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Help grade my plasma buying guide  

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Thread Starter 
I’ve been an AVS member now for about nine months – and I’m about six months away from my first HDTV purchase. Several friends and relatives found out that I was exploring my first HDTV purchase – and wanted my advice on what to buy. I decided to try to put together a guide that might help them thru the process. Now before I send it their way I’m looking for some input to help me get rid of all the errors and misconceptions I’ve assembled over the past four months.
I know it’s a little wordy – but I’ll work on brevity later. I’ll probably be revising this document if any feedback is received you might want to check the draft and date shown a couple of lines below – if you come back to this thread.

Any comments, corrections, or suggestions appreciated!

Welcome to Plasma/LCD TV Buying Guide 101 - 6th Draft 9/9/04

Don’t kid yourself into believing that anyone’s guide will always lead you to the perfect TV. Even this guide, created as a result of access for the last eight months to many knowledgeable owners at the AVS Plasma/LCD TV forum, is not a purchaser’s nirvana. Hopefully because of this access – it will at least introduce you to all of the main issues and considerations you should research before you purchase. This guide is not for the faint-of-heart. It is intended for those individuals who thoroughly relish the video experience, and want it to be as enjoyable as is reasonably possible.

The bottom line is that everyone’s value equation is different - but hopefully this guide will provide you with enough information so you can determine what items should make it into your equation. How much weight you give each factor is what makes you – you. Our best suggestion is that your eyes should make the final decision. Get out and see the TV you want to purchase – and when we say see – we mean view it under different lighting conditions – different signal inputs including signals at different resolutions.

Well let’s get started on your journey.

Introduction
----------------------

In the old days purchasing a TV was fairly simple. There was/is an NTSC standard in the USA that specified the make up of a broadcasted TV signal. Most TV’s just had to be capable of receiving and displaying a 480i signal (discussion of signals will be covered more elaborately later in this document).
TV’s consisted of a picture tube, speaker, and a tuner in some sort of cabinet. This picture tube was and is referred to as a CRT (cathode ray tube), and yes Virginia they still sell these types of TV’s, but the largest is about a 40†diagonal, but the weight and dimensions of this beast are enormous.

The purchase decision back then was:
• determine how large a screen
• which brands to consider (choose the one with the best picture?)
• what price can you afford and
• what kind of cabinetry won’t clash with your home’s décor


You will be happy to know that - today - all of those considerations are still valid – unfortunately due to the advent of digital TV, and new types of TV’s and the introduction of HDTV (high-definition TV) you will see a number of other factors should be in your value equation.

Now this guide really is only intended to cover Plasma/LCD TV’s. Before you get to this point in your decision you will have to negotiate the TV jungle, and have ruled out CRT’s (Cathode Ray Tubes - the tube type that has been with us since TV was invented), front projectors (FP) (including CRT, LCD, DLP, LCoS, SXRD (Sony’s version of LCos)), rear projection sets (RP) (including CRT, LCD, DLP, LCoS, SXRD). To get to this point you might have run across this document: Selecting a High Definition Display , if not I believe it to be a good cross TV type comparison (although you should know that it was developed by a very dedicated RP DLP advocate – so there is bias in that direction)

So if you’ve made it this far and have already ruled out at least 10+ other types of TV’s – that’s already a major accomplishment. You made it here probably because you feel that to display the best image on a large screen TV yet not consume a considerable amount of real estate in your home - Plasma/LCD is the technology of choice. Yes you realize it’s a little more expensive – but its attributes are worth the price.

OK maybe you haven’t spent time ruling out those other TV’s - you just think that a Plasma or LCD is the sexiest – most modern looking TV you’ve ever seen and you’ve just got to have one. But being a wise purchaser, you should explore this technology and the AVS site first to get some additional background
Plasma TV Science
Another great resource is the FAQ area at the AVS Plasma/LCD Forum so go here:
AVS Plasma/LCD Forum FAQ
or to get a decent overview of both technologies try here
Crutchfield Advisor

– then come back here cause it’s time to get your hands dirty – the journey is no where near done.

Before we get started and begin to delve into the intricacies of buying plasma or flat screen LCD TV you will need a new vocabulary or at least some way to make it through some common definitions and acronyms that the used and abused in the industry. Hopefully the Quick Glossary (Appendix A) near the end of this document will give just enough information to get by.

Plasma/LCD Buyers Guide - Executive Summary (Scroll for more detail)

A 13 Step Guide to Purchasing a Plasma/LCD TV
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Decide between HDTV (16:9), EDTV (16:9), or SDTV (4:3 picture format)
Below 50†and budget constricted - go with a 42†EDTV – you’ll be happy, otherwise go HDTV. Only consider SDTV for bathrooms or the kitchen.
2. Decide on the Size Desired
Most plasma/LCD’s are 3 to 5 inches deep. For 16:9 format TV’s the width is 87% of diagonal measurement, and the height about 50% of the diagonal measurement. These estimates ignore unusually large bevels and or speakers.
3. Decide on the Screen’s Native Resolution
The best advice is to purchase a plasma/LCD TV whose native resolution closely matches the resolution of the incoming signal you’re likely to be watching. Easy to say - much harder to do.
4. Determine all of your existing and future inputs
Survey your existing and expected equipment that produces or transfers a television signal to your potential TV. Before you purchase determine whether or not your TV will be able to accept and display a picture from these sources.
5. Determine what are your tuner requirements
Choices are typically some combination of NTSC tuner, ATSC tuner, cable and/or satellite tuner. Can your TV easily accept inputs from all these options.
6. Determine your budget
SDTV – very low about $500 - $2000, recommended for special applications only i.e. bathrooms and kitchens
EDTV – generally in the neighborhood of $1500 - $4000
HDTV – typically $3500 up to $30,000 depending on the size.
7. Are there some aesthetic requirements
Cabinetry is minimalistic - biggest factors might be color of bezel (frame), and whether the unit has speakers.
8. Nuances of the HDTV purchase
Give consideration to:
• The glass (a plasma/LCD’s heart – who makes it - what generation is it)
• Contrast Ratio (higher is generally better – but it’s hard to compare)
• How Black are the sets Blacks
• Video Processor (each brand is unique – are you ready to research)
• Brightness (this porridge is just right – optimum level is situation dependent and depends viewer preferences)
• Color (more bits, better color - is that simple enough, but there’s much more to this story - I wish I knew where to find a good resource)
• 2:3 pulldown and 3:3 pulldown (kind of important to have for movie watching)
• Inputs (check availability and unless you’re a rebel consider HDCP)
• Special Effects (it’s nice to have some bells and whistles)
• Calibration (your neighbors will be impressed by your geekiness if you consider this highly)
• Warranty (generally 1 to 3 years, but only from authorized dealers – make sure your dealer is authorized)
• Connection to a computer (if your so inclined, some are better than others)
• The Remote (move on nothing major here, unless your short of money)
• Speakers (a movie experience will never be the same once you factor in better sound)
• Response Time (LCD specific – lower is better, 16 ms is fairly good)
9. Decide on whether you want an LCD or Plasma flat screen TV
Up until about a year ago - this was a fairly easy decision. Plasma was a clear cut winner. It’s not so easy today, although plasma probably still has the most accurate picture (that is closest to a CRT). Each technology has certain strengths and weaknesses. Section 8 covered some of these. Look here for more considerations.
10. Explore the brands
And the list just keeps growing – suggest you start here: AVS Plasma/LCD TV Brand Index
11. View your set before the purchase
In today’s world of digital TV, it’s important to view your plasma/LCD TV at different resolutions, different lighting ambient lighting conditions and possibly with your favorite DVD’s especially those shot in low lighting conditions.
12. Determine where to purchase
Brick & mortar (B&M), specialty retailers, on-line purchases are you choices. Lowest cost, best selection is typically on-line, specialty retailers cover all the remaining bases, B&M retailers are generally average across the factors.
No matter what you choose just make sure it’s authorized.
13. After the purchase considerations
Insurance, Calibration, Cleaning, Installation and Professionally Hiding of Cables, Surge Protection, Mounting Height, Bias Lighting, Seating

Appendices
- Appendix A - Quick Glossary
- Appendix B – Plasma/LCD TV, Digital, and HDTV Myths
- Appendix C - Video Processors
- Appendix D - Signal Bandwidth

Plasma/LCD TV Buying Guide 101 - The Details

1. Decide between HDTV (16:9), EDTV (16:9), or SDTV(4:3 picture format)
First a little background
-----------------------------------
Standard Definition TV (SDTV - the one that’s been around since television’s inception is a 4:3 format (the ratio of widh to height is 4 units wide for every 3 units high) – thus it is not a widescreen format. It also uses an interlaced transmission. Interlaced signals deliver a picture using two frames - each frame is made up of alternate horizontal lines of the screens surface (think of interlapping your fingers to demonstrate this effect. The shorthand they use for describing interlacing is by placing a little “i†after the number of lines from top to bottom that is being displayed. Since TV’s inception this has been 480i. And yes TV’s in this format are still being sold. Additionally 4:3 is a fairly common format for computer monitors - especially LCD monitors - that in many cases are being sold or simply adapted by the manufacturer’s to be sold as TV’s.

Progressive signals “paint†the entire picture in a single frame. Progressive signals are possible under HDTV (although 1080i has also been adopted by some broadcasters), and progressive signals are also available from progressive DVD players that are set up to output 480p.

HDTV and EDTV specify a 16:9 aspect ratio (the ratio of width to height is 16 units wide for every 9 units high). This format is important for two reasons. First it comes very close to the ratio that movie directors record motion pictures. Thus if you want to see a film as it was intended it’s nice to have a TV with this format. Secondly it will now match the up and coming format for broadcast “free†TV. You will learn more about this later in this document, but broadcasters are already broadcasting in this format in most of the populated USA, and all you need to receive these signals is an antenna and an ATSC tuner. Most HDTV, EDTV sets are able to process and display a variety of different resolution signals (i.e. 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i). Although it should be noted that even though it can display an image - it is not necessarily displaying it in full resolution. You should understand that all flat panel displays have a native resolution and this is the maximum number of pixels that it is capable of displaying. You will see that there is a table showing some of these native resolutions available in the market place. They are shown as (number of horizontal pixels x number of vertical pixels) (i.e. 1365x768). Signals will be processed by the TV’s circuitry to utilize this maximum. Sometimes the circuitry will stretch, sample, and ultimately ‘scale†the signal before displaying it - or it may even possibly show black bars on the tops or the sides of the picture.
When you are shopping you should view your set under different resolutions and determine what the TV can do with each resolution.

It is important to know that broadcasters currently seldom deliver signals at full resolution. The numbers in brackets below represent the corresponding pixel structure ratio that would match these horizontal lines

Current Signal Resolutions that come into play:
------------------------------------------------------------------
480i - 480 horizontal line – interlaced (640x480) – representing standard TV

480p - 480 horizontal lines – progressive – (853x480)
DVD players with progressive capability will output at this level although the resolution of the information bits on the disk are (720x480)– FOX TV broadcasted at this resolution for a fairly long time after the other networks converted to something higher (Fox has now moved to 720p)

720p - 720 horizontal lines – progressive (1280x720) ABC, and ESPN’s broadcast at this resolution, FOX is expected to move to this format

1080i - 1080 horizontal lines – interlaced (1920x1080) CBS and NBC have chosen to broadcast at this resolution.

Now let’s look at TV’s available in the marketplace.

Common plasma/LCD screen native resolutions for the diagonal inches shown
(P – Plasma, L – LCD)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1:1 (1.00) Aspect Ratio TV’s ALIS (refer to Quick Glossary)
42†(1024x1024P)

4:3 (1.33)Aspect Ratio TV’s
13†(640x480L)
15†(640x480L), (1024x768L)
17†(640x480L),
20†(640x480L),
21†(1024x768L)

15:9 (1.66) Aspect Ratio TV’s (have no idea why they make these?????)
17†(1280x768L)
23†(1280x768L)
26†(1280x768L)
30†(1280x768L)
32†(1280x768L/P)
60†(1280x768P)

16:9 (1.78) Aspect Ratio TV’s
20†(1280x720L)
22†(854x480L), (1280x720L)
32†(852x1024P)
37†(1366x768L)
40†(1280x768P)
42†(852x480P), (1366x768L)
45†(1920x1080L)
46†(1920x1080L)
50†(1280x720P), (1366x768P)
55†(1366x768P)
61†(1365x768P)
63†(1366x768P)

Back to the subject
----------------------------
Now getting back to subject at hand. One of your first decisions will be whether you want a HDTV, an EDTV, or an SDTV with a 4:3 picture format.

My general recommendation would be to avoid 4:3 format TV’s. These will ultimately be phased out as high definition TV becomes more prevalent. And as of Jan 04 - HDTV is very common in major population regions of the country.

However there are certain situations where you might purchase a 4:3 unit. Some people are putting them in kitchens or bathrooms, because of tighter size restrictions. However it just doesn’t seem prudent to purchase a TV with this format for your main TV viewing – you simply just lose too much of the picture, and it is a very poor match to the format movie makers choose, when making movies, as well as broadcast HDTV which is very prevalent across the USA.
It should be noted that the 4:3 format is widespread for LCD monitors and some LCD TV’s, and if you are purchasing a unit that will be used for both TV viewing and as a computer display this may be the way to go. Computer video cards feeding this display are likely to output in a 4:3 format. Plasma although connectible to computers may not be the best choice for extended computer usage due to the burn-in factor – see appendix B.

This leaves EDTV and HDTV. Both have 16:9 aspect ratios.

HDTV (high definition television) generally is considered to be any television that can support at least 720 horizontal lines. An HDTV will be in 16:9 format meaning that the ratio of horizontal to vertical lines is 16 wide by 9 high. It should also have circuitry to accept a high definition signal. HDTV’s will have a DVI, HDMI, or “wideband†component inputs on the TV. If it doesn’t meet these three requirements it is not an HDTV. It does help that the manufacturers are supposed to mark all TV’s that meet these three criteria with the designation at logo that states it “HDTVâ€.
A designation of “HDTV ready†also meets these requirements – but the unit will not have an ATSC tuner built into the unit.
With the exception noted in the following paragraph this is our recommendation – if you are looking for a new TV we believe it is a wise choice to purchase a HDTV.

