My next trip I went to Nashua, NH and checked out Circuit City and Best Buy, and also went to BJ's and Costco to see what they carry in case I need to go there for a deal. At Best Buy they had a nice display with two Sammy 4253 plasmas side by side, one with an SD signal, one with a HD signal. This was during the Pats game, so I got a good sense of how nice the display looked, and a chance to see SD programming.
I was starting to get concerned that SD programming would be much worse on my new big screen, HD tv than it ever was on the 28" crt we have now. It certainly wasn't as nice as the HD signal, but it was pretty good.
I was really impressed by the picture on the plasma, and didn't see any of the reduced detail I was expecting between the 1024x768 plasma and higher def (well, 1366x768) LCD's. I understand that the vertical resolution is probably most important, but I really expected there to be a visible difference with 30% less pixels in the horizontal direction.
I had read a lot about the Panny TH-42PX60U, and was keeping an eye on comparing it with the Sammy 4253 plasma. My first trip, I had seen them side by side, and just thought the Sammy had a nicer picture (and I liked the case better as well). It sounds like a number of people have the opinion that the Samsung has a better picture out of the box, but the Panny has a better picture once it's adjusted and calibrated. One criticism I'd heard was that the picture on the Samsung 4253 had more noise. Watching the Pats game, I could see some noise, but only once in a while...like when they flash a graphic on the screen as the switch to a replay.
I think that's one of the hardest things...picking up what some of these subjective things mean in real life. Something like the noise...I noticed it only a couple of times in the broadcast, and I only noticed it to recognize what it was. I am not a videophile, and I think I could pretty easily ignore that if I wanted. I think the Panny and the Samsung are both really nice plasmas, and I'd be happy with either one, even though they probably each have strengths and weaknesses against each other. The flip side of that is figuring out how much you'd give up to go with a cheaper option (vizio, wesinghouse, etc...)