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Plasma Experience

Discussion in 'Plasma TVs' started by Beamer, Jul 5, 2002.

  1. Beamer

    Beamer
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    Background: I currently have a Grundig 37” television; the picture quality is amazing when fed with an RGB source. Due to room re-arrangement I need to move to a plasma display. The following is a brief note of my experience after checking out some plasma panels:

    My first visit was the John Lewis to inspect the Panasonic 42”. Initially I was very impressed but the feeling was short lived after I noticed lots of artefacts caused by their demo source. Clearly I needed to view panels in a more professional setting.

    My next stop after making an appointment was at Plasmania in London, their facility had Panasonic and Fujitsu panels on demonstration. The first demo was a 42” TH42PWD4 Panasonic and initially I thought that the picture had more contrast than the other displays but do not be fooled, in spite of the 3000:1 contrast claim; the darker blacks IMHO are an optical illusion. When checking the same content (scenes from Gladiator) fed by an SVHS source, it soon became apparent that the Panasonic was darker at the cost of losing greyscale and dark colour information!

    The next viewed display was the 42” Fuji 4234, this panel was located adjacent to the Panasonic and was the panel that showed up the short comings of the Panasonic. It was difficult for me to fault this panel aside from the fact that I could see the pixel structure fairly easily and I felt that detail was lacking versus my CRT based TV. The answer seemed to be a higher resolution version of the Fuji panel model 4242, this has a resolution of 1024 X 1024.

    Fortunately for me this panel had recently been set up in a back room for special viewing, the room lighting was subdued and ideal for checking out the panel but the disadvantage was that there were no other panels to make a comparison. As it turned out we did not need another comparison screen as my wife who had accompanied me quietly asked why the screen had lots of vertical bars going down the screen. Sure enough this screen had a background of what appeared like vertical rows of boxed pixels. Our viewing distance was only about 8 feet but the vertical bars although camouflaged in some scenes never actually went away. I wandered around the corner back to the Fuji 4243 low-resolution panel and that we checked out earlier and sure enough the vertical bars were visible on this panel as well but nowhere near as objectionable as the high resolution panel, on the 4243 you needed to actually look very hard to see the vertical bars.

    Plasmania also had a good display of four Fuji 50” panels PDS 5001/ PDS 5002, two commercial and two domestic but as far as I could tell they only differ by the Class A and Class B radiation emissions. To my eyes the panels all looked pretty good and interestingly did not appear to suffer the vertical bar problem.

    More than a little confused by what we had seen we decided to pay Harrrods a visit, as we knew they had a good display of Plasma Panels, Oh boy if you want confusion this is the place to head for. There were panels from almost all the manufactures but we decided to focus on Panasonic, Fujitsu and Pioneer. Fortunately we were able to checkout 42” (43” for Pioneer) and 50” for the three manufacturers. Surprisingly Harrods have gone to the trouble of feeding a good number of displays from component DVD source, so we were able to compare in most cases the same content and quality level. We started by checking out the Panasonic 42” and 50” once again we immediately felt that the Panasonic was capable of darker scenes but again we found that the this is simply a false impression as we were unable to discriminate between black and dark scenes on the Panasonic.

    Next we moved on to the Pioneer 43HDE and 50HDE, these are the domestic series with the tuner box supplied. Both panels seemed to offer excellent dynamic range but we felt that both displays suffered slightly by a more background luminescence than other displays we had looked at, colours also appeared more pastel (washed out) and less vivid than I was used to seeing on my TV. The Fuji panel was checked out next and fortunately we were able to compare note on the 42” 4242 High-resolution panel. Although the vertical bars seemed less obvious we could still see them without looking too hard and I think personally they would annoy me so we discounted this panel and moved on to the 50” Fuji panel.

    This panel was fed with material filmed at a race track and all I can say is it was amazingly cinema film like, not jitter to be seen in spite of watching a racing car with a camera in the cockpit racing around the track. If I had to critique the picture I could only say that the colours were not as vivid as my TV but certainly acceptable. On the Opposite aisle there was a Pioneer 50MXE showing scenes from Jurassic Park, Pioneer MXE series screens are known for their high quality but the Jurassic Park movie quality was poor in every way. It seemed as though the source was from a weak off air source.

    Finally I could not resist asking an assistant to show me the racing scenes on the 50MXE, no problem we were watching the racing within a few minutes but my god the video was terrible. It was a though the display was having problems moving the pixel content fast enough! There was jitter all over the place; even the assistant knew something was wrong big time. The assistant blamed the DVD player and I second his thoughts, the DVD player on the 50MXE was a cheap and cheerful device that probably retailed for less than £75. No problem the assistant said as we walked over to the 50HDE Pioneer and loaded the racing scene again. This time the picture was much more stable and most people might even say perfect but it was not! Although 95% of the jitter had gone, it was still present and I can only assume that the superior picture returned by the Fuji was the result of their AVM (Advanced Video Movement) processor. We were unable to achieve the same cinema like picture quality from the Pioneer. Since the 50MXE model has much better processing than the 50HDE, it was a shame we could not have finished by testing the 50MXE with a higher quality DVD player but unfortunately that was not possible. I have since seen a Pioneer 43MXE with different content and it was superior to all three Pioneer displays in Harrods, so I am not sure they are set-up as well as they could be.

