Patterico's Pontifications


Bleg for Information About Plasma TVs

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:20 pm

Anyone have any information about plasma TVs? What brands are best? Etc.

We’ve had the same little TV for about 17 years and figure it’s time for a new one.

We don’t want a projection TV. They seem too hard to watch unless the light and angle are just so. So despite the downsides of plasma, like the possibility of burn-in, that’s what we want to get.


49 Responses to “Bleg for Information About Plasma TVs”

  1. What size screen are you thinking of?

    At 40″ or below, I would go with an LCD screen.
    At 42″ and above, then go plasma.

    I actually got a Sony LCD projection TV and am very happy with it. (Good deal at Costco.) Up to then, I was very serious about getting a Samsung.

    Look over the reviews at for their recommendations.

    Brian Day (06abb7)

  2. I agree with Brian, get an LCD for everyday viewing. They’re light weight and not as fragile as plasma. They are now around $1,000 depending on the size. I’m not hyping but it’s an excellent place to read the reviews from actual purchasers and they have good info on about every brand of TV. I also like their quick shipping. Recently purchased a 32 inch Hisense for the basement rec/computer room and it’s an excellent TV with exception of the remote which must have been developed by a brain dead chinaman.

    Scrapiron (a90377)

  3. If your computer has a DVI-D output on the graphics card buy one DVI-D In so it can be used as a monitor as well.

    I have a 26 inch sharp in my office/den which can be switched to computer monitor and with a wireless keyboard at the recliner…heaven.

    RiverRat (54c18d)

  4. Bang for buck, look at Panasonic.

    Dan Collins (12f8ac)

  5. I’ve had the Panasonic 42″ plasma for six months and it is great. Check Circuit City for a good price. Panasonic is the choice. I did a lot of research before I bought mine and Panasonic is the best for the $.

    don bear (2aae25)

  6. 42″ or above.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  7. finally, a post I feel smart enough to comment on.

    1)Viewing habits
    a)Standard broadcast TV
    2)Try to be able to view each with each source.
    (HD-DVD) not out yet)

    Things to look for:
    The picture you like, and the inputs on the side/back. Service/other.

    Good luck.

    I’ve had my Mitsubishi Projection (46″) since ’01,
    still looks good.

    ~Stainless Steel Rat (016e23)

  8. We’ll have access to a HDTV satellite signal.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  9. We have some plasma screens (3) at work I dont find the picture to be as sharp as an LCD or a traditional Hi-Def CRT. I am not a big fan of projection TVs either but the people I work with who really know this stuff swear by them vs. Plasma.

    chad (582404)

  10. Panasonic

    All make good 42’s. 42 is probably your best bet for a “normal” sized room. Only go to 50 or 60 in a very big room, because they do not look as good close up.

    Also, commerical grade units are nice. Cheaper, more reliable, and a cleaner, more simple look. The problem is they don’t have speakers.

    If you are looking to save cash, look into EDTV. Contrary to what people tell you, they will display HD content decently, and sometimes junk images better than a full HDTV (garbage in magnified, not so good.

    Fujitsu and Sony make great plasmas, you just need a mortgage to buy em.

    Have patience, shop the internets, buy something on sale, enjoy.

    john(lesser) (ec421c)

  11. I got a 50″ Pioneer Plasma Elite and I couldn’t suggest anything else. It’s pricey, but soooo worth it. It’s a life changing experience. Seeing my buckeyes in HD on that puppy for the first time gave me chills. So I say if you’re gonna go plasma, go all the way for the high end stuff.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  12. It’s a life changing experience.

    I know you’re a Buckeye fan and all, but . . . heck, I don’t even use television. Am I missing that much?

    Dan Collins (12f8ac)

  13. If you like your reality really real and your futuristic future in HD through scientificish progressive evolution in the direction of forward, you might want to check out the mindblowing site that Xrlq dredged up:

    Dan Collins (12f8ac)

  14. Am I missing that much?

    It depends on your interests. I hate generic television. I watch college sports and I’m a tennis player so I follow the tour pretty closely when it’s televised. It’s the difference between barely being able to see the number on a jersey to being able to see the acne on A.J. Hawk’s face. It makes an even bigger difference with tennis. One of the things that makes watching tennis so difficult, particularly men’s, is that they hit the ball with such pace these days that you can’t really see the ball without HD. Once you see it in HD it’s like watching a different sport.

