Samsung's PN50A550 50-inch plasma HDTV seems to sit right at the point where reasonable price and reasonable product quality meet. With an MSRP of $2299 you'll definitely find cheaper 1080p 50-inch plasma's, but maybe not one of such quality. Not only does the PN50A550 have an exhaustive array of picture controls including a new feature called Cell Light that helps brighten the plasma's darker-than-LCD image, but the ease of calibrating the picture means even average home theater enthusiasts can tweak their picture. Overall performance was superb with only one significant weakness showing its face. Even with a dynamic contrast ratio of 1, 000, 000:1, the PN50A550 offers black levels and shadow details that are merely average and help put some perspective on those ever-increasing contrast ratios. Aside from the disappointing blacks, the Samsung PN50A550 looks to be a safe bet, the perfect tradeoff between price and quality.
Yesterday we pointed you to a GOOD magazine article that fingered plasma TV's as being energy hogs even when in standby mode. In fact the article stated that the average plasma set would tack on about $160 annually to your electric bill, just from standby energy consumption. These numbers were compiled in 2005 and plasma models have become a great deal more energy-efficient since then, but Ben Drawbaugh from Engadget HD still thought $160 was a little high. So he measured the standby energy draw on a 60-inch Pioneer plasma and found it to be only 20 Watts. When all the math is said and done that works out to about $20 per year. That's a huge difference and while GOOD mag's calculations could be off, we wonder if plasma TV's in 2005 really sucked up that much energy?
It's no secret that plasma TV's are huge energy consumers when they're actually turned on, but how much do you think they consume when in standby mode? According to a GOOD Magazine article from earlier this year, they consume so much that you'll pay on average $159.76 annually for your plasma TV's standby energy consumption. That amount of money equates to 1452.4 kilowatt hours, roughly 5-6 times as much money as the second and third worst offenders-game consoles and computers-will cost you. Click on the thumbnail below to see the chart in full and check out the related video above.
CNET as put another Kuro plasma to the test. This time it's the 50-inch Kuro PDP-5020FD and not surprisingly it impressed...in some ways. The Elite Kuro PRO-111FD had the deepest blacks HD Guru Gary Merson had ever seen, but CNET says the same for the PDP-5020FD. While this is a definite pro along with an excellent antireflective screen, accurate color decoding, network connectivity and plenty of HDMI inputs, there are a few problems. The primary colors are inaccurate, especially the reds and greens, and if you like to tweak the picture there isn't much in the way of advanced picture controls. Oh, and one more thing. The PDP-5020FD is expensive, running you just under $3000 from Amazon. In the end, despite the fact the PDP-5020FD has its shortcomings it still stands among the top in terms of plasma picture quality.
If you're in the market for a new plasma TV, Samsung has three new Series 7 plasma models coming out next month. Announced this past week, the new Series 7 plasma lineup includes 50-, 58-, and 63-inch models packed with cutting-edge features and boasting Samsung's unique Touch of Color design. Not only are all three models full HD 1080p displays, but they sport up to 1, 000, 000 dynamic contrast ratio, feature Ultra Filter Bright anti-glare technology, DNIe Pro video processing and 18-bit Natural True Color resulting in a crisp, clear, and detailed picture.
All the sets also have day/night calibration mode, enabling you to easily choose a professionally preset calibration setting for optimal viewing during both bright and dark viewing environments. Samsung's InfoLink service, powered by USA Today, brings all of the day's relevant news and weather from the internet to your TV screen enabling a whole new level of convenience for the television viewer, and a flurry of connectivity options including a total of 4 HDMI CEC ports make the DLNA-Certified Samsung Series 7 plasma line an impressive looking home theater hub.
The 50-inch PN50A760, 58-inch PN58A760, and the 63-inch PN63A760 will all hit shelves August 2008 priced at $2799.99, $4499.99, and $5499.99 respectively. Read the full release after the jump.
Forget LCD and plasma displays--the real future of display technology may lay with "telescopic pixels". A report in Nature Photonics, compiled by researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington, says that telescopic pixel displays can outperform today's popular display technologies, especially in smaller display sizes used for mobile devices and laptops.
Telescopic pixels use a design known as the optical telescope. This type design uses two opposing mirrors per pixel. The primary mirror can actually change into a parabolic shape when the pixel is on, focusing light on the secondary mirror, which in turn reflects the light back through a hole in the primary display and onto the display screen. When the pixel is off, the mirrors are parallel and reflect any light back to the light source.
