Flat Screen Review
Plasma Television, Plasma Display, HDTV, Flat Screen Television, TFT Monitor, TFT Television, LCD Monitor, LCD Television, Reviews, Tips and Tutorial.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pioneer PDP-4350HD

The PDP-4350HD displayed DVDs with finesse, coming in a close second to the Philips 42PF9966/37. It also took second to the Philips for displaying recorded standard-definition TV, though it trailed by a substantial margin. For high-definition content, however, the Pioneer placed a disappointing sixth, in large part because it ranked near the bottom of our group of eight tested sets in its ability to display detail--the hallmark quality of HD.

Like the last Pioneer plasma we reviewed, the 50-inch PDP-5040HD, this set deeply saturates reds and greens. The effect was nice when it displayed candy-apple-red autos in HD footage from a classic car show or the deliberately pumped-up colors in the dramatic final race scene of the Seabiscuit DVD. But it often made people appear a bit flushed and vegetation somewhat artificial.

One notable visual feature is the set's PureCinema technology for smoothly displaying film content, which is shot at 24 frames per second. To fit this material into a standard digital TV refresh rate of 60 frames per second, video processors must display one film frame three times in a row, the following frame twice in a row, and the next frame three times again--a syncopated pattern that makes all films look a bit jumpy on TV. But Pioneer sets with PureCinema can refresh 72 times per second in order to show all frames an equal number of times (since 72 is a multiple of 24). Though the result is subtle, films do appear somewhat steadier and smoother when PureCinema is turned on. (Note: For this to work, the DVD player must be set to an interlaced format, either 480i or 1080i.)

The set's audio performance was delightful. The two 13-watt speakers put out clean sound, even at maximum volume and with SRS surround sound and bass enhancement enabled. We could hear subtle undertones clearly, such as the sound of car engines in Kill Bill Vol. 1 under the twang of Al Hirt's "Green Hornet," or the faint, ominous string tones that well up in parts of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

The PDP-4350HD has a slick design. A glossy black frame (which catches some distracting glare) is the only adornment on the elegant panel. The price includes a pewter-toned stand that allows 2 degrees of tilt and 10 degrees of left or right swivel. At a rather light 59.1 pounds, the screen should be easy to wall-mount. The included speakers are detachable, so the TV can have a streamlined look if you opt to pair it with a separate surround-sound audio system.

But however you set up the panel, you must reckon with its media receiver, a tethered box about the size of an audio amplifier that houses all its inputs and much of its circuitry. The receiver provides more convenient access to the TV's ports--especially for wall-mounted installations (it also requires that fewer cables be pulled through the wall or otherwise hidden). But it adds another component that needs a home, and you can't locate it too far from the panel.

One definitely positive aspect of the receiver is its plentiful connection options, including two HDMI inputs, three component input sets, and four each of S-Video and composite video jacks. It also accepts analog computer signals via a VGA input, plus digital video camcorder output through its two FireWire ports. Additionally the PDP-4350HD has an NTSC tuner, plus an ATSC tuner for high-def reception either from an antenna or from a cable service providing a CableCard decoder. The Pioneer can relay surround-sound audio from these TV broadcasts to an external audio system via its optical digital audio port.

Upshot: While the swanky PDP-4350HD is a fair performer overall and a good screen for DVDs, we've seen better image quality from Pioneer.

Source: pcworld

LG Electronics 42PX4D

If you're looking for an all-in-one entertainment system, consider the 42PX4D. This 42-inch TV offers bright images, a powerful sound system, and near-universal hookup options for sources and peripherals. Our judges ranked it number one overall in a side-by-side review of eight 42-inch plasmas.

The luminous screen gave this unit the top score in our overall assessment of brightness and contrast, as well as in our bright-light torture test. (In the latter test we used a combination of 5000-Kelvin and 6500-Kelvin sources intended to simulate daylight conditions--in such strong ambient light, screen images can appear washed out.) It also took third place overall with DVD movies and standard-definition TV programs. And unlike some of its competitors, the LG handled many different source formats with finesse in our informal tests, including 1080 interlaced, 720 progressive, and 480 progressive through its HDMI inputs, plus 480 progressive through its component input.

But images appeared a bit noisy, and the 42PX4D came in a depressing next-to-last for its ability to display detail; consequently, it ranked only fifth out of the eight tested models for HDTV quality. At least some of the problem seems to be in its display of dark tones. In a high-def TV documentary about the Napa Valley wine country, for example, we saw speckles in what should have been a solid-blue sky. To investigate further, we watched the opening scene of Mystic River: a fade up from black over a grim Boston skyline. Much of the DVD has less-than-perfect image quality, making the sequence trying for any TV, but it looked especially splotchy on the LG.

The integrated 15-watt speakers produced strong, relatively clear audio with music from the DVD Kill Bill Vol. 1. They nicely filled the room with the brassy twang of Al Hirt's jazz piece "Green Hornet" and handled, with minimal distortion, the rumbling bass in Tomoyasu Hotei's instrumental "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," even at high volume.