    I also love movies and I have a nice DVD player that will actually display movies at close to HD quality. So for me, I would be missing quite a bit without it.

    thelinyguy (e32b76)

  15. OK so here is the deal. You have to make a few decisions.

    1) Can you get local HD channels off the brid? In LA I’m sure the answer is yes. (For other readers) If not, you either need to get a Plasma with a ATSC tuner or you need an external one. – About 120 bucks.

    If getting HD off the bird try to get MPEG4 equipment… (more below)

    2) Sound? Built in speakers or you doing the surround sound thing. If built in, (then Duh) look for that … ELSE look for panels without speakers, why pay for (and look at) speakers you ain’t using. (Most speakers can be removed)

    IF you don’t want to wire the surround sound but you want the advantage of surround, google ‘polk surround bar’. VERY VERY cool stuff. Yamaha makes one too which is cooler but pricer. — Tip: You can often pick up the surround bar with a free sub. Cruthfield runs them cheap from time to time. (pricing sucks the rest of the time) The Yamaha one has a hyper cool auto calibration thingy that will kock your socks right off. Way cool.

    3) How are you getting the signal to the panel? Everyone seems to think HDMI is some requirment. It ain’t. It is however a WHOLE bunch easier.

    4) Price: Costco just broke the 2000 barrier for a 50″ plasma. (Visio?) BTW 50″ is sort of a sweet spot. Good bang for the buck. 65″ gets crazy money wise.

    Besy Buy has a 50″ that is also about 2K and gets decent reviews. Though I’d spend a few pennies more and get a better product.

    5) 1080P: Short answer it’s not worth thinking about. long answer.

    6 Price (yes again) Bargain basemnt for a 50″ is about 2K, top of the line for the same size is 7K. At the risk of pointing out the obvious if your eyes could tell the difference you’d probably know enough that you wouldn’t be needing to ask for info.

    In other words, diminishing returns.

    So how much do you spend? For reasons I’ll explain below about $3000 should get you a killer 50″

    7) Picture Quality. On this we could write books but let’s break it down a bit. Unless your eyes are faily well trained any decent panel (today) is pretty impressive.

    At the viewing distance you normally view a TV from, resolution is not the issue, brightness and contrast are bigger factors.

    HAVING said that… Some “HDTV” panels are 1024 x 768. While the do in fact meet the definition of HDTV (mostly because there is no true defintion of HDTV) in reality you want 1280 x 720 minimum.

    —-If you leaning NOTHING else from this comment learn this—–


    (fact of life) Big Plasmas need to be tuned like a musical instrument or a race engine. Comparing two panels out the box untweaked is meaningless. Imagine taking $100 Walmart guitar and a $2500 Martin both out the box and putting strings on them but not tuning them. You’d be pressed to understand the difference. (more on tuning later)

    8) Brands: (We all have our favs but after hundreds of hours of research.) There are only 2. Panasonic and Pioneer. Which wins? Well, if you just won the powerball lottery, the $7500 Pioneer Elite wins. BY A NOSE. For everyone else, the Panasonic COMMERCIAL series spanks all the rest. And cheap.

    9) FINALLY the meat. Read Read Read and read some more. Then buy this.

    Note: This is ala carte. You need a sound system and you need to buy the input cards to match your system. (about 150 more) But that is OK. While other people get burned becaause they have an older HDMI input, you have a future proof TV because you can upgrade your HDMI. This a commercial panel. The kind you find on CNN sets and such. Not a Joe home owner thing. This is for, hobbiest, professional installers or for a more informed consumer

    You buy this if you want top of the line picture quality at less than half the cost of an Elite.

    10) DirecTv vs Dish. (full disclousre I’ve worked for both at various times) Dish has better HD offerings but they are a total pain in the ass. Direct is a tad behind in the HD department (or where last I checked) but they are spending time on the MPEG4 rollout. If you can get MPEG4 in LA, go Direct else, hold your nose and go Dish.

