Plasma advice

Neil writes:

… making sense of the plasma thing. We are getting conflicting messages from different hifi magazines. The last online review we found sang the praises of the Hitachi 32 pd3000. The size is right for our room. Any thoughts re plasma vs LCD?

I haven’t looked at any of the Hitachi plasma displays. But I can give you a few hints. First, check the display’s resolution. A lot of older plasmas use a resolution of 852 pixels across by 480 down, which means that for PAL you are getting less detail than the medium is capable of producing. You should look for a display that has a vertical resolution of at least 576 pixels, which usually means 768 or 1,024 depending on the panel manufacturer.

Second, look at the level of ‘black’ produced by the display. Some are a bit weak in this regard, with black being a dark grey, sometimes tinted slightly brown or green. Check it out at the store. Use a DVD with a night scene to ensure that you can see dark detail — but there’s a problem here because often the settings of TVs and panel displays are not adjusted to the best performance at the factory, and the shop may not want you fiddling with the controls. Still, if you’re going to be spending around $10,000, I think you ought to insist that you be allowed to test out the display properly (or take your money elsewhere).

Other than that, most plasma displays are pretty good on colour and peak brightness (when the appropriate adjustments are made).

Regarding plasma vs LCD, this is a battle that has not yet, I think, been fully joined by LCD. The large LCD screens have only just hit the market and are priced rather higher than plasma. I am not an enthusiast for the smaller LCDs, because I think their colours (particularly blues) are a bit water-colourish. Still, I haven’t reviewed a large one yet so perhaps they are better. LCDs are thought likely to have a longer life than plasma displays, but expect their prices to fall rapidly and their quality to improve sharply over the next few years, so this might not be a consideration.

I suspect that we are not that far from seeing full high definition (ie. 1,920 by 1,080 pixel) panel displays.

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