At least the set satisfies every other connection need most people could want with the likes of component video and D-Sub PC jacks. Plus there’s an RS-232C control port to aid system integration, and a very useful optical digital audio output that can be set to output audio from any of the screen’s AV inputs, effectively turning the PD420 into an AV switching box.
Turning to the PD420’s innards, we find a ‘full HD’ pixel count of 1,920 x 1,080, delivering a claimed native contrast ratio of 1,500:1 which rises to 5,000:1 if you activate a provided dynamic contrast feature, whereby the backlight automatically dims when dark scenes are detected.
Without doubt the most intriguing thing about the PD420, though, is the image processing it employs. Most brands in the UK use some kind of in-house picture processing system; think of Samsung with its Digital Natural Image engine, or LG with its XD Engine. But Planar has instead decided to source in an external, rather higher level system, namely the Genesis Cortez-Plus LCD control chip.
This manages to cram into a single chip a whole raft of image processing technologies from acclaimed image-processing guru Faroudja. Here’s a list of just some of the clever tricks at your disposal: Faroudja’s 10-bit DCDi Cinema Video converter for making sure that contoured edges don’t look jagged; Faroudja’s TrueLife system for enhancing colours, depth perception and detailing; and Faroudja’s Intellicomb 3D for reducing artefacts when upgrading standard definition sources to the PD420’s full HD pixel count. All this and we haven’t even mentioned the TV’s remarkably comprehensive colour management facility.
With the glories of the PD470’s pictures still very much in our minds, it’s with some anticipation that we settle down to watch the PD420. And it doesn’t let us down one bit.
As with the PD470, what makes the PD420’s pictures so special is their really remarkable subtlety. The amount of fine detail the screen reproduces, for instance, is little short of jawdropping. During the opening scenes of Apocalypto on Blu-ray, you get a great example of just how extreme this detailing goes. First, you’re first struck by how crisp and delineated the leaves of the forest look, then you’re struck further by how you can make out individual hairs on the poor hunted tapir, and finally, just when you thought the PD420 couldn’t go any ‘finer’, you start to see subtleties in the tattoos and piercings of the tribespeople that you just don’t appreciate fully on the vast majority of rival flat TVs.
The PD420’s subtlety can also be seen in its colour reproduction; first in the almost infinite smoothness of colour blends (for instance, the actors’ skin is reproduced with no sense of colour banding), and second in the remarkably expressive range of tones at its disposal. There’s none of the slightly cartoonish look many LCD TVs exhibit as a result of their relatively limited colour range.
Yet more evidence of the PD420’s love of the smaller things in life can be seen in dark parts of the picture, as the screen resolves far more shadow detail than usual. This helps give dark scenes a really impressive sense of depth, enhancing still further the growing sense that you’re less watching a screen and more looking through a window at a world outside.
The final element in building this intensely direct relationship with what you’re watching comes from the screen’s immaculate noise handling. The various Faroudja systems in place remove, so far as my eyes can tell, all traces of such common problems as grain, dot crawl, edge shimmer, ghosting, and moiré over areas of particularly fine detail. There’s not even much of LCD’s nigh-on universal motion blur to report, for heaven’s sake.