    11) Tuning: Get a professional the first time. Look over his shoulder if you ever want to do it again. (Should do it every 12-18 months) FOLLOW THE BREAK IN procedure on your set. (yes like a car and do it, it is important) You can buy Digital Video Essentinal and Avia and try to do it yourself but you can buy a scissors and cut your own hair too. I tell people to buy them and do their best… Then call in a pro and be humbled. — The picture you can get from this panel in qualified hands is simply stunning. Best 150 you can spend.

    12) Mounts. Simple hang from the wall mounts are easy and cheap. If you want a swing arm SPEND THE MONEY and get a good one. If you hang it yourself USE THE LEVEL 5 times!!!!! If you are a micropinch off when you mount it, by the time you swing the arm all the way out, you are off by a mile. — PLUS consider a plasma in this size is ~100 pounds and fragile. Get a pro with a helper.

    OK that’s my short answer. More if you care….

    Paul (59d3fd)

  16. PS Plasma burn-in is ~somewhat~ of a myth. WAY overblown.

    Paul (59d3fd)

  17. I’ve had one of the Samsung DLP projection sets for four years now and really like it. I had thought I was going to get a plasma screen, but would have to wait until there were enough wide-screen sources to be able to avoid burn in due to watching 4×3 pictures, since I don’t like to stretch them to fill the screen.

    The DLP sets don’t burn in, they are bright, and they have a wide viewing angle from side to side. (The viewing angle up and down isn’t so good, but also isn’t critical. How often do you stand over your set and look down at the picture?)

    I understand your interest in the plasma, because they’re really cool, but the DLP sets are excellent and you should look at them if for no other reason than to avoid buyer’s remorse. :)

    Bill Roper (f93cf2)

  18. I’m a VTC system developer and do product comparison on an almost daily basis. Take a look at LG. I’d never heard of the company before I started looking for a HTDV for myself.

    I started comparing the technical reference sheets for the different brands and couldn’t believe the bang for the buck. I bought a 60 inch LG plasma with dual HTDV recievers for $3200.00. None of the other high-end plasmas even had a set with dual HDTV recievers at the time.

    And, I agree, with previous posts that LCD is better for smaller applications (but I’d say 36 inch and below) and plasma for larger (40 inch and above).

    Another thing to take into consideration is the number and type of input connections; make sure your equipment will connect to the new display without adapters. The weakest point of any system is it’s connections.

    Good luck.

    rrockbeast (813c69)

  19. By the way, I also agree with #16 plasma burn-in is really only a factor if you are running static images over a long period, such as a dashboard.

    rrockbeast (813c69)

  20. Yes, plasma burn-in is a myth, but I’d still take a top-quality projection unit over plasma.

    Thelinyguy, you hit a sore spot with me. I used to love tennis back in the day. I hate these guys that stand at the baseline and hit 150 mph balls with their oversized rackets. Give me McEnroe and Borg and Nastase. Those guys were artists. Those wooden rackets were magic wands in their hands.

    CraigC (9cd021)

  21. Dont buy anything under 50″ for the main living/viewing room. In the 16×9 format you lose to much vertical height. You end up with a 6 inch high John Wayne riding across a now very wide desert. We had a 30 inch for about 3 months, didnt work out. You can sit much closer to these fantastic pictures since you cant see the scan lines like on the old 480i SD sets. That is the reason the old wives tale about not sitting to close due to the “radiation”. It was a markeing ploy to get you to sit farther back so you couldnt see the scan lines. The farther back you sit the smaller the included angle between the scan lines and your eyeball. At some point the angle becomes to small for the human eye to discern. Im guessing in the future the manufacturere will likely try to sell us a much more “advanced” HD type tech. But the limiting factor is the human eye, not the tech. A tv with 20,000 lines means nada, the human eye couldnt see it anyway.

    One issue, I suggest avoiding these new sets with the SHINY reflective screens. They pick up EVERY available light source in the neighborhood. Cars, street lights, house lights, room lights and the picture always has spot source reflections. If someone turns a light on somewhere in the house they seem to find a way to the screen. Im seeing all the Laptops going this way also. They are horrible in an airport etc. But the shiny screens seem to be relegated to direct view TV such as Plasma and some LCD. Most projection sill have the satin anti reflective screens. They are being pushed as CLEAR or BRITE screens, They may be but they still suck unless you are in a total blacked out media room.

