I picked up the 42" ESA Plasma today from CC, couldn't find that many posts on it so I thought I write my opinion and experience down. It was on sale earler today on cc.com for just over $1600 (with a $100 gift card MIR) and I had some gift cards to use up anways
Since it was about $600 under the Panny's 7uy's online price and $1000 less than the PA25U from Costco I couldn't hold out anymore.
I paid for the TV online and opted for instore pickup. When I got to the store I first went to check it out on the display before picking it up (I'd seen it before but wasn't focused on buying it at the time) . When I first saw it (of course on display next to the Panny 25PDU) I was taken back at how crappy it looked. After really beginning to 2nd guess my purchase a bit I realized there had to be something wrong with it... sure enough the blue component cable was loose and fixing that made a world of difference. Phew! It still didn't look as nice as the Panny PD25U but at $1000 less I was expecting this. I was also convinced that given some time tweaking it I could make it look pretty good.
Got the unit home and unpacked it and fired up the old Onkyo DVD player. I must say I thought my old Sony SD RPTV looked good until I saw the same movie running simultaneously on both TV's side by side. The plasma just blew it away. After doing a little "Steaming Rat" tweaking with some movies I had the DVD (480p) looking really nice... even with the Zoom on. The built in picture modes for this TV (dynamic, movie, normal) should all be simply renamed to (crappy 1, crappy 2, and normal crap) because the contrast and brightness for all of them just don't work. The black levels are horrible with these modes. Luckily you can tweak it all in the custom mode and get it looking nice. This is what made it look so horrible in the store next to the Panny. I'm sure it probably still doesn't look as good as the Panny but it's 1000% better than it was out of the box.
Next up was testing my SD DirecTivo thru s-video (I can't live w/o Tivo... I don't care how good the PQ is). This is less than stellar. Sometimes it actually looks pretty good but other moments looks awful (halo, digital blobs, etc). Tonight I watched Enterprise on it and during the night scene up in the moutains some scenes just looked pretty crappy (this was using Panoramic stretch which is similar to the Panny's "Just" mode). Getting used to movies that pan with this stretch mode is going to be tough. Overall I'd have to say that SD DirecTivo on my old 52" RPTV looks much better but I was pretty much expecting this. The good news is that I budgeted $2500 for a plasma and only spent $1600... so that leaves me with roughly $900 left in my budget... hey that's enough to get a HD DirecTivo!
I don't have any HD source yet, I'm going to head to a friends house this weekend to hook it up to his Brighthouse cable HD box and his Xbox (I don't have the HD pack yet).
My info on the unit:
- It's a rebadged Samsung (no idea of the model number, if someone knows please tell me)
- Speakers seem okay (nice they are removeable) but I won't even take them out the box.
- Stand is actually just two plastic (but very hard almost metal-like) "pegs" that srew into the panel. Nice enough and do the job.
- Bezel is pretty plain... just like every other $2k MSRP plasma.
- DVI, 2 components, 1 composite, 1 s-video input. Dual NTSC tuner with PIP.
I'm still on fence about keep this TV. It's my first HD TV and I'm not sure I can bare the loss in PQ with SD content and parting with $1k for a HD DirecTivo is still going to be a tough battle with my penny pinching inner-self. I'm not sure that ANY plasma TV (or HD TV) will really solve the issues I have with the ESA. It looks great for DVD's... I'm sure HD will look just as good if not better. I'm sure some of the discerning eyes on this board would not be pleased with the ESA but again consider the price.
If anyone has this TV and knows how to get into the service menu (or how you do it on Samsung's) please let me know. I'd like to see what I can tweak in there.