The FilterBright system certainly plays a part in this black level achievement, as the suppression of practically all screen reflections means there’s absolutely nothing standing between you and the pitch blackness delivered by the panel drivers.
We’re pleased to note, too, that Samsung has largely cracked its traditional problems delivering natural colours on its plasma panels. The skin tones of the pilots during the opening space battle in the Revenge of the Sith, for instance, really look like they belong to human beings rather than some alien species. It has to be said that the PS42Q97HDX’s colours aren’t as eye-catchingly vibrant as they are on Samsung’s LCD TVs or, more significantly, Pioneer and LG’s plasma TVs. But films and especially console games certainly still look dynamic enough to keep your attention well and truly riveted on the screen.
The non-stop stream of action that makes up the majority of Mission: Impossible III on HD DVD, meanwhile, looks crisp and clean thanks to the PS42Q97HDX’s freedom from a) the sort of resolution loss caused by response time issues with rival LCD technology, and b) the sort of fizzing noise over motion that lesser plasmas – like the Hitachi P50T01U reviewed last week – can still suffer with.
High definition sources also enjoy some respectable sharpness and detailing. To be fair we’ve seen a few flat TV rivals look sharper still, but the clarity on show is still way above what you might expect from such an affordably priced product.
In fact, we’d probably say there’s only one truly significant issue we have with the PS42Q97’s pictures given its price, and that concerns the noise levels in its standard definition pictures. To be fair this isn’t constant, and can all but disappear with a really high quality standard definition source like a good DVD disc. But where a source has a bit of noise already present, this Samsung will tend to exaggerate it rather than successfully processing it away.
The Movie Plus feature can cause moving objects to look a little noisy too, but then you don’t have to use this feature if you don’t want to, so we’d suggest you just leave it well alone.
Sonically the PS42Q97HDX also surpasses our expectations. For even though it employs the same sort of ‘invisible speaker’ technology encountered on Samsung’s previous flat TV range, this time round those speakers seem to have more power and frequency range, avoiding their predecessor’s rather flat and uninvolving soundstage.
A marginally soft look to high definition pictures and a few standard definition issues do mean that you can get better than the PS42Q97HDX if you’re prepared to pay more for it. But that doesn’t remotely alter the fact that by the standards of a £699 42in plasma TV, the PS42Q97HD is so good it’s almost silly.