Not Compensating For Anything

So while my 26-inch Samsung LCD that I bought in early 2006 was great for its time, back when an HDTV actually became affordable to a mortal and I was making less than the minimum wage, I’d decided a while back that I wanted something bigger and better.

I’d been thinking about LCDs in the 37-inch range and set myself an absolute maximum of £1,000 to spend, but when I found that decent models were well below that price (as low as £650 online), I decided to go all out. Why settle for an 8 ms response time and 8,000:1 contrast ratio when I can get 0.001 ms and 30,000:1? That’s how I came to have such a magnificent beast as the Panasonic TH-42PZ80B – that’s a 42-inch 1080p plasma, reviewed here – sat at the end of my bed.

Panasonic TH-42PZ80B

As much as I enjoyed having the old LCD, I found that when I was watching HD video material I wasn’t really getting the full benefit. It looked sharper, but from my perch it didn’t look worlds beyond an upscaled DVD. Indeed, a competent DVD could be almost indistinguishable, which meant dropping the extra cash on the Blu-ray/HD DVD over the standard DVD was done as much for being future-proof as anything. Not to mention that black levels of LCDs have never been great (check out this comparison), which annoyed me with low detail in darker films. Batman Begins on HD DVD, for example, has a highly rated video transfer that was frankly a bit grey and murky via LCD.

Compared to the old one, this is a revelation. Watching a Blu-ray in 1080p at 24Hz with no overscan at that size would convince anyone that it’s worlds ahead of DVD, to the point where even my excellent little player upscaling to 1080p can’t keep up anymore. My go-to demo disc, Pixar’s Cars, looked amazing, with vivid colours, sharp detail and smooth motion, as did the recently acclaimed Narnia.

Rambo Blu-ray

While the black levels are undeniably superior, it’s not all roses, though. I’ve found that I’m one of the few per cent of people who can see the phosphor trails on plasma displays, a flaw endemic to the technology. Films are largely – though not entirely – unaffected, but certain games like Call of Duty 4, with its high contrast and fast movement, can almost look like one of those red-on-green 3D double images. Thankfully it’s something that will supposedly fade as the panel wears in over the first couple hundred hours, but I’ll suppose I have to get used to it. Even so, it looks dramatically better than any LCD that I’ve seen, so I’m going to take it as a worthwhile trade.

Still, given the choice between the grey blacks, slow response and poor scaling of an LCD and the phosphor trailing of a plasma (admittedly that only a small percentage of people can even see), it kind of makes you wish that reliable old CRTs weren’t so bloody big.

15 thoughts on “Not Compensating For Anything

  1. Good call! I’ve owned DLP, Plasma and LCD and while I still prefer a 1080p LCD for hi-def gaming I’d rather have a decent 720p (or better) Plasma for general purpose TV, movies and gaming; to my eyes Plasma seems notably better at rendering a wide variety of source material.

  2. Also, as far as screen size, the smaller screen you have the closer you have to sit before you can see the benefit. I know, common sense. Similarly, if you have a 1080p and you to far away you won’t be able to differentiate between that and 720p. So picking the right screen size is quite important. I wouldn’t bother with any sort of hi-def on screen size less than 32″ unless you plan on sitting very close to the TV.

  3. Fantastic screen you have there, I’m filled with envy just looking at the thing! Do you mind if I ask where you got it from? I’ve been trying to save for such a purchase.

  4. I almost forgot to say, great blog you have here. You’ve put up some really interesting stuff over the last few weeks and I always enjoy reading your thoughts on the latest game/films/gadgetry, keep it up!

  5. On the subject of screen size, I’ve pretty much found that 42″ is about right for where that is. It’s right at the end of my bed which puts it 6-7 feet from me when I’m watching it, and really lets me get the benefit of HD material. I was reading about recommended screen sizes when deciding and people said that you want to be close enough that you can see the fine details without being so close that you can see individual pixels (or lines if we’re talking CRT), and this falls comfortably into that bracket for me.

    And as for where I got it, I used Let’s Go Digital. They just happened to be the cheapest with excellent service ratings on Pricerunner at the time, and I can have no complaints with the service.

    If you’re in the market, I suggest keeping an eye on reviews here and looking around on Pricerunner or a similar site when you find one that suits you. Just avoid the high street retailers – I paid £850 for this TV, while Currys was asking £1,200 for the same thing.

