Posted this same thread in plasma forum. Writing from my hotel room in Tokyo. Had to stay here over the weekend (first time in Far East) so spent a few hours at Akihabara. I am undecided for the past three years on what large telly to buy (instead bought a DLP HD InFocus 7200 for movies). Before I went to Japan, I thought I made my mind finally (that is for the third or fourth time ) to go for Pioneer 436 before Germany World Cup mainly because the LCDs (including Sharps best) looked horrendous in John Lewis (yes I know, SD etc. but in JL they never showed anything other than SD Sky which always looked awful). So today I am still breathing Akihabaras air and there has been a reversal of mind. Firstly, I should say that the prices are not very cheap. But that is not the point. Secondly, I (think that I) saw the light, so to speak. As I said before, I was about to go for the Pio 436. Half-heartedly, because I hate the fact that I can see the pixel lines (sort of analgous to Screen Door Effect in LCD projectors) but compared to the LCDs in John Lewis, it looked much better, the colours were much better than the LCDs, even those by the market leader, Sharp. So here I am, strolling up Akihabara shops (sort of Tottenham Court Road on steroids) and suddenly, I can't believe my eyes. First, almost all TVs are connected to one source, which is great, because you can compare (unlike in JL), and there were surprisingly (for me) a very good picture from some Sharps, 37, 45 and 65-inchers. AND, it was possible to compare them side-by-sire with Toshibas, Sonys and Victors (JVSs). I managed even to get an attendant that spoke good English and seemed to know more than the average salesman. I saw the TVs in about three shops to avoid some shop-specific settings. So here goes: The signal was of course HD, but I think this is not the digital HD, but some Japanese standard called Hi-Vision, which I think is analogue but has 1125 lines (there was a logo bs hi in the corner of the screen, I looked at NHKs web-site (http://www.nhk.or.jp/digital/en/ but I could not get to the bottom of it (anyone professional can you confirm that Japanese bs hi is analogue, by the way?)) and even the friendly and knowledgeable salesman did not know for sure but he claimed that the TVs were fed by HDMI, I could not check, but now it seems like he was wrong, if the NHK signal is actually an analogue HD (anyone?). The picture quality was very good in all TVs connected to it. Initially they showed some young-boys baseball on a big stadium. I can't stand baseball, but for evaluation of picture, I thought is was as good as footie, because there is a lot of close-ups for flesh-tone assessment, fast movement and small details because you can see the crowd in the background and the straight lines of the boundaries. Later, they showed sumo, again quite good for evaluation due to LOTS of flesh and movement. I managed to ask the salesman to show me also the SD version of the transmission. I was very surprised that the SD did not look very bad, as I am used to see in John Lewis! I saw the following LCDs: Sharp 37, 45, 57 (!) and 65-inchers (the XXGD series (768) and XXE series (1080)); Toshiba 37 (the C1000 series (768) and Z1000 series (1080)), Sony 40 and 46-inchers (the V1000 series (768) and X1000 series (1080)); I dont recall seeing Philips. I saw the following plasmas: Pioneers 436 and 506s (768 and 1080 respectively) and Panasonic 50 and 65 (768 and 1080 respectively). 1920x1080 panels were noticeably better than the 1320x768 but not by a mile (or should I say a kilometre ). Pls remember that this was a HD source. I made many pics and if somebody (reads my post and) wants me to put them up on the thread (a lot of pics side by side which is interesting) pls let me know how to do this, I will try, as I was never able to upload pics in this forum. Interestingly, 37-inchers PQ was only marginally better than on the monsters. No picture was perfect but Sharp and Tosh LCDs came quite close, and I suspect that a proper full digital HDMI signal (remember, this was a Japanese standard that I suspect is a hi-def analogue standard (again, if anybody can clarify this, pls!). In the first shop (actually not on Akihabara) they put for some reason a plasma, Panasonic 65 Viera (1080) side by side with an LCD, Sharp 57 (1080). This shook and shocked me (the sensitive guy that I am), as I expected (see my previous conviction above) that the plasma will look much better, even if not perfect. However, I preferred the Sharps lcd, and importantly, the plasma looked dimmer which is important because eventually, we watch our tellys mostly in full lights or daylight (say F1). I could also see the dreaded black lines in the plasma between the pixels even though they were high and very high def-n. Admittedly, the colours of the Panny 65 plasma were more CRT-like than the Sharp 57 but this was not very pronounced nor significantly more pleasant to the eye. The lower brightness was very disappointing for me, but later I noticed the same with Pioneers. The salesman was not surprised, he said that plasmas are always less bright and this was news to me. Sharps colours and non-screen-door-effect picture were almost cinematic, even if again, not perfect. In one shop, I very slightly preferred the colours of Toshibas 37 1080 (side by side) to that of the Sharp, whose colours were a bit bland but the picture was slightly more, well, sharp In another shop, I preferred Sharps colours and they were clearly less saturated. I can't say much about black levels but I would guess that this is a weak spot for LCD, the blacks were quite saturated but plasma did not seem to me (in full lights) much better. Sonys 40 lcd colours were probably set by the factory to higher contrast but I liked the picture less than others because it was a bit blurred and generally (but not very much) less pleasant to watch, so perhaps the panel was designed to show higher contrast to compensate for other things. The friendly and English speaking attendant said readily that Sonys panels were made in Korea by Samsung and interestingly, it seemed that Sony knew that everybody knows it in front of virtually all Sonys there was a little plastic board sign with Sony S-Panel (I guess the S is for Samsung, and Sony is obliging the shops to put this sign so that no-one can claim they were cheated). He also said something that was new to me, that Toshibas panels were made in Taiwan but he did not know the supplier (I suggested BenQ, Acer or Optoma, but he didnt recognise). Pioneers were disappointing, mainly because I was able to compare them side-by-side with lcds and in a strong ambient light, and also because I was able to see the black lines between the pixels (from distance of 2 screen widths which the SMPTE/THX recommended watching distance) while the LCDs were completely free of this plague. Prices were something like about 1.8-2k pounds for 37/1080 lcds, 2.5-3k for 45+ and the beasts were about 8-10k. I made pics of the shelves, I can look at them but dont have time now. So whats the bottom line(s)? Again, I flip my decision and probably will not go for the Pioneer 436. Either I will shell for a 45 Sharp or, 37 with 1080, or perhaps sit-out the World Cup on my projector (will have to blacken windows though) or buy a cheapie CRT and buy 1080 lcd when prices are around 1.2-1.5k for 37 or 2-2.5k for the 45-incher. There are many guys in this forum that shun LCDs because SD reproduction is bad and they dont want to pay for Sky or Telewest HD. Well, after seeing what I saw today, I would put the question differently, why pay 2-3k for a plasma and watch *@&# SD, when Sky and others will start broadcasting HD very soon (by the way is it true that BBC will broadcast all Germany World Cup games in HD?)? After today I dont want to watch SD programmes again in my life. More, I bet anyone that SD will go the way of the 35mm film many predicted a slow decline but once people tried a 5mega-pixel digital camera (2004), the sales of film fell off a cliff at a rate, much much faster than predicted. That was long, but guys, so is Akihabara!