The on-screen menus are handsome and well arranged, and they offer a plethora of options, including seven image modes (such as Daylight, Night Time, and Movie) and six audio modes (such as News, Music, and Theater). Each of these lists includes one user-definable mode, customizable for each input source; for example, you can optimize settings for your DVD player and your television source. But even better would be at least two user-configurable video modes, which would allow calibration for both daytime and nighttime viewing. One big disappointment: LG does not provide access for a professional calibrator to make low-level adjustments in the TV's service menu. For instance, with the basic user controls we achieved a color temperature that hovered between 6725 and 7175 Kelvin (slightly bluish). A pro could probably get the TV even closer to the ideal value of 6500 K and also improve overall color accuracy. But without access to the TV's service menus, such refinements aren't possible.

Another problem is that the menus are enormous and block out much of the screen you are trying to adjust. They shrink once you home in on a particular control, such as brightness or sharpness. But instead of dropping the control's slider to the bottom of the screen, as some TVs do, the LG sticks it near the middle, obstructing your view.

In contrast, we have only praise for the connection options. The 42PX4D includes two HDMI inputs, allowing it to receive digital video and audio from two sources (such as a cable box and a DVD player). It also has two sets of component inputs, and it can receive either analog or digital input from a computer (the latter via a DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable, which LG doesn't include). This provides the option of using a Media Center PC with the set. Two FireWire ports allow you to attach a digital camcorder. Also included is a CableCard slot, which lets many cable TV subscribers forgo a bulky set-top box. The 42PX4D can send the audio from cable TV programs to a surround-sound home theater system via its optical audio port, as well. And finally, the TV can display digital pictures stored on any of nine memory card formats.

Upshot: More than just a TV, the 42PX4D is a powerful, integrated entertainment system that excels in many respects, especially image brightness and sound quality. But its difficulty in providing crisp detail--especially in dark tones--is a notable weakness.

Source: pcworld

Philips 42PF9966/37

Rich colors, bright images, and good detail helped the 42PF9966/37 earn the second-highest overall score in our jury tests of eight plasma TVs. We awarded it top marks for color quality and its ability to display both standard definition TV and DVDs.

Despite its high display performance, however, this Philips has a few quirks. For starters, it's fussy about input formats. Using both 1080i and 480p input over HDMI, the TV struggled to display so-called multiburst patterns. The multibursts feature six swaths of parallel vertical lines that become progressively finer from the left to the right of the screen. Most TVs could resolve all the groups, or at least all but the far-right group, which sometimes blurred out. But on this TV, image quality started breaking down at the first group on some screens, and the far-right swath often looked like a swarm of mosquitoes. And in one of our HD test clips from a classic car show, we saw an artificial shimmering effect in the chrome bars of a sports car. Overall, though, our jury noticed no significant problems with the HDTV and DVD content in our test suite.

The TV did display a multiburst perfectly in the 720p format. Unlike any other TVs we reviewed, the Philips displays this format with its native 720 lines. Other TVs "upscale" the content by inserting additional pixels to fill the screen to the edges. But on the Philips, 720p images appear with a black border on the top and the bottom, as well as on both sides (in order to maintain the aspect ratio).

The audio system, with twin 15-watt speaker units, sounded clean, though not as full as on the rival LG 42PX4D. We especially liked the five-band equalizer, which allows more meaningful adjustments than the simple bass and treble controls on most TVs. In addition, the 42PF9966/37 provides four preset audio modes.

The Philips model's most unusual feature is its Ambilight system, which illuminates the wall behind the TV. The Ambilight throws "bias lighting" behind the set; videophiles recommend bias lighting as a method for reducing eyestrain in a dark room. Without it, so goes the theory, the iris must expand and contract rapidly in reaction to the changing brightness level of the video.

Some eye experts discount the eyestrain theory, saying that the eye can easily adjust to brightness fluctuations without experiencing strain. But regardless of the science, we found the Ambilight experience pleasant. A dark room seemed less confining with the mild glow around the set, and glancing away from and then back to the screen had a less jarring effect. In addition to providing several fixed shades, Ambilight can adjust its color and brightness to match the material on screen. Users who don't enjoy the Ambilight feature can disable it.

The list of remaining amenities is scant. The 42PF9966/37 has an integrated NTSC tuner for standard-definition analog broadcasts, but it lacks an ATSC tuner for receiving over-the-air or cable-based digital signals. You'll need a separate receiver for digital cable or for HDTV. The unit has only one HDMI input, too, so you won't get top quality for more than one video source; you have to use the two analog component sets for other devices. You can custom calibrate for each video input, but for only one set of lighting conditions, as the other five video modes are not user adjustable. However, the set does have a sensor that it can use to adjust the screen to match the ambient room light.

Upshot: The 42PF9966/37 offers very high overall picture quality at a relatively low price. But it would be more appealing with an HD tuner and an extra digital video input.

Source: pcworld

Plasma TV Review
Flat Screen Review