  6. I have an LCD 42″ screen upstairs and have to agree it’s sweet spot is 6-7 feet. If I sat any further I’d have a lot of difficultly discriminating between 720 and 1080p. Downstairs I have a 50″ Plasma at a viewing distance is 10-12feet.

    If I was told I could only keep one I’d stick with the plasma :)

    Interestingly the newer, smaller LCD on avergae consumes more juice (300w) than the plasma (250w)!

  7. One thing that did occur to me with the plasma and it’s power consumption is that it can actually be turned off, whereas my LCD (and I think most models are the same in this respect, including in my experience with monitors) could only go onto standby. Even if it happened to use more in the maybe five hours I use it each day, you can be sure that it’s using a lot less in the other 19 ;)

  8. Don’t take the manufacturers claims for granted, I was surprised to find that my Plasma (inspite of having a relay that clicks ON/OFF) was consuming 30w when in standby. My newest Tosh LCD was better (although another LCD I have in the bedroom is terrible using over 40w in standby!).

    If you have a £10 Kill-a-Watt device you should be able to confirm the usage of each of your devices. As a crude measure, each 10w in standby will cost about £1 over a month – at least it will after the coming utility price hike! Now think how much your 360, PS3 and Wii are consuming in tandem. 360 is about 14w, PS3 is about 12w (unless you switch if off using the button at the back) and the Wii is about 7w (more if you have the Wii 24 stuff turned on).

    The solution I use and can recommend is oneclickpower’s Intellipanel (TVAIMP205). Briefly, it detects your IR remote when you attempt switch on your telly, providing it with power and transitioning from OFF to standby; the 2nd time you attempt the same button press, your telly will go from standby to ON. When you put your TV back into standby the Intellipanel is clever enough to detect this and transition to OFF. At the same time it will shut off power to all your peripherals and power them back up in tandem. If you have an AMP and active subwoofer you can save some more cash by plugging them into the panel. I picked mine up from Currys for the princely sum of £32. Based on current leccy bills, it’ll pay for itself in a couple of months. Oh and you’ll save the planet ;)

  9. It’s not a bad idea, but I’m daisy chained enough (nine AV items in one socket, with surge protector) without adding another link. Not to mention my PVR presumably wouldn’t be able to wake itself up if the power was completely cut off.

    Saving the planet? What good would that do if I can’t watch House and Peep Show whenever I want?

  10. The panel has surge protection and one socket that’s permanently on for your PVR. However, note there are only 8 sockets in total so you’d have to work something out to gain two sockets from one of the existing ones.

    I fully agree Peep Show comes first, everything else is secondary :)

  11. HI THERE AM THINKING OF BUYING THE TH-42PZ80B THE ONLY THING THAT IS PUTTING ME OF IS PLAYING MY PS3 WILL THIS CAUSE BURNOUT ON THE SCREEN

  12. You shouldn’t have a problem. I’ve played the same game for 6-7 hours on this one and while you might get a bit of image retention when you finish, it disappears within about ten minutes of TV watching or about 30 minutes if you just turn it off.

  13. HELL YES, I AM GETTING THIS BIG ASS FUCK OFF BEAST OF A T.V TMRO AND I CANNOT FUCKIN WAIT AT FUCKIN ALLL!!!!!!!!

    btw thx for the review, can you recommend settings for gaming on the 360 and Blu-ray/HD-DVD yes i have both….muahahahahahah. cheers.

  14. LOL, you sound happy.

    I bought one of those AV calibration discs for Blu-ray and this is how I have it set up (numbers are approx):

    Viewing mode: Cinema
    Contrast: 55%
    Brightness: 50%
    Colour: 65%
    Sharpness: 40%

    That gave me pretty much textbook results with DVE HD Basics running on a PS3 over HDMI.

  15. bought mine yesterday and erm ….. HOLY MIGHTY MOTHER OF JESUS CHRIST!! IM FUCKIN EXASPERATED! BEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE.

    this beats any LCD out there, even on gaming. I mean the colours are just so vivid and stand out dramatically compared to lame LCD’s. Popped in transformers HD DVD yesterday and was gasping out of excitement, close ups of faces look so real it’s like you can reach out and touch it. Truly involving experience, I AM IN LOVE. BYE.

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