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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Edit: May 29th, 2003. I ended up exchanging this set for a 57xwx20b a few months after this review. The problem reds either started getting worse or I just started noticing them more and more to the point that they were driving me nuts. So far the new set is much, much better in this regard and I will write up a similar post on that one after it gets the ISF treatment. /edit



This will be a multi-post review. Go get a drink. :)




A little background first.


This is my first RPTV. Before this I had nothing but direct view sets. The largest being a 27 inch JVC. I'm an extremely picky person that has the unfortunate ability to see flaws in damn near anything. I researched this purchase for probably close to a year (ruling out the Sammy 507 after playing with a couple of them and REALLY wanting to like them). I narrowed the possibilites down to the Toshiba HDX50H82 and the Hitachi 51swx20b. I went with the Hitachi mainly because I can't find an HDX in town.


Note: I immediately did a quick calibration with both sets. Contrast would usually end up being about 35 to 40 percent, brightness about 45 and sharpness all the way down. With my first set all I had as refference was the THX section of many DVD's but by the time I got the second, I finally had Avia.


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Pre ISF section

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I got my first (of two) sets a couple months ago and immediately noticed some problems with it. It had a couple of the famous fingerprint smudges and an enormous amount of "spots" that looked to me like dirsty lenses. I had the Circuit City technician come out and was amazed by his tremedous incompetence. He recommended I get another set without even investigating the problem at all and claimed he couldn't see anything I was pointing out. It might have been subtle but even my clueless friends could see it.


Anyway, I get the second set about two weeks later and noticed this one had handles on the sides that the other did not. I'm not sure if that means anything but there does appear to be a couple variations of the cabinet design out there so if you need handles, you might want to ask about this. After inspecting for smudges and finding none, I turned it on and still saw some of the "spots" but not nearly as bad. When viewing 2:35 aspect ration DVD's I noticed a slight geometry error in the bottom right part of the screen. Not bad but noticable. My girlfriend couldn't see it until I held a straight edge up to it. The convergence on this set was actually not as good out of the box as the other one.


Both sets had a ridiculous amount of red push. With the spots I mentioned showing up mostly in reds, this made them both look terrible with anything that had a lot of red to it. A good example is the Scorpion King DVD. There are a lot of scenes that are at night with most light coming from fires. These scenes looked terrible to everyone that saw them. The second set was a little better here than the first one but both were bad. Reds in general just didn't look good to me. I could see what I could only describe as noise in them all the time. Scenes that lacked red looked pretty good. Some looked spectacular even.


Digital cable looked about like you would expect. Crappy. The pay channels like HBO look pretty good most of the time but pretty much everything else is best described as "watchable" but nothing beyond that. VHS actually looks better. Unfortunately I have no STB yet.


I'll mention something here that I never knew about with RPTV's that might surprise first timers. Under certain circumstances, light will reflect off the screen, back to the mirror and then back to the screen again making this "halo" of sorts. If there's something like a very dark night scene with a bright moon in it, there will be a large halo effect around the moon. So large that you'll never see it go all the way around. It will usually go off the screen before it can do a full circle. It's not usually a big deal but there are times when it can be very annoying. With 2:35 dvd's the halo will go into the black bars on the top or bottom making it extremely noticable. Sometimes it looks like it's supposed to be there but that will blow the illusion every time. This same phenomenon can cause other minor issues. Attack of the Clones has some scenes where there's a bright desert background with characters in the foreground. The brightness of the background can actually cause the details of the characters robes to be washed out. It's not a huge deal but I do find it annoying at times and it isn't something that's always there. Apparently this is common to most RPTV's.


Not being completely happy with the performance I was getting, I decided to go the ISF route. By pure luck I stumbled upon an ISF tech on this forum that lives only 30 minutes away. His name is Michael Hamilton and posts here under the username Coyotes (which is what tipped me off that he might be local, that's the name of our NHL team).
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
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ISF Process

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I wasn't really sure what to expect here. My hopes were mainly that the red push would be fixed along with the geometry problem and hopefully the spots would go away after the lenses were cleaned.


Michael answered all my questions over e-mail (and there were a lot, the guy has a tremendous amount of patience). I wasn't completely sold on the idea at first but the answers I recieved convinced me.


When he came out he had two large flight cases and a box full of gear. The first thing he did was take off the screen and front panel. He then cleaned the lenses (which were a little dirty like I suspected) and adjusted the focus manually.


Next was the geometry problem. It turned out that there was a little bit of a vertical S error on the right side in addition to the downward slope in the bottom corner. Other than this it was pretty good. He got the S completely fixed and reduced the slope by quite a bit (although not entirely, I don't notice it anymore). He used a laser level on a tripod as a guide which was pretty sweet.


With that finished he went on to do the manual convergence. Got that nailed and stored it into memory.


