The bezel of the NA-L42X-10A is a little unusual; made of shiny smoked plastic, it curves up at the bottom. On the bottom right corner is an indicator light and the remote receiver.
The ports on the back of this display are located in a single group on the right side. For information about the ports on the back of the Insignia NS-L42X-10A see our Connectivity section.
For information about the ports on the back of the Insignia NS-L42X-10A see our Connectivity section.
The stand of the NS-L42X-10A allows the screen to rotate by up to 10 degrees, which makes accessing the ports on the back easier.
The controls on the body of the NS-L42X-10A are located on the right side of the screen. This means you have to reach around the side of the body to reach them, and it is not easy to figure out which one is which by touch.
The remote that comes with the NS-L42X-10A is a medium sized one with lots of buttons on it. It fits well into the hand, and can be programmed to control 4 devices, including the TV. For more information see our Remote section.
In The Box*(7.0)*
Along with the screen itself, you get a manual, quick start guide, remote (with batteries) and a cleaning cloth. No HDMI cable is included. We didn't find setting up the TV to be difficult; it is already attached to the stand in the box, and the quick start guide clearly shows where to plug things in.
Functional is probably the best way to describe this display. The curved bottom edge of the bezel is an interesting attempt to produce a different look, but it doesn't really work all that well; it just ends up looking odd and out of place. But at least it doesn't get in the way of the job of the display; showing images on the screen.
We measured the deepest black that the NS-L42X-10A could produce at 0.12 cd/m2, which is a decent black level that is on a par with most other LCDs at this price. However, it is worth noting that we measure this black level at the center of the screen, and the appalling uniformity of the screen means that most of the rest of the screen is much brighter than this. So, while parts of the screen may have decent black levels, others will be much brighter.
The brightest white that the NS-L42X-10A could produce was a very decent 392.31 cd/m2, which means that the screen will be visible in pretty much every lighting situation except in the middle of a sun-drenched field at noon. Certainly it will be bright enough to allow you to watch daytime soap operas with the curtains open.
The ratio between the black and white is the contrast ratio, which represents the range of shades that the display can reproduce. The bigger this number, the more attractive and dramatic the images will look. The NS-L42X-10A had a very decent contrast ratio of 2451:1, which compares well with the competition: it is much wider than the Vizio VL420M, but not quite as wide as the Panasonic TC-P42S1 or the Samsung LN42B610.
One thing to note here is that the way we measure contrast differs from the way the manufacturers do, which is why we get lower numbers than them. They measure with features such as dynamic contrast on, which push the black level down when the screen is mostly black, and some measure the black level with the backlight turned down and the whites with the backlight at maximum. We turn off any dynamic contrast features and measure both black and white with the backlight at maximum, as this produces a more realistic measure of the contrast.
Some displays have a problem with showing black and white at the same time; the white bleeds into the black, making it brighter. That's what we test for here, but it doesn't seem to be a big issue on the NS-L42X-10A: we found that the level of the black remained pretty constant from there being just a small amount of white on screen up to 95% of the screen showing white.
We've also found that some displays have a problem with lots of white; the whites fade as more is shown on the screen. That's called white falloff, but again it was not an issue on this display, where the level of the white remained pretty constant as we moved from just a small splash of white to the entire screen being white.
No to beat around the bush here, but the NS-L42X-10A had awful uniformity. On dark screens, there were large patches of light where it looked like someone was shining a torch from the corners of the screen. These were very visible (and extremely distracting) in darker scenes on movies, and seriously distracted from the quality of the image.
Gamma is a measure of how quickly the display goes from black to white. If the gamma is too high, the image will look overly Grey. If it is too low, it will look too dark. The 'just about right' that we look for in this test is between 2.1 and 2.2, but the NS-L42X-10A had a gamma of around 2.91, which is higher than we like. We find this figure by outputting a screen that goes from black to the brightest white, and measuring the brightness of the screen at every point imbetween. We then plot the graph below and figure out the gamma from the slope of the curve. We also like to see a nice smooth curve here, but the NS-L42X-10A didn't have that; the curve is rather bumpy and oddly shaped, dropping off to quickly towards black.
The NS-L42X-10A is a full 1080p screen, but it won't always have the luxury of displaying this highest possible resolution image. Instead, it will have to display the lower resolution signals produced by many high def devices, which is why we test how good a job it does of upscaling these signals. This display is very unusual in one way, though; it allows you to turn overscan on or off. Most displays automatically decide if an image should be overscanned (where the edges of an image are off the edge of the screen) by what format it is: 480p and 720p images are overscanned, but 1080i and 1080p ones are not. This display allows you to turn overscan on or off yourself.
