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B&O Beovision5 review

Another desirable product from the Danish masters

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Our Verdict

Iconic design, yet hideously overpriced - the definition of style over substance

Deliciously framed in brush aluminium, freestanding, endowed with unspeakably huge felt-covered speakers and available in any colour you could wish for: yup, it's another luxury product from those Danish purveyors of all things stylish, Bang & Olufsen.

It's also extremely expensive for a 42in screen, but that's no surprise either because there's usually something special about B&O's plasmas that makes the extra expenditure worthwhile.

It's certainly not around the back, however - connections are seriously outdated. There are no component video inputs, no digital video jacks and no PC inputs, so the damning truth is that you can forget progressive scan or high-definition pictures on the Beovision 5, and at this price point that is an appalling oversight. With high-definition broadcasts just around the bend in the UK (Sky is due to broadcast films and sport in 2006; the BBC in 2010) it would seem crazy to splash-out on this screen. It makes us want to put it straight back into its box, but surely there must be some cutting-edge features for us to enjoy?

Remote compensation

Well, the remote is nice and weighty, and includes some unusual universal and macro talents, but it's not very intuitive and not even close to placating us - a nice remote control is hardly a deal-maker, especially when the deal involves such a considerable outlay of money. Which just leaves B&O's digital natural motion (DNM) circuitry for smoothing motion to impress - which is not saying very much seeing as it's borrowed directly from Philips.

Where the Beovision 5 does impress is with contrast levels. Images from our test disc Donnie Darko are good quality, but it's the detail and depth of darker shots, like Donnie cycling through the hills at dawn or his sister returning to the house prior to the jet engine crash, that show the screen to be far superior to cheap plasmas.

Natural beauty

Things are looking up. Colours are also rich and free from noise, and when Drew Barrymore's Ms Pomeroy informs Donnie that 'cellar door' is the most beautiful combination of words in the English language the B&O's natural representation of their skin tones is similarly beautiful.

Unfortunately, however, motion is often accompanied by a halo effect caused by DNM, and smooth colour transitions band into ragged rainbows - an old plasma problem we had thought to be as dead as poor old Donnie.

Thankfully the Beovision's audio is very much alive, with B&O's reputation in this area upheld. The active speakers possess a gloriously rounded and detailed tone that does more than justice to Donnie Darko's ethereal sound mix, easily equalling the performance of much higher-end audio separates kit.

Together with colour and contrast, the Beovision 5's sonics are one of the few features we can rave about on what is overall a disappointing effort that will remain a world away from the similarly priced, but apparently future-proof, Vivadi Saturn. The flaws are terminal and worth repeating: no high-def playback, no progressive scan pictures and all-round poor connections accompanied by some on-screen problems with colour banding and motion that recall the bad old days of plasma screens.

That these major flaws are on a screen costing almost £13,000 should make difficult reading even to those of you who will instantly - and in some cases instinctively, given the company's reputation for luxury presentation - fall in love with yet another Bang & Olufsen beauty.