EDTV is a TV that has a resolution of 853x480 pixels (409k pixels). Compared to HDTV which is either 1280x720 (922k pixels) or 1920x1080 (2 million pixels). Even so an EDTV has some significant advantages.
• It is a very economical choice for many viewers, and will generally cost half as much as an HDTV for a comparable size.
• It matches standard TV in horizontal lines – so it will display a standard signal quite well.
• It also matches incoming 480p signals which makes it an optimum choice for progressive DVD players.
• It will also accept and display high def signals, although the TV will not be displaying all of the available pixels that are embedded in the signal at high def resolutions.

It is much easier for a TV’s circuitry to down res the signal than going in the reverse direction – so the high def picture will be as just as good as a progressive DVD. For 42†or smaller displays this may be the best option for many persons. Above 42†inches it is probably always better to purchase an HDTV.

Now even though we generally have recommended you purchase an HDTV if your plasma’s size will be 50†or greater your quandary is not over. Did you notice that the resolutions of the high def TV’s shown above do not match the resolutions of the broadcasters also shown above. Is this important –you bet it is, and in section 3 we will get back to this in much more detail, but first let’s cover how to pick your TV’s diagonal size.


2. Decide on the Size Desired
Most plasma/LCD flat panel displays are around 3 to 5 inches deep, and thus capable of hanging on a wall. The more important dimensions for choosing a plasma will be the diagonal inches that meet your viewing requirements and or your available space.

Here is a little table that provides you with the approximate minimum dimensions of a plasma/LCD TV. The term minimum is used is because each brand of a plasma/LCD TV’s dimensions will be unique, mostly because of the size of the bezel (frame around the glass), and whether the manufacturer has chosen to include speakers typically at each side of the glass.
The dimensions below assume no speakers and about 2†bezel around the entire glass. If you just want to determine the height and width of the glass area for a 16:9 format TV’s the width is 87% of diagonal measurement, and the height about 50% of the diagonal measurement.
Code:

For Plasma/LCD TV’s HDTV, and EDTV (both with 16:9 aspect ratios) 

Diagonal Width Height Min Viewing   Picture  Norm.  Norm
Inches   (in.) (in.)  Distance(ft.) (sqin.)  at 42†at 50â€
-------- ----- ------ ------------- -------  -----  -------
30        26     15                    384   0.51    0.36
32        31     19                    437   0.58    0.41
37        35     21                    585   0.78    0.55
42        41     25    ED – 7’+        754   1.00    0.71
                       HD – 5’+
50        47     29    HD - 7.5’      1068   1.41    1.00
55        48     27                   1293   1.71    1.21
61        56     33    HD - 9’        1590   2.11    1.49
63        62     36                   1696   2.25    1.59
65                                    1805   2.39    1.69
71        65     38                   2153   2.85    2.02
80        75     44                   2734   3.62    2.56

For SDTV (4:3 aspect ratio -  this is for LCD TV’s only*)
Diagonal Width Height Min Viewing   Picture  Normalized 
Inches   (in.) (in.)  Distance(ft.) (sqin.)  at 22â€
-------- ----- ------ ------------- -------  ----------
15        14     11                    108   0.46
17        16     12    Not really      138   0.60
22        20     15    a factor        232   1.00
26        23     18    due to tight    324   1.40
30        26     20    pixel packing   432   1.86
45        38     29                    971   4.18

* you may find a really old plasma set in this format
  but I believe current plasmas are all wide screen

Minimum viewing distance is the approximate distance that the screen door effect (SDE), where you can see the criss-crossed pixel structure of the plasma, (i.e. – like looking at the TV thru a screen) is no longer visible for most people.

The normalized column provides a proportional size difference between the units (i.e a 50†panel is 41% greater in size than a 42†model and a 61†model would be 111% greater than a 42†or more than twice as large.

Some other persons have recommended the following optimum viewing distances. Rough seating to plasma screen distance recommendations are as follows: 32-37" screens may be viewed from 6 to 10 feet. A 42" plasma display from 10-14 feet. A 50" plasma display will look best from 12-16 feet. You should have at least 15 feet to work with when installing a 61-inch or 63-inch plasma screen. Something tells me if you’re the first to purchase an 80†plasma viewing might be best from your neighbors backyard.

As for LCD monitors (displays), and LCD TV’s they have a much higher pixel density - that is why they make great computer monitors. Although some people claim they can see their pixel structure, on my computer monitor I sit two feet away, and have never been troubled by a screen door effect. I don’t believe this is an issue with LCD TV’s.

This is a very good website that evaluates distance for viewing based on being immersed rather than having you eye jump like a rabbit to and fro about the screen or have the opposite effect of being distracted by the surroundings because the image is too small. Do you want to be immersed in the images then review the following table. You will find that being immersed takes some pretty large screen sizes (just review the column Rec THX). Go to their site to learn more. It uses some of the standards from the motion picture industry. Check it out!

But to save you some time here are some results for different screen sizes:
Code:
Note all numbers are distances measured in feet except diagonal 

Diagonal    Max       Max      Rec     Max VA   Max VA
(inches)  SMPTE(30°) THX(26°)  THX(36°)  NTSC     HDTV
--------  -------    -----    -------  ------  -------
30          4.1        4.7      3.4     10.5     3.9
37          5.0        5.8      4.1     12.9     4.8
42          5.7        6.6      4.7     14.6     5.5
45          6.1        7.1      5.0     15.7     5.9
46          6.2        7.2      5.1     16.0     6.0
50          6.8        7.9      5.6     17.4     6.5
55          7.5        8.7      6.1     19.2     7.2
61          8.3        9.6      6.8     21.3     8.0
63          8.5        9.9      7.0     22.0     8.2
71          9.6       11.2      7.9     24.8     9.3


-Maximum SMPTE recommended viewing distance: SMPTE 
standard EG-18-1994 recommends a minimum viewing angle 
of 30 degrees for movie theaters.  This seems to be
becoming a de facto standard for front projection 
home theaters also.  Viewing from this distance or 
closer will result in a more immersive experience, and
also lessen eye strain caused by watching a smaller
image in a dark room.

-Maximum and Recommended THX viewing distances: THX 
also publishes standards for movie theaters to adhere 
to for THX certification.  THX requires that the back
row of seats in a theater have at least a 26 degree
viewing angle and recommends a 36 degree viewing
angle. 

-Viewing Distances based on Visual Acuity:  These 
distances are calculated based on the resolving power
of the human eye (reference) or visual acuity.  The human eye
with 20/20 vision can detect or resolve details as
small as 1/60th of a degree of arc.  These distances
represent the point beyond which some of the detail
in the picture is no longer able to be resolved and
“blends" with adjacent detail.
If I were to leave you with one final thought on this issue. Purchase the largest unit you can afford. I have read a number of posting where persons have lamented - gee I just wish it were bigger, I can’t recall the reverse.
Please also be aware that the diagonal sizes of widescreen (16:9) TV’s will appear significantly smaller to comparable (4:3) sets, because the height of the picture is what makes a TV appear bigger. The heights of widescreen are only about 50% the diagonal inch measurement.


3. Decide on the Screen’s Native Resolution
I imagine there is some technical reason for the pixel resolutions that plasma/LCD manufacturers have been developing. I’m not privy to it – but as a plasma purchaser you will have to be aware of it. This is because all LCD and plasma screen have a native resolution. This means there is a specific number of horizontal by (it’s a matrix) a specific number of vertical pixels. It is typically displayed as 1280x720 which means 1280 vertical pixels by 720 horizontal pixels. This (720) is comparable to the number of lines sometimes specified by the old CRT/s.

CRT’s however generally draw their lines (left to right (that is horizontally)- with an electron beam), but the vertical “lines†which are created by the TV’s shadow mask are typically not specified probably because they are created by a continuous electron beam. However if you dig deep enough you should be able to find how many vertical opening there are in the shadow mask.

Because plasma TV’s have fixed or native resolutions, you will find that the best picture is presented - when the incoming signal’s resolution exactly matches or comes very close to the plasma’s native resolution.

To find out why things aren’t so simple let’s first examine what the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) adopted to implement digital TV. First off there is a new television broadcast standard – so first let’s examine it in a little more detail.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) created a standard that allows broadcasters to choose which of the formats below to broadcast. Which of these are important – some people suggest these: 30 frames-per-second (fps) 1080p mode (for primary television broadcasting), the 24 fps 1080p mode (for broadcasting film content originally shot at 24 fps without artifact-creating conversions), the 60 fps 720p mode (necessary for the possible broadcast of stereoscopic video), and possibly the 30 fps 720p mode as a bridge to ease the transmission of HDTV signals over older cable systems that don’t have enough bandwidth for the full resolution signals.
Code:

                          Frame   High    Broadcasting        Pixels
Resolution Pixels         Rate    Res     at this res       (million)
---------  --------       -----  ----    ---------------    ---------
1080p      1920x1080      30p     Yes                          2.07
           1920x1080      29.97p  Yes                          2.07
           1920x1080      24p     Yes                          2.07
           1920x1080      23.976p Yes                          2.07
1080i      1920x1080      30i     Yes     CBS, NBC, PBS        2.07
           1920x1080      29.97i  Yes                          2.07
 
720p       1280x720       60p     Yes                          0.92
           1280x720       59.94p  Yes                          0.92
           1280x720       30p     Yes     ABC, ESPN            0.92
           1280x720       29.97p  Yes                          0.92
           1280x720       24p     Yes                          0.92
           1280x720       23.976p Yes                          0.92

            704x480       60p                                  0.34
            704x480       59.94p                               0.34
            704x480       30p                                  0.34
            704x480       29.97p                               0.34
            704x480       24p                                  0.34
            704x480       23.976p                              0.34
            704x480       30i                                  0.34
            704x480       29.97i                               0.34

480p        640x480       60p                                  0.31
            640x480       59.94p                               0.31
            640x480       30p             FOX                  0.31
            640x480       29.97p                               0.31
            640x480       24p                                  0.31
            640x480       23.976p                              0.31
480i        640x480       30i                                  0.31
            640x480       29.97i                               0.31

(Note: FOX TV I believe has announced they will be upgrading their equipment
to 720p.)

As you can see the major broadcasters have pretty much settled on 1080i or
720p for their OTA broadcasts– however there is considerable leeway in the
standard. Cable and satellite service providers may opt to choose the lower
resolutions in order to jam more programming into their limited bandwidths.

Keep in mind that although they may broadcast at these resolutions this may
not be the resolutions you receive. Why? Well it depends on how you receive
your signal. Do you get receive your signals OTA (over the air), if so it applies.

If you receive you signals, by cable company, or satellite company they may
be converting these resolutions to one standard or as mentioned above they
may chosen a lower res in order to provide more programming. It would be a
good thing to determine this before you purchase your TV – then we would
suggest that you select the resolution of your TV to match as closely as
possible.

Remember here are some typical resolutions available (P=plasma, L=LCD)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1:1 (1.00) Aspect Ratio TV’s ALIS (refer to Quick Glossary)
42†(1024x1024P)

4:3 (1.33)Aspect Ratio TV’s
13†(640x480L)
15†(640x480L), (1024x768L)
17†(640x480L),
20†(640x480L),
21†(1024x768L)

15:9 (1.66) Aspect Ratio TV’s (have no idea why they make these?????)
17†(1280x768L)
23†(1280x768L)
26†(1280x768L)
30†(1280x768L)
32†(1280x768L/P)
60†(1280x768P)

16:9 (1.78) Aspect Ratio TV’s
20†(1280x720L)
22†(854x480L), (1280x720L)
32†(852x1024P)
37†(1366x768L)
40†(1280x768P)
42†(852x480P), (1366x768L)
45†(1920x1080L)
46†(1920x1080L)
50†(1280x720P), (1366x768P)
55†(1366x768P)
61†(1365x768P)
63†(1366x768P)

Notice that the native resolutions do not match those of the incoming signals discussed above. Slight differences probably will not be noticeable but here are some things you might consider.

Many people will tell you that any TV will down res fairly well – so in effect any TV with 720 lines should display an outstanding high def image.

But if you intend to purchase an HDTV your worries are not over – review these considerations:

- How well does your HDTV display a 480i signal. Note these number of lines don’t convert to 720, 768, 1024, or1080 very well as they are not even close to being even multiple of the choices – thus you are at the mercy of the video processing being done. And as you can imagine every brand has their own circuitry doing this conversion and some are better than others. It is your responsibility to check this out before your purchase because you are going to have to live with it.

- How well does your HDTV display a 480p signal which is the typical output of progressive scan DVD players. Again this is not a multiple of 720 or 1080 lines but you might be able to solve this problem as they relate to DVD’s because there are some brands of DVD players that will take the 720x480 picture detail on the DVD and upscale it to 720 or 1080 lines. You are however then at the mercy of the circuitry of the DVD player. How well do multiple resolution DVD players do this – again it’s your eyes that have to resolve this dilemma.

- Then there is the whole question of high res DVD’s that are on the horizon. Do you want a TV that can display high def in its full glory, or is 480 horizontal lines enough for you.

There is also the question of whether it is worth waiting for TV’s that will support 1080 lines (1920x1080). These will probably first hit the market in late 2004 or early 2005. It is likely that LCD TV’s at this resolution will beat plasma TV’s to the market. As mentioned earlier LCD have higher pixel densities they are likely accomplish this within a 45†diagonal, whereas for a plasma might require as much as 70â€.

Remember the potential problems with HDTV’s displaying lower res signals just discussed. May I also suggest that 1080 line sets may have similar problems with displaying 720p signals, as well as 480 line signals. It’s a little to early to answer this question – but having seen how some HDTV’s do a poor job with 480 line signals – this is definitely one of the things I would verify before purchasing especially since about half the broadcasters have chosen 720p as their signal resolution. Maybe just having more lines at these higher resolutions will mitigate this problem, or maybe they will develop better scalers to go from 720p to 1080?

There is no definite answer to these questions. Many people seeing their first HDTV will say it’s so much better than standard TV that its good enough, and others who have seen a 1080p signal - know that for large screen devices it’s another leap forward. It was to my first viewing of a 1080p set-up that I observed a picture so good that it was like looking out a window. It really boils down to your level of acceptability and whether the incremental value is worth your additional dollars.

