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Video Monitors and Media Players for field or studio use (all display technologies).


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Old January 24th, 2007, 09:22 AM   #1
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Plasma or LCD?

Got a decision to make. I'm going shopping this weekend for a 50" (46" to 52" or thereabouts) HD Monitor this weekend. But I'm not sure (yet) which is the preferable way to go (LCD or Plasma). I'll probably opt for a 720p model vs one of the newer 1080i/p models. I will be looking for a flat panel vs projection monitor. It will be for Cable use vs just video playback (i.e. will have tuner). Looking at the Panasonic TH-50PX60U as an example.

What I know, at this point, is that LCD will likely be cheaper and Plasma has greater viewing angle and likely brighter. But, setting cost aside,
  • In general, is a plasma or LCD preferrable over the other
  • is there a significant difference between these technologies, with regards to performance?
  • are there pros and cons that I should be aware of, that might not be obvious?
  • which is more likely to have fewer problems?
  • are there any brands to focus on or stay away from?
  • with regards to each, how severe or likely are missing pixels, missing vertical or horizontal rows, etc on these. Will mfgs. replace a monitor, if a row or column goes out?
  • I would specifically want to try and avoid anything that might not use the entire screen. My cable is comcast. I have seen some displays that show video that doesn't use the top or bottom 2" of the display.
  • I also have a Sony HRD-SR1 and might need 16:9 aspect ratio. Is there anything I should look for with regards to 16:9. This one isn't going to be a show stopper however, on what I choose.
  • One thing I'm confused about. Comcast says I will need an HD box, they provide. Does this replace the need for an HD Tuner that is built-in on some HD Monitors, or will I need both, to view HD shows via cable? Does a built in Tuner (or HD Tuner), mean I can plug my comcast cable directly to the monitor? OR will I still need the comcast HD cable box?
Anyone have any experience in this area, they care to share?
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Old January 24th, 2007, 06:19 PM   #2
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It sounds like this is for home viewing rather than production, so some of this response is based on that assumption.

These days, there are differences, but no clear preference between LCD and plasma. The quick summary is that LCD gives you lighter weight, a brighter picture, and more resolution in a smaller size. Plasma offers better blacks and possibly better color. If it was me, I'd go LCD for a general home TV environment and Plasma for a home theater type use. There's a ton of information on the web regarding the comparison between LCD and plasma. Google away.

A full row or column outage in either technology is a clear non-starter and should lead to replacement. In my opinion, and others will have other opinions, Panasonic makes the best plasmas. The LCD biz is not so clear, but Sony makes some great LCD units.

Regarding using the full screen, you might want to make peace with that concept. Once you start dealing with the plethora of aspect ratios that are out there, you are going to have to make trades. If the aspect ratio of the material doesn't match the aspect ratio of your screen, you have to do something about it. The resulting slew of letterbox, pillarbox, zoom, wide, stretch, etc. options are all a result of trying to deal with the mismatch.
Most HD sets these days offer some flexibility in dealing with aspect ratios, but I often find that I would rather deal with some of the screen going black rather than the artifacts of electronically expanding material to fill the screen.
Even on full HD 16:9 channels, you will often fall back to 4:3 material when the local station does it's station break.

Regarding the Comcast box, it depends. If it's digital, then you probably will end up using the box rather than the built-in tuner. The whole "Cable-Card" thing was an attempt to solve the interface between cable company and tuners, but the cable companies really aren't interested in giving up their set top position. Once again, you can do some Gooling to find out way more than you want to know. One option would be to go with something like the Panasonic Professional series monitors that don't even have a tuner and just use the set-top box.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 09:18 PM   #3
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I'm early on in my research for home theater gear, so not terribly knowledgeable yet. But I understand that plasmas DO get screen burn similar to CRT-based displays, whereas LCD / LCOS and DLP type displays are pretty much immune to it.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 09:36 PM   #4
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Pete, I think this is true, but to a much lesser degree than older models. I've had a Panasonic Vierra Plasma since February 2005 and absolutely no hint of t his yet. I don't know what you would consider a reasonable lifespan for a plasma screen, but I'm pretty sure I'll want to upgrade to something bigger/better long before burn-in is an issue.

I know some of the new LCD's are much better, but when I was shopping the plasmas had much better contrast ratio, brightness and viewing angle. My screen is still very watchable in a room with sun streaming in through the windows. I'm very happy I chose plasma, and would do it again without a second thought.
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Old January 25th, 2007, 10:26 AM   #5
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Yes it was for home intertainment that I asked. I'd call it more of Home Theater than Home TV.
Quote:
Regarding the Comcast box, it depends. If it's digital, then you probably will end up using the box rather than the built-in tuner. The whole "Cable-Card" thing was an attempt to solve the interface between cable company and tuners, but the cable companies really aren't interested in giving up their set top position. Once again, you can do some Gooling to find out way more than you want to know. One option would be to go with something like the Panasonic Professional series monitors that don't even have a tuner and just use the set-top box.
This is confusing to me.

Example: The Panasonic TH-50PX60U has a built-in tuner. Does this mean I can't use the Comcast box or that I must just set my tuner to channel 3 (for instance), like I do with my normal TV? I'm thinking I need the comcast box for HD content.

I'm sure this will all be clear, when I speak to the dealers this week.

Now, where is the best place to buy one of these? I'm leaning toward some place like Best Buy, for the ease in working with them, if something goes wrong. Mail order might be a pain, although prices might be lower.

