capsule review

NEC PX-42XR3A

At a Glance
  • NEC PlasmaSync 42XR3 42

NEC PX-42XR3A
Photograph: Rick Rizner

This is the panel for image geeks. In our side-by-side review of eight 42-inch plasma sets, NEC's PX-42XR3A placed second for overall picture quality (behind the Philips 42PF9966/37). But it blew away all competitors for HDTV display.

The NEC took top honors for showing detail and came in second for color quality. On an HDTV clip from a classic car show, for instance, it captured the rich, deep red of a sports car and crisply displayed the glossy chrome bars of the auto's front grille. Some of the other TVs we tested, including a close rival from Philips, showed a slight shimmering effect in the grille. Also unlike the Philips, the NEC experienced no problems with any HDTV formats sent through its digital video input. (Analog component input at 480 progressive looked quite crisp, too.)

But the NEC is just a monitor. Our review model, priced at $3500, lacks speakers. (NEC sells a pair of eight-watt units for an extra $350.) And the panel has no TV-tuning capabilities; you must team it with an over-the-air receiver or a cable or satellite box to enjoy its fine HDTV performance.

You don't get the best set of connection options, either. The PX-42XR3A lacks a connector for HDMI cables, having instead a single bulky DVI port for digital hookups. The next-best option is its two sets of component inputs.

The monitor's design is quite plain, as well. The screen has just a simple thin frame (available in silver or charcoal gray). A utilitarian pair of T-shaped stands costs $249, but this panel would certainly look better hung on a wall. A relative featherweight at only 65 pounds, it should provide less of a mounting challenge than most of its competitors.

The bare-bones design and quirky connectors hint at NEC's traditional role as a maker of displays for commercial and corporate use. That's also evident in the included documentation--a thin booklet that might suffice for IT professionals or video types--and in the on-screen display. The interface is a simple, text-based affair without snazzy icons or other fancy features, but the layout is clear and easy to navigate.

Plus, the menus offer a high level of controllability. For instance, the PX-42XR3A is the only one of the eight TVs we reviewed to include a gamma control, which lets you adjust the rate at which brightness ramps up from dark to light and is helpful for refining shadow detail at medium brightness levels. This set is also one of the few to permit fine-tuning of color levels, in this case allowing users to balance the levels of primary (red, green, blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta, yellow) colors.

The PX-42XR3A may offer too few amenities to satisfy many consumers. But its great image quality and low price make it a fine choice for people who want to hook up their set to an external HDTV tuner.

Seán Captain

This story, "NEC PX-42XR3A" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • NEC PlasmaSync 42XR3 42

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