NEC Plasma TV Review




Model: NEC 42VP4 Plasma Television
Description: 42-inch EDTV Plasma Display, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 854 x 480 (WVGA)
Includes: Remote
Color: Charcoal gray bezel with black ribbon around plasma screen
Most Similar Competition: Panasonic TH-42PWD6UY, Fujitsu P42HHA30
Reviewer: Robert Wiley


The ultimate test of all plasma TVs is how well they perform when they are actually tested for video quality. Forget the native pixel resolution, the built in progressive scan converter/scalar, and the sometimes-unrealistic contrast ratios listed by the manufacturer. The manufacturer provides these specifications, and they have a vested interest, since they want to sell their product. Comparing TV's of any kind side by side with the same input signal, playing the same material at the same moment is the only way to truly understand how the signal information is received, converted and shown to the naked eye. With plasma display monitors, the differences are sometimes much more pronounced than with other types of televisions.

Input sources for the review: High Definition signal from RCA DTC-100 high definition decoder. DVD played on Toshiba SD6200 Progressive scan DVD player tested with Component and S-video cables, Digital Cable Television, Various computer resolutions.

NEC is a respected name in the business world for monitors and printers. The NEC 42VP4 42-inch plasma display is not sold directly in stores to consumers (though it can be found on the Internet); rather, it is sold in stores under names like Runco and Marantz. The model 42VP4 is a follow up to the MP3, making it NEC's fourth generation plasma television.. And it's a dandy. The differences between this unit and the earlier models are mainly in the contrast ratios and brightness and black levels. The images are also sharper than previous models. I really like the look of the sporty, solid bezel chassis of the unit. There is a wide horizontal frequency range for showing high definition signals from computer sources. It can be used as a presentation monitor and has the largest variety of inputs of any of the plasma TV's tested, including a DVI input for digital-only video signals. Basically it has any input you could want, even RCA-type jack component video input, as well as a BNC-type one. Unlike most manufacturers of plasma monitors, which use Fujitsu glass screens, NEC uses its own high contrast glass and puts a nice anti-reflective coating on it.

NEC 42MP2 plasma tv

PICTURE - 93/100

This is an absolutely great plasma display and one of my favorites. It has superb contrast and brightness levels which only the Panasonic TH-42PWD6UY clearly beat, and that only with high definition input. With an s-video or composite video input this NEC plasma, along with the Panasonic unit listed above, beat all comers in the plasma market. It actually looks as good with a 480I signal as with a 480p signal - maybe better. That is good and bad news. The good news is that you get a great picture no matter what input signal you are using with the unit. The bad news is that you don't really gain anything with higher end HD signals- except HDTV, which makes everything look fantastic. I thought the unit was superior to comparable Pioneer and Sony models, and is on par with the Panasonic when using the lower signals with s-video, component, or composite. When using HDTV signals or progressive scan 480p, the Panasonic was the best unit without a doubt and I liked the NEC 42VP4 second best under this scenario. The reason for the excellent images displayed with low-end signals is apparently NEC's built-in proprietary progressive scanning video converter.

I thought the unit was superior to the Pioneer 505HD, Sony 42B1U, and and is on par with the Panasonic when using the lower signals with s-video, component, or composite. When using HDTV signals or progressive scan 480p the Panasonic was the best unit without a doubt and I liked the NEC 42PM3 second best under this scenario. The reason for the excellent images displayed with low end signals is apparently NEC's built in proprietary progressive scanning video converter.

The plasma exhibits excellent color fidelity after playing with it for a few minutes (all plasma monitors look better after warming up). I found it necessary to tone down the greens and increase the reds and blues with the onscreen display. It takes only a minute to make the following adjustments may help you with the unit:

  • Contrast 80%
  • Brightness 25%
  • Sharpness 50% (left alone)
  • Color 50%
  • Tint 35-40%

Images were sharp and clear and the unit gave me a larger picture using the zoom feature than did the Sony or Panasonic. It must be noted also that the scaling was unsurpassed when zooming and the unit displayed little distortion or contouring problems. It was much sharper than the Sony when using the zoom feature, which is preferable to me when watching a true 16:9 format DVD or HD programming.

There is really no need to purchase a progressive scan DVD player to accompany this plasma display. A normal 480i player will do. It adds nothing and to me even takes away just a bit of image quality. The built in scan converter does the progressive scanning just fine. Save some $$ on that component. Since this is the case you can also save on those pricey component video cables and just use a good S-video lead instead.


The onscreen graphic user interface on NEC's 42VP4 plasma display is fairly easy to use. It takes a few minutes to get past a few obscurities on the display such as color adjustment. The remote controller is one of the best I've tested with a plasma display. It's a sleek nice ergonomic device to use. The unit supports input signals from HD, DVD, as well as DTV of 480P, 480I, 720P, and 1080I. As I mentioned earlier in the review, this unit has the largest input selection of any plasma TV. This monitor, like all of the newer plasma models tested, is virtually silent and I could not hear it at all at 6 feet away even with the sound off. The new 42VP4 uses less power (only 275W!) as well allowing for fan free silent operation.

The NEC 42VP4 plasma TV has four or five aspect ratio settings for 4:3, 16:9, and Zoom of each. Any additional setting scales the picture to fit the entire screen when watching a 4:3 format picture. It supports up almost all PC input signals including SXGA, Wide XGA, and Macintosh- 1024X768. It has a sharp digital zoom feature, which allows you to select one portion of the screen for emphasis and magnify it up to 7 times.

This plasma display has great looks. It looks like a monitor that would cost as much or more than it does. The edges are thin and the framing bezel measures only about an inch in width. The unit tapers back to make the 3.5" monitor appear slimmer than it already is. It is a very solidly constructed beautiful monitor and weighs in at 62.8 lbs. (without its table stand) and only comes in charcoal.


  • 3.5" depth, 16:9 Widescreen with solid bezel construction
  • Built in 7 watt amplifiers
  • Cleanest s-video and composite video picture signals resulting from…
  • Built in progressive scanning converter
  • Special Digital Zoom feature for highlighting one section of plasma
  • Excellent brightness, contrast and black levels (second only to Panasonic)


With a street price around $3500, this is one of the best deals in the Plasma TV/Monitor market. The NEC 42VP4 is an excellent performer, so NEC's plasma display gives plenty of bang for one's buck.

OVERALL RATING: (with Picture double-weighted) - 93/100

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