    Everyone should also be aware that your regular old analog Standard Def programs are almost unwatchable on these HD sets. Most do a horrid job on old 480i stuff. Its not the TV fault its that they are to good. A fellow told be how to explain it, he said “you get a really, really good picture of a bad signal” And 480 lins scattered across 50 to 70 inches makes a lot of blank space between scan lines. But using an Over The AIr antenna will knock your socks off, far better than Cable or Sat. So you should be able to get your locals OTA if close enough and use Sat or CATV for the rest.

    My sis has a 37″ Sharp LCD in the bed area and it is excellent. She has a 55 LCD Rear Projection Sony and it is excellent. But in the bsmt the 50 inch Samsung projection DLP takes it all. Absolutely fantastic.

    I would wait till next month for the new Samsung with the new LED Light Engine. NO MORE BULBS or SPNNING Color Wheels. Uses 3 LED’s , a Red, Blue, and Green one that flash off and on as needed to drive the color to the mirrors on the DLP. Life of the LED is estimated at 20-50,000 hrs instead of the 3-5000 hrs for the old projection bulbs. And for you remote control folks that like to use and set up those new high end programmable remotes – Ta-da, it has DISCRETE codes for things such as Off and ON et al,so you should be able to program up a storm.

    Its also 1080P. but of course there is no 1080P programming and may not be for a long time, other than some games, Blu-Ray discs etc.

    We did not care much for the Plasma pic but those are very subjetive issues so jump in the fray and poke, prod them all.

    Mrbill (35bcc4)

  22. You need to consider several things:

    1) How much standard def (e.g. DirecTV non-HD or cable) do you watch? If a lot, you can forget LCD, which is bad to bvery bad at this.

    2) How much sports do you watch? LCD is generally bad at motion.

    3) Projection TVs are pretty good at the level of 1080p sets, but they do suffer in direct light, and have mediocre contrast and brightness. On the other hand, they often are farily food at SD and motion. You need to consider the SOURCE of the projected image, as there are more than a few forms of projection. LCD, TI’s DLP and several flavors of LCoS (including Sony’s SXRD and JVC’s D-ILA).

    LCD suffers from all the problems of LCD direct view. TI’s DLP is kinda-sorta 1080p, using moving mirrors and a color wheel. That sounds iffy, but some of these sets are pretty good. Probably the best of the projection sets is the Sony XBR sets. A new line of Sony’s comes out this month. I am considering one.

    4) Then there’s plasma, which has as its main defects “burn-in”, power consumption and lamp life. Panasonic and Pioneer are the leaders in plasma, with Panasonic having the best mid-priced sets and Pioneer the utter high end. I just looked at the new Pioneer FHD1 50″ 1080p plasma ($9999) and it is stunningly better than anything on the market. It’s also 10 grand.

    Many people like the Panasonic 50″ TH50PX60U or -600U. Consumer Reports (for what that’s worth) rates it as the only set avaialble with very-good standard def and very-good high def.

    Three suggestions:

    1) Unless you want to grab end-of-model deals, wait until about Labor Day, as most 2007 sets come out between now and then.

    2) Go look at a high-end store like Ken Crane’s, as the salespeople are knowledgable and they don’t have a lot of junk to distract you.

    3) Consider STRONGLY a 1080p set with 1080p inputs (not the same thing) as BlueRay and HD-DVD will support 1080 progressive, just like DVD supported 480p eventually. Unfortunately, this lets out the Panasonic plasmas except the upcoming 65″ set ($9000). Most 1080p sets for the next year will be rear projection or LCD. Sony’s SXRD line is the best of these.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  23. I think I largely disagree with Paul (#15). Or at least these points:

    1) You always, always want an external tuner. You will almost never use the one in the set unless you only watch over the air AND never want a TiVo. MPeg-4 will will come along, but there are no HD DVRs that do that yet.

