Well, HBO-HD, Showtime-HD, and HDnet look pretty darn good. That probably isn't what you meant, though.
I was pretty disappointed when I first got DirecTV, but I think the picture quality has improved over the past several months to the point where it's pretty good. The locals are probably somewhat more compressed, and the premiums somewhat less. All of them are far superior to the lousy cable I had (and actually still have--it's included in my condo fee).
My secondary plasma is a 42 Panasonic. Actually it is used all the tme but I also have a 50" Fujitsu with hideously loud fans so unless we are playing a loud movie it sits and languishes...but I digress...
As noted by others, HD is superb. DVD fed with my a progressive scan player are is outstanding. PPV on DirectTV is very close to DVD quality.
Non-HD or non-SD source (from DirectTV and ExpressVu) are wildly variable but leaning toward crappy due to the compression issue. Over the air is better than compressed off the dish, but prone to sparklies. Cable at our home (AT&T) is the closest thing to complete s*** you'll ever see.
Let's face it, you can't fill a larger screen up with information if it isn't present in the source. If you presume some hocus-pocus with regard to a plasma and its ability to "clean up the source" you'll be unhappy.
I have direct-tv using a Sony Sat Receiver on my Pioneer 433cmx using the video cards s-video through a MIT a/v receiver and it looks terrific. I'm waiting for the soon to be released new HDTV Sat Receiver's to hook up HDTV.
I have directtv fed to my NEC 42MP3. It seems to me that the picture quality varies day to day...dont know why. Overall, its fine. The pq is not up to par with dvd playback but then again its probably not ever going to be.
I don't know where all the sports fans are out there... Does everyone just watch movies nowadays?
I think the quality of movies (100-199) as suggested is not too bad, though I disagree that it is close to DVD. I don't think it's near dvd. The quality of other movies, and sitcoms, documentaries, etc. is also acceptable. Things with much less movement don't seem to suffer as much from the compression, and so they are not so bad.
Sports on the other hand, with a lot of camera panning, etc. are not very good. I would take a very clean anolog cable source over it any day. A clean anolog OTA source will also be a lot better than Dtv for watching sports.
As mentioned in the post, it's just not enough information to always look good on a screen that big, with the ability to show such fine detail.
I have the Panny TH-PWD4UY in case you were wondering.
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