As you may suspect from our image quality mark of seven for this screen, though, it does have one or two problems. The biggest concerns its black level response, as it tends to make what should be dark parts of the picture instead look greyed over. This can additionally obscure background details, and make dark scenes feel one-dimensional.
We also couldn’t help but notice that as objects move across the screen, they tend to do so in a really quite juddery fashion - particularly during standard definition viewing. It’s possible that this helps the 61XR4G remain impressively untroubled by the fizzing noise over motion that still afflicts many plasma TVs, but that makes it no less distracting in its own right.
Our final gripe with this NEC’s picture is that it’s just not very bright. This tends not to upset you during bright scenes; indeed, you might argue that its bright scenes look slightly more natural than the gaudier efforts pumped out by some rivals. But the low brightness emphasises the relative drabness of dark scenes, and in doing so often makes the picture feel somewhat unbalanced.
When it comes to sound, we should point out that the 61XR4G doesn’t come with speakers included in its asking price. If you want a pair of NEC’s own matching models they will set you back a rather hefty £400 – so it’s just as well that they’re actually excellent, with exemplary amounts of power and audio range. The only things holding the audio mark down to an eight are the presence of quite a bit of cooling noise from the screen, and some lip-synchronisation problems (caused by the pictures taking longer to appear on the screen than it takes for the sound to reach the speakers).
In many ways NEC is to be congratulated for the 61XR4G – not least for its pictures’ extreme sharpness, lack of noise and natural colours. In fact, if NEC could just sort out its black levels and light output next time round, we could be in for a real king-sized treat. For now, though, the 61XR4G will have to be content with a place in the big-screen plasma world’s second tier.