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A television conundrum - Conundrum Solved.


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I want a new display. I've wanted a new one for a long, long time having had my 32 inch Sony CRT for close to six years now, with it still putting out a good image, but an interlaced one robbing me of the ability to enjoy my DVD collection in progressive scan, and of course, HDTV is looming on European shores at long last.

 

I'm currently mulling two options;

 

 

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Panasonic have their new range of Viera Plasmas out now. 1024x768, so not quite true 720p, but it meets the European standards that dictate it must have HDMI and accept 720p and 1080i at both 50 and 60hz via the inputs (doesn't necessarily have to display those resolutions precisely hence how Panny can get away with 1024x768 and still meet European HD standards). The advertised contrast ratio of the Panasonic is about 3000:1 and the cost of this beauty is a cool ?2380 including a Panasonic DVD Recorder.

 

 

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The other possibility is a Samsung 32 inch LCD. Like the Panasonic, it fully meets European HD standards and boasts HDMI, two Scart inputs, Component, PC D-Sub and S-Video inputs. What's more, the resolution is true 720p, in fact it is higher at 1366x768. Where it loses points is in the contrast ratio, which advertised is 800:1. The price of this one however? It can be had for ?761!

 

A unit of 37 or 42 inches would be more preferable for me since I have a small room, but flat panels kind of allow small rooms to accept larger displays especially when wall mounted. Faced with 32 inches again like I currently have with my CRT (though admittedly a 32 inch flat panel would be truly 32” display whereas the 32” CRTs are actually 30), eventually it could move into another bedroom one day.

 

What I'm faced with then is whether a further ?1620 for that Panasonic Viera is worth it for another ten inches, better contrast ratio but a slightly lower resolution. I'm not sure the choice is as obvious as it would immediately sound, but I'm open for opinions. I'm not saying make the choice for me, merely what some of you would deem the more logical choice between the two.

 

Daniel

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Personally, given the choice between a Plasma and a LCD display, I would go with the Plasma for sure. LCD just wasn't meant to be used for big displays from a far off viewing distance (IMHO).

 

Money and space is no object, I would go with a front projector, best potential image hands down. Best bang for the buck and second in image quality to a front projector but taking up the most space by far is a rear projector CRT (which is what I currently have).

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I think how the TV handles the discrepency between source pixels and display pixels is important. If it just throws out (crops) extra pixels and puts black bars where there are fewer source pixels than display pixels, then that doesn't mess with the quality. But if it stretches or scales the image to fit, that is annoying. At the same time you might find cropping and black bars annoying.

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Money and space is no object, I would go with a front projector, best potential image hands down. Best bang for the buck and second in image quality to a front projector but taking up the most space by far is a rear projector CRT (which is what I currently have).

 

It's something I considered, though only LCD since I just see single chip DLP rainbows all the time. Generally it would add too much clutter to my current room. One day when I move and have a dedicated room, certainly it will an option.

 

 

If it just throws out (crops) extra pixels and puts black bars where there are fewer source pixels than display pixels, then that doesn't mess with the quality. But if it stretches or scales the image to fit, that is annoying.

 

That's something I hope to see for myself with the set in the coming weeks. I also want demos of both with film sourced material and not digital sourced like Pixar or PDI movies that they always seem to use to show of Plasmas and LCDs.

 

There seems to be a 40" Samsung coming, same spec as the 32 inch but with some extra assistance in improving contrast (it claims 3000:1 “dynamic contrast” alongside the 800:1 standard). It's looking to be about ?1700 when it comes out here (no specific date has been set save "summer"). LN-R408D is the model which I believe, from what I can gather from AVS, is showing up on display in stores in the US right now.

 

Daniel

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I too considered a Panny panel or Samsung LCD when making a similar decision. I ended up going with the Panny and haven't looked back. The contrast ratio, deep blacks, and "filmic" feel to the Panasonic beat LCD hands-down in my tests.

 

While the Samsung LCDs are wonderful displays, they're just too digital-looking in my opinion (if that makes any sense at all). I like that filmic, CRT-esque look to things.

 

If you already have a home theater system, you may want to look into Panasonic's commercial line of displays - much more minimal and no speakers. They're also configurable with input blades of your choice. Not sure how they're specced for UK, though.

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It's something I considered, though only LCD since I just see single chip DLP rainbows all the time. Generally it would add too much clutter to my current room. One day when I move and have a dedicated room, certainly it will an option.

 

Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Front projection is my goal someday, but my wife and I just don't have the room (or currently, budget) for it.

