Thankfully this is at least partly borne out by the 42XR4’s performance with our usual collection of HD and standard definition video sources. The screen strikes an immediate direct bond with you, for instance, by painting its pictures free from almost all types of video noise. Surprisingly this is even true with standard definition sources like a Sky+ box, suggesting that the video scaling processing inside the 42XR4 is actually better than that of some supposedly more domesticated brands.
The 42XR4’s pictures are also spectacularly sharp thanks to some immaculate edging and fine detail portrayal. Naturally this makes the 42XR4 a good friend to the most important element of a high definition picture.
We also found the 42XR4’s colours to look likeably natural in tone, and its black levels deep enough to give pictures at least some sense of depth – especially as dark areas of the picture contain plenty of subtle shadow detailing.
There’s no doubt at all that the 42XR4 delivers the best video performance NEC has yet managed from a plasma TV. And yet… Black levels, while perfectly acceptable for normal TV viewing, don’t rise to the challenge of a really contrast-heavy film as well as some of the best plasma rivals. Also, despite their natural tones, colours look slightly muted compared to the ultra-vibrant hues put out by the latest plasmas from Pioneer and Panasonic.
And finally, although video noise is generally suppressed, there is one type that does still rear its ugly head from time to time: plasma’s common greenish fizzing over dark picture areas.
Although we don’t think they really justify their hefty cost, NEC’s optional speakers for the 42XR4 are at least no slouches, providing a reasonably crisp, clean, well-rounded and powerful accompaniment to the solid pictures.
Although there’s nothing actually offensive about the 42XR4, its lack of domesticity and anything especially outstanding in its performance make it hard for us to find any particular reason – beyond, perhaps, its extensive HD connections - to recommend it. Especially considering it’s far from cheap once you’ve added a stand, tuner and speakers to the price.