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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,


I had extensive time today demoing the Loewe 38" Aconda direct-view set. (My excuse is I'm looking at CRTs for my father's upgrade - true). I own a Pansonic 4UY 42" ED (Enhanced Definition) PLASMA display, so I thought I'd write about the Loewe from my perspective: what do you get when you spend all this dough on a Loewe or a plasma, and how do the pictures compare? Here's one AV geek's experience comparing the two.


My background: AV enthusiast and film professional (post production). Have demoed a large number of brands and display types in the consumer market. I have friends who are AV writers and dealers, so I'm fortunate to be given some free reign comparing some top-of-the-line equipment, under controlled conditions.


Motivation: I love my Panny plasma, but I continually encounter the mantra that the best image is still to be found among the CRTs. Loewe is consistently ranked around number one for consumer CRT direct-views by critics and consumers, and as such I've been drawn to check out Loewe TVs whenever I encounter them...which is constantly - my pals sell the whole Loewe line. Today, as I have several times before in various settings, I auditioned the Loewe 38" Aconda using many of my reference DVDs. These were controlled conditions...which means a dedicated component feed - no splitters - from a high-end Arcam DVD player; lights out in the room, which is how I watch movies and which should show the Loewe at it's best; and full control over picture settings to achieve the best image I can get. I will be concentrating on DVD, as "home theater" is my main motivation. Also, I'm attempting to be as objective as possible: I have no problem whatsoever acknowledging a superior picture when I see one - after all, it gives something to shoot for when upgrade time calls :)

THE AUDITION:


I adjusted the picture settings to get the type of image I like: as realistic-looking as possible...deep but detailed blacks, good contrast, natural-looking, detailed high-lights, unexaggerated color, and a "natural" life-like sharpness (which should come across as "clarity," not sharpness of image).


THE GOOD: The Loewe looks wonderful with HI-DEF. No surprise. It's one of the sharpest direct-views I've seen with HI-DEF. It also has a very rich, detailed and fairly natural color pallet - I notice more and finer color detail within the image than virtually any other CRT Direct view. Now, my plasma is not a true Hi-Def resolution (852 x 480 pixel count), but it nonetheless is renowned for an incredible HD image...so good some cannot readily tell it form the HD models. However, I believe I saw a little more color detail on HD content from the Loewe, which was really cool. The Loewe was very sharp, but fell short of the "damn-I'm-looking-through-a-window" clarity of the best plasmas (e.g. Pioneer Elite, Panasonic, Fujistsu 50" plasma). The Loewe had a wonderful list of attributes (black level, color detail, precise image for a CRT), yet as good as it was, I never forgot I was watching TV, as opposed to the you-are-thereness of the plasmas (including mine). Even after ridding the Loewe of the factory "torch" modes, there is still something in the "electric" or "day-glow" quality of CRTs that says "TV" to my brain. Still, HD was W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L on the Aconda...rich, eye-candy with a bullet.

VIEWING DVDS:


THE GOOD: That amazing Loewe gray-scale and color detail. The depth, solidity and detail of the Loewe blacks really do give the picture a dimensionality that puts it ahead even of most other CRTs I've seen. It's the one direct-view I've experienced that attains a plasma-like three-dimensionality. On Jurassic Park III... >ack
 

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I really like your finding on the Loewe 38." I can't find a 30" that does not have a problem. I had a 30" with wave of lines on both sides. I exchanged it three times with the same problem from Harvey. I love the colors and the black level. Loewe is trying to test one before send. Maybe, if you have the time check out the 30". Let me know your finding since you have a great understanding of the Loewe T.V.'s
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Tony,


I have checked out the 30" Loewes. I tend to prefer them over the 38" model, as the 30 inchers appear sharper (typical of smaller screens anyway) and the screens are "flat," whereas the 38" Aconda's curved screen really throws me off (especially after living with plasma).


They are very nice TVs, and I love the look.
 