480p signals are standard definition signals, so they are produced by devices such as SD cable boxes and DVD players. The NS-L42X-10A did a reasonable job of displaying these; the images were cleanly scaled and had no problems. When you enable overscan, these images were overscanned by about 2% horizontally and 3% vertically.
We also found no major problems with feeding this display a 720p signal, which is the format used by many sports broadcasters, as the progressive signal produces smoother motion. We found that 720p images were well scaled up to fit the 108op screen, and that there were only a few minor issues. Some closely-weaved patterns produced a slight interference pattern, so if your favorite sports presenter has a penchant for stripey ties, you might see some odd patterns there. When overscan was enabled, it cropped out about 3% of the screen on all sides.
1080i signals are at the same resolution as the native 1080p of the screen, but they are interlaced; the image is sent half at a time so it takes up less space. We didn't see any major issues with taking this and displaying it progressively, though; the images looked clean and sharp.
In this test, we look at the consistency of the whites, looking at the color temperature of the brightest white and then measuring the color temperature of the whites as they dim to black. A good display should have a consistent color temperature, but we often see a color shift in the whites. That was the case with this display; we saw a slight color shift at the white end, and a more significant shift in the darker grays. This is definitely visible; if you look at a gray gradient on this display, you can see a slight orange cast in the darker grays. But this is not a serious problem; we've seen many displays with worse results.
To produce colors on the screen, the display has to mix red, green and blue. To produce subtle color changes, the display has to be able to accurately reproduce subtle changes that are present in the signals it receives. That's what we test here, by feeding the display a signal that contains all of the levels of red, green and blue and measuring the brightness of the screen. We then plot the level of the input against the level of what we saw on the screen, and the results are below. As you can see, these are some way off from being the smooth, gentle curves that we like to see: the graphs are slightly bumpy and jumpy, meaning that a change in the signal didn't result in a change in the image on the screen.
To help compare the results, we also produce the color strips below, which show the curves above with real colors. The top strip is an ideal result, so if you see a problem with this strip, there is a problem with the device that you are looking at this on.
The range of colors that a display can output is called the color gamut, and the limits of what this should be are set in a standard called rec.709. We measure the gamut of the display against this standard, and we found that the NS-L42X-10A was rather inaccurate: both the greens and blues were significantly oversaturated, and the red was also slightly off. What this means is that colors will not look the way that the filmmaker intended; they will look too saturated and bright. You might not notice this much if you were looking at this display on its own, but you would see a big difference if you were looking at this display next to one with a more accurate color gamut.
For the color fans among you, below are the color coordinates of the rec.709 standard and our measurements, and the error (the distance between the two).
The NS-L42X-10A includes 120Hz motion processing (which they refer to as DCM Plus, for Digital Clear Motion), but this does a poor job of producing smooth motion. On the high settings (which the manufacturers recommend for movies), it makes the image look overly sharp, like it was shot on video. The lower settings (Low and Normal) produced a more subtle effect, but there were still problems; faces took on a rather pastel-like effect, where areas of skin with subtle color changes became blotches of flat color. The processing did produce slightly smoother motion, but the problems it caused were not worth it. We would either recommend that you turn the DCM Plus feature off, or leave it at the low setting.
We also saw a lot of artifacts with the DCM plus enabled; on both the Normal and High settings you could see blocks on the screen smear and shift as the motion processing tried to smooth the motion. This effect was particularly pronounced on movies that used a handheld camera (such as Cloverfield), where the entire image is shifting, but it was even visible on still images when people or objects moved rapidly across the screen.
3:2 Pulldown & 24fps*(6.75)*
The NS-L42X-10A did a very decent job of detecting and processing a signal with a 3:2 pulldown (an effect used by many broadcasters to give their shows or movies a more film-like look); we saw a much smoother image and only a few very slight problems with occasional glitches. This display failed our 24fps test, though; when we fed it a 24 frames per second signal from a PlayStation 3 playing a Blu-ray disk, it failed to show the image, instead producing a 'not supported' error on the screen.
The viewing angle of a display is very important, especially for those family members who have to sit at the edge of the couch and who get to look at the TV from an angle. To explore this, we find the angle at which the contrast ratio between black and white falls below 50%. For this NS-L42X-10A, this was a rather disappointing 18 degrees. Most cheap LCDs have similarly poor viewing angles, though, so this is no big surprise.
The screen of the NS-L42X-10A does show reflections, but they are not particularly distracting. We found that the reflection of lights were visible on the screen, but that the reelections didn't detract that much from the quality of the image on the screen.
The NS-L42X-10A includes a few features designed to help improve the quality of signals such as poor quality cable channels and dodgy home videos.