 

While the Samsung LCDs are wonderful displays, they're just too digital-looking in my opinion (if that makes any sense at all). I like that filmic, CRT-esque look to things.

 

It makes perfect sense to me. While I love my big LCD for my desktop PC and PC gaming, watching TV or a movie on it would drive me NUTS. It just doesn't look natural.

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If you already have a home theater system, you may want to look into Panasonic's commercial line of displays - much more minimal and no speakers. They're also configurable with input blades of your choice. Not sure how they're specced for UK, though.

 

The panel only displays pretty much share the same specs worldwide but the series 7 models, despite not meeting European HD standards on the inputs anyway, are hard to find here now. I expect the standalone Series 8 panels (which the new Vieras are based on) will show up around September/October and may certainly be another option.

 

There is a 37" HD Viera for ?2109. Given the 42" is only ?260 more though it would seem silly not to make the stretch.

 

Daniel

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I felt the same at first as well, but went with the 37". For a few reasons. I live in an apartment in Manhattan, so even a 37" screen is big. Also, the 37" and 42" share resolution, and in my silly opinion, I felt the 37" had a "tighter" resolution with less chance of screen-door effect.

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It totally depends on viewing distance too, keep that in mind. If you are sitting too close, a bigger display is not going to look very good. I have a 56" widescreen set and sit about 7 feet back, and I feel it's a perfect size. If I had gone with the 65" like I'd considered, it would have been too big.

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Yes that’s a good issue you both raise. Viewing distance is an interesting issue, since some are adamant viewing distance comes between the actual point of owning an HD plasma over an SD plasma panel that accepts HD resolution inputs when your viewing distance is going to be so many feet away. I've seen this argued to death on AVS forum over the years and am still not sure where I personally stand on the issue.

 

It's funny since I know the upgrade paths I am looking to take with speakers and processing in the coming years, I know precisely what I want there, but a display upgrade is going to have to come first since it is the area I am still significantly lacking at the moment above everything else. The quest reminds me how bloody frustrating trying to find the right HT components can be.

 

Daniel

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since some are adamant viewing distance comes between the actual point of owning an HD plasma over an SD plasma panel that accepts HD resolution inputs when your viewing distance is going to be so many feet away

 

I'm not familiar with the specific arguement, but are some people saying you shouldn't bother with HD if you are sitting farther back? To me, that doesn't make any sense. Color reproduction is going to be much better with HD, and you are going to notice the increase number of scan lines and sharpness unless you are just WAY across the room.

 

The quest reminds me how bloody frustrating trying to find the right HT components can be.

 

No kidding. I did all this about 4 years ago, but once you get what you want, it will last you for a long time if you do your research and don't settle on something. I know some people like to CONSTANTLY upgrade, but I think that's a total waste of effort for the gradual increases in quality that comes about. It seems better to just re-evaluate every year or so and see if there have been any major leaps in technology rather than the incremental stuff.

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I'm not familiar with the specific arguement, but are some people saying you shouldn't bother with HD if you are sitting farther back? To me, that doesn't make any sense. Color reproduction is going to be much better with HD, and you are going to notice the increase number of scan lines and sharpness unless you are just WAY across the room.

 

That's essentially the argument against, yes. Many say an HD feed into an SD plasma will still give you the benefits of the superior colour definition and so on, just not the resolution which as I say, they argue that from a certain distance is irrelevant regardless of whether you're watching an SD or HD display

 

I think in today's market it is personally smarter to go for something in the HD realm if you can, no matter what your seating distance. The fact the SD panels are 852x480 makes them unable to even resolve my native PAL television broadcast at their full resolution so for anyone in PAL territories it’s another strike against the SD displays.

 

 

I know some people like to CONSTANTLY upgrade, but I think that's a total waste of effort for the gradual increases in quality that comes about. It seems better to just re-evaluate every year or so and see if there have been any major leaps in technology rather than the incremental stuff.

 

Yes I wholeheartedly agree with you here. I’m constantly thinking years ahead of myself whenever I look to make a purchase. If I am to spend a lot of money on this stuff, and I have and will continue to do so, it’s going to have to last. I wouldn’t even be looking to make changes in my audio component were it not for the fact Tag Mclaren who’s processing components I use suddenly died out early last year.

 

My future in audio is Meridian components and ATC Active speakers, as I say that much is sorted and nothing will sway me off that path (it’s just a question of saving the funds). I can still live happily with what I have on the audio side for a good while yet too, but the display has to come first and it’s so tricky (made worse by the fact choice of HD displays is still rather slim in the UK).