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Rich,

Thanks for your review and I agreed with you 100%. I think Loewes have the best HD image among CRT and the 30" is definitely have a sharper image than 38". I have checked out the 38" dvd imaged numerous times in store and I found the picture to be softer and not as clear as other 34" model.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Vic,


My pleasure....I spent a year comparing every display under the sun within the 34" to 56" range before making a purchase. It's kinda hard to stop even after the purchase "-) Luckily my dealer friends put up with me.


The day I demoed the Aconda I was actually more impressed with how my DVDs looked on the Panasonic Tau direct view (I think it was 34"). The Tau did not have the softness of the Loewe, and brought the Jurassic dinosaurs to life even more.
 

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Rich,


I see your persistent fascination with Loewe continues since you last showed up around here : )


Why don't you just admit your obsession to yourself and get one-- you know you want it!


I know it's not exactly within your means to do so, but you can take my word for it-- If you were to see DVDs on the Loewe the way I have mine set up, you'd be a bit more impressed with it. I run mine from an HTPC with TheaterTek and ffdshow postprocessing at 1440x480p. I'm going to try to get 960i working in the not too distant future, as well. Adding those extra lines helps a bit with the sharpness of the image, and it looks better than my friend's Denon 3800 to me.


I can imagine how you'd think the Aconda is soft on DVD material considering that you're used to an ED plasma, which is probably the very best way to watch DVDs right now. I, however, am one of those people that CAN tell the difference between the ED plasmas and HD plasmas (and other HD displays) on HD material, so they're a no-go for me (maximizing HD PQ is a high priority for me). Still, I could certainly imagine how the 1:1 digital pixel mapping would be absolutely wonderful for DVDs, especially at such sizes and with perfect flatness. However, if you remember our previous encounters, you'll know that I'm a black-level fiend, and that to me is more important than even a curved screen or a little bit of softness. Just thought I'd drop by again and represent the black-level fiends : )


I'm hoping that as I get my DVDs running at closer-to-HD resolutions (I'm gonna try to get to 1800x960i), it'll alleviate some of that softness that the Loewe seems to have with 480-line material. It's obvious that this is a set designed with HD in mind.


By the way, have you been following the LCoS stuff? I'm curious to hear your opinion of how all that is progressing. I myself can't wait for Sony's SXRD iteration of the technology. If it's even remotely close to what they tout it to be, I'll sell the car now...



Dan

(overwhelmingly satisfied Loewe 38" owner)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Mighty Mr. Gronk,


(I still love your tag line). Good to hear from you again.


I have no doubt that the Aconda looks better in your set-up. In my experience a display in the hands of "someone who cares" always looks better than what you can find in the stores. And your set-up in particular sounds amazing - I'd love to see it.


My pal who is an AV writer has the Loewe 30," and it looks terrific in his home.


Also, I sure agree about the Aconda's black level performance. It just gives the picture a weighty rock-solid feel - especially with DVD - and a richness of contrast that is rare to encounter.



BTW, I too am one of those who sees the difference between the ED and HD plasmas, and I definitely appreciate that difference when I watch HD on a true hi-def model. But yes, there must be something to this Panny ED model and it's ease with DVD images. It really is the most rock-solid, artifact-free image I've ever seen from DVDs. I notice that for me personally, a sharp image and "solid" noise free color is a big part of a picture looking realistic.


I'd love to see a LCos screen, it sounds captivating with HD. I'm curious how good the scalers will be for DVD....but when HD DVD arrives, oh man...



Finally, you might get a kick out of the link below my name: "Click Here To See How Movies Look On My Plasma." It got frustrating trying to put images into words when describing my set-up, so I tried something silly and created a photo gallery of movies playing on my Panny plasma. To my surprise the pictures actually captured a degree of the life-like image I enjoy. Check it out and see what ya think. Later....
 

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Rich,


Yeah, I did take a look at your galleries. There's some really nice stuff there, but it's pretty difficult to get a sense of what the display actually looks like. After all, I am looking at the pictures on a CRT...


