My NEC 50-XR4 arrived today - experience so far and initial impressions - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 176 Old 11-30-2004, 11:05 PM - Thread Starter
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I want to start this thread with a thank you to the Forum and the actively participating members. These boards have been an invaluable resource in my journey into plasma ownership. Now I look forwarded to providing as much information as I can about the model I chose, the NEC 50-XR4, which just arrived today.

After much research through the month of October (much of it conducted on these boards) I finally decided to purchase the NEC 50-XR4. It was not an easy choice. I was initially sold on purchasing the 7UY (or some other 7th gen Panny model). Now, from what I know the NEC and Pannys seem awfully close on a number of categories. But in the end I decided on the NEC for the following reasons:

- I have a lot of natural light during daylight hours in my viewing room and NECs are supposed to be better in this environment.
- 3 yr., in-home warranty on parts vs. Panny’s one-year, non in-home (both only have 1 yr warranties on glass).
- Comparable cost when factoring in the need to purchase a) DVI blade and b) DVI/HDMI cable for 7UY (both are included with the NEC)
- Preferred NEC’s silver bezel
- The only plasmas I viewed in person which I felt actually compared (if not beat) the Panny were the Marantz and the Fujitsu. Both are overpriced, and the NEC and the Marantz models are nearly identical (when based on the same generation of glass).

So, after finally making the decision to go for the NEC and promptly selling my comparatively tiny Sony Wega I learned the NEC 50-XR4s were on a three week backorder! This delay tested my patience but all that waiting can now be forgotten as my NEC is facing me, playing the movie “The Bourne Identityâ€, as I write this post.

So enough with the rambling. My experience so far and initial impressions?

I ordered it from www.plasmaconcepts.com, an authorized NEC distributor. It was shipped freight via Mach1 directly from CineLight, a NEC distributor based in tiny Poulsbo, WA (near Seattle and, funnily enough, where some of my family lives). The box arrived in great shape. The delivery person was kind enough to assist me with getting it to my elevator, which it barely fit in, without any extra charge. I was then able to slide the box on the carpet down my hallway and into my apartment.

I’ve only been able to hook up my non-HD Comcast cable box to it via an RCA cable, and it’s still resting in the base of the packing box. But I’m already pleased and impressed. The colors are extremely vibrant, crisp, and beautiful. The blacks are very impressive. I’ve read other posts from those who have looked at NEC and Pannys about how you can only tell the black level difference between the two if they are side by side, and I’m inclined to agree. I spent a lot of time looking at Panny’s and admiring their blacks. Sitting here at night in my now very dark room I cannot objectively say that I remember Panny blacks looking any better than my NEC’s.

I’m not sure what more I can add at this point. Comcast will be installing an HD cable box tomorrow, so I should have more to report in the HD department soon. I also expect to have my full home theatre system set up by this weekend, so I’ll be able to comment on how progressively scanned DVDs look.
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post #2 of 176 Old 12-01-2004, 12:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ghileman
...I’ve only been able to hook up my non-HD Comcast cable box to it via an RCA cable, and it’s still resting in the base of the packing box. But I’m already pleased and impressed. The colors are extremely vibrant, crisp, and beautiful. The blacks are very impressive. I’ve read other posts from those who have looked at NEC and Pannys about how you can only tell the black level difference between the two if they are side by side, and I’m inclined to agree. I spent a lot of time looking at Panny’s and admiring their blacks. Sitting here at night in my now very dark room I cannot objectively say that I remember Panny blacks looking any better than my NEC’s...
Congratulations ghileman. You and another user here are the first that I know to own the new NEC 50" XR4/XM4. Can you answer some questions for me?

1. Did you actually get to see a 50" 7uy in person or have you only view a consumer version of the 6uy?

2. You noted the colors were vibrant, crips and beautiful from a SD feed. You also noted that from memory, you could not tell if the Panny blacks were any better than the NEC. Would you say that the colors from the NEC are significantly "better" vs. the Panny?

3. Can you tell if the fan was a bother? Any buzzing? The 50 XM4 owner noted in another post that the fan was a slight bother during muted audio.

I am looking forward to reading your findings on HD materials tomorrow. Additonally, please let us know how the unit fares under natural day lighting. Thanks and congratulations again.
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post #3 of 176 Old 12-01-2004, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Line by line responses in the quote.

Quote:
Originally posted by HD_Moose

1. Did you actually get to see a 50" 7uy in person or have you only view a consumer version of the 6uy?

I was only able to view consumer versions of 6th generation Pannys. However, a good buddy of mine who lives one block away just received his 7UY. So at some point in the hopefully not too distant future I'll be able to compare them, although it won't be as good as having them side by side.

