Thursday, March 16, 2006

So you want an HDTV for March Mania, but which one?

If you're buying a TV these days, it makes quite a bit of sense to go ahead and buy an HDTV, which deliver much sharper pictures than traditional sets. HDTVs also offer Dolby Digital sound via a stereo hookup, so your system will look and sound like a movie theater.

All that's cool, but which kind should you buy: LCD, plasma, DLP?

Panasonic vice president of technology, Jeff Cove, says it depends.

"Each of these technologies all look beautiful," Cove said. "You have to focus on what's the most important thing for (your) living room."

For example, if you want to put a digital set in a kitchen or a room with a lot of light, you probably want to try an LCD.

"It's the best performer in really bright viewing conditions," Cove said. "Plasma wouldn't be as good."

LCD sets go up to about 40 to 45 inches in most product lines and smaller digital sets, Cove said, tend to be LCDs. Plasmas start at 37 inches and have their own advantages.

"If you and your family are going to be sitting 10 feet away from the screen and sit all around the room, you probably want to go plasma," Cove said. "It gives you a wider viewing angle. Wherever you sit in the room, it gives you the same picture. LCD gives you the best picture when you're right in front of it."

DLP sets also provide strong pictures but don't have the panoramic viewing angle of the plasma sets, which I think deliver the best overall picture. Panasonic lent me a 42-inch plasma for a few weeks before Christmas. Right off the truck, the set was beautiful, delivering rich, accurate color reproduction and images so clear during the Panthers' last football game that I almost felt like I could jump through the screen and into Seattle.

Plasma sets deliver better contrast than the other slim line sets, which makes colors look richer. LCD sets can't produce dark colors, especially black, as well. And with sports, plasmas look much better as LCDs can sometimes appear blurry because they can't flash pictures as fast as a plasma.

Now, the old rear projection sets, heavy and wide, still put out quite a good picture and are the most affordable sets. If you want to go past 50 inches, the costs for plasmas explode and you may want to consider the old rear projection unit. But know that rear projections are fast becoming a dinosaur in the industry. And there's one reason why.

"You can't hang it on the wall," Cove said, "and that's important to a lot of people."

What kind of set did you buy or are you thinking about buying? Let me know.


Ryan said...

I have a panasonic 42" plasma, and it is the best thing I've ever bought. I pair that up with the panasonic upconversion dvd player and movies are so pretty. Sports on it is next to nothing. I would recommend it to everyone.

Clayj said...

I have two flat TVs: A Runco 50" plasma in my living room (had this since late 2000... one of the first plasma TVs in Charlotte) and a new Sony 32" LCD in my bedroom. Both are hooked up with HDTV DVR cable boxes. I love 'em both.

I disagree about the whole "LCD is better than plasma in high-light situations"... plasmas illuminate themselves on a pixel-by-pixel basis, so in my opinion, they are less likely to wash out in bright light. Plasmas are also better for wide-angle viewing, as has been noted.

The one big advantage that LCDs have over plasmas is that if their backlight goes out, it can be replaced. The pixels in a plasma TV will fade over time, and are potentially affected by burn-in if you leave static images on the screen for a long time.

That said, I've never had an issue with my plasma TV, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one if it ever fails. I'm very happy with my LCD TV, too.

If you DO buy an old-style CRT TV, make sure you get one that's HD-capable (widescreen with up to 1080i support). There's really no excuse to buy anything that's not HD-capable nowadays.

Langston Wertz Jr. said...

Clay I agree with a lot of what you said. i think the new plasmas, however, won't suffer the burn-in problems of some of the other units. I got into that with reps from Panasonic and Pioneer and will touch on it in some future blogs.

But I'm definitely jealous of how much HDTV you have in the home.

You liking TWC for your HDTV needs?

clayj said...

Yeah, I know that burn-in isn't really THAT big an issue. My plasma TV actually only gets a couple of hours of use a day, so it shouldn't suffer any dimming issues for a LONG time (it's rated for 50,000 hours of use before half-brightness, so it should be good for several more years at least), and I don't leave static images on the screen for more than a couple of minutes ever.

TWC's doing a pretty good job on the HD front... I know that they're having issues getting more HD channels (like ESPN2 HD) because of the money issues... we're paying $6.95 or so for the HD tier, and adding more HD channels means they either need to charge more for the HD tier or divvy that $6.95 up between more and more HD channel providers.

I am a bit peeved that they've not added Cinemax HD yet... I mean, it's all Time Warner, so surely it should be an internal accounting thing that needs to be resolved and then we should have Cinemax HD here.

My biggest concern right now is that my plasma TV is not HDCP-compatible, since it only has component inputs. This is going to be a problem when HD DVD and Blu-Ray debut.

EMS said...

First, you should probably disclose somewhere in that post that Panasonic is best known for their plasma televisions, so asking one of their guys about LCDs is kind of like asking the head of GM about the new Fords.

Second, TWC is doing a crappy job. No new HD channels in over a year. UHD taken away after the Olympics. Deals have been negotiated, TWC is not interested in bringing these channels to us, even though TWC franchises in other markets (RAL) have. I'm seriously considering a DirecTV system after they get the new sats up, and so should you.