    2) Sound? HDTV is 5.1 sound. TV’s have 2 speakers. Doesn’t work. Get a nice Denon amp and some speakers. THis will also make switching sources easier.

    3) HDMI is mandatory. Then again, all sets have it now. It’s not that the picture is so much better, but not having the copy-protect will obsolete your set.

    4)Price? Don’t consider a cheap set. THe floor for quality seems to be about $2500-3000 right now. There is a point where cutting a bit of costs cuts a large amount of quality.

    5) 1080p is quite necessary. That link back there is pure tin-hat foolishness and widely refuted. Only the very best 720p sets compete (e.g. Panasonic plasmas).

    6) See 4)

    7) You can compare, but not at Best Buy, Circuit City or Costco. Go to a high-end store where they know what they’re doing and tweak all their sets for maximum.

    8) well, yes, Panasonic and Pioneer, but only in plasma. In projection, it’s Sony.

    9) No. Not a professional monitor.

    10) DirecTV has mpeg4 in LA, but you cannot get a Tivo for it. And who cares anyway, as all you can get right now is local stations, which you can get off of the other boxes anyway. Or an antenna. When they put up the next two satellites in 2007, then you’ll care, and not until.

    Repeat after me: “I want my high-def TiVo.” DirectTV sells one for cheap.

    Besides, Direct is buying Dish.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  24. Oh, and get a universal remote. You will go nuts with 7 remotes otherwise. If you want to hack, there’s the one-for-alls and their loyal user base that recodes them. Upside: total control for $30. Otherwise, spend $250 on a Harmony.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  25. Couple of good posts here by people that obviously know the topic well. Paul in #15 says a lot of what I was getting ready to say. This is a much more complicated project than “buying a new TV”.

    How many devices are you going to want to hook up to this thing? In my case I have a cable box, DVD player, surround sound and a computer (on my home LAN) hooked up to mine. Each device has its own output interface and you need to know if the output from each will connect to your new TV.

    Component video cables are supposed to be the best HDTV connection, or were a year ago when I embarked on this astonishingly difficult project. Minimally then, I want at least 3 component video connections on my TV, plus I need a decent quality sound output (fiber optics available?). Stand by for a shock, decent component video cable sets go for $100ish, so in my case and to my utter surprise I had to buy about $300 worth of cables after I got the TV home.

    Or if you buy it at one of the high end stores you could get them to come install and tune it. If you buy it at BestBuy or something you’re on your own and take it from me with this monster that’s a lonely place to be – I had no clue what I was doing. Tuning the picture itself is extremely important, there are software packages available online with specific instructions and DVD’s to plug in and use for tuning the picture.

    Are you going to buy a decent sound system or do you have one already? Don’t buy a cheap one. I know it sounds ridiculous put you want something with lots of ooomph (like 100 watts per channel minimum) to get a decent quality sound experience for viewing movies and such – TV speakers are fine for football and baseball games IMO, some folks would disagree though.

    I bought a Sony 42″ LCD and am quite pleased with it, but I had a lot to learn to get to this point. You guys watch local news, in the morning the Today Show or something? If its like it is here none of that is in HD. It is presented in normal TV 3×4 format in the middle of your HD set with 2 black bars up the sides to fill the rest of the 16×9 screen, or you can stretch it to fit but you aren’t going to like that.

    Yesterday we watched cooking shows on FoodTV and PBS all day plus an Astros game, none of it was HD. The wife likes to watch Oprah occaisionally and evening news, that stuff isn’t HD. Some of the evening network programming is in HD format now (16×9) but it isn’t in high definition. Fortunately for me about the only TV I watch nowadays is sports and a lot of that is becoming available in HD – most NFL games (MOST) are available in HD, a few baseball games are also. DVD movies? Not available in HD as yet, or that’s what I’ve read – and your old DVD player isn’t going to play them when they become available, and keep in mind that ‘letterbox’ in a movie format isn’t 16×9 HD format either, so movies are presented with a black bar top and bottom – they don’t fit the screen.