 

Daniel

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Ok, there's a 42 inch 1024x768 Samsung Plasma due out before August on both sides of the Atlantic. Spec looks solid, they're boasting 10,000:1 contrast ratio which is surely a load of nonsense, but still, ?1550 seems the going price on it at the moment for orders in the UK. It's another one to add to the list to demo once it is released.

 

HP-R4252 is its US model number. Samsung's webpage on it is here. UK spec will obviously make it both PAL and NTSC compatible, drop the internal ATSC tuner and by the sounds of things it will also meet the European HD standards in accepting 720p and 1080i inputs at both 50 and 60hz..

 

Daniel

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The Samsungs are supposed to be decent. No Panny, but decent.

 

I was going to get the Panny ED before I ended up my with 800x600 Infocus X1 projector. The only difference is a little extra resolution (the ED panel displays just as many colors as the HD panel). Depending on your viewing distance, most people are unable to see the extra bit of resolution beyond a certain distance (test it out for yourself in a Circuit City).

 

Honestly, I don't care about HD because we don't watch TV. The extra resolution on the new game consoles is making me consider getting a 720p DLP projector when they get cheaper, though.

 

 

Anyway, get a plasma. I personally dislike the miserable black level detail and contrast ratio on LCDs. The contrast and blacks on a good plasma make them look silly by comparison IMO. I prefer even an ED plasma over a washed out HD LCD.

And viewing angle is generally better, as well as color reproduction is much better, on plasma. I have a big ol 19" fatwallet-deal $77 CRT on my desk for a reason. Not a fan of LCDs, I consider them OK only for small-space and small-screens (PSone screens, laptops, tiny rooms, etc).

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If I have time whilst in London tomorrow I aim to check out a few models, and certainly see the Panasonic Viera again in the flesh although having seen it before I already know I want one. It's just that darn price that keeps on getting in the way.

 

I can certainly hold out until winter to see what else appears on the scene, it's not like I need a TV right this very instant, but I would really like one by the new year. If Panasonic decide to release the series 8 panel only displays here later in the year, those could be an excellent option if the price is right.

 

The Viera is perfectly specified for my connection demands though. I may just take a peek at the slightly cheaper 37” model tomorrow too, though again there’s so little in it between the price of the 37 inch and the 42 inch models.

 

I just want to scream sometimes.

 

Daniel

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Hi Dan - I've only just found this thread. Two things well worth knowing are that

 

a) John Lewis (at least in the big Wycombe store) are very nice people and were quite happy to let me try out any DVDs and so on I wanted to on their plasmas when I was toying with the idea about 18 months ago. And

 

B) You can get them to price-match against anyone locally. So going to the Watford branch and getting a match with Richer Sounds' prices might well be a reasonable route to go, whatever you want.

 

They carry a remarkably good stock for a department store, as well - I was able to look at the 37" and 42" SD Panny panels, Fujitsu and Philips panels (both of which were absolutely rotten) and even 32" Loewe CRTs for comparison. In the end I went for that cheap Panny CRT, but it would definitely have been that Samsung panel instead if it was around that cheap at the time (assuming it doesn't royally suck in the flesh).

 

edit - a quick look at Richer shows they only want ?999 for the 37" Panny Series 7 SD panel, which isn't a bad price at all.

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The Fujitsu is hard to believe. It's considered by many to be the best panel in the business.

 

Now you say that, I remember (like I said, it was 18 months ago). Not Fujitsu (who are, as you say, rather good if you can find them) but Hitachi that was a muddy mess of grain and jitter.

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- a quick look at Richer shows they only want ?999 for the 37" Panny Series 7 SD panel, which isn't a bad price at all.

 

That is rather spiffing, yes.

 

I've still yet to pop into any stores to check things out. Need weak excuses to see Batman again so I plan to go into London next week and demo/window shop in Selfridges and John Lewis and look at sets. Some guys over at the Home Cinema Choice forum are starting to notice strange contrast shifting issues on the new Viera's which I'd like to see for myself in demos.

 

I still want to check that 32" Samsung lcd. I see some guys on NTSC UK are enjoying it... My problem is still LCD contrast and the fact I'd like 37 inches minimum for a new display.

 

Daniel

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Now you say that, I remember (like I said, it was 18 months ago). Not Fujitsu (who are, as you say, rather good if you can find them) but Hitachi that was a muddy mess of grain and jitter.

That I would agree with along with LG panels. LG has some issues with their blacks where you will see some noise in the blacks. :barf

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