The only option that we would recommends for general use is the light sensor, which would be useful if you don't like to switch modes for different types of viewing.
Very few TVs come out of the box precisely calibrated to offer the best possible picture. To make sure we're scoring based on a TV's best possible performance, our first step in the review process is to calibrate the set. To do so, we use a CS-200 ChromaMeter to take measurements and DisplayMate, which is a television calibration program.
Below are all the settings we used to achieve optimal picture quality. While these settings will be fine for most users, you can alternatively pay someone to come into your home to calibrate your TV for you. The bonus of purchasing this service is your TV will be specifically calibrated to fit your viewing environment.
We used the Theater mode as a starting point, then use DisplayMate to tweak the settings for optimum color accuracy. The main changes we made were to adjust the balance of brightness and contrast, then tweak the color control to avoid some peaking. As part of our calibration process, we also increase the backlight brightness to maximum. Other settings were left at their defaults for the Theater mode.
The LS-42X-10A offers 8 picture modes, which are detailed below.
Ergonomics & Durability*(7.0)*
The remote that comes with the NS-L42X-10A fits nicely in the hand, with a curve on the back that provides a good rounded grip for the fingers. The remote feels a little plasticky and fragile, but it should stand up to everyday use. The myriad buttons on the front do feel a little soft; it is sometimes hard to tell if you have fully pressed them down or not.
Button Layout & Use*(6.25)*
The remote has a lot of buttons: 54 in total. Fortunately, the most commonly used ones are located in the middle of the remote, where they fall under the thumb. Other buttons are harder to reach, though, especially the bottom two rows that are used to control some features of the display (such as enabling game mode and using the auto volume leveling feature).
Programming & Flexibility*(7.0)*
Most remotes that come with HDTVs can only control the display itself (and occasionally other devices by the same manufacturer), but the remote that comes with the NS-L42X-10A is a fully programmable remote that can control devices from other manufacturers. Four buttons at the top of the remote allow three additional devices to be controlled; the buttons are labelled DVD, STB (for set top box) and Aux.To set these up, you have to put the remote in a special mode, then enter a five digit code for the device. The manual contains the codes for a huge number of devices, but if yours is not present, there is also a special mode that allows you to try all of the possible codes until you find the right one. It's a bit of a pain to set up, but once it is properly configured, it allows one remote to conveniently control 4 devices.
There are a good selection of inputs on the NS-L42X10A, including 5 HDMI inputs (with 2 on the side) and two composite and S-Video inputs. There are also a good selection of analog video inputs that accompany these, including an analog audio input tied to one of the DVI ports for connecting a device such as a computer that does not output digital audio.
There are a much smaller selection of output ports, though; there is one SPDIF optical digital output and a pair of analog audio outputs. There is no way to get video out from this display.
There are no other connections on this display; there is no Internet connection or USB port.
The lack of USB and Ethernet ports means that the NS-L42X-10A cannot play back media from either the Internet or from a USB storage device. Also missing are any memory card slots for showing photos from a digital camera.
Although the ports on the side and back of the NS-42X-10A are easy to find, we though that the labeling of these was rather poor: it was not obvious which HDMI port was which.
We were less then impressed with the audio quality of the speakers built into the NS-L42X-10A. They produced flat, muddy sound that made voices difficult to distinguish. You do get some ability to tweak this with a 2-band equalizer, but there are no separate sound modes. We also found that the SRS TruSurround HD feature didn't help, as it failed to produce any sort of surround sound feel, and just seemed to make everything louder.
One useful feature is the Audessey Dynamic Volume, which boosts quite sounds and pushes down loud sounds so you don't have to tweak the volume level and then be surprised when the volume is loud. There are three different levels that control how aggressive this compression is.
The on-screen menus of the NS-L42X-10A are rather awkward to use, and are extremely unresponsive; we sometimes had to wait a second or so for the menu display to catch up with the remote key presses, which is very annoying, especially when changing picture modes as the menu lags behind the changing picture mode.
The menus are divided into 4 sections: picture, audio, channels and settings. You move between the sections with the left and right key when you are on the top row, and then moving down takes you into the individual controls themselves. Here, moving left or right changes the selected setting.
The NS-L42X-10A comes with two manuals in the box: a short quick start guide and a more in-depth manual. Both are pretty good, but the quick-start guide suffers from being somewhat wordy: it has text in English, French and Spanish on the same page, and this rather squeezes out the illustrations. Fortunately, the full manual is in English only (the French and Spanish versions may be included, depending on where you buy it), which makes it easier to read. It does a decent job of explaining the various functions of the display and how to set it up, though. You can find the Insignia NS-L42X-10A's manual online here.