I totally agree about caring for your display. It's surprising how good many displays can look when they're in the hands of someone who knows how to optimize them, and cares about getting them just right. My Aconda has been tweaked in the SM and calibrated as well as possible for every input. It took a lot of work to get the blacks as punchy as I like them and still maintain all of the shadow detail possible. I'm going to be building a new HTPC this summer, and I hope to get 1080i videogaming going (that should be one hell of an experience) in addition to 960i DVD. When you deal with so many programs with different output settings going into one input, it takes a LOT of work to get each to perfection, but it's worth it when you get there. I just wish I could have access to 1080i test patterns so I could calibrate properly for HD. I'm stuck doing it by eye with some settings borrowed from my DVD viewing (sigh). I'm also thinking of getting some bias lighting behind the set so I can really get the deepest apparent contrast possible. One thing I really love about this set is the color-- I have to admit, I like to crank it over the NTSC levels. It's something you can (thankfully) get away with because of the impeccible color decoding and total absence of red push. But I know a lot of guys who would never dream of taking their sets outside of NTSC perfection. Again, another example of personal preference.


I really wish I could get my hands on one of those LCoS sets. With DScaler, TheaterTek, and a good HTPC setup (in the hands of a manic tweaker such as myself), you could really go to town maximizing everything for 1080p display. But the Aconda is enough of an investment that I'm just gonna wait out the development of LCoS and only get a new display once I'm a few years out of college. Unless I get downrezzed on HD-DVD for not having DVI (grrrr).


Once I move into my new house next fall I'll take some pictures of my setup for the galleries here (the direct view galleries could use some high end) and you'll have an opportunity to see how much fun I have with the Aconda. Hopefully I'll be able to take some good screen pics. Until then.



Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Bias lighting behind the Loewe? Madman! You are a black level fiend. (Out of curiosity, do the lighter black levels in projected film at the cinema bother you at all?).


Regarding your pushing the NTSC level envelope: I'm a kindred spirit.

I actually had my display ISF'd by a very well regarded technician. In the end I preferred my own settings, which look more realistic. In comparison the ISF settings were too conservative and did not use the realistic levels of contrast you can get out of a plasma (without noticeable loss of high-light detail...unlike many CRTs). I'm no heathen, nor anti-ISF, but I know what looks more realistic on my display. I've heard of others who ultimately decided they didn't care for their ISF'd picture as much as their own settings. To each his own.


Dan, I look forward to your pictures.
 

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Just a few thoughts. Having viewed the Loewe and the ED Panny. the ED Panny was the clear winner to me on both DVD and HD. I just believe that the Panasonic has the more natural colors and does not have that curved screen. The Panny has a stunning picture on HD and I use it for HD more than DVD. I also feel that the black level is too dark, much like Proton sets, which have had deep blacks that over time I felt were too black and obscured detail even though they generated a vibrant picture. Rich, as I sit 10 feet from the screen, the "added" resolution on the HD Panasonic is completely lost IMHO. I have had the ED Panny for almost a year and love it. A neigbor who has looked at Plasmas for longer than me also came to the same conslusion and had an ED Panny installed this week. he belives that the ED Panny has a better HD picture than the HD Panny from his distance of about 8 feet.
 

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Harkness & MrGonk, you guys are quite a few levels ahead of me in your video expertise, so please have patience w/this novice.


In Dec. 2003 I purchased a 40XBR. This is a transition TV for me, and thus far I'm very satisfied w/the PQ especially HDTV & DVD. I figure this TV will be my main viewer for about 7-10 years, but that may change over time.


Now that I've made the "transition" I'm definitely hooked on achieving fantastic PQ for Home Theater. The Plasma Screens I saw at CC when shopping for my TV were certainly great looking screens, and I remember distinctly the excellent PQ of the Pioneer Elite displayed w/about 6 other Plasmas on a wall. The price tag was a bit steep for me, and as this was the first time I've shopped for a new TV in years, I decided to stick w/the latest CRT HDTV lineup. The 40XBR replaced my much older 27"XBR analog (but still working).


My questions are two fold. The first concerning the upgraded 34XBR910 Super Fine Pitch coming out in July, and what are your opinions about this TV shown at the CES Show? I'm in need of a small screen TV for the bedroom and this tube may be my answer. Any opinions and observations about the Sony widescreens will be welcome.