If I remember right, this was when he started on grayscale. He got out an optical sensor and put it up against the screen, a laptop computer and a $1500 little 5 inch Sony TV. This part took a nice long time but I was very pleased with the results. The red push is 100% gone. Before, my grays had some red tint, whites looked a little pinkish and the reds were just way too strong. Now grays and whites are pure. Red can still be a little strong, especially with cable, but this seems to be settling a little over time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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Post ISF

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After he left I started going through my DVD's. I immediately noticed the lack of red push. Everything looked entirely natural. The Scorpion King even looked good. Scenes that before had a red tint to the entire scene now were alive many different earth tones and colors. The cloak on Lord Fraquad (Shrek) was no longer the overpowering red it was before. Scenes with red now looked nearly as good as the scenes with little red had before.


I also noticed the much improved focus. Before, I was always going back and forth turning Scan Velocity Modulation on and off because things would sometimes be blurry. Now I don't think it's needed at all. Very nice. Everything in advanced settings is turned off now actually.


Brightness and contrast seem about the same as they did with an Avia calibration. He did set everything in the user menu to 50 percent when he was doing all his changes in the ISF menu. This makes it easy to get back to his settings if I ever feel like experimenting.


Not everything is perfect but I do believe my set is operating at it's full potential now. I still see some problems in the reds but I think the vast majority of what I see is in the source. I even bought a Panny RP82 to compare to my JVC s500bk to see if the little problems in the reds were still there. They are. I will occasionally put a disk in my PC to compare and most of the time I can still make out some of the same problems. I think the 540/1080 upconversion does make some of it worse at times though. It will be interesting to finally see HDTV on this thing and compare those problem areas to my DVD's. But that's probably going to have to wait until after the Holidays.


So good work Michael! Job well done. At least one of my co-workers is seriously considering giving you a call by the way. Feel free to chime in if you have any comments about the set.


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Final opinion of the 51swx20b

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I've been back to the stores since I bought it comparing it to Mitsubishis, Toshibas, Pioneers etc. and I think I made a good choice for what I had to work with money wise. This IS a very nice set. There are some aspects of RPTV's that I wasn't aware of previously that I am disappointed with (refer to the halos section). I expected to be totally blown away going from a 27 inch direct view to this high quality set but that's not really what happened. I learned that I'm even pickier than I ever realized and that I probably wouldn't be completely happy with anything other than an extremely high end plasma. This will last me until such sets are within my reach. Maybe the blown away part will happen when I finally get that STB after Christmas.... :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Forgot to mention something. The convergence that was done during the ISF calibration didn't stick very well. It's all out of whack right now so I'll have to do it again myself. The set had over a hundred hours on it at the time but I don't think it was enough. I probably should have waited a little while longer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I probably should have mentioned something about stretch modes.


They don't suck. They aren't the best out there (that claim can still go to Pioneer and next to Toshiba) but they're decent. My only real complaint in this department is I wish it had one more. There's no stretch mode to have a 2:35 dvd fill the screen (in other words, stretch it vertically only). The closest it has to this is 4:3 zoom 1 which doesn't chop anything off the sides but stretches an anamorphic dvd vertically. The only problem is that it stretches it too much and cuts about an inch or so off the top and bottom.


I can watch football and basketball in 4:3 expanded without being bothered too much by the fishbowl effect on the sides.
 

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Greetings Doug,

Thank you for your very nice comments. It is rewarding to know you are enjoying the benefits of "our" work together.

The issue with convergence is actually to be expected, to one degree or another. It is normal for convergence to drift in a new set, as horizontal and vertical convergence circuits need to "discuss" amongst themselves just who "stays" and who "goes". Frequent touch-up is not uncommon in the first 6 - 8 weeks of 'life'. (This is not meant to be taken that if it severely drifts and is paramountly noticeable from your viewing position that something is not then amiss...it would require service. Rather, it is normal for slight touch-ups in the one or two clicks range, which in due time will be less frequent and less necessary as the display starts to settle in).


I am gratified to learn that your conclusion is the Red push is fixed. That was probably one of your most irritating issues with the set.


Thanks again for the most certainly very nice and perhaps to newbies, enlightening review of the procedures associated with a calibration. A very frequent question on this forum is what is entailed with a calibration and what benefits are derived, and I think that you admirably relayed that with great detail and in a most enjoyable read. Perhaps the magazine editors need to take notice...there is a reviewer laying in waiting!
 

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Mike, how do I find a good technician to do the calibration? I live in the woods in East Texas with the closest towns of Longview and Tyler about 40 miles away and I can't find anyone there. If a calibration is impossible (it would probably cost $1000 to get someone from Dallas or Shrevport in here - both over 100 miles away) would the Avia disk Doug mentioned be the next best thing to use myself?
 

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I enjoyed reading your review...thanks.


Quote:
Originally posted by Dammit!
...There's no stretch mode to have a 2:35 dvd fill the screen (in other words, stretch it vertically only). The closest it has to this is 4:3 zoom 1 which doesn't chop anything off the sides but stretches an anamorphic dvd vertically. The only problem is that it stretches it too much and cuts about an inch or so off the top and bottom...