The NS-L42X-10A is a 1080p, Full HD screen, which means that it can display every single pixel of a 1080p signal, the highest resolution high def signal currently in use. It also means that it can handle 480p, 720p and 1080i signals, as well as standard definition signals. It does not, however, support any of the wider color gamuts that some displays are offering (such as the xvYCC gamut that some manufacturers are offering.
With no USB port or memory card slots, it is no surprise that the NS-L42X-10A can't display photos.
Music & Video Playback*(0.0)*
Neither can it play back music or videos directly; to do this, you'll have to connect a computer or other device that can handle it.
No support is offered for playing back streaming media content, such as YouTube videos of skateboarding bulldogs.
There are no additional media features on this display.
We found that this display would cost about $23.37 a year to run. That's at our standard brightness setting (where we choose the backlight setting that gives a brightness of around 200 cd/m2), and assuming that you watch an average of about 5 hours of TV a day. At different settings, the costs range from $26.93 (at maximum backlight) down to $10.30 (at minimum backlight).
That's a pretty typical result for displays of this size.
Value Comparison Summary
The Insignia is the cheapest of these two similarly sized displays, but value is about more than just price, and the Panasonic has much better performance overall.
Blacks & Whites
The Panansonic has deeper blacks, but the Insignia has brighter whites. The contrast ratio between the two is broadly similar, though. So, the Insignia might be better if you watch TV a lot during the day, but the Panasonic will look better when you are watching movies.
The Panasonic was the overall winner in our tests on color: we found that the whites were more consistent, and that both displays had equally smooth RGB response curves. However, the Insignia did have a slight edge in the range of colors that it can show; it was slightly closer to the standard color gamut than the Panasonic.
The Panasonic was the winner here by a huge margin; it had much smoother and more attractive motion on the screen. In particular, the Panasonic had much less of the blocky, jumpy video artifacts that dogged the Insignia.
LCD displays typically don't have as wide a viewing angle as plasmas, and the Insignia is no exception; we found that the angle at which the contrast ratio between black and white fell by 50% was just 20% off axis. The same measurement for the Panasonic was around 80%, so the image on the screen will look much more attractive for large groups.
The two displays are mostly evenly matched in terms of connections, although the Insignia has a higher number of HDMI ports.
Value Comparison Summary
The Vizio is slightly cheaper than the Insignia, by about $50. And it's a pretty even race between the two in our performance tests, with the exception of motion, where the Vizio wins out. So, overall the Vizio would be our pick for the best value.
Blacks & Whites
The Insignia has a slight edge here: it has deeper blacks and brighter whites, so it has a wider contrast ratio between the two. That makes for more dramatic pictures.
We found that both displays had mostly equal performance in our color tests: both had some minor issues with whites not being completely consistent, and with slightly bumpy RGB curves.
The Vizio had significantly better performance in our motion tests than the Insignia: motion was smoother and had fewer glitches on the Vizio than the Insignia.
Both displays had rather poor viewing angles; we found that the contrast ratio between blacks and whites fell off rapidly, falling by half at around 20 degrees off from straight on.
Both displays have enough ports and sockets to connect a number of devices, but the Insignia has one more HDMI port on the side than the Vizio.
The Vizio also includes the ability to view photos and listen to music stored on a USB thumb drive or other USB device. That could be a plus if you want to show off your holiday snaps quickly and easily.
Value Comparison Summary
The Samsung is the more expensive display; it was priced at around $1400 when we first reviewed it, but it is widely available now for around $1100. Even with this price drop, the Samsung is still the more expensive display by a wide margin. However, it also has a wider feature set and better performance overall.
Blacks & Whites
Both displays had almost equal performance in our black and white tests, with similar measurements for blacks, whites and the contrast ratio between them. However, the Insignia had much worse uniformity; we found the screen to have big bright blotches on it when displaying a dark image.
The Samsung LN40B650 had the superior performance in our tests on color: it had more consistent whites and did a better job of reproducing subtle color changes on all of the primary colors.
The Samsung also had clearly superior performance in our tests on motion. We saw much smoother, more realistic motion and fewer issues with artifacts appearing in the image when viewing our test files on the Samsung.
The two displays had a very similar viewing angle, but we found that colors looked a little better at sharp angles on the Samsung than the Insignia.
Both displays have a decent number of connections for both analog and digital video, but the Samsung has a few additional tricks up its sleeve: it can play back music, videos and photos from a USB device, as well as displaying Internet content such as Flickr photos and Netflix videos.
The LXXX series from Insignia is available in Best Buy stores only; you won't find them elsewhere. This range includes models from 19 inches up to 46 inches in size.
Meet the tester
Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email