Also, I hate extended warranties but the high cost of these I'm not sure if they are of value. I'll compare to my standard TVs. I have never, in 40 years of owning tube TVs, had to have more than a couple of service issues. How reliable (or problematic) are these large HD Home Theater Monitors?
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Old January 25th, 2007, 11:55 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael S. Davis
How reliable (or problematic) are these large HD Home Theater Monitors?
I don't see how anyone could generalize about this considering the wide variety of technologies and manufacturers on the market. All I can say is that I personally haven't ever bought an extended warranty. I have a 2 year old 37" Panasonic plasma, 3 year old Samsung 22" LCD, 4 year old 17" Sony LCD, 3 year old Apple 23" Cinema Display and a 6 month old Gateway 21" LCD. Never a single problem with any of these.

OTOH, I bought the first generation of Apple's 15" Aluminum Powerbook and it started having LCD issues after about a year. However in this case I did buy the warranty, and the problem was also covered by a recall.

Realize that extended warranties are a big profit center for electronics/home entertainment stores, which is why they push so hard to sell them. They wouldn't be doing this if they didn't make money, and they wouldn't make money if there were very many problems. But like everything else in life, "you pays your money, you takes your chances."

Regarding the cable box, I don't have one, but if it's a relatively modern unit then it probably has HDMI output which will send a full quality digital signal to your TV. An older box should have analog component video which your TV can accept. Heh, the days of tuning to channel 3 and using an RF modulator are long gone :-) Some of the Panasonics (like mine) also have something called a CableCard slot. For these models you can get an internal card from your cable provider and eliminate the need for a separate cable box for most features. But I gather support for these isn't universal. Beyond that, most of the Panasonics have an internal TV tuner which can pick up many of your cable channels without any hardware. But you wouldn't be able to get things like pay per view without the cable box. You cable company should be able to tell you what options are available based on the model you choose.

Regarding the 'black bars' on the screen, you would have these on the left and right (obviously) if you want to watch standard definition 4:3 content on a 16:9 screen. The remote control gives you some options if you don't like that. You can stretch the 4:3 to fill the 16:9 screen, which I personally hate. Or you can use sort of a "smart stretch" which stretches the middle less than the sides and fills the screen. Personally I hate that also. Finally, you can zoom in so that the width of the 4:3 screen fits the width of your 16:9 screen. For me, this is often the best option. Obviously it chops off the top and bottom of the picture, but depending on how the content was framed it often works out OK. But it would be a problem if there is text at the top or bottom of the screen. This zoom mode is also good for 4:3 material which contains letterboxed 16:9.

The only time you should see a black bar above and below the image on a widescreen TV would be when watching a movie that was shot in an aspect ratio 2.35:1 (or something similar). In that case, they are preserving the shape of the original image, which doesn't match the shape of your screen.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 10:55 AM   #7
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I have a Panasonic 42" plasma TV that was top rated by CNET and others. I paid $2500 in July of 06 and by Christmas the same TV could be had for $1300! But that's beside the point.

I do notice that "burn in" is a very common problem with my TV (and I suspect other plasma displays in general.) It's not real "burn in", per se, because I've yet to encounter an image that is permanently burned. What happens to me is that if I watch a DVD with top and bottom black bands and then switch to TV, I will notice a distinct ghosting of the black bands on the picture for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. But they eventuall go away.

When I watch SD feeds I usually use the "Stretch" function to fill the entire screen eliminating the ghosting problem for me. Hope this helps.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 04:25 PM   #8
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Thanks for posting that, I've had the same issue with a Pioneer plasma. As you pointed out the effect goes away after a short period of time full screen. I was wondering though if this was an issue only with the model I have. I guess it's good to hear that it's symtomatic of more brands then just mine. It's a little irritating when you first switch aspect ratios but doesn't last that long.
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Old February 11th, 2007, 05:49 PM   #9
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Plasma burn-in largely a myth now

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bauer
I'm early on in my research for home theater gear, so not terribly knowledgeable yet. But I understand that plasmas DO get screen burn similar to CRT-based displays, whereas LCD / LCOS and DLP type displays are pretty much immune to it.

PLASMA: Unless you are using it to display flight info at the airport, or an obsessive watcher of a single channel that places their logo bug (like ABC) on the screen all the time, the permanant burn in is no longer an issue. Newer sets have come a long way and I think this myth should be killed. There is some persistence, such as letterbox, but lasts for a short time

While LCD is generally brighter, that can be a downside if you are looking at it in a dark environ, like home theatre. Being a film-head, I would suggest you might like the finer black detail found in plasmas.

Most cannot distinguish between 720p and 1080p, but you might since you are on this site, you probably would wantt to opt for 1080p, if you can afford it. That is the "going forward" ATSC standard for the future.

Most critical considerations besides the obvious (size, price), is contrast, brightness then resolution being third place. Be aware LCD screens have pixels, you can look at two 720p panels, for example and one has 1366x768 and the other has 1024x768 (or less!). Lower the pixels the more coarse the image is, due to larger individual pixel size. I noticed this immediatly in the store. Id' opt for 1080p or i, personally.

Also, no one ever talks about the eventual need to replace the light in the LCD TV. They are flourescent tubes. It'slife is measured in years, but you should determine this in considering a purchse.

IMO extended warranty is probably not necessary as consumer reports avg cost of repair is only $300. Reliability is high. Lightning/surges is probably more an issue for most. So if you get an ext warr., ensure it covers this.

Costco is well regarded, as they WILL take a tv back if you discover something, like dead pixels or it's too big for the room, whatever. Some stores have a dead pixel policy be sure you know it and are ok with it.
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