    When you actually get an HD picture it is jaw dropping its so good, but be prepared for some frustration as you realize there really isn’t that much HD programming out there. The guy upthread that said you should sit back and do a ton of reading first had me nodding my head. At least several hours, or talk to someone that really knows the subject. Its a whole different techno world.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  26. >Stand by for a shock, decent component video cable sets go for $100ish, so in my case and to my utter surprise I had to buy about $300 worth of cables after I got the TV home.

    Dwilkers… You can thank me later.

    I think I largly disagree with Kevin Murphy, or at least on these points.

    1) He’s TELLING you what you need when (unless he is a buddly of yours) he has no clue what the requirements of the environment are. I’m giving you information to help you make some of the 10,000 decisions before you. There is a world of difference in the two approaches.

    2) He should google HDTV myths. especially HDMI.


    Another issue that a bunch of people have touched on but nobody really nailed. You are not buying a TV anymore. You’re buying a system.

    I have a customer with poor vision. He bought a $2200 panel but bought $5400 worth of sound equipment. The example is extream but the point is well made.

    Nobody -not even a professional AV guy who comes to your house- can really tell you what is right for you. No more than someone else could pick your car, your spouse, your cell phone or your house.

    If you just want a “cool system” then slam anything on the wall. They’re all good today.

    If you really want to meet your needs and you don’t want to throw money at it, read read read.

    Your degree of customer satisfaction will closely follow how much effort was done in finding the right solutions. (equipment)

    Lastly another arguments for the Panasonic commercial models is that you buy the inputs you need. That goes a long way in system building.

    Oh and Lastly #2- The guy who mentioned LG was right. They ain’t bad. But IMO I’d stick to them and Panny.

    Paul (020f0d)

  27. Interesting thread. There are a lot of people with more time than I have to fiddle with TVs. I got a Samsung 52 inch LCD about a year ago and it’s all I need. Maybe my eyes aren’t good enough to appreciate more. I was worried about plasma life expectancy and the limited research I did at the time led me to LCD. I’m getting ready to get a better sound system for it. I have a second home in Tucson (cooler than LA this weekend) and that has Direct TV, no cable. Got LCD there, too. THis thread has lots of good info. Thanks.

    Mike K (416363)

  28. I needed a cheaper 32″ LCD TV for a bedroom and bought a 799$ Vizio at costco b/c any TV (as well as phone, camera, etc.) you buy there, you can simply return, for a full refund, if you are not happy or if it breaks. Period.

    I verified with Costco’s dept. and store managers that the breakage return/full refund would still apply, for example, in three years. YES, YES, they said.

    So after having paid hundreds through the years for digital camera, ipod, CD stereo, and TV service plans at up to 60-70 dollars a pop, I’m sold. I buy those items at costco now.

    I’ve bought thousands at Best Buy in the past (have 4 teens/young adults in the house) but this return policy of Costco’s is putting the squeeze on the BBs now…. even had a conversation with my local Best Buy’s manager over this point. He agreed that it’s a problem and told me that even though “it’s not advertised” most departments are willing to make a “customer specific one-time” reduction on the price of an item to help sales.

    Just FYI…..

    Kristen (13e1fe)

  29. sounds like i went through the same process. 15 year old set, time to replace. first considered dlp, but kept standing off to the side and didn’t like the fading. kept hearing about plasma “burn out”, and kept eliminating it, EXCEPT that everytime that i saw a tv set that looked good – it was always a plasma. then saw the vizio 50″ at costco for under $2000. decided that i could throw it away in a few years if it burned out. bought it in march. couldn’t be happier. great picture, two hdmi inputs, what more could you want?

    vlad w (4199e0)

  30. Panasonic for Plasma. Burnin USED to be a problem. Fixed a generation or two ago. (The latest panasonic plasmas are 8th generation).

    Cables at Monoprice.

    I get wonderful HDTV reception on my old TV antenna. I had thought I needed to get a new antenna for the HD signal but I plugged the old one in and it worked perfectly. Of course, your location in relation to the transmitters makes all the diff.

    Arthur (fb2709)

  31. Cables. Do not spend a lot of money on cables. Fine quality cables can be had from GE or RCA at a tiny fraction of what Monster and other rip-off artists charge. Monoprice looks good, never used them before, though.

    Arthur– Hard to get HBO off the antenna.

