I can hardly believe what I just experienced at the BB in little Columbus, GA ... I went in there with little expectation of seeing either set, but wanting to compare the Panny PD50 with the brand new Sammy R4232. Neither set was on the floor, but Ryan took it upon himself to go into the back room and after some searching found BOTH OF THEM IN BOXES !! He proceeded to bring them both out and set them up side by side in the aisle, and we compared them to each other and to the previous year Sammy and the previous Panasonic.
Let me just say that I am not an expert nor a videophile, but PQ is the most important thing to me and I do know how to adjust a set to get the picture that I want. The most obvious thing..."Sub-Pixel Control" is most definitely NOT a marketing gimic...it is real, it is a marked improvement and it IS in the PD50! The first thing that we noticed about the Panny as it sat in the aisle, using the box as a base, was that the factory preset was in Vivid and the colors were definitely VIVID and bright and gorgeous. It was a standout picture without any adjustment whatsoever. The comparison with the Samsung 4231 (last years ED) right behind it was striking. It even had more snap than the PX25 a few feet away. Ryan let me put the remote together and adjust it to my hearts content, and I reduced the color saturation, the brightness and contrast and got what is to me a much more natural looking picture, especially the flesh tones and greens in the vegetation. He fed it a 1080i, 720p, and a 480i, and I couldn't tell just a whale of a lot of difference in any of the feeds (component cabling), but to my untrained eye the 1080i signal was a slight winner. By the way, Feb '05 build, Osaka, Japan.
In just a few minutes he appeared with another box, containing the new Sammy, and he pulled it out on its stand and set it up right beside the Panny (Mar '05 build, Mexico). The Samsung has a black, slightly shiny bezel that is about the same width as the silver bezel on the Panasonic (2"), and I must say that I preferred the black surround. The Sammy is an improvement on the 4231, in that you can see better black level, more contrast, more brightness, just a little more of everything. The 10,000:1 contrast ratio was not evident, but I was able to adjust the picture so that it looked VERY CLOSE to the Panasonic. I could not tell any difference from the 12 bit processing and the increased gray scale, although I'm sure that someone with the right material could demonstrate the difference. Both sets had a beautiful picture, however the Panasonic looked like a more natural color pallette to my eye, it was smoother, with more detail in both dark and light areas of the screen. I attribute a large part of this to the SUB-PIXEL CONTROL feature. It was obvious to everyone that the Panny looked smoother, more like the HD sets than the ED sets, and MUCH reduced SDE...I could see the SDE on the new Sammy quite easily at eight feet, but had to get within about six feet of the Panny to really notice it. To my eye the picture was so much better than the Sammy next to it that I may just have to live with the silver plastic. Congratulations Panasonic...the new PD50 has the best picture that I have yet seen on an ED plasma, and with the reduction in SDE I have no hesitation any longer about purchasing an ED plasma. And to BB in Columbus, and to Ryan and his fellow sales persons, thank you for the extra effort and for the great experience. To all of you, like me, who have been waiting for the next step in PQ, I hope that you get the opportunity to see the PD50.
This bodes very well for the PX50 and the PX500 which should benefit just as much from the SPC feature, for those of you who will be sitting closer to the screen than I will.