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Discussion Starter #1
Spent some more time playing with the 5040HD. I love the color, the image quality is very engaging, vibrant, gorgeous.


Until I notice the black levels, glowing milky blacks. Argh. Running the brightness up and (all the way) down reveals the panel just ain't going to get any blacker. Just can't do it.


It's so frustrating, because the package is very good, features are there, the media box has all the plugins anyone could want, but it just won't drive black. Man, if it could, I'd have bought it already.


The 1110HD's front panel filter glass helps a lot, but doesn't elminate it completely.


Man, how I wish they'd license the technology that Panasonic has on making black levels on the plasma display or just buy the glass.
 

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They would indeed have a killer panel if they matched the Panny blacks. As is it's a very impressive unit, but with black blacks it moves to the next level.
 

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Directly comparing a Panny 42PHD6UY to a Costco Pio 4310 (4300 screen which appears to be a 433-CMX derivative) at home showed just what you describe for the 5040HD. The Panny depth in blacks is real and adds a lot to PQ. The Pio image is fabulous in all other areas (sharpness, color) and exceeds the Panny in viewability in very bright environments. With outdoor, well lit scenes, the Pio is stunning. With less well lit scenes the Panny blacks are undeniably way superior. The Panny screen is darker unpowered and when switched on with no signal probably due to dark filter glass. This seems to restrict the total output, giving the Pio a better picture for bright environments. But the Panny blacks were a deciding factor for me.


One thing I will miss about the Pio is the Digital Noise Reduction. For anything but sports, the Pio's DNR was very effective in reducing dancing pixel artifacts (I don't know the technical term for it) that I observe in some source material in broad same color fields like walls and sky. I could sit right up on the Pio and eliminate the dancing pixels with no apparent decrease in image sharpness just by switching DNR to low, mid or high as needed. The only side effect was motion artifacts, hence I had to make sure it was OFF for sports, but HD football did not need DNR. I cannot find ANY DNR adjustment at all for the Panny.


Bill
 

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Yeah,


Recently I was in a store that had a 2:35:1 DVD playing on both the Panny 42" models (ED and HD), beside it the Pioneer 43" HD model. In some night scenes, with people talking under a streetlight it was actually shocking how much black detail and dimensionality was lost on the Pioneer.

The dark shadows on people's face and body was simply gray, and detail simply stopped at the point where the Pioneer's black levels stopped. So the shadowed part of people's face and shoulders looked like a grayed out screen.


Both Panasonics right next to it revealed tons of detail and depth to those black areas that didn't exist on the Pioneer. Really dark outlines of the shadowed areas, with gradations of detail within shadowed areas that made the image look totally natural, rich and dimensional. I've seen both panels many times, but I was still shocked at the difference.


It illustrates to me that the Panny blacks aren't simply about some screen coating or trickery, otherwise those shadow areas would be similarly undetailed, only darker. But the amount of picture information revealed within the Panasonic shadow areas goes to show you really are getting some technological superiority in that area.


My buddies and I just watched the amazing new transfer of Alien (Quadrilogy version) on my Panny. Obviously much of that film is about darkness and shadows. It looked absolutely stunning. Especially with the lights off in the room - the only way I'd like to watch a flick like that - the depth and vividness was mesmerizing. Personally, I can't imagine owning a plasma that would not let movies like Alien look their best. And for me a plasma must perform well with the lights down or off. (And once the lights are down you definitely don't need a super bright plasma - you'll be turning the brightness down on the picture settings anyway).


But I understand why others find the strengths of the Pioneer plasmas very seductive.


Like I keep saying: I hope plasma manufacturers are still putting as much effort into improving performance, especially black levels, as they are in adding features to the new plasmas.
 

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It is scaring me, nospam, that when I saw the thread title I thought about posting the very same recommendation you made here. :)
 

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Wondering out loud...


When checking out the Pioneer 59Avi DVD with a Pioneer 1110HD display, I noticed an improvement in the richness and depth of colours (particularly reds) when switching up from HDMI from svideo.


What I didn't think to check, however, was if there was an improvement in the qualilty of the Pio's blacks when using HDMI over svideo.


I don't mean to infer that the "black gap" between Pioneer and Panasonic is signal related, rather I wonder if the HDMI input makes any improvement to Pioneer's weakness in the blacks.

Rich, do you recall which 43" HD Pio you were looking at (PDP-4340HD or PRO-910HD?)? The Pro-910HD has the pure colour filter II, but I don't know if it's able close the "black gap" between it and the Panasonic. Otherwise the 4340 and 910HD are essentially the same.


Ross in Toronto
 

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Ross,


It was the PDP-4340HD, I believe. Definitely not the Elite version. I've demoed the Elite version pretty extensively and it did not fare any better in the black levels.
 

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Rich,


Thanks for the reply and the info.


Out of curiosity, why did you title this thread "How I wish Pio could make Black"? Am I reading too much into this, or do you consider the only thing that keeps the Pio from being the slam-dunk plasma king is its black levels..?


In the spirit of full disclosure, I spent six weeks looking at Panasonics and Pioneers around the city, everwhere from Future Shop (where they must set their plasmas to "ugly +5" setting for some reason) to Bay Bloor to zillion-dollar boutiques in Yorkville. In the end, I put my money on the Pio 1110HD. Perhaps the bright Rogers HD test feed that everyone uses masks the weaknesses of the Pio.


What put me over the edge was I demoed the 1110HD with the 59Avi DVD player using HDMI. Best DVD I have ever seen (*almost* as good as HD!) . If the blacks were milky, I didn't notice...


Anwyay, the 1110HD, 59Avi and 55Txi reciever will be in my basement in about a week or so. I'll be sure to leave the room lights way up ;)


Ross in Toronto
 

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"Out of curiosity, why did you title this thread "How I wish Pio could make Black"? "


I assume that is directed at the original poster, not me.


I have, btw, demoed the 1110HD with the 59Avi DVD combo. Yup, it does look fabulous and very close to HD in detail and clarity. (Actually, sometimes more clear looking than *some* Hi-Def images, given not all Hi-Def is created equal).


I've always said that the choice between the Pioneer and the Panasonic plasmas was a toss-up because both have their strengths. The Pioneer seems to have more color detail, and more vivid colors if that's your thing.

I think they are terrific. However, I happen to put black levels very high on my list of priorities; it's not the same for everyone, and many have found the Pioneer blacks to be quite satisfying.


BTW, that's a great receiver you are getting. I own the 49TX (previous flagship) and it's just killer. I think the combination you've bought, especially being able to keep everything digital, will be mesmerizing.
 

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I just got back from CompUSA where they had some pios, pannys and hitachis playing Lion King. They all looked pretty good during the day scenes, but the pio edged them all wrt to color and punch.


And then the night came and the pio was full of greenish milky blacks.


Others have said the green part can be adjusted (I've never seen it personally removed), but I still shook my head given how good it looks with bright scenes. I just don't get why pio doesn't/can't get this right. Ultimately that is what drove me to return my 5040 for the P50.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The 1110HD does better on the blacks than the 5040, large I'd guess due to the contrast improving filter built into the front glass.


I really, really like the rich color of the Pioneer, I like the punch of the picture, I like the film-like quality when it is playing DVD, I like the way you can almost fall into an HD football game on it. The black levels on the 5040 distract me though from an otherwise very, very nice picture. It's probably personal taste and preference as much as anything, if it doesn't bother you, then the 5040 is a great set.
 

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Rich,


You're right -- nuke was the originator of the post (I mistakenly looked at the "last post from" column on the forum list and saw your name).

My apologies.


Anyway, my wife's favourite movies are LOTR and Blade Runner, so its a good thing there's no dark scenes... uh, wait a second... darn. anyway, I'm not going to say anything about the black levels and I'll be interested if she says anything...


Thanks for the input,


Ross
 

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And then the night came and the pio was full of greenish milky blacks.


Others have said the green part can be adjusted (I've never seen it personally removed), but I still shook my head given how good it looks with bright scenes. I just don't get why pio doesn't/can't get this right. Ultimately that is what drove me to return my 5040 for the P50. [/b][/quote]


Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread. As an owner of a 5040 I can say ... unfortunately, I must say ... that the observations in this thread are TRUE. My 5040 is truly schizophrenic in it's magnificent success w/brighter scenes (especially HD) and magnificent un-success with darker scenes.


I do have top notch ISF calibration scheduled for next week ... which I'm told will fix green ... and making shading + gray better ... but will not give me black. And yes I already have DV-59AVi running HDMI - HDMI and SONY HD-300 STB running component (because DVI-HDMI don't work).


Before I sell this otherwise great, brand new unit at an unbelievably low cost to some very lucky sports fan (and toss the DV-59 into the deal ... because they kind of go together) ... I will study the results of this additional ISF investment and report back to this thread.


As with others, this forum is great because it helps me see that I do not have a peculiar or defective unit ... and that my perceptions are not insane. On the other hand, it also fine-tunes me into negative details I might have overlooked and makes me feel that there is something significantly better out there.


I actually now don't feel real bad or real good about this purchase. It has its highs and its lows ... but I was hoping to feel GREAT about it. I like to have the best for the least ... and now I think I could have had the best for about $1.5 - 2K more ... which I would do now that I know more. We shall see what ISF brings.
 

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Let us know how the calibration leaves the set. OOTB the PQ of the Pio I had for a month seemed close to spot on. I swapped for a Panny based on the issue with blacks, judging other issues to be less important. Love the blacks but miss the DNR adjustment - I see a lot more scintillation (dancing pixels) than with the Pio DNR on low or middle. No such setting available with the Panny.


Bill
 

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I never chose total darkness, but in normal TV viewing light for me, I did find the black very wanting on the Pioneer over 5 months.
 

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In case anyone is interested in reading an alternative viewpoint, I own the Pioneer Elite 1110HD, and I think the Elite is capable of generating great blacks. I spent many months & many hrs viewing plasmas before purchasing, and yes, the Elite did seem to look worse than the Panasonics in dark scenes. Pio showed greenish-gray blacks, and Pany showed bluish blacks with deeper & more detailed black levels.


However, now that I have an 1110 in my system, the black levels are better than any of the displays I've seen in the stores. I'm not saying it's better than Panasonic b/c I haven't seen a Panasonic in my system; I'm just saying the black levels have much greater depth & detail in my system than in all the displays I saw in the stores.


So why am I seeing such nice blacks? I can't pinpoint an exact answer except to say I believe it's a combination of the following factors:


1) I eliminated the green cast by turning down the high & low green temperatures.


2) I am using the Denon 5900 DVD player via a DVI-to-HDMI connection, and I set the DVI Black Level to Enhanced, which changes the digital video data range from 16-235 to 0-246. I also have the black level IRE set to 0 instead of 7.5 in the Picture Adjust menu. The 5900 also has a 3rd black level control that can be set between -5 & +5, but I haven't played with it. *After* setting these controls, I calibrated the display with DVE.


3) The display and the media box are connected to the same electrical circuit in the house (important), and I am using a Monster HTPS 7000 power conditioner for all the electronics and a Monster HTFS 500 for the plasma display.


4) I am using an Ideal Lume backlight.


All of these factors combine to produce great plasma blacks. They're not as good as my Sony XBR direct view CRT, but in most cases they're extremely close. For example, the blacks are fantastic in ch.4 of Italian Job, where the scenes alternate between bright & dark blacks. They are also great in all the deep space scenes in Star Wars 2 and in the transformation chapter in Hulk.


An example of a scene that is most problematic relative to my CRT is ch.13 of Spiderman when he runs down the alley and climbs the wall to start chasing the killer. The ascent up the wall combines dark shadows, steam, & no bright lights, making it very difficult for plasma displays. The CRT definitely out-shines my plasma in this scene.


My 60-day return period is almost up, so I did one final comparison at my dealer. This time I only considered the Elite and the Sony 50XBR950 b/c I need 50 feet of cable from the electronics to the display, so I need the media box. In the past, I had a tough time picking the Elite over the Sony b/c the Sony colors had great punch and the green cast in the Elite bothered me. I went to the store after they closed (the dealer was very accommodating), turned off all the lights, connected my 5900 to each display (1 at a time) via component, and calibrated each display w/DVE. I used the dark scenes in Spiderman, Hulk, Italian Job, & Star Wars as my reference material, and I spent 2 hrs comparing the displays.


I went to the store with an open mind, thinking I had about a 50% chance of liking the Sony better. However, it wasn't close. In both of our opinions, the Elite clearly performed better than the Sony. I don't want to give a lot of detail here b/c I don't want to bash the Sony and this post is already too long, but I am very happy to own the 1110.


As soon as I got home, I re-watched all the same scenes on my Elite, and I had a huge smile on my face as all the scenes looked so much better than even the Elite in the store. Incidentally, the Pioneer at the store looked much better with the 5900 than with the store's DVD player (not sure which one).


Just my 2 cents, and thanks for all the help on this forum.
 

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Thanks for your post rlee. The question for me is if there is enough difference between the Pio 5040HD and the Elite 1110HD to justify the approximate $2K cost differential. (I was able to get the 5040 extremely inexpensively). Can I get close to your experience of the 1110HD with my 5040HD? I know that I cannot tweak the green level as you can ... but I'm sure ISF calibration can deal with that adequately. But, perhaps more relevantly I don't know how much the PURE FILTER II thing contributes to you positive experience.


I also don't know how different my experience with my Elite DV-59AVi is than with you 5900. I have not tried to tweak the output of the DVD at all. But I will now.


Your post was very helpful to me. What whould be even more helpful now is to hear lots of stories of disappointing experiences with Pannys and Fujitsu's. Everything is relative.


jh
 

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"In case anyone is interested in reading an alternative viewpoint, I own the Pioneer Elite 1110HD, and I think the Elite is capable of generating great blacks."


Objectively, using instruments, my suspicion is that the black level on the 1110 would still measure 0.4-0.5 nits, or 2x or more the black level of the Panasonic.
 
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