    For in-depth info on any set (often so in-depth that large battles ensue of trivial details) go to AVS Forum

    Paul– I have an exclusively component setup, as my 4-year-old set doesn’t have HDMI or DVI. WOrks well, but newer things (like HD DVD/BluRay) require HDMI for some functions (e.g. DVD upconvert and potentiall HD DVD itself). There is also the wiring mess issue. Almost pointless, however, as you cannot get a modern consumer set without HDMI.

    One question, Patrick: how far away are you from the set? This affects optimal screen size.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  32. Kristen,

    I buy everything at Costco now for the same reason. When I said that about my laptop, some jerk came on (start here and scroll down) repeatedly accusing me of unethical behavior, for buying the laptop without doing a lot of research because I needed one right away, and could return it if I didn’t like it.

    I still have it, Dean.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  33. One more thing:

    You have to go look. You have to read the forums. Do not do this in a hurry, as it is rather involved and there are implications of your choices. It’s rather like buying a car. You can even haggle some places.

    One thing you need to insist on: when you have it narrowed down to a few sets, have them put various sources into it, so you can see the set as you will use it, not as they want to display it. Everything looks great with a demo loop.

    In particular, you must at least see if SD is watchable, as CNN & Fox aren’t going HD anythime soon.

    Torture tests:

    SD: any live-action sports broadcast in SD, unstretched. Then again stretched if you ever want to do that (yuk, IMHO). Basketball is best for this (small figures, lots of motion), but baseball will work. Even golf can work.

    DVD: Have them put on a DVD with good image quality. “The Fifth Element” is one fairly good test disk. But take a DVD with you that has good detail so you can compare.

    VHS: Forget it. I hear the library takes old VHS tapes. Really. You will never watch another VHS tape if at all possible.

    RTFM: Get them to show you a manual, or download one from the manufactuer’s site. Lots of gotchas can be avoided this way.

    Of course, Best Buy, Costco, Circuit City and such won’t have employees capable of doing this even if their management would let them. Go to a high-end store where the salespeople are professional. Most of them sell at list, but many will haggle down to the Best Buy price or lower.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  34. I’ve got that same 50″ Pioneer and I’m very happy with it as well.

    Jane (5a66ce)

  35. We got a 42″ plasma from Phillips, and it’s pretty good. Just remember that bigger isn’t always better, and that the distance at which you’ll be viewing the television is important; a 50″ plasma might be too big if you’ll be too close.

    Got ours at Best Buy.

    Dana (1d5902)

  36. Mr. Patterico,

    This is more depth than your original “plasma” question warrants, but…

    The electronics department and store managers at my local Costco told me that although they do risk getting “burned” by some customers returning items frequently and arbitrarily, they firmly believe that they still come out way ahead in sales b/c the majority of their existing customer base trust them. Having a return policy that causes some risk on the part of the store forces the store to be more concerned about offering better products, ones that have good features, offer value, and don’t break down a lot (or they’d really get burned). They sell more of everything as a result. “It’s all about building a relationship,” they said. In other words, although I may be unhappy with one product and return it quickly or after some time, the other three that I buy, I keep, and may also recommend them (both the products and the store) to others.

    As a consumer, I like that philosophy, and I’ll buy products at places I trust are looking out for me – at least a bit — while they try to get my money! :)

    BTW, I like Best Buy, too, which is why I went and talked to that store manager and explained my consumer “dilemma.” “I like your store, I’m a Reward Zone member, I buy a lot of stuff…(and he verified that alright), but how can I feel good about a purchase that requires me to buy an expensive service plan to be covered in the event of product failure?” He admitted that Best Buy has a problem with no easy solution (other than the un-advertised “bargaining” that some stores/depts. permit).

    Kristen (13e1fe)

  37. Despite the exhortations to read a lot, we ended up getting the best we could afford at Costco. 50″ Panasonic plasma. We’ll see how it works out.

    I agree with Kristen: Costco sells me a ton more stuff because of their policy. I just have a lot more peace of mind knowing that I can return something if it doesn’t work out.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  38. I suggest DLP projection. It is not sensitive to viewing angles. If there is too much light directed at the tv, it can be a little hard to see. But the units weigh very little, and I have had great luck with ours.