Time for the monkey wrench
------------------------------------
OK, you think you’ve got your arms around the subject of matching likely signal resolutions to native screen resolutions. Well it’s time to throw a monkey wrench into your equation. Remember we indicated earlier that cable companies and satellite providers may not be providing full resolution of the best possible signal. In most cases we were talking about them downsizing the horizontal lines (1080 or 720) to fit more channels within their limited bandwidth. Be aware there’s a whole other problem out there - and that is:
Most broadcasters don’t provide the full amount of vertical line signal to reach the specification. Sometime it’s caused by a process called telecining (converting film to a broadcast signal). But just to keep you up a few more nights deliberating what TV purchase beware that a high-def signal (1920x1080) rarely provides a signal with over 1400 discernable vertical lines. I’m a newbie myself in understanding this, but this is another Classic AVS thread that should not go unread before your purchase. It offers a number of other links to help you explore this problem.

It should also be noted that there are electronic devices in the market place designed to improve performance of matching video resolution of the signal to that of the TV. These devices are called video processors. The relatively good video processors appear to start at about $4,000, and high end processors may go for as high as $30,000. I would expect that when 1080 line TV’s become more available, video processors will also fall considerably in price.

To learn more about video processors - you might want to spend some time in this AVS forum:
AVS Video Processing Forum Also see Appendix C in this document.


4. Determine all of your existing and future inputs
It is highly recommended that you perform a survey of all your existing equipment capable of injecting a television signal into your TV. What you will find is that they probably all have different connectors for outputting a TV signal.

Let’s look at some the video sources/connections of what you are likely to find.

Older equipment (VCR’s, Laser Disk Players, old DVD players):
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RF connectors (radio frequency - coaxial cable)
Composite (typically a yellow banded RCA connector)

Mainstream equipment (receivers, DVD players, cable boxes, satellite receivers (including TIVO receivers)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Composite (typically a yellow banded RCA connector)
S-Video (separates the luminance (white level) and chrominance (color information) – typically a small circular computer like connector with 4 pins.
Component – narrow band (a series of 3 RCA type connectors color codes red, green, blue)
RGB connectors (VGA inputs are typically used to connect PCs to plasma screens, the type of cable used is a 15 pin VGA cable which is the same type used to connect regular computer monitors to the video card.)

Modern equipment (high def cable/satellite, high end DVD players, HD TIVO)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Component – wide band (a series of 3 RCA type connectors color codes red, green, blue)
DVI – Digital Video Interface (a large bulky 24 pin? Connector)
HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface (a small 19 pin connector) HDMI also allows for the accompanying sound channels.

DVI connectors come in several different variations. This is a good reference that discusses digital high def type connectors. High-Def Connections

If you own some equipment intended for commercial or industrial equipment, some of the composite, and component inputs might use BNC connectors instead of RCA type connectors. BNC stands for Bayonet Neill Concelman and is named after Amphenol engineer Carl Concelman. The BNC product line is a miniature quick connect/disconnect RF connector. It features two bayonet lugs on the female connector; mating is achieved with only a quarter turn of the coupling nut. They are more reliable than RCA connectors.

Now why did we suggest that you to do this survey – because each TV is likely to have it’s own unique connection alternatives. Most TV’s offer several alternatives right off the bat. Others have plug in “optional†modules to extend their capabilities, and some even offer multiple connectors for each type of connection.
Keep in mind there are switch boxes, and converters on the market if the TV you purchase doesn’t accept the connections of your older equipment – but all this adds to the cost of your solution, and requires another switching device in addition to the TV itself.

As you shop for your particular brand of plasma/LCD TV you should be thinking how am I going to connect my signal sources to it – and of course which connection method provides a better picture. (Hint: The order we’ve listed the connection possibilities above is generally in the same order as yielding better picture quality.)

Firewire
------------------------
The jury is still out on this, but a firewire (IEEE 1394) connection might be a consideration as well. In the future this may become the connector of choice when you want to connect your TV to a digital recorder (DVD or VCR).

Part of the reason this may real important involves HDCP. Because HDMI cables can carry both audio and high definition video, eliminating most of the wires that clutter the back of home theater gear, HDMI could become the de facto way to connect a digital RV, a set-top box, a DVD player, and a Dolby Digital receiver. However HDMI’s robust High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection and uncompressed state of the video signals it was designed to carry make it virtually impossible to record high-def programming if you use those connectors. For that you’ll need to seek out gear that also has firewire (a.k.a IEEE 1394 or i.link connectors)

And don’t forget about sound
--------------------------------------------------
You should also be aware that connections for sound should also be considered. In most cases (other than HDMI where it’s included) this is accomplished through a pair of red/white RCA connectors, used in conjunction with a video connector. I recently learned that Panasonic who includes HDMI inputs on some models also has a pair of red/white RCA connectors along side the HDMI connector– why I asked the AVS’s forum’s Panasonic expert - Glauco BruZZi. Turns out that even though as your digital TV tuner may put out HDMI – if you process this signal through your receiver to achieve surround sound – your receiver might not have these HDMI connectors (as receivers with HDMI are just hitting the market) thus in these early days of connector changes you might find yourself caught with old equipment with incompatible connectors. It was nice that Panasonic incorporated both options.

Many people treat sound separately from the TV, through the use of a separate audio system. I heard from some persons though that made sure they purchased a plasma/LCD TV with speakers. Why? Well when they’re just watching the news they use these speakers as they didn’t want to bother turning on their receiver just to hear someone read the news, when they watch movies however they switch over to their 5.1+ surround system.

Plus sometimes you may find that your equipment uses optical, or coaxial connectors for moving the sound signal from one piece of equipment to another.


5. Determine what are your tuner requirements
Signal tuning equipment falls into one of three areas. Standard TV signals, high definition TV signals, or signals provided by cable/satellite companies. The acronyms you need to know are NTSC, ATSC, and OTA.

NTSC tuners have been around since the origin of TV. NTSC tuners are used to receive and process the old standard analog TV signals. Remember the old days when NTSC tuners had two tuning knobs: a VHF (very high frequency) band for channels 2 thru 13, and then a UHF (ultra high frequency) band for channels 20 thru 88.

Then along came cable, cable boxes, and the advent of electronic tuning where the VHF/UHF bands were no longer necessary. With cable was first introduced you generally just needed an NTSC tuner on your TV that could accept a modulated signal on either channels 3 or 4 depending on where you lived, because the cable box acted as your signal (station) tuner.

Nowadays you may also have to concern yourself with ATSC tuners for receiving high definition digital signals. One of the methods for connection would be an ATSC tuner connected thru an OTA (over the air) antenna. ATSC tuners generally start at about $300. An antenna designed specially designed for digital signals my run another $75 - $100. How do you figure out what antenna to get: I’d suggest Antenna Web

Of course if your cable provider has modernized or if you may be receiving your high def signals from a high def satellite receiver (DirecTV, VOOM, Dish Network), this is accomplished with a high definition receiver provided by the cable or purchased in adherence with the satellite policy. You have to be careful here as the ATSC standard allows cable providers to convert and carry different resolutions on their medium. Some cable providers are converting the main broadcast station signals to 1080i, but this is not universal. It is wise to check with your cable/satellite provider before making you plasma/LCD decision.

Then there is the concept of PIP (picture in picture). PIP is accomplished with two tuners, the question becomes what types of tuners are involved (NTSC or ATSC or a receiver provided by the cable company. If you resolve these questions before your purchase – it will make it easier to make the purchase, because the manufacturers will provide different alternatives to you.

This brings us to a subject of whether you will be purchasing a TV, or a TV (plasma) monitor or sometimes it simply referred to as a display. TV’s generally come with some sort of tuner, monitors (displays) are sans (without) tuner.

You should also be aware that starting around July 2004 the FCC will require ATSC tuners on all TV’s larger than 36†diagonally. Every set larger than 13†must have a digital tuner by July 2007.

Plus there was a recent agreement that future TV’s will have some sort of insertable card mechanism (the card will be provided by the cable companies) that will allow reception of cable TV without a cable box. Only a handful of sets recently introduced by Panasonic and Hitachi offer this – called CableCard. But CableCARD’s should become readably available over the next few months.

These are some issues you should resolve about tuners:
What type of tuners? (NTSC, ATSC, cable and/or satellite tuners)
How many tuners? (support for PIP, split screen)
What types of connections and connectors will you be using?
Then determine whether your television can accommodate your options.


6. Determine your budget
Plasma and LCD TV’s are fairly expensive electronic devices. Other than some high end projection systems, they may be the most expensive type of TV available on the market. General consensus though is that the manufacturers, now have a sufficient number of manufacturing plants on-line, such that supply exceeds demand. It is projected that flat panel displays will be considerably cheaper by year end 2004. We are talking about 50% lower than they were at the beginning of the year.

If you decide that you can live with an EDTV, the current going rate for a plasma TV under 42†diagonal TV is about $2000 - $4000. Sets starting at $2000 will have some tradeoffs in picture quality as will be discussed in the nuance section of this buyer’s guide. At the $3000 level you should be able to get a very good EDTV plasma set. At $4000 it will probably have some additional bells and whistles (features).

If you have your heart set on a HDTV – a 50†model generally starts at about $6000, and will run through $10,000.

For units larger than 50†the price jumps quite rapidly. These sizes are relatively new, and not manufactured in large quantities (yet).

Early prototypes or demonstration plasmas, as large as 80â€, have been shown to the public.

At this point in time LCD’s are considerably more expensive than comparable sizes (37â€, 45â€) of plasma TV’s. However at the smaller dimension sizes (say 15†diagonal an LCD TV might be less than $500.


7. Are there some aesthetic requirements
Just like the days when only CRT (picture tube) type TV’s were the only ones available - all TV’s come in a cabinet.

For Plasma/LCD TV’s this means not so much a cabinet but a frame or bezel. This minimalist approach is why many people are enamored with flat panel displays.

Since many manufacturers use the same or similar plasma glass – this frame may be one of the few physical distinguishing features of your TV. Some are wider than others, some incorporate speakers. Some are black, glossy black, different shades of gray, or possibly silver. Sony has a fairly unique floating glass aesthetic with a silver bezel, but a black band “embedded†on the glass to distinctly frame the picture, thus making the panel appear to be floating in air.

Whether this bezel clashes with your décor is generally considered a WAF (wife acceptance factor) or more the more generic SAF (spouse acceptance factor). If you already own a silver surround sound system that you want to use with your TV – the color of this bezel is probably important to you.
If your current speakers are black – a black bezel will probably be your best choice. There is more information available to you re: speakers in the next section under - Speakers.

8. Nuances of the plasma purchase
Okay we’ve covered some of the basic issues of a plasma/LCD purchase. Now it is time to introduce, some of the finer considerations you might want to research further before making your purchase.

Glass
The heart of any plasma/LCD TV is its glass. You should be aware that although there are over 75 manufacturers of plasma/LCD TVs, there are only about a handful of manufacturers who actually manufacture the glass. What makes good glass – I would hazard to guess it’s a combination of experience (how long have you been doing it – how many generations), and great technological know how (probably good engineers).

Who has been making plasma glass the longest – I believe it is joint partnership of (Fujitsu/Hitachi), NEC (especially if you count commercial plasma) and Panasonic. If you are buying a plasma that uses glass from one of these manufacturers it’s a good first step. These companies have gone through several generations of glass production. One of the major factors re: glass generation is that somewhere around the 6th generation many vendors extended the life of the phosphers from 30,000 to 60,000 hrs - that’s a substantial consideration.

The up and coming glass makers would be Samsung and LG/(Zenith). These Korean mega companies are coming on real fast in the plasma market.

Many of the manufacturers have chosen to use glass from these manufacturers. It would probably be wise to find out where the glass is coming from, and whether it is a current generation glass, which would probably be better.

As for LCD glass, it has also gotten a lot better in a fairly short period of time. This is most apparent in providing wide angle viewing and more accurate color. Sharp is probably considered the leader in LCD glass, but Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG are producing or using some very good quality glass.

Contrast Ratio (xxxx:1)
Contrast generally describes the ability to display different shades of gray. It is a very important measurement of any TV. Why is this important? When a picture is able to create depth of field – it looks more natural to your eye. By displaying more shades of a color the objects on the screen appear to project into third dimension. Better or higher contrast is also more important if the movie is shot in low lighting, the more shades of dark grey will allow you to discern images in the shadows.

Now lets move to the real world.
Unfortunately the industry has contributed a great deal of confusion as to the methods used to measure contrast. There is not a uniform method in place between the manufacturers, on how this is measured. Most vendors appear to be defining contrast ratio as the ratio of peak white level luminance to black level luminance - others refer to this as dynamic range. And the games they can play during this process are numerous. Did they use a filter or not? Was the black level measured with a 0-IRE signal, or no signal at all? Was the white level measured with a 100-IRE signal, or overdriven to some maximum level beyond normal by turning up all controls such as Brightness, Contrast, RGB Drive, or any other control that can increase light output which would lead to an unwatchable picture but give you the highest numbers?

So what you have is a measurement system that ratios white level to black level. A measurement system that can be manipulated to the hilt, by varying the conditions of these two levels. Plus the system does not take into consideration the concept of shades of gray.

To achieve high quality realistic video you need not only to have low black levels, somewhat high white levels but also the capability to display as many distinct shades of gray between the two. And quite frankly nobody does a good job of measuring this. Here’s a link to an article that discusses this with some examples.

Higher contrast ratios should mean that the TV is better able to display an image three dimensionally, but this number is only half the story. And the other half is made up of video processing (how many bits are incorporated into the incoming signal, how many are being processed by the television), and how well does the video processing equipment mimic the eyes gamma. Read the next section to learn a little more about the limitations of new display technologies in trying to create distinct shades of gray.

Note: I have a short discussion of the importance of the number of bits being processed in the color section (a few sections later in this document). It probably belongs here, but I decided people might appreciate it more if I left it in the color section.

Additionally there’s this concept of display contrast. A standard way to measure display contrast is to use a black and white checkerboard pattern, and measure the luminance at the center of the white blocks and then the black blocks. The smaller the number of blocks the greater the bleed, resulting in lower contrast values. Some vendors will use a 4x4 checkerboard others a much finer 9x9. This is another means of reporting contrast levels.

So next time you try to compare contrast ratios - be aware you may be comparing apples to oranges in most cases.

