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Living with LCD (longish post)

Discussion in 'LCD & LED LCD TVs' started by Alan D, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. Alan D

    Alan D
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    Living with LCD - one month on... This was written originally as an email for a forum member, but I thought I'd post it here as a guide to my experience of watching an LCD TV.

    [It has some information that may be familiar to forum regulars, but is included for those who are new to the topic]

    Firstly, why did I buy a Philips 37PF9986?
    Based mainly on the reviews in the mags, some favourable responses on the forum, a brief shop demo (and that, incidentally, was a 32" - although I did look at a Sharp 37" for judging size) - and the fact that "I wanted one!!" - I took the plunge about a month ago.

    Faster response times and new processes such as Pixel Plus 2 are beginning to address some of the weaknesses of LCD, but they are not yet perfect. I just thought it was the first time that the technology had reached a point where I could get a "decent" and often "excellent" picture, bigger than CRT, much slimmer than CRT, with perfect geometry (unlike CRT), no convergence issues (unlike CRT) and with more than a hint of "wow factor". But all of this at a considerable cost.

    The Philips (along with the newer Sharp, Tosh & Sony models) are the "first generation" of LCD TVs which can be taken seriously. In terms of sizes, as people adjust to the format, 32" is likely to become the most common, with 37" closely behind. No doubt Toshiba and Sony are soon to bring out 37" models to rival the Philips and Sharp.

    I did think about Plasma (and could have got a 42" hi-res plasma for about the same price as the Philips 37" LCD, and a 42" lo-res plasma for much less than the Philips) - but, having decided that 42" was too big for my room and discovered that hi-res 37" plasma is not available in the UK, plus concerns about "screen burn" and solarisation - I decided that LCD was the way to go. (Plasma gurus will of course disagree)

    With good sources & decent cables I have been getting some excellent pictures (with Pixel Plus 2 or Progressive Scan, depending on what I'm watching).

    One major drawback as far as the picture goes is the black-level. No LCD can match the deep black-levels reached by the best CRTs. So if you are watching in a dark room, you will quickly notice that the picture bottoms out at a dark grey colour (this is the LCD backlight and is common to ALL makes of LCD). In reality, with careful room lighting you can reduce the effect (this is why, I suppose this model, and it's 32" equivalent, come with a built in "Ambilight" - although I usually end up using my own ambient room lighting). It would be best to demo the TV in a darkened or semi-dark room if you can, in case it is something you can't live with (hopefully a local dealer will do this). I am getting used to it, but sometimes you just wish you could tweak the black level.

    LCDs do show up poor sources. Sky Digital is very variable (even if you have a very good signal) - bitrates (and hence picture quality) change during the day and some channels always seem better than others (I think Sky One and a few others seem to get better bitrates). Generally it varies from OK to very good. I have been pleasantly surprised how good my analogue TV picture has been (but I live in a strong signal area).

    Regarding sound quality, I haven't noticed any problems (certainly not had any odd "resonances" mentioned on the forum) but I tend to use a separate amplifier for the sound most of the time. The TV has a fairly wide range of adjustments to the sound (various presets and a basic form of graphic equaliser).

    Watching DVDs is generally excellent. I am using a Denon DVD-1910, via its DVI connector. (I thought if I am investing in a TV this expensive, I might as well use the digital input). So I am able to watch at 576p, 720p and 1080i. The first is the progressive mode of the standard PAL resolution picture. The other two are "upscaled" resolutions (progressive and interlaced) which come as a result of the Denon's electronics. These give the impression of upping the resolution of a DVD picture. The result is very good too (and often superb), but has its limitations. When watching at 576p, you have the option of Widescreen or 4:3, but when watching at 720p and 1080i only Widescreen is available (this appears to be a function of the Philips - I don't know if other makes are the same). The 720p picture is shown with a black border around it, but supposedly is giving a picture minus most of the processing.

    In practice, what this has meant for me is a lot of experimenting with settings. Generally I have settled on 1080i for Widescreen movies. (720p in theory gives a better resolution, but the black border means a smaller picture and I just find it bugs me!). For older 4:3 film material I use 576p and for video based programmes RGB Scart (plus Pixel Plus 2). Incidentally Pixel Plus 2 is fine for video based material, but will give a "video look" to film based material unless switched off (it is off when using the progressive modes anyway). It can also look artificial, and slightly shimmery with with poorer sources.

    It has 2 RGB Scarts, 1 composite Scart plus DVI. Ideally, I think, it would have 2 DVI inputs, so I could connect my DVD player and a computer at the highest quality - as it stands I would need a splitter). Maybe a future model will come better equipped.
    The Scart sockets on the Philips are very close together and caused me all sorts of headaches connecting up (I invested in a couple of "inline" Scarts in the end to make life easier). There is too little room to manoeuvre cables comfortably around the back generally, but I have managed it (with a lot of muttering under my breath...)

    Another thing to bear in mind, and this is not often discussed, is the environment the TV is going to be used in (and this applies to all makes of LCD). I don't think LCD panels take too kindly to greasy fingermarks and splashes of liquid (the Philips manual has a warning paragraph about this including "water drops and saliva" as long term contact can cause deformations and colour fading). If you have a "busy" household (ie young kids), you may be advised to get a sturdier chunky wipe-cleanable old style CRT TV instead!! (or a glass fronted plasma). Since forking out for the TV I have been paranoid about touching the screen. These panels have a plastic front rather than glass, which is why they are more prone to damage.
    In terms of physical size (and this might be important in your room),

    Physcially, the Philips is a very wide TV (because of the built-in speakers which form a wide "wrap around" the screen). The Sharp and Tosh TVs are smaller (same screen size with less surround - speakers at the bottom or detachable side speakers etc).

    At the end of the day you have to decide whether you really want to invest in LCD technology at this stage of its development - you will certainly get a thrilling TV if you do, not perfect by any means, but with many benefits (perfect geometry, superb colours, cinematic viewing).

    Or do you wait to see what next year brings?
     
  2. Ultim8Fury

    Ultim8Fury
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    nice write up. Thanks.
     
  3. gusf1

    gusf1
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    Great, thanks

    I bought a 30" Medion LCD which suffers the same problems, totally acceptable IMO tho, especially by also changing the room lighting/ambience... used to watch CRT in the dark but now watch DVDs with various low light sources around the room which hides the dark greyish black levels

    I was wondering as my DVD player is on the blink, whether anybody knows if there is any point getting a progressive scan DVD player if the display does not specifically support it? Was going to post a separate post regarding this, but thought somebody reading about LCDs in this post might know..

    ta

    Gus
     

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