    So for what it is worth, this is my take:

    Panasonic: Yes the scenes are darker and yes the scenes are vivid but this is at the expense of finer detail in darker colours and greyscale. Contrast quoted as 3000:1 and no fans. Background glow is minimal. Since I discounted this panel for reasons of dynamic range, I did not test for motion problems.

    Pioneer: The 43” versus 42” display is a big advantage, size does matter! Residual background glow appears to be greater than both the Panasonic and Fuji and can make scenes look a little washed out. Contrast quoted as 1000:1 on 43” and 900:1 on 50” The 43” has a resolution of 1024 x 768 and has a greyscale of 10 bits versus 8 for all other manufacturers at this time and no fans. I cannot help thinking the poor experience might be due to the Pioneer panels being poorly set-up, I intend to revisit this panel in another location shortly.

    Fujitsu: The 4242 high-resolution model with ALICE glass appears to suffer from vertical bars made up of pixel clusters, I found this annoying. The 4234 have a great picture but lacked detail due to the low resolution of the panel, similar resolution to the 42” Panasonic. The 5001 panel was awesome but four fans running continuously to keep the display cool is a concern. Fast moving video content put this panel way out in front due to it’s smoothness and cinematic effect. Residual background glow was less than the Pioneer but more than the Panasonic.

    I can honestly say that I liked something in each panel but for me today the perfect Plasma panel does not exist, if you can wait another 2 years that would be my recommendation but if like me you cannot, I suggest you buy on the basis of upgrading within 3-4 years. All the above is based upon my personal experience and should only be considered as such. All panel results will vary dependant upon the source and how well or badly they are set-up

    I invite everyone to critique my findings and share their own experience, especially if like me you are in a position of being unbiased.
     
  2. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Good post. How much of this do you think was down to the set up? I would be very interested in Gordons comments on what he can do to say a Panny plasma.
     
  3. ajb

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    Sir

    A fantastic post. I would critique the screens too but I have not had the opportunity to see them all side by side. In any case, the price and (sufficiently) high quality of the Toshiba was more than enough for me.

    Well done on the post.

    Regards
    Andrew
     
  4. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Very interesting review. As with all these things it's best to make your own mind up based on personal experience. If you found that from your chosen suppliers the best image was from the Alis panelled unit then that's the one for you....

    My own opinion is that what you describe with the Panasonics is poor set up. In a light controlled situation, with properly set up brightness, contrast and other front panel controls the 42" plasma's based on Panasonic glass have given best image I've seen from plasma.

    Recently, at CEDIA UK, I saw the fuji's on their stand. I decided that it probably wasn't fair to finally judge them based on that experience. The 42" units there had contouring and banding in low ire images like you noticed. This was standing very close though. Sometimes it was visible at a representative viewing distance but only very rarely. The AVM processing, which I was hoping was going to be great, was showing obvious de-interlacing artifacts with NTSC film based material they were showing. This was strange as 2:3 detection is alot easier than de-interlacing video like you were probably seeing on your car thing.

    Colour issues. The phosphor sets used by plasma manufacturers have, in the past, not been that great for playback of NTSC/PAL or HiDef material. The colours of the primaries have been way out of whack meaning that accurate colour reproduction wasn't really possible. There are standards set down for these things but it is rare that anyone adheres to them . It may well be that this was a technological problem in early units though or perhaps they just wanted to make powerpoint presentations look bright and vivid... The current fujitsus and Panasonics seem to be a lot better in this regard. I haven't had much time with the new Pioneers! I need someone to pay me to calibrate one.hahaha..

    Interesting review none the less.

    Gordon
     
  5. Guest

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    Hey ajb
    see you have finally decided to take the plunge, I am cuurently favouring the 42" Tosh, but might just hang on for another few weeks, as the new NEC MP4 is due to be unveiled shortly as is the new Panny

    what warranty have you managed to get???
     
  6. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    exactly the reason I asked my original question. Sounded like poor set up to me. I have seen some very decent pictures from the panny, also seen it look poor as well though (due to poor set up).

    Isn't the Toshiba just a Panny4 clone? I loose track of all these models, I thought NEC had only just released the mp3. Panny4 isn't old either and we are now talking new models. This must be the fastest moving AV sector around. Minefield:(
     
  7. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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  8. gringottsdirect

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    The new Toshiba with tuner/integral pedestal stand is apparently not a Panasonic panel.
     
  9. Beamer

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    Nic, Ajb Thanks for the kind words on the post.

    Gordon, can your equipment measure dynamic range? It would be interesting to know if the Panny and Fuji have a similar greyscale capability and colour depth. As indicated earlier, I have always favoured the Panny over other displays. Since my wife and I have been able to see the Panny alonside the Fuji in two different stores I am now re-evaluating my favourite.

    With regard to going with what you like, that would be fine if all the panels were less than 4K and did not have fans ;)

    I'm now looking for some stores in my home county to make more comparisons!

    Does anyone know what Panasonic have instore for us with their new models?
     
  10. Lowrider

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    Any reason not to test NEC... :confused:
     

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