    I suggest samsung.

    If you must choose a plasma, the pioneer is the only way to go.

    braindeadjock (33595c)

  39. Either you are very hip to get one or having one makes you hip. I saw it on TV.

    Bleepless (10cf82)

  40. Get a Samsumng DLP. Best picture on the market, and picture from an angle is just find.

    Seriously. The DLP is a MUCH better picture than the plasma.

    PrestoPundit (9c6332)

  41. My suggestion? Take the plasma back and get the Samsung DLP. You’ll be glad you did.

    PrestoPundit (9c6332)

  42. A few years ago, I put together a DIY projection setup: View-Sonic desktop LCD projector (1024×768) mounted upside-down to the ceiling, 5-foot-wide Da-Lite screen (classroom-style; rolls up when not in use), and a “home theater” DVD player with component video out (the projector takes component, composite, S-video, and VGA) and surround sound.
    I’ve been quite happy with it (yes, it is watchable from anywhere in the room, even with the room lights on), and it takes up less space than my old 21″ TV!
    These days, I actually use a small-form-factor PC for playing DVDs (through the projector’s VGA input); the software deals automagically with scaling the various DVD video formats to the screen, and the audio goes to the surround-sound system via optical cable.
    If I were putting the system together now, I’d go for a DLP projector instead of LCD (they’ve gotten a lot less expensive the last few years).
    I did have to replace the rather pricey lamp in the projector last summer… but then I’d gotten the projector as a refurb, and I guess the lamp had quite a few hours on it when I got it.
    I think there are projectors on the market now that are actually intended for this use, and would be more conducive to easy installation. If you get one that cranks out enough lumens (which most do, nowadays), and get a good projection screen, it should make a good really-big-screen setup, which can be unobtrusive when not in use. (Of course, you’d still need something for tuning TV channels; if your cable/satellite box has component video out, you’re all set.)
    Mind you, I have no idea how the commercial projection TVs compare to my setup, or to the plasma thingies. Just noting that it’s possible to have a projection system that doesn’t need fiddly adjustment of lighting and angle.

    Eric Wilner (3936fd)

  43. Congrats Patterico!

    Enjoy the new toy. Hope you have the info you need to get her up a running the way you want but even if it takes a while to get it right you’ll be floored this fall watching the NFL on it. People say its like being there, but the way I experience football in HD is its better than being there.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  44. BTW The net has been abuzz for months that Costco will have a new model in August that will sell for $1999. We finally got some info on it today.

    It’s the Maxent MX-5020HPM.

    Keep in mind this is a low-end plasma. Compared to your 17 year old tube you have now, the picture will be stunning. Up against a modern Panasonic not so much.

    If you do buy from Costo as you suggested above, I’d wait the few weeks for the new one.

    Paul (020f0d)

  45. Panasonic 50″: Good choice. It’s the best of the midrange plasmas, and better than many high-end ones. It’s Consumer Reports top-rated set, the only one they give top marks to in SD & HD. You should be very please with it. Enjoy.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  46. It was a toss-up between the Philips plasma (pixel plus and ambilight) and the Panasonic plasma. I settled on the better image quality (subjective) of the Philips and sacrificed the better sound quality of the Panasonic. We have a surround system so that was not much of an issue. The Philips was about 400-500 cheaper too; which helped make that decision. Love it.

    DWB (8d8bdb)

  47. Paul, just so you know, Panasonic makes the screen for this particular Maxent. I work at the Costco in Brick and we have the Panny and the Maxent side by side and there was very little difference between the two except the price.


    Roy (b4d8f7)

  48. Hi Roy,
    I worked in Brick with you… I now work for Costco in Fla. I purchased the Panasonic 42″ plasma last week and I am very happy with it. The Maxent looks real nice, but I don’t think it displayed fast side to side movement as well as the Panny. I felt more comfortable purchasing the Panasonic brand name, although the back panel claims that it’s made in Mexico, and the Maxent panel is made in Japan…Go figure??

    Brian (1e923e)

  49. Nice site I found … Plan on coming back later to spend a little time there.

    Acne Laser (346bd3)

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