This gamma’s for you
You thought the above discussion of contrast ratios was complicated, and confusing - but you were still able to follow along. Well let’s take it up a notch.
I mentioned earlier that this guide was not for the faint of heart. There is another aspect of contrast that may be even more important than finding a set with deep black’s and high brightness to obtain high dynamic range (aka contrast ratios), and that is the concept of gamma.

Gamma is a popular yet widely misunderstood number that describes the steepness of a display’s gray scale as it increases from black to peak white. It is a logarithmic curve. Gamma has a major effect on the image brightness, contrast, hue, and color saturation. Why is gamma important - other than it effects so much? Your eye has it’s own logarithmic response (also called a power-law). What matters most to the eye are ratios of brightness, not differences in brightness. When comparing two intensities or mixing two colors, it is their brightness ratio that determines what your eye see.

Of all of the display technologies the CRT has the closest response to that of your eye. Television, DVD, Web and Computer based photographic “content†are electronically adjusted to have a standard gamma of 2.20, so you’ll get the most accurate images if your display also has this value.

There are many reasons why displays have different gamma. While each technology has its own native Transfer Characteristic or gamma, the display’s signal processing electronics modifies it in order to obtain the desired gray scale as accurately as possible. CRT’s typically have a native gamma in the range of 2.3 to 2.6 so the gamma of 2.20 for studio monitors is actually the result of signal processing. DLP and plasma have a native gamma of 1.0, and LCD’s have a variable native gamma that results from an “S†shaped Transfer Characteristic.

The bottom line is that each brand creates the TV’s internal electronics that attempt to modify it’s native Transfer Characteristic to the 2.20 standard that matches the content source plus simulates the eye’s response. Again it is the internally processing electronics that is performing this function and some manufactures are better at this than others. If I were to leave you with one thought - judging the quality of a sets contrast by either it specified contrast ratio or gamma number is speculative at best. The only real way around all this is to find some experts in the field or simply have extended viewing of the set, and concentrate of the depth of field you are seeing in the image in comparison to another model.

It should be noted that I plagiarized extensively in the gamma section descriptions of this guide from Widescreen Review, Issue 88, Sept 2004,and WSR Issue 89, Oct 2004. Display Technology Shoot-Out. I only skimmed the surface of the subject. If you are interested I suggest you track down these issues.

Moving on:
Panasonic claims to have the highest contrast ratios (sometimes quoted as high as 4000:1) and many members believe they have the darkest blacks.
LG Electronics has recently announced new plasma sets with - 5000:1, and has shown a prototype in Japan spec-ed at 8000:1

If you were to view two sets from the same manufacturer you will find the one with higher contrast most likely has the better “deeper†picture. Making comparisons across multiple vendors is much harder to do than simply comparing these ratios. But back in the real world you will find this Q&A worthwhile reading. And of course there is more to purchasing a TV than it’s specifications, so be careful, but be aware that contrast ratio is an important specification.

LCD TVs at this point in development are generally said to perform considerably worse than plasma TVs in this aspect. Make sure you view a movie shot in low lighting before making a decision to purchase an LCD TV. Then decide if you will still be happy.

I also found this to be interesting reading:
Excerpted from July 2004 Home Theater Magazine: (slightly edited)

A New Home Theater Magazine Measurement: Contrast Ratio
Believe it or not, contrast ratio is not the only thing you need to know about purchasing a TV. Like any measurement it shouldn't be taken alone; in many cases it shouldn't be taken at all.

So what's with a contrast ratio of 2000:1 or even 3000:1? Because there is no regulation for how a company measures a display's contrast ratio - these ratios very all over the map. One company could measure a full-white filed versus a 0-IRE signal, while another company could use a 100-IRE window versus no signal at all. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has defined one relatively reasonable method that many manufacturers use, but it is by no means mandatory.
From this point on in HTM’s display reviews we're going to cut through all that and offer you a series of measurements consisting of contrast ratio, lowest and highest light level, and ANSI contrast all in one section. Don't worry, we'll still include the color temperature and color gamut graphs we've fiven you all along.

Decoding the New Measurements
For our reviews, we will define contrast ratio as the ratio of light level produced by a 100-IRE full filed divided by the light level produced by a 0-IRE full filed. The inside the black box is the total light output (in foot-lamberts) that the display produces when supplied with a 0-IRE signal from a DVD. This represents the darkest the display will get when it's active and fed a signal, it should be as close to zero as possible. With projectors we use a Da-Lite Da-Mat 1.0 gain screen that measures 87 by 49 inches (93 inches diagonal. If a display has good DC restoration, the measured black level will be similar to the black level the display produces when there's other video material on the screen.
The white box is the display's total light output when displaying a full-white (100-IRE) field in the same mode that produces the listed black level. (The mode chosen will be the one with the best contrast ratio), Now I'll be the first to tell you that a gull-white field almost never happens in actual source material (for that matter neither does a full-black field) for this though it's what we're going to use. Why? Because we have to use a full-black field ( a black window just wouldn't work), and this is its true opposite.
Doing the measurement this way is like testing an amp's maximum power output: it may not reflect the most real world scenario, but it does five an overall view of the device's output.
Using a full-white filed will affect plasmas the most, as they are built to have less light output on a full filed compared with a 100-IRE window. If there's a difference between the windowed measurement and the full screen, we'll list it in the measurement text.
ANSI measures the contrast ratio using a 16-box checkerboard pattern on the screen, so we'll do that, too. This is done by dividing the average level of the eight white boxes by the average level of the eight black boxes.
If a display has different settings that affect contrast ratio, we will test all of them and use the best one fro both contrast-ratio measurement tests. Most importantly all contrast-ratio measurements will be done after the display is fully calibrated to as close to D6500 as it can be.
To conduct these tests, we're using a Konica/Minolta LS-100 light meter, the most accurate too for the job. We're still be using our Photo Research PR-650 spectoradiometer for color temperature and color measurement."

Here are the early results to-date from their testing:
Actually a thread that updates this list is here.
Code:

                                          Contrast     ANSI
Brand/ Model    100-IRE wht  0-IRE Blk    Ratio        Contrast  MFG
Tested           (ft-L)      (ft-L)       (xxxx:1)     (xxx:1)   CR
--------------   -----------  ----------- -----------  -------  ----
DLP HD2+ Projectors
InFocus 7205       22.37     0.022        1017         355      2200
Sharp XV-Z12000     6.85     0.002        3425         424      5500
Marantz VP-12S3     8.514    0.003        2838         503      3800

Budget projectors
BenQ PB6200 DLP    14.48     0.021         690         283      2000
Epson PL Home 10+  11.6      0.015         773         249      1200
Optoma H30 DLP      9.426    0.011         857         240      2000

Plasma
Panasonic TH42PX25 21.95     0.027         813         780      3000
Mitsubishi PD6130  12.51     0.129          97         173      1200
Vidikron VP-50     17.8      0.115         155         268      

LCOS
JVC HD61Z575 D-ILA  165.8      0.215         771     136       ?     DEC 2004

How black are the sets blacks
In conjunction with what you just learned about contrast ratio, another important characteristic is how black are the sets blacks. As you can see from the table just above - the sets with the lowest 0-IRE BLK numbers also have the highest contrast ratios. So in addition to providing depth to the image, having the capability to produce very black blacks will also make viewing films shot in very dark lighting much more enjoyable. You might actually see the action occurring in the shadows on the screen. Dark blacks can also help the colors come alive - although there is much more to color than its relationship to black.
It should be pointed out that at the time this was written Panasonic has the blackest blacks, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so popular in this forum. It has been measured as low as 0.1 nit (which is 0.0292 ft-L)
Because of the method that LCD create color (a backlight shining light through 3 colored filters - it’s much harder to get dark blacks. Most LCD’s measured blacks are around 2 nits.

Brightness (cd/m^2 - candela per square meter)
Brightness can be a very important characteristic, but since most people watch TV’s during night hours, it may not be too important. If you watch a lot of TV in daylight hours you might consider getting a unit whose brightness spec is higher than average. Otherwise it appears that if a plasma/LCD is above a certain brightness level – you will probably be happy with it’s picture. (Note to self: Not sure what this level is) I’ve seen some units in darkened room that were so bright they appeared too glary for my tastes.

LCD TV’s appear to be considerably brighter than plasma TV’s. Some are rated at 430 cd/m^2, but again because brightness is measured differently than plasma TV’s it is difficult to perform numerical comparisons between the two types of TVs. Many people are drawn to an LCD panel by the sharp and bright picture. It really a combination of great brightness, even in high ambient light, due to this being a technology that works using reflected light - coupled with the fact that LCD’s generally have a denser pixel structure than plasma.

Video processor (scaler)
In earlier sections we talked about the mismatch between plasma/LCD resolutions and the resolutions of the signal being injected into the TV. Because of this mismatch this means that the TV’s circuitry must do some scaling to display the picture. Most of these scalers do a very good job downscaling (going from high res signals to lower res display), but they are not so good going in reverse from low res signals to a high res display). Just look at the numbers, if you are taking a 853x480p signal (409k pixels) and pumping it up to a 1365x768 display (1.049k pixels) – that circuitry is generating 1.5 pixels for every pixel that is in the signal. This is not an easy thing to do well.

Fujitsu is generally accepted to have the best video processing circuitry, but other vendors are constantly improving especially with the latest release of the Sony XBR line of sets. What is important for you - is to determine how well your TV of choice - displays standard TV and even 480p DVD’s. Then determine whether this is important to you.

Video processing circuitry also minimizes artifacts, mitigates missing bits in the data stream, which all contribute to the quality of image on the screen. You are not going to absorb these differences on a single trip to the store. In fact at this point in time I’m still struggling with how best to judge the video processor within each brand.
It sure would be nice if someone would develop a DVD, that could generate different signal resolutions, and then put five minutes of video for each of the artifact characteristics, plus tell you what you should be looking for. But at this point you’re kind of on your own.

You should also be aware that there are after market video processors for doing this scaling. Appendix C has several listed, and you should be aware of the AVS Video Processing Forum that discusses external after market video processors in much more detail.

Comb filter (huh? how and why did this make it into this document)
We look at SMTPE color bars from Video Essentials and watch out for crawling dots along the borders between bars to see how well the comb filter performs. This test is less important for digital TVs, which nearly always have excellent comb filters.

Some other terms to be researched: banding, false contouring, polarization, solarization, posterization.

Color (this whole section needs a major rewrite)
Personally I don’t know much about this subject, but I thought I would include it until I find someone more knowledgeable.
Although plasma monitors and LCD displays are both fixed pixel type displays the way they create images differs greatly.

A plasma display sandwiches a matrix of millions of hollow, gas filled chambers between two parallel sheets of glass. Electricity pulses through each of the cell chambers driving electron laden ultraviolet light into phosphor material lining the cell walls. Bombarded by these electrons the phosphor then gives off red, green or blue light. One red, one green, and one blue cell (or subpixel) together make a full color pixel. Because each subpixel glows and emits a primary color - plasma produces more accurate color.

An active matrix LCD panel works entirely differently. Here white light from a rear mounted fluorescent lamp passes through individual LCD cells, each with its own red green or blue color filter. Individual LCD cells in the panel are then turned on of off by applying a small electric charge to the thin film transistors in each sub pixel. This charge twists the liquid crystal material in the cell, cutting the light. LCD panels build images by selectively passing or blocking light among millions of individuals cells. That is they use filter to subtract color wavelengths from a white backlight. This transmissive method can only approximate true red, green or blue. To my eyes this process does appear to create cyan, magenta, and yellow. And although it might not be as accurate it is clearly overall brighter than plasma, and very vivid.

There are differences between the color fidelity of a both plasma and LCD pictures among brands. Many believe that Pioneer units exhibit the best colors. On the LCD side Sharp, Sony, and Panasonic are getting very close to producing accurate color.

What is the color bit depth 8 bit, 10 bit, 12 bit of your plasma/LCD TV you are considering?
Let’s look at this following table to see what theoretically means in terms of shades of color.

Code:
bits    shades  # of colors
n       2^n     2^n x 2^n x 2^n
--   ------      ---------------
1        2                 8
2        4                64
3        8               512
4       16             4,096
5       32            32,768
6       64           262,144
7      128         2,097,152
8      256        16,777,216
9      512       134,217,728
10    1024     1,073,741,824
11    2048     8,589,934,592
12    4096    68,719,476,736
8-bit plasma displays are capable of displaying 16.77 million colors -- providing good color realism with exceptionally subtle gradations between colors. Color saturation is one of the most poignant factors elevating plasma screens over other display technologies. Most plasma will process color at least 8-bit.
10-bit plasma displays extend this capability to over a whopping billion colors.

How does all this ultimately effect your viewing pleasure?
Well one of the aspects of HDTV is that the screen size is generally much greater than SDTV, consequently there are some visual characteristics that are more prevalent on these displays. These include false contouring (also referred to as solarization and posterization) this is an artifact that produces splotchy, distinct sections in what should be gradual gradations of color or shadows. An example of this is that if you are viewing and image such as the sun, you will see radial bands of color emitting from such a bright source. Similar to the effect of dropping a rock in water - although the bands in the water are typically dark to light - whereas on the TV it would lighter shades of color grouped together in a band - and generally getting darker further from the light point (i.e the sun). If a display could exhibit more colors and if the information was contained (as opposed to being processed out to reduce bandwidth) in the incoming TV signal these bands would not exist. There would be a smooth transition to different shades of color, and this is what creates depth that is natural to the eye.

False contouring is a function of how many bits of color are being processed, plus the quality and type of algorithms used to process the signal. Thus extending to 10 bit color may help, but keep in mind it is just one factor for you to consider. The other would be is how good are the TV’s algorithms and the electronics being used for all of this processing.

Keep in mind that the DVI connection standard only specs out to 8-bits. HDMI extends this capability - but you should consider where the weak link in the chain is in all this processing.
How good is the incoming signal?
How many bits was the telecine process (converting film to digital signals)?
Does the incoming signal come close to matching the native resolution of the panel? (If it does not some processing has to be done to display the image - and if done well having 10 bits should in theory and practice should be helpful to reduce false contouring.