My second question has to do with the future of TV Tech. I know you don't have a crystal ball, but I'd really be interested in learning your ideas, opinions, etc. on where you think TV consumer electronics are headed. I'm thinking that my next main viewer may be a really large Plasma, as the tech seems to be improving constantly and the prices will most likely be dropping.


Thanks, JB
 

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JB:


As much in love with my Aconda as I am, I'm actually waiting to take a look at the XBR910, as it supposedly will blow you away. With the 910 series, Sony says it has virtually eliminated the one most major problem with direct-view CRT-based HDTV displays-- the resolution limitation caused by the aperture grille.


When RCA-style color was added to NTSC, the way they got it to filter properly into the exact right pixels at the exact right levels was to install a "shadow mask" that was basically a very fine wire grille that directed the spot beam's red, green, and blue light into the exact right pixels in the exact right ratios in order to produce proper color pixel by pixel. Ultimately, this became the limiting factor in resolution for comptuer monitors and HDTVs (along with spot beam size). You can only have a different pixel for each individual hole in the mask, so if your HDTV's mask doesn't have 1920x1080 holes, you ain't getting full 1920x1080i. The vast majority fail to notice this, as they're usually comparing the direct-view pictures to CRT-based RPTV pictures, which suffer similar resolution limitations due to their optical systems, and generally do not look as good in other regards (brightness, uniformity, geometry, etc). However, compare 1080i on an RCA F38310 and on, say a G90 projector, and you'll see two different levels of detail (9" CRTs are capable of resolving pretty much all of 1920x1080).


Anyway, what does this mean for you and me? Well, for one thing, there's no point in cranking your resolution up to 1600x1200 when you are playing Doom 3 on your computer. Another is that you and I aren't seeing as much detail as the signal contains (well, kind of. Due to filtering and compression limitations, most OTA HD only contains about 1440x1080 lines of real resolution). Now, Sony invented the Trinitron tube to make displays brighter, and that involved making the holes in the mask bigger. The Trinitron tube (and others that copy its design) only has vertical wires in its mask (along with two horizontal wires that hold them in place). According to Sony's own specifications, their current Trinitron design only allows for aboput 845 vertical lines of resolution. This means that if you own one of those beautiful 34XBR800s that everyone loves so much, you're watching about 845x1080. And it DOES look good. Enter the "Super Fine Pitch Aperture Grille" -- According to Sony's specs, it will allow almost 1440x1080 (remember that number? I doubt it's a coincidence) on their next generation of tube TVs. If that is true, then two things result: 1- this generation of tubes will be noticeably dimmer than the past ones (not a problem in my eyes, as you could light a small country with most of Sony's TVs), and 2- the resolution limitation on direct-view CRTs has now been broken.


For me, I'm enticed, as my precious Aconda probably only resolves a little over 1000x1080, and I personally am quite sensitive to changes in resolution. If I take a look at this new XBR910 and I'm as blown away by it as I might be, I may put the Aconda on EBay, where I can probably make about $3000 on it, and use the remaining cash to get a new XBR910 and have it ISF-calibrated (because unless I have it calibrated, It will be a step down for me in quality either way due to the fact that the Aconda is nearly ISF-perfect). But I'll only own one of those damn Sonys if I can get rid of that ridiculous red push and scan velocity modulation.


All of this means that that TV is probably a damn good one, but it has yet to be really demonstrated as such. I'd say definitely take a look at it before you buy it, but expect it to look at least as good as a 34XBR800. Definitely one to watch.


As for the evolution of TV, here's what I see (some of this is wishful thinking, some of this is actual prediction):


- Plasma TVs will continue to become both more affordable and higher in quality for us real critical types. Unfortunately, the cheap ones will probably continue to not be the good ones, and I anticipate a continually huge gap in price between the plasmas that are affordable and the plasmas that AV snobs would REALLY want. We'll probably see a 1080p plasma with either 1440 or 1920 pixels across at some point in the near future, probably at a size of 65" or greater. This plasma will likely cost a billion gazillion dollars. Panasonic will probably continue to produce excellent "compromise" models that provide superior bang for the buck but not the absolute top-of-the-line performance (except where black levels are concerned). Freakishly trendy people and businesses will start using the smaller ones as computer monitors. Just kidding.


