picture quality, although recent efforts from NEC and Pioneer beat it hands down.
Sony's audio performance is virtuoso, with real depth in the bass and plenty of detail in the treble. You can use the speakers as one centre channel if you've got a home cinema system, but they did a pretty good job on their own. They provide all the vocal clarity that's necessary for television and movie viewing.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide