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Furthermore, the 50XR6's images are exceptionally clean, with practically no sign of common plasma nasties like colour striping, fizzing noise in dark areas, or dithering noise over motion. Plus, of course, there's no bother from the sort of resolution loss over moving objects that you get with LCD technology.
Predictably, given NEC's new Pioneer connection, the 50XR6's black levels are streets ahead of previous NEC offerings. Dark films like Die Hard 4.0 thus look impressively cinematic as you're freed from the necessity of squinting through low-contrast greyness like you have to with lesser flat panel TVs.
As you'd expect, the 50XR6's better black levels also benefit its colour response, helping it produce richer, more vibrant tones than many a flat-screen rival - even those from more traditionally ‘domesticated' brands.
Really the only way to find any chinks in the 50XR6's picture quality armour is to compare it with the best points offered by rival brands. And so we could say that Pioneer's KURO TVs and Panasonic's new Viera models produce even better black levels and colours. However, taken on its own merits alone, the 50XR6 is never less than hugely enjoyable to watch, especially when HD is your source of choice.
We managed to get hold of a pair of the 50XR6's optional speakers - and remarkably found them even more outstanding than its pictures. The volume they can pump out is prodigious, for starters. But more impressive is the exceptional dynamic range of the soundstage and the clarity of detailing within it. Indeed, few flat TVs have ever sounded this good.
In sheer performance terms, the 50XR6 is a revelation for NEC, clearly benefiting in spades from the brand's new Pioneer connection. And thanks to some recent and rampant price cutting online, it's also remarkably good value by NEC standards.
The greater domestication and feature sophistication of rival 50in models like the full HD Samsung PS-50P96FD (reviewed only last week) and Panasonic's terrific HD Ready 50PX70 (now selling for under £1,200 in some quarters) might still ultimately divert your attention away from this new, improved NEC effort. But the fact that it is now seriously even competing with such big consumer electronics names is something NEC should rightly be proud of.
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