-CRT RPTV will be on its way out, and fast. At least compared to other technologies. This will probably have the most limited lifespan. DLP and LCD continue to improve by leaps and bounds, and at least DLP is beginning to get affordable to the mid-range RPTV crowd (probably the most important to HD saturation). With LCoS now providing a high-end digital display alternative for the really-big-streen RP folks, CRT is becoming less and less valid in that area (even as it becomes more and more tolerable)


- After the introduction of Sony's SXRD and a more-successful implementation of three-five systems' 1920x1080p LCoS chip, perhaps in more Toshiba RPTVs and perhaps with similar designs from other companies in FPs, CRT FP will begin to be ousted almost entirely by digital display technologies, leaving only a few 9 and 10 " CRT fps for the ultra-high-end purist crowd.


-Direct-view TVs will continue to improve by marginal amounts, with Sony routinely taking the crown in every generation of product in the mainstream with the XBR line. Dan replaces his Aconda with a Sony 34XBR910, and never hears the end of it from the direct-view forum after all the Sony bashing he's done in the past. Dan will not care, as he will have 3 HD inputs, including DVI w/HDCP. Dan will love the extra resolution on his beautifully ISF-ed XBR910, but will never be able to stop seeing the loss of the extra 4" of size. Eventually, he will lose his mind due to the feelings of anxiety resulting from this, and have to be committed to "reprogramming" at the local Sony factory in western Pennsylvania. He will emerge now black, with silver trim.


-Cable tuners will become the hot item in HDTVs, especially in smaller sizes. It'll be just like cable-ready TVs in the 80's. Families will now take their HD prospects very seriously when shopping for replacement TVs when they know that they can get HDTV in the cable even without extra equipment. Eventually, some cable company will try to use this newly-built infrastructure to go all-digital, thereby making Rupert Murdoch's life very miserable in a number of ways. No one will feel sorry for him when this happens.


Hope this unbelievably long rant is somehow helpful! Anybody with more predictions or info on the XBR910 really should add to my comments.



Dan
 

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MrGonk (Dan)

Excellent Post


I'm also waiting for the 910...


You have now made me more anxious to see Sony's newest Tube.


Thank-U for taking the time to educate us.


Harley
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Dan,


Wow, I learned a bunch there! Thanks.


Regarding the new Sony. I could be hallucinating again, but I seem to have read a discussion about this TV where some people saw it in action (trade show?) and reported that it didn't look subjectively much different from the previous models - i.e. no amazing increase in picture quality.


Again, I could be totally mistaken. Is this ringing a bell? (That Sony DOES sound exciting).
 

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Dan, thanks for the excellent post! I've read it over several times and still get a kick, as well as learning some very useful info. Can't wait to read your critique of the 910's coming out in a few months. We'll see if all the Sony hype pans out.


Rich, there was a guy on this forum that queried me on the 910 Super Fine Pitch (which I knew zip) after I stated how I couldn't wait to check it out. Apparently he had went to the CES Show and saw one but wasn't impressed by the claims of superior PQ. Care to devulge your thoughts on upcoming Plasmas and TV Tech?


Thanks, JB
 

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By the way, Rich, the gray-black blacks in the movie theater do indeed bother me. But what're ya gonna do...? I've been known to complain from time to time about the overall PQ at the local Loewes, and while that's sometimes good for a free small popcorn, I've laid off because I know they're never gonna do anything about it. At least they're not underpowering the bulbs. However, the seating, focus, overscan (yes, overscan in a movie theater! No excuse for that!) blurriness, and overly-large screens just turn the PQ to junk. But most people are either impressed or indifferent, so I'm not gonna bother making myself "that guy" anymore. It's still fun to go to the movies (Although my girlfriend has dragged me to a lot of romantic comedy crap recently. When I realized that the last two movies I'd paid to see had J-Lo in them, I made her swear that she would go to see both Matrix movies with me.)


