I snagged a 542i at Microcenter yesterday morning. I arrived at the store around 4:45am, and there was already 200-300 people in line!
Yes, I see uneven back lighting when it displays a black field. I do not notice it displaying anything other than black, including red, green, blue, yellow and white fields, and no issue with normal color video images.
I am downloading the latest 542i firmware as I type this from olevia.com, apparently along with everyone else, as the download speed is extremely slow, slower than a good dialup connection
After about an hour of playing, I am very comfortable with the menu system.
Overall, I believe this is an outstanding 42" 768p panel for the money, and worth well above even the before rebate price.
A pleasant suprise is that the 542i discovered OTA HD channels from my WOW basic cable. I subscribe to analog basic only. It appears that WOW is sending OTA HD in the clear in SE Michigan. Bye, bye, antenna (though I will keep for backup
All the analog cable stations were added fine. After tweaking the bright/ contrast/ color, and noise reduction settings, most analog cable stations look very good, similar to SD digital.
One annoying issue is the Channel Return feature won't jump between an analog cable staton and one of the HD digital stations which are assigned 200 and higher. The button will switch to the analog station, but when I try to jump back to the digital station, I get the No Signal bluescreen.
Also, I cannot Add a channel with more than 2 digits to the channel lineup, or directly key in/tune any of the digital HD channels- I must go to my last analog channel 116 (color bars) then use the Up channel button to tune the first digital channel! Channel changing is relatively slow, compared to my prior Winbook 32", which has the fastest analog cable channel changing I've ever seen. Hopefully, these issues will/are fixed with a firmware update.
The 542i is an upgrade from a Winbook 32" LCD for me. I believe the build quality of the 542i is as good or better than the Winbook it is replacing, with better noise reduction algorithms for analog cable channels. However, I see obvious dot crawl on thin horizontal blue and red lines, such as on screen graphics on the news channels. I am not certian if this is a noise reduction artifact, or comb filter issue.
Black levels are certainly not best in class for 42" LCD's, but after tweaking, most scenes look acceptable to me. In bright scenes, blacks appear black. In low contrast/space scenes, the grayish blacks may bother black level-philes.
HD channels like PBS and live football look excellent, on par with my AE700 projector, with slightly less punch, though calibration may improve punch/dynamic range. My media PC at 1360x768 60Hz looks great over VGA- pixel perfect, no muss, no fuss, perfectly readable at 10ft with stock XP Classic desktop icons and fonts.
The amount of inputs, combined with 1:1 mapping for all sources (!) makes this set worthy of consideration.