capsule review

Maxent MX-42HPM20

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At a Glance
  • Maxent 42" HD-Ready Plasma Monitor - MX-42HPM20

Maxent MX-42HPM20
Photograph: Chris Manners

Normally when you buy a high-definition monitor instead of a full-fledged HDTV, you can expect a nice discount. So it's strange that, though the Maxent MX-42HPM20 lacks an integrated TV tuner, it costs $200 more than the Vizio P42HDTV, which does include one.

PC World recently retested this model. When we first examined the MX-42HPM20, it lagged behind the pack on nearly every test we performed. This time, the results we obtained were more favorable--but not overwhelmingly great. Our jurors considered the MX-42HPM20 better than most HDTVs at handling standard-definition content, despite the presence of a yellow or yellow-green cast at default settings. This color problem carried over into our DVD and HD tests as well.

Ironically, the biggest complaint was, as before, about brightness. But whereas the unit we inspected the last time around was too dim, our test model seemed too bright this time; images appeared washed out. As before, the display looked fuzzier than most, with mild artifacting and jagged edges. Some jurors complained of pixelation and a "blocky" appearance. Overall, our review panel deemed the picture watchable, but not wonderful.

Managing the monitor through its on-screen menus has positives and negatives. Menus are extremely simple and easy to use (as is the remote), but you forfeit quite a bit of configurability. Worse, the menus are painfully slow to display on screen and to respond to commands, so it can take 30 seconds or more just to tweak the contrast. The manual lacks some important information, such as how to reset the TV to its original factory settings (you have to press the TV's power button, and then immediately press and hold the volume-up button until 'AV1' appears on the screen).

The connectivity options are solid. On the back of the set, you'll find just about every port type you could need (including a whopping six RCA audio inputs). Unless you're looking for a coaxial connection, a CableCard slot, or DVI, the MX-42HPM20 has you covered. We do wish that the connectors were more accessible (vertical ports and under-set crawling required), but overall the monitor is sturdy and efficiently designed.

Ultimately, the MX-42HPM20 upholds Maxent's approach to no-frills high definition at a minimal cost ($1600 as of September 8, 2006) but the quality of this HD plasma display doesn't make it a bargain. You'll find far better machines at similar or lower prices; you'll even find better-looking Maxent sets if you move to larger sizes.

Christopher Null and Laura Blackwell

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At a Glance
  • This HD plasma monitor is easy to use, but its image quality is a letdown. Menus are slow to display and respond.


    • Low price; many different inputs


    • Disappointing image quality; no TV tuner
    • Menus slow to respond
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