I've only heard mostly good things about the Sonys, so I'm not sure where the negative vibe is coming from. If people are seeing the XBR910s with DVDs as their demo material, there's no way they're gonna see a difference. You'd ideally want to see one side-by-side with another 34" displaying the same high-quality HD feed under proper lighting conditions. I'd be surprised if there weren't a difference then. I'm not really in touch with the trade show people at all. I don't go to them myself and wouldn't now how to get in to one (or to one, much less). I've heard from some people who have a friend of a friend of an uncle of a mailman who saw it in Japan and said it looked amazing, though.


Maybe that's good news, though, if it's not that great. Then I get to keep my nifty shiny Aconda and have no qualms. Unfortunately, I also have no HDCP-compliant input. If I get down-rezzed for HD-DVD I'm gonna be livid. I hope they come out with drives for computers so I can output over RGBHV where there are no copy protection specs in the way. Here's hopin....



Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Dan,


As I mentioned, I could be mistaken about the report on that new Sony model.


Interesting about your reaction to projected film. Actually, I just watched a DVD on a no-holds-barred Front Projection system: Runco projector, $15,00 screen, mind-numbingly expensive source components and processors, and a surround system by Wilson (including the $150,000 Grand Slamm speakers for L + R channels). It was amazingly cinematic, but I actually found myself occasionally missing the punch, density and black levels of the "emmisive" technologies, like CRT and my plasma. Go figure.


Just a note: "Overscan" is actually part of the cinematography and projection process. You probably know this, but the original film negative contains more picture information than is supposed to end up on the screen. The cameraman frames for a particular aspect ratio, but since the negative remains the same size, extraneous information is captured.


When framing a shot, the camera-man may often allow the boom mic to enter the frame, because, among other things, it will be cut off when projected upon the correct sized screen (overscan...to use our AV term).

If you see a boom mic in the shot in the theater, it's likely not the camera man or sound man's fault, it's the projectionist's, who has improperly centered the picture on the screen.
 

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I figured some "overscan" was normal and even desirable in theaters, but I've seen stuff at the local ubermegaplex where there were entire halves of heads cut off.


What was the problem with the big-budget FP system? Just not a bright enough image? Not a great enough contrast ratio?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
"What was the problem with the big-budget FP system? Just not a bright enough image? Not a great enough contrast ratio?"


Just to be clear, I wouldn't describe the image as having a problem: it was marvelous. I think I'm also used to a more realistic range of contrast from my display. I have no problem with a "dark" image (my contrast controls are way down), but the blacks on the projection system, like any other I've seen, were not truly black, and over all the image had less punch than my display. It's like the difference between a photograph that is not quite exposed perfectly - say over exposed a couple of stops - and one with the exposure bang on...were blacks and colors snap into richness and realism.


So, overall in comparison to the "emissive" technologies, like CRT and plama, projected images look a bit flat and lifeless to me - even the best ones. (Also, there's always the problem with light bounce and other things that prevents a "true" black in projection).


Projected images look like projected images...they never really look "solid." Looking into the skies of AOTCs on the FP system looked like looking at a projected image of the sky.

Looking into the sky scenes on my plasma looks like real sky. And on my plasma the robot's metal looks so "there" it's like you can reach in and turn the power off on those suckers. I didn't get this effect from the FP system.


So, for a projected image it was quite rich. But when I watched the same scenes on my plasma, they image looked richer, more dense...more gorgeous, more "there," and ultimately more "alive." (And I do not have my settings in "exaggerated mode.").


That's the best I can explain things.
 

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Yeah, I've noticed that even on the nicest projection systems, the image still looks like just the nicest flat projected version of that thing as possible. Only tubes and other direct-view (and digital RP) technologies can really give that illusion of depth. I would probably never go with an FP for space, cost, lighting, and image preference reasons, but I'm still salivating over SXRD.
 
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