2. You noted the colors were vibrant, crips and beautiful from a SD feed. You also noted that from memory, you could not tell if the Panny blacks were any better than the NEC. Would you say that the colors from the NEC are significantly "better" vs. the Panny?

I'm a little hesitatant to give an opinion on this yet because I have only seen the Panny's with either an HD or progressively scanned DVD feed. What I can say is that both the Marantz and Mitsubishis I saw, which are based on 3rd gen NEC glass, had significantly better colors than the Panny.

3. Can you tell if the fan was a bother? Any buzzing? The 50 XM4 owner noted in another post that the fan was a slight bother during muted audio.

If you are next to the NEC and there is no other ambient noise, then you do hear a slight fan noise. However, it's very slight, IMO, and doesn't bother me. With any kind of volume it would be unnoticable.

The Comcast HD installler will be out in a few hours so I should hopefully have more to say soon.

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post #4 of 176 Old 12-01-2004, 12:52 PM
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Thanks for posting your thoughts. I too have ordered the NEC 50-XR4 from PlasmaConcepts. Mine should be here any day now. I am very interested in performance with both Mac and PC computers. Let us know how the HD looks and take some pics if you can. I'll post my comments and pics as well as soon as it gets here.
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post #5 of 176 Old 12-01-2004, 04:05 PM
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PC and HD look great. Here is a link to my NEC 50 pix.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=475426
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post #6 of 176 Old 12-01-2004, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Comcast came today and installed their Motorolla HD box. It’s hooked up to my NEC with component cables provided by Comcast. I was hoping that today would be the day the new Motorolla 6412 DVR/HD unit (which comes with a DVI out and can DVR something like 10-20 hours of HD content) would be out in the Bay Area, but alas it was not to be. Probably going to have to wait about another month for that one.

So I've spent about an hour flipping through various HD channels at a distance of roughly 8 feet (3 feet closer than my NEC's final resting place, which will be on on the wall).

My first reaction to HD content on the 50-XR4 - in a word, WOW! Night and day difference between Bourne Identity and other content I was watching on regular cable last night. I'm already worried about the possibility of becoming a bit of an HD snob ("what, it's not being broadcast in HD? Why even bother watching it!" ;)

Second reaction: not all HD content is created equally. Very big difference between Discovery's extraordinary HD programming and say Jeopardy on NBC. Also, I have both a college and pro basketball games on at the same time. The college game is noticeably deficient compared to the pro one in terms of the precision/detail of the picture and overall color vibrancy. I’m watching a choir sing right now and the picture is absolutely off the charts gorgeous!!

There are two movies on right now: 20 or so yr old “Taps†and the more recently released “The In-Laws†(coming in from HBOs HD movie broadcast). Both look amazing! The colors are truly spectacular! The blacks are nothing short of fantastic. I can honestly say that I don’t find myself desiring anything in the blacks department.

Overall the three things that I am most struck by with this unit so far are a) the incredible vibrancy and richness of the colors, b) the fantastic blacks and contrast between the different colors, and c) the overall way the picture just “popsâ€. I mean this choir session I have on right now just has the most extraordinary picture in terms of colors, detail, and contrast. It looks as good if not better than anything I’ve ever seen in a dealer’s showroom. The closest thing I remember seeing in a dealer showroom to this (not surprisingly) was the Marantz 50 inch.

So far I’m giving a rave review. Do I have any gripes? Well, I’m not sure if this qualifies as a gripe but on a couple of the HD channels I’m watching there appears to be a slight fuzziness in the picture detail around moving objects. It’s relatively minor and not extremely noticeable drag /motion artifacts like what I saw when watching a movie on a large LCD flat panel. With my NEC I particularly noticed it on live pro basketball and a water polo match that was on HDTV. However, there is other content where there is rapid motion and no fuzziness (i.e., choir conductor swinging his arms around rapidly at very close range, quick movement in the movies). I haven’t seen any issues in the two movies I’ve been watching – very precise detail on both. I’m not an HD expert so I’m wondering if this has more to do with the feed than with some type of weakness in the NEC’s processing capabilities when it comes to sports? Or are these the types of issues that the Fujitsu owners, for example, live without? If I had to guess it would seem to me to be more of a feed quality issue based on how incredible certain feeds look vs. others. Interested in hearing more authoritative opinions on this issue.

Next up: I’ll be hooking up a two year old Sony progressive scan DVD. Stay tuned.
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post #7 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 12:19 AM
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It would seem there might be a growing interest with NEC plasma models these days. I just headed over to AudioRevolution tonight and voila, there is a new REVIEW for the 50XR4 model!

The review was positive of the model overall, especially with the NEC's colors and HD presentation - "Live sporting events in HD look like a window into the playing field and movies have the natural warmth and delicate hues called for by the director."

The author is a trained AV consultant and ISF licensed. He gets into some of the tweaking details that members here might find interesting. Finally a professional review of a current gen NEC!
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post #8 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:37 AM
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It is interesting to read the very positive comments about the NEC's black levels in the above review!
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post #9 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:41 AM
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Made me feel good about my choice. Hope to get it in a week or so.
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post #10 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 05:51 AM
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ghileman

Nice reviews, sounds like you have a very nice set and I know you will really enjoy it.

I think you are smart in not wanting to " become a bit of a HD snob". Naturally we all enjoy it better than SD.
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post #11 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 07:17 AM
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Do any of you with this panel see the noise pattern that the author of the review indicated? Is this equivalent to other sets like the Panasonic 50? I guess I'm trying to find out if I'd need an external processor.
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post #12 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by HD_Moose
I just headed over to AudioRevolution tonight and voila, there is a new REVIEW for the 50XR4 model!
Thanks for posting this review! Very interesting and helpful.

From the review:

"These flaws were exacerbated when the input was analog. The noise reduction caused a knurled glass look as it froze a noise pattern over the image rather than eliminating it. This was apparent only when looking closely at fine details, but I still found it bothersome. Diagonal lines moving quickly broke up and some digital artifacts were evident in small details when they crawled across the screen, rather than moving smoothly. An external processor, such as those offered by Faroudja Labs or DVDO, would most probably remove most of the artifacts when set to the native resolution of the display."


"Knurled." I was struggling a bit to come up with the right word to describe what I was noticing. Leave it to a pro to have such helpfully descriptive words right at his fingertips :).

Overall, his review seems to reinforce what I was trying to describe in my viewing experience. Wonderful vibrant colors, tremendous blacks comprable to Panny's/Fujitsu, some noise apparent due to processing (as I speculated).

He had his unit expertly calibrated and using Satelite feed through the DVI cable. I am using factory settings and component through my HD Comcast STB.

I noticed some small noise on even the HD sports as I mentioned, whereas he said all HD material was immaculate. I wonder if the switch to a DVI cable will eliminate that?
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post #13 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by scmguru
Do any of you with this panel see the noise pattern that the author of the review indicated? Is this equivalent to other sets like the Panasonic 50? I guess I'm trying to find out if I'd need an external processor.
I know nothing about external processors like the iScan. I've heard about people pairing iScans with NECs (there's a thread in video processors from a guy pairing a NEC 61-XR3 with and iScan).

I do remember someone making the comment that an $1100 DVDO iScan would process images better than even the newest Fujitsus. Can anyone confirm this?

I'd be interested in hearing about what a sepearate processor would add in terms of a) improving Standard Definition tv, b) smoothing out a little of the noise in HD, and c) improving the DVD viewing experiece (if that's even possible or desirable).
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post #14 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ghileman
I know nothing about external processors like the iScan. I've heard about people pairing iScans with NECs (there's a thread in video processors from a guy pairing a NEC 61-XR3 with and iScan).

I do remember someone making the comment that an $1100 DVDO iScan would process images better than even the newest Fujitsus. Can anyone confirm this?

I'd be interested in hearing about what a sepearate processor would add in terms of a) improving Standard Definition tv, b) smoothing out a little of the noise in HD, and c) improving the DVD viewing experiece (if that's even possible or desirable).
Remember that you will probably have to have an audio source that has global audio delay functions as this extra 'video' step MAY increase the chance of you noticing an AV synch issue. Still may be well worth the extra $ however if you can not find any other source of the video noise you're seeing, (bad cable(s)?).
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post #15 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by thebishman
Remember that you will probably have to have an audio source that has global audio delay functions as this extra 'video' step MAY increase the chance of you noticing an AV synch issue. Still may be well worth the extra $ however if you can not find any other source of the video noise you're seeing, (bad cable(s)?).
Agreed. And the iScan HD or HD+ just so happens to have this function.
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post #16 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Progressive DVD update on my XR4.

I'm using a Sony progressive scan DVD player, it's about two years old and retailed originally for around a couple bills. I'm not a progressive scan expert and the literature does not specify what signal level it upconverts to (does progressive scan upconvert to a standard signal quality, does anyone know?).

I think the above review from AudioRevolution does a really thorough job of highlighting this system's strengths when it comes to DVDs, so I would mainly reiiterate how well it performs with DVDs.

I threw in Matrix Reloaded and Gladiator and skippped to a couple of select scenes. The explosion on Trinity's motorcycle in the opening scene was spectacular in terms of the color of the flames and how good the blacks look. The Burly Brawl in "Reloaded" was magnificent in terms of how well the images were processed, blacks, skin tones. The opening battle scene in Gladiator was also spectacular.

I didn't watch either movie all the way through because I am trying to go by the book and not watch anything in widescreen mode with the accompaning black top/bottom borders for an extended period of time during the first few hundred hours to avoid burn in. (Any suggestions on how I can still enjoy widescreen movies and avoid burn in risk in the early going?)

I picked the above two movies and specific scenes because of how dark they are. Again, I can't imagine asking or hoping for more in terms of black levels. I know the reviewer from Audio Revolution thought CRT based sets could produce a better black than the XR4, but boy is that getting pretty picky, IMO.

The new Bay Area rollout date for the Comcast DVR box with DVI out is now Dec. 9th, so my next report may not be until then when I will be able to hook the NEC up to HD/SD via DVI. I will also watch more HD and SD over the next few days and report on anything I notice.

Overall so far I'm feeling very pleased with this choice, especially given the fabulous price you can get it for online.
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post #17 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by HD_Moose
Agreed. And the iScan HD or HD+ just so happens to have this function.
Is there a description somewhere, in layperson's terms, of the user benefits of an iScan? Thanks.
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post #18 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 03:57 PM
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I have the new Comcast 6412 box and I first hooked it up with component. I just a DVI cable and now have the NEC setup on DVI. HD looks great on both inputs. Will try an A/B test over the weekend.
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post #19 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 05:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ghileman
I didn't watch either movie all the way through because I am trying to go by the book and not watch anything in widescreen mode with the accompaning black top/bottom borders for an extended period of time during the first few hundred hours to avoid burn in. (Any suggestions on how I can still enjoy widescreen movies and avoid burn in risk in the early going?)
ghileman,

I believe the there is a function on the XR4/XM4 to enlarge 2.35:1 materials to fit the 1.85:1 (ie 16x9) 50" screen. Even in high-def. I don't know how much PQ degradation that will present but check it out and let us know? Thanks.
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post #20 of 176 Old 12-02-2004, 05:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ghileman
Is there a description somewhere, in layperson's terms, of the user benefits of an iScan? Thanks.
I don't think I can explain it better than DVDO's site:

"The iScan(TM) HD is a high-resolution video scaling processor & hub that converts standard-definition video content from your DVD player, VCR, PVR, digital satellite receiver, or game console to any output resolution between 480p and 1080p, including popular HDTV resolutions such as 720p and 1080i. Will also pass a PC signal straight through to your TV."

I will add -in laymens speak- that in the iScan will act as a high end audio and video switcher with the ability to also tweak audio timing just in case the video does not match the audio.

Pretty good unit from what I've read.
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post #21 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 08:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by HD_Moose
I don't think I can explain it better than DVDO's site:

"The iScan(TM) HD is a high-resolution video scaling processor & hub that converts standard-definition video content from your DVD player, VCR, PVR, digital satellite receiver, or game console
Does it not work for cable?
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post #22 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 10:33 AM
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From the specs no, at least it does not accept the coax "F" connector straight from the cable line.

However, if you have a cable box --which you do-- then you can feed the video out from your cable box (whether it be composite, s-vid, component, DVI) to the iScan to have it upscaled to the plasma.
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post #23 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Interesting. I have to swing by Magnolia Audio & Video later today. I wonder if it might be possible to borrow a DVDO with the option of returning it to see what type of performance improvement it would provide.
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post #24 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Very big difference between Discovery's extraordinary HD programming and say Jeopardy on NBC.
I would hope so, since Jeopardy is not shown in HD! Not everything on a network HD channel is in HD. Usually the only shows in true HD are prime time comedies and dramas. Other shows are just standard definition television upconverted to 1080i or 720p (depending on the network), but they do not originate as HD and as such are not HD programs.

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post #25 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 12:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by ghileman
Interesting. I have to swing by Magnolia Audio & Video later today. I wonder if it might be possible to borrow a DVDO with the option of returning it to see what type of performance improvement it would provide.
I didn't know Magnolia carried the iScan? Interesting. If they won't let you demo it, you can always use DVDO's "30 day, no quibble, money back quarantee" as leverage.
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post #26 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 01:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tip on the return guarantee.

According to DVDO's website the Magnolia in my area (Colma, near San Francisco) carries it.

I realize this thread has been severely hijacked (by myself I might add) by discussion of external processors, but can anyone comment on what I can expect in terms of PQ improvement when converting Standard Definition digital cable with the iScan?

Thanks.
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post #27 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 01:48 PM
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In theory you should get a cleaner, smoother picture.

Will this actually happen?? Only way to know is to try it.
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post #28 of 176 Old 12-03-2004, 02:09 PM
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This is from DVDOs FAQ-


17. Will the iScan HD improve the picture quality of standard definition channels from my satellite system (DSS)?

Picture improvement of standard definition satellite channels is often very subjective, and depends to a great deal on exactly which aspects of the image are objectionable.

If you have a standard definition satellite feed which is loaded with compression artifacts or is blurry because of bandwidth limitations, then the iScan HD (or most other video processors, for that matter) may not bring much improvement to the picture.

However, the iScan HD may react better to this type of problem than your display would, but that very much depends on the specific display you use. If your source is reasonably clean, then the iScan HD should do a good job of making it look good on the big screen.

If your complaints are in regards to the display's deinterlacing or scaling capabilities, then the iScan HD should be a noticeable improvement.


Most of us have determined that you will only gain about a 3-5% improvement in picture quality with a external scaler. This is something to consider when spending $1000+ hoping for a dramatic improvement that may not happen.

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post #29 of 176 Old 12-07-2004, 07:38 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm back.

I succesfully mounted the sucker on the wall with a Peerless Smart mount. Mounting was, all things considered, a relatively pain free operation except for two issues.

One was the recommended size of the bit to use to drill the pilot hole in the stud was too small. I couldn't get the wood screws to go all the way flush against the Peerless wall pieces. After upgrading to one drill bit size larger I had no problems. Another buddy of mine who installed a Peerless mount himself had the same issue.

Second, I was able to install one of the tiny locking screws, the final step, no problem but not the other one. I plan to call Peerless about this tomorrow.

As for the picture after a week of viewing? Stunning! I've been primarily watching HD content and every night has been a "wow" night as I continue to be absolutely amazed at how real and vibrant the picture is. I mean I find myself sitting here and spontaneously uttering "unfrigginbelievable!" I was watching some HD tennis last night that just blew me away! Perfect PQ.

As to the fuzziness that I reported earlier, I am fairly convinced that that is a feed issue and not something related to the NEC. Monday Night Football last night was also incredible! A perfect picture with no fuzzinesss. Other sporting events (the tennis I mentioned, rugby) were also coming in beautifully. Even the next NBA game I watched seemed to look better than the one I saw the first night.

Also, and I have a hard time believing this as I've only had the tv on a total of maybe 10-15 hours, it seems the PQ has already improved in that time. This also could be due to the fact that it's a good 2-3 feet further away (total distance of 10 feet now) than it was when I made my original report. Another non-PQ contributing factor could be that I now have it fully out of the box and on the wall. But even when I'm close to it the PQ seems to have sharpened more since I first turned it on. Exciting that others report that things only continue to get better after the first 100 hours.

I recognize that it's going to be another year before HD DVD/Blue Ray becomes available and SD feeds will certainly leave me longing, but I am extremely happy with this purchase so far and with the fun to be had ahead.

Next up: I'm now in the process of installing 5 KEF KHT 9000 Ace's to go with a KEF PSW 3000 Sub woofer to complete the Home Theatre setup. This is going to take some time so bear with me on the next installment.
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post #30 of 176 Old 12-07-2004, 11:00 PM
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ghileman and JCJ,

Some things are bothering me and I was wondering if you could check on your XR4 units for the same issues.

1. I don't see a clock "odometer" for the NEC set. Is there a way to access a service menu to see the panel's hours?

2. Can you look at the end of the operations manual? It only notates the limited warranty information being only 1 year. Did yours have extra paperwor concerning the 3 year parts/labor + 1 year PDP warranty info? If this is a consumer product, why are there no warranty registration paperwork or instructions?

3. Looking at the unit, there is a white sticker on the right side (behind the below the plastic handle) with the Serial No. While the labels on the rear of the panel clearly state that it's made in Japan, there is no manufacture date. This seems odd to me -- does yours show the same?

4. The "phosphor burn" flyer noted the display life/half life is 30,000 hrs. using factory default settings.

I know NEC advertises the 3yr warranty and the new 60K life, but it would have been nice of them to update their customer product literature.
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