Not only is the manufacturing method used to produce telescopic pixels low cost, but it's also compatible with LCD infrastructure. And while LCD's only move 5-10% of the total backlight to the user and use up to 30% of a laptop's battery, telescopic displays move 36% of the backlight to the user reaching 56% with some design mods, efficient enough to add 45 minutes to a 5 hour laptop battery.
Telescopic pixel displays also have a lightning-quick response time, measured at only 0.625ms. This allows for sequential color processing, improved gray scales and color shading. The one major problem right now is contrast. Experiments have it sitting at only 20:1, a far cry from the 800:1 contrast ratio needed to put telescopic pixel displays on par with LCD's. Remember though, this is a prototype design. Major improvements will be made in the future.
The real question is whether telescopic pixel displays have any chance against up-and-coming OLED's. Right now we'd have to say no.
Pioneer's 8th-generation Kuro plasma line was touted as the best plasma sets of 2007. But are the 9th-generation 2008 models as good? HD Guru Gary Merson put the Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD 50-inch plasma to the test to find out and in terms of performance the answer is a definite yes. Not only does the PRO-111FD have the deepest black levels of any plasma Merson has ever tested, it was "simply the best" HDTV he's ever had the pleasure of putting through the ringer. Fair enough, but at $5000 you'll pay a premium for its superb features, and another recent review by the Guru of Panasonic's TH-50PZ850U places its features not to far behind and priced $1500 cheaper, you'll have to make a decision between price and ultimate quality.
In addition to Vizio's new XVT line of LCD and plasma sets, they've also announced a couple of new plasma sets that bring the HDTV price barrier down to a new level. The 42-inch VP422 and the 32-inch VP322 plasma TV's will be sold at all 3400 US Wal-mart's, part of Vizio's strategy to penetrate the US HDTV market with low-price models. The two 720p displays offer 30000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, picture optimization controls, and a 60000 hour half-life. Despite being entry-level plasma's, the VP422 and VP322 also have an impressive variety of inputs allowing virtually any high-def home theater device to be attached. On the back you'll find a component video port, RGB PC connectivity and a couple of HDMI slots. Look on the side and you'll find an additional HDMI input, part of the HD Game port, and easy access connection panel for gamers. The two Vizio sets are already available in US Wal-mart stores and online for $799 (VP422) and $599 (VP322).
Vizio will continue its mission to offer feature-packed HDTV's at aggressive prices to the US next month with the release of a trio of LCD and plasma displays--the 42-inch SV420XVT, 47-inch SV470XVT, and the 50-inch VP505XVT. The first three models of the XVT line all boast 1080p resolution, 120 Hz processing and a sleek, industrial design minimizing the bezel.
In addition to 1080p resolution and 120 Hz Smooth Motion technology, the SV420XVT and SV470XVT both feature a 6500:1 contrast ratio, picture presets for different content types, SRS Labs' TruSurround XT audio processing, compatibility with the Vizio SV5.1 upgrade kit for adding 5.1-channel surround sound, side access HD Game ports including a couple of HDMI v1.3 inputs in addition to another couple on the back. Both sets include the VUR8 Universal Learning Remote with picture-in-picture keys and will be sold from the likes of Circuit City, Sears, Sam's Club and Costco. The 42- and 47-inch displays are expected to retail for $1499.99 and $1899.99 respectively.
The 50-inch VP505XVT plasma TV features Silicon Optix's REON HQV processing, an integrated, DTV-compliant HD/QAM tuner, a dynamic contrast ratio of 30000:1, and a panel half-life of 100, 000 hours. Like the LCD XVT models, the VP505XVT uses SRS Labs' TruSurround XT audio processing, is upgradeable to 5.1 channels, includes a VUR8 remote, and has all of the usual inputs and outputs include a side access HD Game panel. When Panasonic's 50-inch XVT plasma hits shelves next month, expect to pay about $1699.99.
A couple of years back when Panasonic first announced their 103-inch plasma we had dreams of a world of super-immersive home theaters. While that hasn't quite happened yet, the displays did well enough in their first year of sales to justify an upgraded "10 Series", and now we know why. According to a Panasonic press release, the 103-inch monster plasma display has been installed over 3000 times, pretty well all in commercial settings. Popular spots include casinos and nightclubs; Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Vegas has installed 15 of them, and Jay-Z's 40/40 club also in Vegas has installed a couple as well. Other popular uses include sports playback, educational, and board room use. It's lack of popularity in the home theater sector is understandable though. After all, the giant plasma does cost upwards of $70, 000.