How does ALIS work? For starters, where conventional plasma panels have a strip of electrodes for each horizontal line of plasma cells, ALIS panels share an electrode strip between two lines of cells. These cells then switch on and off thousands of times per second so that at any given instant only half the panel's pixel lines are turned on. This means there’s less screen "real estate" taken up by electrode strips (seen as black grid lines on conventional plasma screens) and a greater phosphor area available to be illuminated, resulting in the 1080-line claims.
Even if you’re convinced by the ALIS system though, you should note that the full ALIS resolution of the 42PD9700 reads 1,024 x 1,080i, not 1,920 x 1,080i as it should be for a really ‘true’ 1080i feed. In other words, 1080i pictures still appear to need substantial downscaling along their horizontal axis even if the vertical axis hits the 1080-line target.
The home for all these interesting HD goings on is a pretty one. The screen frame looks sharp in its black livery and bold silver speaker grilles, and the ‘cool’ factor is upped by the fact that the desktop stand lets you rotate the TV via the remote.
The good first impressions continue into the 42PD9700’s connections, as we find our HD sources catered for by two HDMI inputs alongside the customary component video inputs. There’s a 15-pin D-SUB jack too, an SD card slot for direct viewing of digital photos, a subwoofer output, and significantly – following our tribulations with NEC’s 42XR4 yesterday – three SCARTs and connections for a built-in digital TV tuner.
Perhaps the most significant feature of the 42PD9700 after its 1080i line resolution is its Picture Master image processing, offering a wealth of image-boosting systems including: full digital image scaling; automatic optimisation of brightness and contrast; sharper edges; improved motion handling thanks to faster image processing; 12-bit colour processing for a greater colour range; and various noise reduction systems.
The onscreen menus also put an unusually wide range of tweaks at your disposal – far more than most people will ever need, in truth. But it’s nice to know they’re there!
The only feature disappointment given the 1080-line resolution is that the TV can’t take a 1080p source. But then the 42PD9700 is hardly alone in that.