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You don’t have to be a TV to be HD Ready, you know. And to prove it, we’ve got just such a seemingly contradictory beast in front of us in the shape of NEC’s 42XR4 42in plasma screen.
The clue to what’s going on lies in our choice of the word ‘screen’ to describe the 42XR4 rather than TV. To become a TV, a screen needs to carry a built-in TV tuner – something that the 42XR4 conspicuously lacks. You can buy an optional external £180 TV tuner from NEC for the screen, but in its from-the-box state, the 42XR4 is resolutely a screen rather than a TV.
What’s more, it compounds this seeming aversion to basic telly with a SCART count of precisely zero. Yikes.
While this screen might not be interested in a normal televisual diet, though, it definitely seems to dig high definition. It sports two HDMI sockets as well as two sets of component video inputs, offering double the typical digital and analogue high definition connection options. Add these to an HD-friendly native resolution of 1,024 x 768 and compatibility with the required 720p and 1080i high definition formats, et voila: one HD Ready product that isn’t a TV.
While this makes the 42XR4 a far from ideal option as a simple replacement for the TV in your lounge, though, it certainly doesn’t preclude it from being a contender as a dedicated movie room screen. After all, people into AV enough to have a dedicated home cinema room will likely also have or be getting an Xbox 360 console, a Sky HD receiver, and a progressive scan or digital upscaling DVD player – none of which need either a built-in TV tuner or any SCARTs.
That said, we can’t help but wonder at this stage whether the NEC’s not-a-TV approach means that its picture quality might be optimised for PC use over video use.
We’ll come back to that later, but for now let’s go back to basics with how this NEC screen looks. And actually, it looks reassuringly glamorous in its sturdy dark fascia and metallic trim. Perhaps the 42XR4 does have one eye on the home user after all.