Color decoding
We use the SMTPE color bar pattern from Video Essentials or Avia to check how well a TV decodes the color signals. This is done by looking through a blue filter and adjusting the TV's color control until the image's hue matches that of the filter, then using green and red filters to determine whether these colors match as well. Often, a TV will over-accentuate the green or red signals. Using a TV's user or service menus (if available), we adjust the color settings so as get the color decoding as accurate as possible before continuing with the rest of our testing.
Most TVs' color decoders are set to be too red to counteract the blue color temperature. TV makers don't advertise accurate color decoders, so you'll have to judge for yourself or trust a reviewer. In the store, look for pale skin tones that don't appear too flushed and reds that don't bleed into other colors or otherwise seem more intense than the rest of the palette
When there's too much color, the set looks garish and unrealistic. It's most noticeable with reds, which are often accentuated (pushed) by the TV's color decoder. On the other hand, too little color diminishes the impact of the picture, making it look drab. Setting color to zero results in a black-and-white image.

How to set it:
If available, first set the color-temperature control to the warmest option as described below. Then find an image of someone with light, delicate skin tones, preferably a close-up of a face, on a DVD. Turn up the color control until it looks like the person has sunburn, then reduce it until the skin looks natural, without too much red. If the rest of the colors look too drab, you can increase color slightly at the expense of accurate skin tones.

Color-temperature settings.
Many televisions have presets for color temperature, which is basically the color of gray. A neutral gray is ideal, but most TVs have an extremely blue gray to make the picture brighter in the store. TVs with color-temperature presets allow you to choose the color of gray; generally, you'll want the reddest or lowest setting available.

2:3 and 3:3 Pulldown
When movies are shot – the frame rate is 24 frames per second. TV’s display images nominally at 30 fps. As you can see there is a mismatch here. Thus for movies shot at 24 fps to look natural on a TV some sort of processing should be done. Not all TV’s are capable of performing this processing.

Here is site that does a good job of describing this type of processing:
Home Theater Hi-Fi
Click here to learn about 3:3 pulldown, which appears to be a Pioneer technology. Then click on Advanced Purecinema to select 3:3 pulldown - finally use the arrows keys to take you through their presentation.

Does the TV model you’re considering have this capability? Some DVD players have this processing built into their circuitry. If you primarily watch movies having this capability is pretty important!

Inputs (including HDCP capability)
We’ve covered this item elsewhere in this guide – just thought we’d reinforce this issue, by listing it again.

There are three issues, not previously discussed though, that should be covered. The first is coupled to high def digital inputs, and whether the inputs are compatible with HDCP, a high def copy protection protocol. IMHO, movie studios will not release their high def versions of their product unless it falls under this protocol. I would advise that you purchase connectors compatible with this protocol to future proof your investment. The connectors are usually designated DVI-H or DVI-HDCP, a couple manufacturers have used DVI-HDTV but this is ambiguous and I would verify before making the purchase. HDMI connectors are all HDCP compliant. On a side note HDMI connectors are also backward compatible with DVI connections, but of course require a gender change cable (HDMI on one end – DVI on the other). Again refer to this document for more detail: [High-Def Connections

The second issue would be how easy is it to connect all these cables to your TV. Does the design make it easy to do, and easy to change while it mounted on the wall? Is it easy to hide the cables from view after they are connected?
Some units come with separate media boxes. All signal cables get connected to the “media†box, and thus minimize connections to the TV, as normally only one cable need be run from this box to the TV. The question of upgradeability of these boxes has been covered, and the rule is – once you purchase a unit with an external connection “media†box – upgradeability is not possible. Even boxes from future models of the same brand TV are unlikely to be compatible with the one that came with your TV. Some people have suggested that the external boxes may make service easier, since maybe the whole unit would not have to be sent to a service facility – just the connection box, but I don’t know if repair is all that frequent to make this an issue.

The third issue briefly mentioned before, is that of input cards. Some models come with plug-in modules. They provide good flexibility, but I’d recommend you research this further to determine card availability and whether 3rd party cards are a better value and/or provide better performance than those from the manufacturer. It does not seem that manufacturer’s have releasing new cards as a high priority. (i.e. where are HDMI input cards, or how about even a DVI card for an older plasma)

Special Effects
When TV’s were less complicated and there was only one signal source, we didn’t have many options. Nowadays you have can have the choice of PIP (picture in picture), Split Screen, Zoom, and a variety of adjustment modes for matching different wide screens source material to your set – the most important of which might be stretching a 4:3 picture source up to 16:9. Is any of this important to you? Does the TV your considering, do any or all of this, and does it do it well?

Calibration
Some sets are easier to calibrate to be able adjust for optimum pictures. Some have ports and easier and more extensive access to the settings for you or an ISF certified technician. Is this capability important to you?

Warranty
Manufacturers warranties vary by brand. They are generally from one year on up to three years, with many members making the purchase on certain credit cards to extend these warranties generally an additional year.
Plasma TV’s are expensive – should a longer warranty be one of your considerations?

The second aspect of the warranty issue – what is exactly what is warranted? You should have a clear idea of policy concerning:
- noise (fans and or electronics),
- damaged or stuck pixels (how many – where located),
- dust between the glass.

For your brand exactly what constitutes a warranty issue? Do you know the track record of manufacturer response to warranty issues for your brand?

Connection to a Computer
Although this has been noted under the input section of this guide. It should be noted that some plasma, and many LCD TV’s make connection to a computer very easy and are very compatible. This probably makes more sense with LCD displays as plasma may have some burn-in issues if the picture (or menu) bars are on the display for hours or even days.

NEC plasma models are said to be among the best for computer connection. This probably because they have been making computer monitors for decades. If you intend to use your display as a monitor for you computer – it’s best to inquire how compatible the model is to computer signals.

(the) Remote
This is not a major purchasing decision, but the remote control can make for a better viewing environment. Is the remote backlit so you can see it in a darkened room? Is it clearly marked? Can it perform macros enabling you to turn on several components at the touch of one button? Part of the reason this is not crucial to your purchase is that there is a number of aftermarket remotes that can be purchased to replace one not to your liking.

Speakers
Some models come with speakers. Some people use these speakers for general TV, and then turn on a receiver with surround sound for movies. Should your choice of plasma consider speakers? Can you match speakers that come with your plasma/LCD TV with additional speakers to attain Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound? How will plasma manufacturers adapt their systems to make full use of dolby digital 5.1 which is part of the HDTV standard – and exactly how will HDMI connectors which can carry 5.1 sound work in this case – run HDMI to the TV, and then speaker cables from the TV??? P.S. I’m still looking for answers for that question.

Many vendors are jumping into providing wall mountable speakers to work in conjunction with your new plasma. This subject has come up many times in the forum so also consider using the AVS search function. Here are some of the results from one of my previous posts:

Speaker suggestions I've located:
----------------------------------------
http://www.artcousticusa.com/
http://www.artisonusa.com/
http://www.axiomaudio.com/
http://www.bostonacoustics.com/hs_p...03&CategoryID=3/
http://www.bwfpm.com/
http://www.bwspeakers.com/index.cfm...yword=On%20Wall/
http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...5F=1090596344/
http://www.definitivetech.com/louds...hos/mythos.html/
http://www.dssoundlabs.com/
http://www.finalsound.com/
http://www.infinitysystems.com/home....aspx?SerId=MOD/
http://www.leonspeakers.com/
http://www.magnepan.com/
http://www.miragespeakers.com/omnistat.shtml#/
http://www.martinlogan.com/fresco_speaker.html/
http://www.mdesignlife.com/productPage.asp?pin=2238
http://www.nhthifi.com/2004/product...=2&ProductID=85/
http://www.onkyousa.com/model.cfm?m...i&class=Systems
http://www.gspr.com/onkyo/images/lsv955_life_300.jpg
http://www.paradigm.com/Website/Sit...tor_Series.html/
http://www.pinnaclespeakers.com/plasma5frm.htm/
http://www.rbhsound.com/acsystem1.shtml
http://www.roundsound.com/
http://www.sumikoaudio.net/vienna_alum/schonberg.htm/
http://www.sumikoaudio.net/vienna_alum/webern.htm/
http://www.swanspeaker.com/speaker/index.asp

Response time
This is really an LCD specific issue. The time required for an LCD pixel to change states can be critical for persons who enjoy sports or fast action movies. State of the art response times for LCD TVs of about 16 milliseconds are considered to be borderline for watching fast action. LCD TV’s are constantly improving with regards to this aspect. 8 ms panels are said to be in development and once available this will probably not be an issue. A good test would be to watch a tennis ball in a tennis match or any fast moving object that you can track to see if there is any blurring of the ball as it crosses the net. Now look for this phenomenon on other fast moving action.

How are you going to install your plasma/LCD TV
Will you place on a table and you only require a short table stand?
Will you require a floor stand?
Will it be mounted on the wall, and you will require a wall mount?
What type of mount? (flat, tilting, articulating, ceiling)

Power Consumption and Fan Noise
The final two considerations don’t relate so much as to picture quality, but rather economics and picture distractions.

Early plasma units consumed a lot of power, and in doing so generated a lot of heat. Consequently fans were required to disperse that heat. Some fans can on or increased speed only when required by thermal sensors - others were on all the time.

Let’s look at power first. If you average 6 hours of television per day - that’s 2190 hours per year. If your unit consumes 500 Watts of power - that would be 1,095,000 Watthours or 1,095 kWh with an average cost of power of say 10 cents a kWh that would cost $109.50 a year to operate - that’s for one appliance - or in other words after taxes add about $10/month onto your electric bill.

A 200 Watt TV would consume 438 kWh or $43.80 a year or about $4/month

LCD TV’s are a very low power consuming devices, and you might cut that bill another 40%.

Fan Noise is a little trickier because in many stores or showroom the ambient noise will overshadow any existing fan noise. It would be wise to read about fan noise at the AVS forum - because when people get the units back to the privacy of the house many times they find fan noise objectionable.

9. Determine whether you want an LCD or Plasma flat screen
Up until about a year ago - this was a fairly easy decision. It’s not so easy today. Each has certain strengths and weaknesses. Section 8 covered some of these. Look here for more considerations.
You should also consider whether you will be using the display for computer use as well. Although both will work, LCD is probably a better choice for joint use.

10. Explore the brands
There are now over 75 brands of plasma/LCD TV’s available in the USA marketplace. A very good place to start you search is:
AVS Brand Index
From this page you will find links to a Model Summary Page and the manufacturer web site. Part of the advantage of going here is that several forum members are attempting to maintain this information and track model numbers as they change year to year.
(Editorial note: there is nowhere near enough volunteers to sustain this undertaking, and this will probably collapse within a year)

At a manufacturer’s web site - many times when they introduce new models – the old models are removed from the site.

If you scroll down this thread you will find some LCD specific references from another member.

As you narrow your search for your search for the TV that maxs out your value equation– it is wise to do searches within the Plasma/LCD AVS forum, to locate previous discussions regarding the model you are considering. And if you get lost and are seeking more information or opinions try posting a question (thread} in the forum.


11. View your set before the purchase
The best advice this guide can offer is to get out of the house and go view the set you intend to purchase. This is going to be one of the most frustrating aspects of the plasma purchase. I can almost guarantee that you will not likely see a plasma presented in it’s full glory.

Some sets are fed poor signals (or sent a signals that has been split about 25 times), some are poorly connected (using lousy cables, running these cables near power circuitry) or displayed using factory settings that are overly bright, with too much contrast, and oversaturated color - instead of being calibrated for an optimum picture. Very few are connected “all digital†using digital signals and digital cables, the method that would contribute to the very best picture.

By viewing we mean with different signal resolutions (480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i. We also mean with different lighting conditions. Also find out how and what equipment it is connected to and what is the video signal source.

It would also be advised to bring along your favorite “dark†DVD’s to see how they would be displayed.
Here’s a link with some DVD suggestions.
(sorry I lost the link I intended here and so far haven’t found it)

Many AVS member who narrow their choice down to Panasonic and Pioneer, ultimately say the way you should decide is
If you view the TV in a dark room pick Panasonic.
If you view the TV in a lighted room pick Pioneer.
See if you agree with that assessment.


12. Determine where to purchase
You basically have three options to make your purchase. Brick and Mortar (B&M) stores, specialty retailers, or on-line.

Here’s a little table with some of the advantages and disadvantages.
Code:

Characteristic          B&M     Specialty      On-Line
--------------         -----   -----------    ----------
                        
Touch & Feel            Avg       Good          Poor
                        
Product Selection       Avg      Avg-Good       Good
                        
Pricing                 Med       High          Low
                        
Warranty/Repair         Avg       Good          Avg
                        
Installation            Avg       Good        None-Avg
                        
Exchange/Return Policy  Avg      Avg-Good       Poor

The table is pretty much self-explanatory. It is not scientifically based, but based rather on general conversations and discussion with owners.

Is your dealer authorized
-------------------------------------
One last consideration is the buyer should determine whether or not the dealer you are purchasing from is an authorized dealer. This is best determined by confirming authorization through the manufacturer. There is considerably more risk on warranty coverage and knowing whether the unit you're purchasing is not new, if you aren’t assured the dealer is authorized.

The only thing I might add is that the on-line retailers who sponsor the AVS forum have an incredibly good track record with their customers.


13. After the purchase considerations

Bias Lighting

Calibration
The AVS forum contains many jewels to be mined. My AVS P/L Forum Classics bookmark folder is brimming with resources. One of these classics deals with calibrating your plasma, although you might not figure this out from its title. It should be on every plasma owners must read list. Without further ado welcome to the The Steaming Rat.

There are also DVD’s disks that will help your with the process from AVIA or the VE (Video Essentials) disc

Additionally you can have calibration professionally done. Consider finding an ISF certified technician at the The ISF Site

It should be noted that is accepted practice to have at least 100 hours usage of the plasma TV before calibration. This is because as with any emissive technology there is a brightness scale that diminishes with time. Although you will find that current plasma’s last 60,000 hours, during the first 100 hours they lose about 10% of their brightness and then stabilize at that level. You want to calibrate the set after this decrease, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the calibration.

Cleaning your TV

Cleaning the Glass (from Squid99 -AVS Forum)
The plasma glass has a coating on it similar to tinted windows on a car or to a touch screen. The problem with some people when they clean their glass they use a PAPER product (WOOD) on a delicate surface. Use only a microfiber cloth or 100% cotton cloth. Paper towels and even kleenex will scratch this kind of surface.
The second problem to be careful about is the coating. Use only a glass cleaner that proclaims itself safe for tinted windows.
Get the best stuff at auto supply places, because you want to use what dedicated auto detailers use on their finely polished auto finishes, and the windows therein.
Paper towels and windex may be OK for cleaning out the sink or a toilet, but not on delicate surfaces like this.
Finally, because of its construction, often a microfiber towel will remove a fingerprint without any solvent or cleaning solution. I keep one in the cabinet right under the plasma screen. I also keep one in the car for use on the touch sensitive NAV screen, which gets fingerprints galore, since it gets touched often in normal use.
I would suggest using only a microfiber cloth for cleaning a plasma screen. They are readily available, especially from auto care places. (Never use a paper towel.) If you can’t find them try: Pak Shak
As for cleaning solution, use only glass cleaner without ammonia. At the car care places, these formulations are indicated as being "safe for tinted windows."
Wash a microfiber cloth by itself or only with other microfibers in warm water with regular liquid laundry detergent. You want to keep the lint generators away from them. Dry on a line or in a dryer (by themselves) set on medium (better than "high," although "high" will not melt it or anything). Do not use any fabric softener of any kind, especially dryer sheets. This is true for towels of all kinds, as this treatment, while making them feel softer, inhibits their ability to absorb water, which is counter-productive to the function of a towel.

Installation and Professionally hiding of cables

Insurance
It up to you to determine if and how much insurance you require for your TV. Insurance is more prevalent since the price of these TV’s can be in the thousands of dollars. It would be wise to see how and whether yourTV is covered by your house insurance. CALL YOUR AGENT! In my case it was covered for “acts of Godâ€, and if I purchased a rider clause - they would cover all accidents, but I’ve found by reading threads at AVS that insurance is specific to the company that you have purchased it from.

Mounting Height
People mount plasma at a variety of heights. Some heights have proven not to be comfortable for long hour viewing. The consensus for proper ergonomics seems to be the bottom edge of the set should be no higher than eye level to persons watching the set.

Mounting Options
There are a variety of mounting options and vendors to provide such equipment. Here is one AVS thread you might find helpful.
Here are some of the most popular vendors:
Chief Manufacturing
Mounts and More
Mounts Suppliers
Peerless Industries
Racks and Stands
Sanus Systems

Plasma Stands
Here’s an interesting thread on the subject.

Surge Protection/Line Conditioner/UPS
Personally I would advise anyone who invests more than $500 in a TV should consider some form of surge protection. I’ll see if I can find some threads at AVS to reference here.
Line Conditioner
Power Protection/Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Seating
You’ve got your flat & thin screen plasma or LCD, you’ve got it placed on your fancy stand or possibly wall mounted, all of your connections are hidden, and your 7.1 sound system is blasting away......
BUT do you have the Best Seat In The House?????
Code:
Vendor                 Model            Dimensions  Phone        MSRP
---------------------  --------------   ---------   ------------ -------
Accoustic Innovations  BridegePointe    41x34x35    800.983.6233 PBIYFO
                       Charleton
                       Cinematic
                       DECO
                       Royal
                       Traditional
                       Altitude
Accoustic SmartHT Int. Barchetta        44x35x33    516.623.5711 PBIYFO
                       Criterion
                       Excelsior
                       Firenza
                       Imperial
                       Murano
Berkline               088.47 recliner  39x33x38    423.585.1500 $499-$999
                       090
                       094
                       099
                       281
                       412
                       865
                       C780
CinemaTech Seating     Casablanca       44x36x32    972.381.1071 PBIYFO
                       Ferien
                       Harmony
                       Harmony Too
                       LeGrande
                       Lonestar (Zero Wall)
                       Monte Carlo
                       Penthouse
                       Rustico
                       Terminator
                       Terminator II
                       Valentino (+Zero Wall)

Continental Seating    Connery          40x36x39    214.453.4255 PBIYFO
                       16 other module styles
Ekornes                Sphinx           43x36x33    732.302.0097 PBIYFO
                       Family Media
First Impressions      CineSofa         Builtorder  800.305.7545 PBIYFO
Fortress Seating       Bijou 910        42x34x35    909.627.4270 PBIYFO
Image Crafters         Casual - 1928    41x30x36    508.947.0420 PBIYFO
                       Casual - 1929
                       Casual - 1935 Recliner
                       Studio - 8303M Savoy
                       Studio - 8925T Swing
                       Theater - 1937 Cosmo
Irwin Seating          Performance VIP  41x38x36    866.464.7946 PBIYFO
Lane                   Hollywood 304          
LaZBoy                 Devon            40x42x68    734.242.1444 PBIYFO
                       482-Matinee      40x34x38                 $630-$1699
MTS Systems            Neo              38x36x38    503.631.4447 PBIYFO
                                                    888.401.7770
Premiere Home Theater  Bijou            42x35x41    818.865.6777 PBIYFO
                       9 other module styles
Pullman                Malibu           46x38x36    800.457.3280 PBIYFO
                       Carmel
                       Laguna
                       LaJolla
                       Manhattan
                       Monterey
                       Redondo
                       Ventura
Salamander Designs     Matteo           41x34x27    860.313.0525 PBIYFO
                       CL1
                       TC1
PBIYFO - Post Below If You Find Out
The reason there is a large price range (when prices are shown) beware that these seats can be spec-ed on the low end for fabric/manual recline on up to leather/power recline.

Information courtesy of Home Theater Magazine - Sep 2004 - extracted from an article by Amy Carter.
Issue also contains photos and information on coverings and configuration and a description of these seats.

Click on vendor to visit their website (but you knew that)

Any other recommendations?

Notice: This post may be edited to include other recommendations not in the initial article nor in the original post.


Appendix A - Quick Glossary

ALIS
What is ALIS?

anamorphic
Adopted from the film technique of shooting a wide-screen image on a square 35mm frame, it's the process of compressing wide-screen images to fit into the squarer standard 4:3 television signal. The images are then expanded for viewing in their original format on a wide-screen display device. Wide-screen or letterboxed DVDs that are not anamorphic have less detail when projected on a wide-screen monitor. In other words, a nonanamorphic wide-screen DVD is designed to be shown letterboxed on a standard "square" TV but appears with a black box all around the image when shown on a larger 16:9 wide-screen TV. To fill a 16:9 screen, a nonanamorphic DVD has to be blown up, resulting in loss of resolution and detail. Conversely, a DVD that is anamorphic, enhanced for 16:9, or enhanced for wide-screen delivers 33 percent more resolution than regular letterboxed transfers, is designed to be shown on a 16:9 TV, and does not need to be blown up. When one of these DVDs is shown on a "square" TV, it is often subject to anamorphic downconversion artifacts unless the TV has a vertical compression feature.

aspect ratio
The relationship between the width and height of an image; the standard DTV wide-screen ratio is 16:9 (1.78:1), as compared to the squarer NTSC ratio of 4:3 (1.33:1

ATSC
The Advanced Television Systems Committee, Inc., is an international, non-profit organization developing voluntary standards for digital television. The ATSC member organizations represent the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries.

Specifically, ATSC is working to coordinate television standards among different communications media focusing on digital television, interactive systems, and broadband multimedia communications. ATSC is also developing digital television implementation strategies and presenting educational seminars on the ATSC standards.

ATSC was formed in 1982 by the member organizations of the Joint Committee on InterSociety Coordination (JCIC): the Electronic Industries Association (EIA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). Currently, there are approximately 140 members representing the broadcast, broadcast equipment, motion picture, consumer electronics, computer, cable, satellite, and semiconductor industries. ATSC incorporated on January 3, 2002.

ATSC Digital TV Standards include digital high definition television (HDTV), standard definition television (SDTV), data broadcasting, multichannel surround-sound audio, and satellite direct-to-home broadcasting.

On December 24, 1996, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the major elements of the ATSC Digital Television (DTV) Standard (A/53). The ATSC DTV Standard has been adopted by the governments of Canada (November 8, 1997), South Korea (November 21,1997), Taiwan (May 8, 1998), and Argentina (October 22, 1998).

DTV
Digital television. Generic term that refers to all digital television formats, including high-definition television (HDTV) and standard-definition television (SDTV).

EDTV
Enhanced Definition Television (see 480p). Also used to describe plasma and other fixed-pixel displays that have 852x480 resolution. They can show an HDTV image but don't provide as much detail as higher-resolution displays.

SDTV
Standard-definition television. Digital television format that includes 480-line resolution in both interlaced (480i) and progressively scanned (480p) formats; offers discernible improvement over conventional analog NTSC picture resolution, with less noise; similar to DVD or satellite TV quality but not considered high-definition television (HDTV).

HDTV (from S&V magazine)
Simply put HDTV (High Definition TeleVision) is a new form of TV. Using digital technology, HDTV sets can display a sharper, more true-to life image that makes regular TV look fuzzy and primitive. HDTV programs are transmitted in a wide screen format and are sometimes enhanced with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. This can result in an experience akin to sitting in a first-rate move theater.
In 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated that all free, over the air TV would have to be broadcast digitally by the end of 2006. That meant that the ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX,and PBS networks as well as local stations would have to replace the analog technology that’s been used for more than fifty years. Among the advantages, a digital broadcast produces pictures entirely free of analog reception problems like ghosts, and snow. Depending on the station’s preference, digital signals can be broadcast in either high definition or a standard definition format that’s roughtly equivalent to analog TV in resolution.
To accomplish the switchover to a digital TV system, the FCC gave each commercial and public TV station an extra channel to broadcast its digital signal. The FCC still hopes to turn off the analog system and auction off the reclaimed spectrum for public services and other uses by 2007. But the switchover won’t take place until 85% of the households in each market can receive digital broadcasts, even if that means going beyond the original date.

ISF
The Imaging Science Foundation is in the Display Standards industry, and is dedicated to improving the quality of electronic imaging. ISF calibration is when you use an ISF technician to calibrate your television so that the image is as clear as it can possibly be on your TV.

native resolution
The resolution at which a TV or monitor is designed to display images. Image signals higher or lower than a specified native resolution must be converted to be displayed accurately. For example, a TV with a native resolution of 1080i can display 1080i images but may upconvert 480p images to 1080i. In contrast, a TV with a native resolution of 480p must downconvert a 1080i signal to 480p for display. CRT-based projection TVs can have more than one native resolution, but fixed-pixel displays such as LCD and DLP are limited to display one resolution and convert all others.

NTSC
National Television Standards Committee, the FCC engineering group formed in 1940 to develop technical standards for black-and-white television (NTSC broadcasting began July 1, 1941) and color television (1953). NTSC is also the video-transmission standard used in the western hemisphere, Japan, and other Asian countries. NTSC standards are 525 lines of resolution transmitted within a 6MHz channel at 30fps.

OTA
Over the air, as in OTA antenna


Appendix B - Plasma/LCD – Digital and HDTV Myths

Plasma/LCD TV’s don’t last very long – False
The current generation of several brands* of plasma TV's are now rated at 60,000 hours to half brightness. At 6 hrs. per day - this is 10,000 days or approx. 27.4 years. Previous generation models were rated at about 20,000 - 30,000 hours to half brightness.
Several brands of LCD TV’s also have lamp life of 60,000 hours as well. It would be to your benefit to determine if this lamp is user replaceable or replaceable at all especially for those with less than 60,000 hours life.
This is one of the reasons it would be wise to verify what generation of glass your plasma/LCD is using.
* a couple of examples:
http://www.*******************.com.au/faq.htm
http://www.hitachi-hk.com.hk/Whats_N...D=485&langno=1

Plasmas leak gas, and once the gas is gone so is your TV – False
Unless the TV is physically damaged, this is a highly unlikely event. Also see
Refill a plasma - are you kidding?

The Burn in issue
See Plasma Burn-In

Panasonic White Paper on Plasma Fact & Myths
Link to Panny White Paper

Digital Cable is the Same As DTV - False
Digital Cable is in fact digital, meaning it is transmitted as ones and zeros, but that does not make it DTV or HDTV. It is true that you can get DTV from a Digital Cable subscription, but just because you are getting Digital Cable does not mean you can get DTV and/or HDTV signals. See Section 3. Decide on the Screen’s Native Resolution (above for a listing and description of these formats)

DTV is the Same As HDTV - False
Digital Television, DTV, is a set of 18 different formats for broadcasting television in a digital format put out by the ATSC. High Definition Television, HDTV, is six of those 18 DTV formats that has a resolution of at least 720p and has an aspect ratio of 16x9.

All Television Will Be HDTV in 2006 - False
The FCC has mandated that by May 2006 that all broadcasters broadcast DTV signals. This pertains to Over The Air transmissions and does not mean anything about DTV through Cable or Satellite companies. HDTV takes up a lot of bandwidth and it is up to the Cable and Satellite companies to move from sending you regular Analog to true DTV signals. This also means that broadcasters can send DTV signals that are of lower resolution then that of true HDTV. FOX, for instance, is currently broadcasting 480p in many areas and this meets the FCCs regulations.

Eventually all TV will be digital –True
At least over the air broadcasts, which the FCC says will be converted to digital transmissions. It hasn’t yet decided to what extent cable and satellite will be required to carry digital – let alone high definition signals.

I just need to hook up some speakers to my new digital TV to hear it in surround? – False
While 5.1 channel Dolby Digital sound is part of the HDTV standard, broadcasters and other HDTV service providers don’t have to use it. Many high-def programs are transmitted in four channel Dolby Surround – encoded stereo, which is decoded by a Dolby Pro Logic processor. Some HDTV sets have Dolby Digital decoders built in, which means you’d only have to add surround speakers, and a subwoofer to get 5.1 channel sound. But given the size and quality of the speakers in most TV’s, the experience won’t have the impact that people have come to expect from home theater. You’d be better off routing the signal through a Dolby Digital receiver hooked up to a suite of good home theater speakers.

Must I replace my old analog TV when broadcasts are only digital – False
No but if you currently watch free broadcast TV using rabbit ears or another antenna, be prepared to upgrade. Once the FCC shuts off the analog system, you’ll need a set-top box that converts the digital stream into a signal that your existing analog TV can display. These boxes aren’t yet available but it’s estimated that with increased sales volume manufacturers will be able to sell them for between $50 and $100.


Appendix C - Video Scalers

Aurora Xtune Pro Scaler/DVI-1.0/Dual Tuner/PiP w/ extended memory & spatial surround sound
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=xtunepro)

Output Resolutions: SVGA, XGA, 852x480, 1280x768, 1366x768, 480p, 480i, 720p, 1080i
Output Connection:
?
•Multimedia Inputs:
2 - RF Inputs,
2 - Svideo/Video,
1 - RGBHV/YPbPr,
1 - DVI,
4 Audio
•Compatible with 1080i, 720p, 480i, 480p, VGA, SVGA, XGA, WVGA, WXGA input resolutions
• Spatial Surround Sound
• Extended Memory
• Future upgradable closed captioning
• Dual UARTS
• Improved Sound Engine
• Hi-Performance Scaler
• DVI 1.0
• Dual 181 Channel Tuners
• Hi-Res & Low-Res PiP capabilites such as Side-by-Side images, Translucent PiP, Multi-Image PiP
• OSD Character Text Generator via RS-232
• MAD™ (Motion Adaptive De-Interlacing) provides superior image enhancements
• 3:2 Pulldown
• Temporal & Spatial Digital Noise Reduction
• Adaptive 4H comb filtering with Y/C processing
• RS-232, IR, Contact Closure Control
• Full Featured IR Remote Control Included
Included Accessories
- Audio Breakout Cable 6ft.
- IRC-4 Remote Control
- DVI-I Breakout Cable 6ft.


Aurora DIDO Hi-Resolution Scaler w/ Multi-Image Rotation
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=dido)

The DIDO is a video processor, hi-performance scaler, high-resolution PiP generator, and audio/video switcher which support a wide selection of input and output resolutions and formats with the ability to rotate, strech, and crop multiple images.
•Accepts digital and analog video inputs through a combination DVI/ RGBHV/ YPbPr connector and S-Video/Composite input connectors
•Image enhancing capabilities including Motion Adaptive De-interlacing, Low-angle Directional Interpolation, 3:2 & 2:2 inverse pull-down, Moiré cancellation color correction, adaptive flesh tone adjustments, image zoom & shrink.
•The powerful AARE (Aurora Advanced Rotation Engine) Picture-and-Picture (PAP) engine offers several modes of operation including:
1. Hi-resolution Quad Image or Side-by-Side (split screen) images. Perfect for teleconferencing, security, command and control applications.
2. Image Rotation (for digital signage)
3. Translucent Overlays to maximize main image size while still seeing PiP
•Includes audio propagation delay compensation for correct sync with video
•Internal Event Scheduler with Real Time Clock allows AARE special effections to be scheduled locally and between DIDO units when connected via the RS-485 bus
•Shipped with a Full Featured IR Remote Control and Interface Cables
•Firmware upgradeable. New firmware releases are easily uploaded to the DIDO with the Flash utility, both of which are availible for free from Aurora's website.

DVDO iScan HD (Silicon Image) (expected price guess $1600)
Home Video Scaler (http://www.dvdo.com)

Outputs:
There is one analog output and one DVI output.
Inputs:
2 composite video,
2 S-Video (Y/C),
2 component,
one analog passthrough, and
one DVI input.
(There will also be an optional SDI input card. This is currently under development, however, so there is probably more risk associated with this feature than with the others I'm discussing here.) The DVI input can function as an input or as a passthrough; HDCP passthrough is supported but an HDCP-protected signal cannot be scaled. The iScan automatically detects whether it can process the incoming DVI signal, and changes to passthrough mode when it can't.
The component inputs are a bit unique, so let me describe those. They accept YCbCr or RGBs formats. 480i and 576i signals are deinterlaced and scaled, 480p and 576p inputs can be scaled, while higher resolutions formats automatically routed through the iScan without any processing (i.e., a passthrough mode). This means that a video source device which can output SD interlaced, SD progressive and/or HD can be attached to just one component input and the iScan will 'do the right thing'.
Lipsync correction.
The iScan HD has 4 digital audio inputs, 2 optical and 2 coax, each of which can be assigned to any of the video inputs (more on those in a bit). I.e., when you switch to video input A, then the audio input which has been user-assigned to video input A will also be selected.
Frame rate conversion.
There are 3 basic operating modes:
A) Source-lock mode where the output frame rate exactly matches the input frame rate.
B) Arbitrary output frame rate which is not locked to the input.
C) Progressive source-lock mode with frame rate conversion to an even multiple of the source frame rate. 24 Hz film-source material using a 3:2 pulldown pattern can be output with 2:2 pulldown at 48 Hz or 3:3 pulldown at 72 Hz. 25 Hz film-source material using a 2:2 pattern can be output using 3:3 pulldown at 75 Hz. These output rates are fully locked to the original 24 or 25 Hz source rate and are not actually 'floating' as with a several other scaler products which offer 72 or 48 Hz output frame rates without really locking to the original film source rate.
DVDO PureProgressive video deinterlacing
ABT Video scaling technology
Digital and analogue inputs and outputs
Automatic and manual lip sync adjustment
RGBS input compatible
On screen display

DVDO iScan Pro (Silicon Image) - $499
Video De-interlacer (http://www.dvdo.com)

Output: 480p
Output connector:
1 - 15-pinD-sub
Input connectors:
1 - composite (on RCA)
1 - SVideo
1 - Component - video (on RCA)
Copy protected input: No
Motion adaptive video deinterlacing
3:2 pulldown detection (NTSC)
2:2 pulldown detection (PAL)
Motion detection on per-pixel basis
Diagonal processing reduces "jaggies"
Features & Connectivity: 2
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 4
Overall Picture Quality: 4
Value: 5
8.3x5.8x1.4, 1.3 lbs

DVDO iScan Ultra (Silicon Image) - $999
Video De-interlacer (http://www.dvdo.com)

Output: 480p
Output connectors:
1 - component/RGB on15-pinD-sub
1 - DVI
1 - DVI/HDCP
1 - component/RGBHV
Inputs connectors:
2 - composite (on RCA)
2 - S-Video
1 - HDTV (pass through on 15-pin D-sub)
Copy protected input: No
Motion adaptive video de-interlacing
Source adaptive processing
Video pass through
Separate setting storage for each input
Chroma filter
DVI or 15 pin d-sub output
Full frame time base correction
3:2 pulldown detection (NTSC)
2:2 pulldown detection (PAL)
Features & Connectivity: 3
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 4
Overall Picture Quality: 4
Value: 4
17x2.2x10.4 - 12.9lb

Faroudja NRS-DVI - $3995 (Native Rate Scaler with DVI)
(http://www.faroudja.com)

Output: Factory set at:
640x480, 576/100Hz PAL, 852x480. 1920x540p, 800x600
720p, 1280x720, 1024x1024, 1280x768, 1366x768, 1360x1024, 960p, 1080p
Output connectors:
1 - RGBHV on five BNC’s
1 - D15 female
Input Connectors:
1 - composite (on BNC)
1 - S-Video
1 - component/RGB (on BNC)
1 - HD/PC pass through on D15
1 - DVI pass through
Copy protected input: Yes
Features & Connectivity: 4
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 5
Overall Picture Quality: 4
Value: 5
17.25x4.5x13, 15 lbs.

Focus Enhancements CS-HD - $999
Video Source Scaler (http://www.focusinfo.com)

Outputs: 720x480p, 720x576, 960x540p, 1280x720p, 1280x1024p, 1920x1080i/p
Output connectors:
1 - each component/RGBHV on HD-15 connector
1 - DVI-D
Input connectors:
2 - component interlaced
1 - component progressive
2 - Svideo
1 - HD15 (HDTV or computer pass through)
1 - DVI-D
1 - serial port for PC connection
Copy protected input: No
Features & Connectivity: 3
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 4
Overall Picture Quality: 3
Value: 5
19x4x9, 9.5 lbs

Focus Enhancements CenterStage CS-1 - $1999
Video Source Scaler (http://www.focusinfo.com)

Outputs: 20 pre-set resolutions, plus user-adjustable custom resolutions
Scales to popular plasma and projector resolutions
Output connectors:
1 - RGBHV/RGBS/YrPbPr on HD-15 connector
1 - DVI-D
Input Connectors:
2 - component interlaced
1 - component progressive
2 - Svideo
1 - HD15 (HDTV or computer pass through)
1 - DVI-D
1 - serial port for PC connection
Copy protected input: No
Features & Connectivity: 5
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 4
Overall Picture Quality: 3
Value: 5
On screen and LCD display
3:2/2:2 pulldown detection
Auto-save memory for settings
19x4x9, 9.5 lbs

Focus Enhancements CenterStage CS-2
Video Source Scaler (http://www.focusinfo.com)

Scales to popular plasma and projector resolutions
Support for composite, s-video, component and DVI
DVI, RGB and component outputs
On screen and LCD display
3:2/2:2 pulldown detection
Passthrough for DTV and computer sources
Auto-save memory for settings
Standard DVI HDCP compliance
Time Based Correction
BNC Connectors

Focus Enhancements CenterStage CS-2 (SDI)
Video Source Scaler (http://www.focusinfo.com)

Scales to popular plasma and projector resolutions
Support for composite, s-video, component and DVI
DVI, RGB and component outputs
On screen and LCD display
3:2/2:2 pulldown detection
Passthrough for DTV and computer sources
Auto-save memory for settings
Standard DVI HDCP compliance
SDI Input
Time Based Correction
BNC Connectors

Key Digital HD - Leeza - $4000
(http://www.keydigital.com)

Output: 18 resolutions, including but not limited to:
852x480, 800x600, 960x540, 1280x720, 1024x768,
1366x768, 1024x1024, 1400x1050, 1920x1080
Output connectors:
1 - DVI/HDCP
1 - component/RGBHV
Input Connectors:
2 - composite
2 - SVideo
1 - SD component
1 - HD component
2 - DVI/HDCP
1 - SDI (Serial Digital Interface)
Copy Protected Input: Yes
Features & Connectivity: 5
Scaling/Deinterlacing: 5
Overall Picture Quality: 4
Value: 5
17x10x3.5 14 lbs

Lumagen Vision - $999 (http://www.lumagen.com/)
Remote control
On screen display
Configuration save with undo and lock

Lumagen VisionPro $1895 (http://www.lumagen.com/)
Professional video scaler

Remote control and RS-232
On screen display
Configuration save with undo and lock
Firmware upgradeable

Lumagen VisionProS $2295 (http://www.lumagen.com/)
Professional video scaler

Remote control and RS-232
On screen display
Configuration save with undo and lock
Firmware upgradeable
SDI Input

Lumagen Vision DVI ($999)
The Vision DVI can transcode, process, and scale HD sources.
Output:
Programmable output resolution from 480p to 800p, plus 1080i
Output connection:
DVI-D + HDCP (i.e. digital only) at up to 800p
Inputs:
2 Composite,
2 SVideo,
2 SD/ED/HD Component, and
2 DVI-D +HDCP
- The Component inputs can also be configured for RGBHV, RGBS, or RGsB
- Option for two SDI inputs ($400)
- Analog and digital inputs are full-featured (i.e. not just pass-through)
- HD Component inputs are transcoded to RGB
- Component and DVI inputs auto-switch between SD, ED, and HD source
- Two configuration memories per input
- Each input memory has independent parameters for 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
- User adjustable image enhancement
- Source aspect ratio selectable as 4:3, letter-box, 16:9 and 1.85
- Adjustable non-linear stretch mode
- 2:2, 3:2, 3:3 pull-down for SD film sources
- HDMI compatible with appropriate adapter cable
- Zoom in any source up to 33% in either 15% or 5% steps
- RS232 control
- NTSC, PAL and SECAM auto-detection
- Programmable output aspect ratio from 1.33 to 2.35
- Optional rack mount ears ($50)
- Studio quality TV decoder with 10-bit A/Ds
- Configuration memories can be used for day/night settings
- All setup parameters are unique for each memory
- Input-cropping, black, contrast, color and hue
- Output resolution and timing are programmable
- Y/C-delay calibration
- Multipoint grayscale calibration
- Gamma calibration
- Genlock
- CUE and ICP filtering
- Programmable input and output color-space (SD, HD)
- DVI input and output dynamic-range can be set to video or full
- Field upgradeable software
- Universal power supply

Vision HDP ($1499)
The Vision HDP and VisionPro HDP can transcode, deinterlace and scale HD up to 1080p output.
Vision HDP has all the Vision DVI features plus:
- Output is DVI-I (analog and digital)
- Optional BNC analog output connectors ($100)
- HD deinterlacing at up to 1080p output
- Transcode analog RGB and DVI to analog HD-component
- Output resolution up to 1080p for analog and digital outputs
- Improved video processing quality verses Vision HDP
- 2:2, 3:2, 3:3 pull-down for SD and HD film sources

VisionPro HDP ($2299)
VisionPro HDP has all the Vision HDP features plus:
- BNC connectors for all analog video in and out provide the ultimate electrical and mechanical connection.
- Analog output on BNC connectors, plus DVI-D output.
- Ten inputs standard: Two Composite/SVideo (selectable), two
composite/SVideo/SD-Component (selectable), two SD/ED/HD component, two DVI + HDCP, and two SDI
- Professional grade case with machined black-anodized front-panel
- Rack-mount ears standard
- Front panel LCD display
- Front panel controls
- Cables: Two component RCA-to-BNC and two SVideo-to-BNC.

