- Higher resolution than previous generation of plasma screens
- standard XGA native resolution
- wide range of inputs
- Non-square pixels
NEC’s latest 42in. plasma display attempts to overcome some issues associated with running a wide-screen display from a PC, but in doing so brings another, equally trying problem with it. Although this screen has a higher resolution than other 42in. plasma displays, you may find that you’re still not pleased with the image you get on-screen.
The problem with many wide-screen displays is that they have a non-standard native resolution, which some graphics cards are unable to handle, so you end up running at a non-native resolution. NEC has solved this problem by making the native resolution of the PlasmaSync 42XM2 a universally supported one -- 1024 x 768 -- but by doing so has created a worse problem.
To accommodate an XGA resolution, NEC has had to use non-square pixels. This means that if you run the PlasmaSync 42XM2 as a PC monitor at its native resolution, everything appears stretched horizontally, since the PC expects the display to have square pixels. Although the image is very sharp, running DisplayMate to set the display up makes it obvious that anything meant to be square will appear as a rectangle on-screen. Your only solution to this stretching is to run at a non-native resolution. The PC we used to test the PlasmaSync 42XM2 was fitted with an Nvidia GeForce4 graphics card, which was capable of outputting a 1,280 x 768 desktop. Through a DVI-D connection, this appeared less than sharp, but still readable; using an analogue connection the results were far less usable. At other resolutions of similar aspect ratio, the result wasn’t quite as good, even with a digital connection.
The image stretching isn’t an issue if you’re using a video source, such as a videoconferencing system or DVD player. Here the PlasmaSync 42XM2’s electronics are able to scale the input image to fit the screen, and for most video sources this will work well. However, this would also be the case were the display to have a non-standard native resolution, so this isn’t really any better or worse a situation than with other screens. On the plus side, there are more lines available on this display, so you should get a sharper image -- particularly if you’re using a 720-line HDTV source.
You can connect many different source types to the PlasmaSync 42XM2, thanks to a wide range of inputs. PCs can use the DVI-D and VGA connections, while video sources have a choice of BNC RGB, RCA component video, S-Video and composite video. There’s also a VGA video output port that allows daisy-chaining of displays, but for large numbers of panels NEC recommends a splitter to preserve signal quality.
The PlasmaSync 42XM2 has a range of physical controls tucked under the lower edge of the bezel, allowing you to choose an input, alter the volume and access the on-screen menu, although this latter option is easier using the supplied remote control. The on-screen menu is used for all but the most basic functions.
There are three stereo audio inputs on the PlasmaSync 42XM2, which you can assign to different video inputs using the on-screen menu. The speakers supplied with our review model were good enough for most presentation jobs. They can be run from the built-in stereo 8W amplifier in the monitor, or wired to an external amplifier if you’re using the display as part of an audiovisual installation. However, using an external amp means you don’t get the benefit of source switching based on the video input.
The PlasmaSync 42XM2 is in most respects an excellent monitor, but we feel we can’t recommend it for presentation use since your slides will all look at worst rather strange, and at best a bit fuzzy. For video use it’s on far better footing, so it will suit videoconferencing or public address applications much better.