In early December I joined this forum to assist me with the purchase of a 42" plasma EDTV. I started a thread comparing the NEC, LG and Panasonic and, through much research and a lot of plasma viewing, as well as with the assistance of the comments of many on this site, purchased the NEC VR5 42" just prior to Christmas. Key to my decision to buy the NEC over others was my feeling (based on repeated viewing of the 3 sets noted as well as Sony and Pioneer) that it produced a very realistic three dimensional picture and represents good value amongst the various EDTV offerings available at this time.
Since then I have been working with the plasma to get the best possible picture for DVD playback as well as TV. In doing so I have gone back to this site a few times to ferret out what others have done to set up their NEC's 42"s and it became apparent that there are actually a reasonable number of owners out there. It also seems to me, judging by the number of times various threads dealing with NEC's have been viewed, that there is a fair amount of interest in the NEC products.
Therefore, I thought it might make sense to try to create a single source - a one stop shop if you will - devoted to the NEC 42" EDTV's. The reason for not including the high definition "X" series is that I believe that the HD 42" sets will have much more in common with the 50" HD versions than with the ED's. It also will save us all the debate over which is better - ED or HD - in the 42" size. But please correct me if I'm wrong here.
Purpose of this resource thread is two-fold:
1) Provide a forum for current NEC 42" owners to exchange information re: settings, configuration tips, associated equipment that mates synergistically with the unit (ie. DVD players, set top boxes), source material (esp. DVD's) that highlight the strengths/weaknesses of the unit, etc.
2) Provide an information source for those interested in the NEC ED models looking to find out more about them.
I believe that using DVD's as source material will provide the best opportunity to help all of us as the software is readily available and it will be easy for others to replicate/compare/contrast each of our findings at our respective home or in sales outlets. Additionally, EDTV's and DVD's share the same basic resolution and therefore DVD's should provide arguably the best possible picture. Knowing that each of our experiences will be anecdotal and subjective, going this route will at least provide others with a chance to try to see the same things that we're each seeing.
This is not to exclude references to SD or HD TV watching and how it does/does not look good on the NEC. The key is that there are many variables in the methods of delivery (cable, satellite, over the air) for television and that, coupled with the transitory nature of the medium (ie. shows are only on at certain times and in certain markets) means that it will be difficult for anyone else to replicate what any of us sees. Don't misunderstand me here - I'm highly interested in others' experiences with SD TV feeds. However, it seems to me that that information will be more general in nature due to the variables specific to each person's home/each sales outlet.
So having said that perhaps its clearer to say that in the best of all worlds contributors could perhaps relate their findings separately to TV and to DVD reproduction.
I hope that this thread will evolve over the coming weeks/months as interested parties contribute tips, tricks and general knowledge - all designed to obtain the best possible picture out of the NEC.
Having said that, here are a few notes so far:
BACKGROUND - VIEWING ENVIRONMENT:
Plasma: NEC VR5 42"
Set-up: Stand mounted. I chose to go with a stand as I wanted to pull the unit away from the wall in order that it might "float" in space in the dimness at night - which is how I do the bulk of my viewing .
Key measurements/TV: The front of the screen is 15" from the rear wall currently - I may move it closer to the wall. The plasma sits on a Sanus frosted glass/steel frame stand. The stand is 22.25" tall, and the top of the plasma 48.75" inches off the floor (47.25" inches to the top of the actual screen - the remaining 1.5" is the silver bezel).
Distances for viewing: Seated in a couch more or less centred on the TV my eyeball to screen distance is 9' and my seated height is 44". So I'm looking slightly down into the centre of the screen (it feels like I'm looking straight ahead level with the centre of the image).
Room/Environment: The room is dedicated to HT and measures 12' deep x 11.5' wide. The plasma is on the 11.5' wide wall. Walls are neutral taupe colour.
I thought to provide the above in order that my comments that will follow re: resolution, colour, etc. can be put into context.
Following are the DVD's I have used most frequently to test my set-up the last few weeks:
1. DVE - all chapters but especially for picture resolution and colour fidelity section 1 chapter 5 "Nasa Montage", section 7 chapters 1 - 12 re: video calibration, and basically all of sections 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and the audio/video demo's in section 17
2. Seabiscuit - various chapters for colour fidelity, and especially for skin tones
3. Master and Commander - Scene 3, fog scenes for false contouring
4. XXX - resolution of detail in walls (scene 10 "Milan Sova" and 11 "Anarchy 99") and depth of field/detail for interior (scene 16 "lunch with a secret agent)
There are many others but I have tried to cut this down to a few readily available discs that are good tools. Please suggest others.
DVD PROCESSOR VS. NEC PROCESSOR (COMPONENT VS. INTERLACED)
I did some tests to ascertain which is the best of the above options. My DVD player is a Pioneer DV 37A which, unfortunately is not equipped with a DVI or HDMI output. So the signal was carried by 2m of Monster Video 3 component cable into the NEC component ins.
I a/b'd back and forth, pausing the test tracks and then switching from 480p component (Pio processor) to outputting an interlaced 480i signal and letting the NEC processor do the work. On the movie scenes above I was hard pressed, try as I might, to see any difference. However, when I used DVE two things became apparent:
1) Section 13 chapter 7 (Pb and Pr
Sweep) - on the coloured bars on the right side of the screen the last 10% or so became indistinct and fuzzy when I output interlaced.
2) Section 15 and 16, video test signals, I saw small bits of noise in some of the smaller "boxes" and on the central moving pattern when outputting interlaced.
Conclusion - Either the DVD player or cable is imposing an error on the signal or the Pioneer is doing a better job of processing the signal in component. At any rate, I have stuck with component output since (except for the following test).
COMPONENT CABLE VS. S VIDEO CABLE
I tried the same test as above, this time using an "UltraLink" S video cable, also 2 m and outputting 480i. In this case the picture appeared more bright but also more "etched" when watching movies. On the 2 DVE sections noted above, section 13/7 was much worse, with fully the right half of the screen showing basically mush, and the video test signals exhibing increased noise.
On the basis of these 2 tests I have stuck with component output from the Pioneer at 480p.
I know that NEC doesn't publish its contrast settings but have to say that I have never had an issue with the contrast, either in dim light or daylight. Compared side by side with the Panasonic and LG (4000:1 and 5000:1 respectively) the NEC held its own with respect to contrast.
1. Has anyone tried to a/b a signal output from a DVI or HDMI DVD player into the NEC's DVI input? Has this been tested at 480p as well as at 720p and 1080i (assuming that the player will do so - ie. the Panasonic S97S). Any comments re; PQ comparisons? I'm interested to know if there is a substantial PQ upgrade by going with the DVI input and foregoing the digital/analogue/digital conversion when using component.
2. What experiences have others had with sending the NEC a 480i signal?
3. What DVD players have you found to work well with the NEC (ie. synergistic mates) and why? I'm not sure that the Pioneer DV 37A cannot be replaced with a better/newer model (its about 4 years old).
I must also apologize for one thing. This was going to be a much longer post, describing settings etc. but I have run out of time. Hopefully this will "prime the pump" though and others will contribute their experiences with the various inputs, settings, equipment and configurations for the NEC 42" models.
I will add more in the future. Sorry to cut and run!