TAW Rock Lite - $3399
Professional Video Source Scaler (http://www.audioreview.com/TRP_161_5412crx.aspx)

On screen display
Remote control
Internet download upgradable
Hardware upgradable
Optional SDI input and DVI output

TAW Rock+ - $5399

TAW Rock Pro - $7999
Professional Video Source Scaler

On screen display
Remote control
Internet download upgradable
Hardware upgradable
SDI input and DVI output

Vigatec Dune (http://www.vigatec.de/index1.htm)
Professional Video Source Scaler

Software upgradable
Framedoubling
3:2 Pulldown Detection (NTSC)
2:2 Pulldown Detection (PAL)
Adaptive Comb Filter
Noise Filter
Time Base Corrector
HDTV Upconversion

Vigatec Dune-F (http://www.vigatec.de/index1.htm)
Professional Video Source Scaler

SDI and DVI as standard
Software upgradable
Faroudja video processing
Framedoubling
3:2 Pulldown Detection (NTSC)
2:2 Pulldown Detection (PAL)
Adaptive Comb Filter
Noise Filter
Time Base Corrector
HDTV Upconversion

Vigatec Dune-Fi (http://www.vigatec.de/index1.htm)
Professional Video Source Scaler

SDI and DVI as standard
Software upgradable
Faroudja video processing
3:2 Pulldown Detection (NTSC)
2:2 Pulldown Detection (PAL)
Adaptive Comb Filter
Noise Filter
Time Base Corrector

Zinwell - Brite View Scaler/Deinterlacer - $599
(http://www.laaudiofile.com/briteview.html)
Output: Hardware switch selectable between RGB and YPbPr
RGB: 640 x 480 (VGA), 800 x 600 (SVGA), 1024 x 768 (XGA) and 1280 x 1024 (SXGA)
YPbPr: 480p, 720p, 1080i
Output Connector:
1- D-sub 15pin, Female type (RGB/YPbPr by switching selection}
Input Connectors:
1 - Composite Video: RCA
1 - SVideo: 4 pin, mini DIN
2 - YCbCr: 3 x RCA
Advanced frame buffer technology
Double scan conversion
3:2/2:2 pulldown auto detection and correction
Brightness, Colour, Contrast, Sharpness and Tint adjustments
Friendly IR Control with smart hot keys
The highest video quality at the most reasonable price
dynamic format 4:3 or 16:9 for RGB output
3D comb filter for composite input

Products Compatible with Pioneer PDP-503CMX, PDP-433CMX, and Hitachi CMP-5000 plasmas

Aurora Multimedia A303-HDCP Cost Effective Plasma Card
/w Scaler/DVI-HDCP/S-Video/Composite Video and More
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=a303)

•Upscales SDTV resolutions to 1080i
Inputs:
DVI 1.0/HDCP,
S-Video, Compostive Video,
Analog Audio L,R
•Compatible with 1080i, 720p, 480i, 480p, VGA, SVGA, XGA,852x480, 1280x768, and 1366x768 input resolutions
•Non Linear Stretch and Pillar Box Stretch Modes
•Letterbox Stretch for 1.33, 1.66, 1.78, 1.85, 2.00, 2.35 ratios
•MAD™ (Motion Adaptive De-Interlacing) provides superior image enhancements
•3:2 Pulldown
•Adaptive 4H comb filtering with Y/C processing produces exceptionally high quality images with image enhancement and noise suppression.
•Control Port for Future Firmware Enhancement Updates
•Compatible with Pioneer PDP-503CMX, PDP-433CMX, and Hitachi CMP-5000 plasmas

Aurora A304-HDCP Plasma Card
w/Scaler/DVI-HDCP/RGB/YpbPr/Svideo/High Res Analog/Dual Composite Video
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=a304)

Output:
?
• Compatible with 1080i, 720p, 480i, 480p, VGA, SVGA, XGA,852x480, 1280x768, and 1366x768 input resolutions
Inputs:
DVI 1.0/HDCP,
RGBHV,
YPBPR,
S-Video,
Compostive Video,
High Resolution Analog
• Auto Switchable between DVI + High Resolution Analog
• SVideo port can be converted to composite w/included cable
• Upscales SDTV resolutions to 1080i
• Non Linear Stretch and Pillar Box Stretch Modes
• Letterbox Stretch for 1.33, 1.66, 1.78, 1.85, 2.00, 2.35 ratios
• MAD™ (Motion Adaptive De-Interlacing) provides superior image enhancements
• 3:2 Pulldown
• Adaptive 4H comb filtering with Y/C processing produces exceptionally high quality images with image enhancement and noise suppression.
• Control Port for Future Firmware Enhancement Updates
• Compatible with Pioneer PDP-503CMX, PDP-433CMX, and Hitachi CMP-5000 plasma

Aurora TVP-1000pro Plasma Card
w/Scaler/DVI-HDCP/Dual Tuner/PiP w/extended memory & spatial surround sound
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=tvp1000pro)

The TVP-1000+ combines the features and functions of several audio/video devices into a single, convenient input expansion card for Pioneer's third-generation and Hitachi's CMP-5000 plasma display
• Multimedia Inputs:
2 - RF Inputs,
2 - Svideo/Video,
RGBHV/YPbPr,
DVI,
4 Audio
• Compatible with 1080i, 720p, 480i, 480p, VGA, SVGA, XGA, WVGA, WXGA input resolutions
• Spatial Surround Sound
• Extended Memory
• Future upgradable closed captioning
• Dual UARTS
• Improved Sound Engine
• Hi-Performance Scaler
• DVI 1.0/HDCP
• Dual 181 Channel Tuners
• Hi-Res & Low-Res PiP capabilites such as Side-by-Side images, Translucent PiP, Multi-Image PiP
• OSD Character Text Generator via RS-232
• MAD™ (Motion Adaptive De-Interlacing) provides superior image enhancements
• 3:2 Pulldown
• Temporal & Spatial Digital Noise Reduction
• Adaptive 4H comb filtering with Y/C processing
• RS-232, IR, Contact Closure Control
Accessories included:
• Full Featured IR Remote Control
• DVI-I 6ft breakout cable
• Audio 6ft breakout cable
• S-Video to Video cables

Aurora ASR-44 Plasma Card Hi-Resolution Scalar w/Multi-Image rotation
(http://www.auroramultimedia.com/web/?section=products&product=asr44)

The ASR-44 is a video processor, a high-performance scaler, a high-resolution a PiP generator, and an audio/video switcher which supports a wide selection of input and output resolutions and formats with the ability to rotate, strech, and crop multiple images.
• Accepts digital and analog video inputs through a combination DVI/ RGBHV/ YPbPr connector and S-Video/Composite input connectors
• Features image enchancing capabilities including Motion Adaptive De-interlacing, Low-angle Directional Interpolation, 3:2 & 2:2 inverse pull-down, Moiré cancellation color correction, adaptive flesh tone adjustments, image zoom & shrink.
• The powerful AARE (Aurora Advanced Rotation Engine) Picture-and-Picture (PAP) engine offers several modes of operation including:
1. Hi-resolution Quad Image or Side-by-Side (split screen) images. Perfect for teleconferencing, security, command and control applications.
2. Image Rotation (for digital signage)
3. Translucent Overlays to maximize main image size while still seeing PiP
• Includes audio propagation delay compensation for correct sync with video
• Internal Event Scheduler with Real Time Clock allows AARE special effects to be scheduled locally and between ASR-44 units when connected via the RS-485 bus
• Shipped with a Full Featured IR Remote Control and Interface Cables
• Firmware upgradeable. New firmware releases are easily uploaded to the ASR-44 with the Flash utility, both of which are availible for free from Aurora's website.

Updated 4/5/04 - Thanks Lewlew for the Aurora lead; added expected Lumagen

Appendix D - Signal Bandwidth

System Bandwidth Requirements for Video:

NTSC Broadcast and VHS: 4.2 MHz
Laser Disk: 5.3 MHz
Regular NTSC DVD: 7 (6.8) MHz
Progressive Scan NTSC DVD and 480p DTV: 13.5 MHz

1080i HDTV: 37 MHz;
in practice with 22 MHz the picture is still very superb.

720p HDTV; 37 MHz.

These are the actual numbers. Additional overhead buys you nothing.


Other items I not sure what I will do with.
Room lighting
Since most people turn down the lights to watch a movie, our recommendations are designed to deliver a better DVD picture in rooms with controlled lighting. Unless you have a big-screen projector or you're sitting at the minimum viewing distance, you shouldn't watch movies in complete darkness--it can cause eyestrain. For bright plasmas and smaller direct-view sets, the ideal setup is to place a dim light directly behind the TV and leave the rest of the room dark. Look for special "daylight" bulbs that glow at 6,500 degrees Kelvin. You should also prevent any light in the room from reflecting off the TV, as glare will hamper image fidelity. Watching at night is best, but if you watch during the day, thick curtains will really improve the picture.

Before you make any of the adjustments detailed below, set room lighting as if you were about to watch a movie. For viewing in brighter environments, we recommend you use one of the picture presets, such as Standard, Sports, or Vivid, and reserve your custom settings for dark rooms.

Brightness
What it is: Also called black level, brightness actually adjusts how dark the black sections of the picture appear.

What it does: Excessive brightness can result in a two-dimensional, washed-out look with reduced color saturation. Images with brightness set too low lose detail in shadows, and distinctions between dark areas disappear in pools of black.

How to set it: After connecting your DVD player using the highest-quality input available, insert a DVD that has letterbox bars above and below the image, and find a scene that has a roughly equal amount of light and dark material. Turn up the control all the way, then decrease until the letterbox bars begin to appear black, as opposed to dark gray. If you notice a loss of shadow detail--for example, when people's eyes disappear into the depths under their brows--then you've set brightness too low. Some plasma, LCD, DLP, and LCoS TVs won't ever look black, so you'll need a setup disc to properly configure their brightness.

Contrast
What it is: Also called picture or white level, contrast controls the intensity of the white parts of the image and determines the overall light output of the display.

What it does: Contrast is usually set extremely high by default because it makes images look brighter in the store. High contrast can obscure details and distort lines in the image, cause eyestrain in dim rooms, and shorten the lifespan of tubes and plasma elements. Setting contrast too low robs the image of impact.

How to set it: Display a still image from DVD of a white object with some visible details--such as someone wearing a white button-up shirt or a shot of a glacier from the Ice Age DVD. Adjust the control up all the way, then reduce it until you can make out all the details in the white (such as buttons on a shirt or cracks in the ice). In general, TVs look best when contrast is set between 30 percent and 50 percent.

Color
What it is: Also called saturation, this control adjusts how intense the colors look.

What it does: When there's too much color, the set looks garish and unrealistic. It's most noticeable with reds, which are often accentuated (pushed) by the TV's color decoder. On the other hand, too little color diminishes the impact of the picture, making it look drab. Setting color to zero results in a black-and-white image.

How to set it: If available, first set the color-temperature control to the warmest option as described below. Then find an image of someone with light, delicate skin tones, preferably a close-up of a face, on a DVD. Turn up the color control until it looks like the person has sunburn, then reduce it until the skin looks natural, without too much red. If the rest of the colors look too drab, you can increase color slightly at the expense of accurate skin tones.

Other controls
Tint: Unless you're using one of the DVDs mentioned in the Intermediate section to set it properly, this control is best left at the midway point.

Sharpness: This adds artificial edges to objects, which sometimes helps with soft cable signals but almost always mars the already sharp image from a DVD. Reduce it to zero unless you detect visible softening along the edges of text; if you do, increase it until the edges appear sharp again.

Edge enhancement: Also called VSM or SVM for scan-velocity modulation, set this control to Off if possible.

Color temperature: This important control affects the entire palette of colors. Select the Warm or Low option, which should come closest to the NTSC standard of 6,500 degrees Kelvin.

Generally, the image looks best for DVD with picture "enhancements" such as autocolor, autoflesh tone, autocontrast, noise reduction, and other proprietary processing modes turned off. DVD image quality is good enough that these modes usually do more harm than good.

LCD Color
Colors rendered on plasma displays are almost identical to those on the NTSC color system chart, displayed on phosphor-based studio monitors, and sent to homes for viewing. In comparison, LCD displays can reproduce just a fraction a plasma display’s color range. How can a plasma monitor show more accurate color than LCD? plasma subpixels glow red, green and blue and we see these colors directly. It’s literally an example of “what you see is what you get.†These pure colors also spread out in every direction. You can see the entire range of colors, at full brightness, from virtually anywhere in the room.
LCD sub-pixels, on the other hand, use filters to subtract color wavelengths from a white backlight. This transmissive method can only approximate true red, green or blue. LCD’s transmissive color process is not as precise or as wide-ranging as the PDP’s emissive color process. Also, because polarized filters used in LCD, the resulting black levels and color range are further limited to a narrow viewing angle. Black levels and colors begin to grade when you view from more than a modest 20 degrees to the left or right, and even less up or down.
post #2 of 8
Fantastic stuff, semigolfer. It's clear that you learned a few things about being methodical during your engineering career. :)

I do see a few points where you could clarify things a bit:

* The whole issue of 4:3 needs to be treated more clearly, especially the point that the only 4:3 panels on the market are small-format LCD

* The resolutions listed should have aspect ratios associated with them

* The sizes listed should have aspect ratios, or be tagged using consumer electronics industry notation: 32" is a 4:3 display, 32W" is a 16:9 display

Also, you should probably have a brief section right up front, FAQ style, to counter the bad info which continues to propagate among under-educated CE sales staff.

-T.
post #3 of 8
I think an executive summary type section that is easily available in the beginning would be nice, and then if you had further qeustions you could dive into the more meaty area of your guide .. As it stands it could be a bit much for the average consumer.

Great work though!

- pink
post #4 of 8
In your initial (bolded) HDTV definition:

> can support more than 720 horizontal lines

Shouldn't this be "can support at least 720 horizontal lines"?

It's a very nice guide; it would have been useful when I started looking at Plasma TVs :-)
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thank you

tremor_f, mr pink, Abaddon

I've tried to incorporate your comments in the next draft, edited version above.

Still struggling on the "color" description.

Anybody know color - and how to provide guidance about color other than

"look for a set with accurate, or vivid color" (even that seems contradictory)
post #6 of 8
Thanks, Semigolfer for your detailed but yet easy to understand essay. As a first time Plasma Buyer I found it invaluable
post #7 of 8
I know it's not required, but I might as well point you to my (and others) guru on color, the lauded Rharkness. Look up the steamingrat method and you'll see why....Better yet, just reference the post , cause it's the everyman's solution to color and pq.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks Pres-Sean

You just reminded me that I have a bookmarked folder titled
AVS P/L Forum Classics - brimming with links that I forgot to review before typing out the buyer's guide.

Just added Steaming Rat to: Step 12. the After Purchase consideration section under calibration.

and although this is a great reference, I'm honored to include, it's more about calibration as opposed to knowing what to look for when shopping, - although there are some hints as to what constitutes accurate color.

I've viewed enough plasma in B&M stores to know - that nobody has touched the settings from the factory. So how does one discern whether a set has great color - or do they all have great color once calibrated? Is it just the number of bits of color processing the circuitry is doing or is there more to this puzzle? Still confused on this issue.
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