HP LCD’s picture falls short of expectations

You get a pleasant surprise when you set up HP’s 42-inch LC4276N LCD TV. Most of the inputs, though behind the screen, are on the left side rather than on the back of the unit, and they face outward, making them relatively easy to get to. Thanks to its on-screen controls, setting up and using the LC4276N are reasonably uncomplicated, too. The menus are small and colourful, with ‘Simple Menu’ and ‘Full Menu’ options to satisfy novices and geeks. Graphics help you select the aspect ratio you want.

The PC inputs and audio outputs are on the back, facing down — a difficult configuration unless you mount the panel onto a wall. And the set has no truly easy-to-access inputs on the front or side of the screen.

The LC4276N’s picture isn’t bad, but it falls short of what you should expect from a US$1,600 set in 2007. Its worst performance, to my eyes, came in our over-the-air TV tests, which used both standard- and high-definition clips. On these tests it managed some pleasing colours in The George Lopez Show, but much of the clip looked washed out. Meanwhile the standard-definition clip looked pixelated and had poor colour.

Image quality improved considerably when we watched HD-DVD, Blu-ray, or plain old DVD discs. The brick wall in chapter 7 of Mission: Impossible III (the scene that tests the p in 1080p) looked clear and solid.

The LC4276N lacks many extras that would have made it more convenient. It doesn’t support picture-in-picture, and it has neither a headphone jack nor a USB port for handling photos and music.

The surprisingly few buttons on HP’s large (but not programmable) remote are sensibly placed and easy to find — at least when the room isn’t too dark.

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