I too am experimenting with how to handle dvd's. I'm not trying to lose the top and bottom bars, however. I am trying to figure out how to watch non-anamorphic dvd's and I think 4:3 zoom is the only option without distorting the picture. I don't think I concur with your statement that zoom 1 stretches an anamorphic dvd vertically without cutting off the left/right edges...this doesn't sound right to me. I'll have to look again on my set. It seems to me that regardless of whether the dvd is anamorphic or not that zoom does exactly what it implies...moves the picture closer to the viewer without distortion cropping whatever it may (top and/or bottom).


Rich
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Michael: Thanks. I used to write PC game reviews for a web site a few years ago. I guess I haven't completely lost my touch. :)


Rich: Verify that your dvd player is setup correctly for a 16x9 display. If everything is correct, all of the 4:3 modes will stretch an anamorphic dvd vertically. The problem is that it does it just a little too much.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Dammit!
Rich: Verify that your dvd player is setup correctly for a 16x9 display. If everything is correct, all of the 4:3 modes will stretch an anamorphic dvd vertically. The problem is that it does it just a little too much.


I think I am simply misunderstanding you here. My dvd player is set for 16:9 display. I watch anamorphic dvd's with the 16:9 standard setting and I realize that this properly displays the image on the screen (maybe with top/bottom bars depending on aspect ratio of the movie). What would be accomplished by watching an anamorphic dvd in any of the 4:3 modes?


If we are talking about 4:3 modes and NON-ANAMOPHIC dvds, that's a different subject altogether. In this case, I believe that zoom is what I want to use. I'll take another good look on my set as I probably am just missing what you are saying (I'm one of those "show-me" type learners :) )
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Watching a 2:35 aspect ratio dvd in 16x9 standard gives you the black bars on the top and bottom of the image. This mode shows you the whole picture without any distortion. If it's an anamorphic dvd, watching it in any of the 4:3 modes will stretch the image vertically. 4:3 zoom 1 will not chop off the sides, but stretch the image vertically so that there are no black bars. It does cut off a slight amount of the image at the top and bottom though. Try it, you'll see what I mean. Everything will look a little tall and thin. If you freeze frame it, you can see what's being chopped off.
 

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Doug,


I spent a little more time last night trying to verify what the Hitachi does with anamorphic dvd's as you describe (stretching vertically?).


What I see my Hitachi doing in the various 4:3 modes with anamorphic dvd's is:


4:3 standard - displaying a letterboxed image within a 4:3 window, image stretched vertically as expected as dvd is set to output for a 16:9 display (but...the display is acting like a 4:3 display because that's what I told it to do by selecting one of the 4:3 modes).


4:3 expanded - displaying the same image as above, but stretched horizontally (at the edges only) to the edges of the screen, similar to what you may use and would expect when watching a standard 4:3 broadcast. The image is still strectched vertically to the same degree as the above.


4:3 zoom1 - I still think this is taking the 4:3 standard scenario from above and moving it closer to the viewer. The image is still stretched vertically (as output by the dvd player), but I think it is only an illusion that it is stretched any more than the above. The illusion may come from having this mode follow directly after the expanded mode in the cycle. I concur that the top and bottom get slightly cut off, but I also notice that the left and right also get slightly cut off (I was using a 2.35:1 ratio in my experiement).


4:3 zoom2 - magnification of zoom1


When feeding a 16:9 anamorphic image to a 4:3 tv or to a 16:9 tv in one of it's 4:3 modes, what the display is NOT doing is unstretching the anamorphic image. I think the only time I'd use the 4:3 zoom mode would be for a non-anamorphic dvd's. Better yet, I think I'm just going to throw out all of my non-anamorphic dvd's (and laserdisc's, for that matter!)


:p
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'll check mine again one more time but I could swear 4:3 zoom 1 was not cutting off anything on the sides. Just a little on the top and bottom.


At least it's another option for filling the screen with a 2:35 dvd besides simply zooming it in 16x9 zoom mode and losing a LOT off the sides. I just wish it had an option to fill the screen perfectly in this situation without losing any picture at all.
 

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milacqua (Marty) wrote:

Quote:
Mike, how do I find a good technician to do the calibration? I live in the woods in East Texas with the closest towns of Longview and Tyler about 40 miles away and I can't find anyone there. If a calibration is impossible (it would probably cost $1000 to get someone from Dallas or Shrevport in here - both over 100 miles away) would the Avia disk Doug mentioned be the next best thing to use myself?
Did you try the ISF website? I am not certain who might be located near you (I am American...why in the world would I know anything about geography in my home country:rolleyes: ) but there are several guys in the Dallas area. Also, Walt Reardon is listed as Gulf Coast region and is in Biloxi, Mississippi. Again, I am not sure how close this is.

As for $1,000, it really should not be anywhere near that, even for travelling. The Hitachi's are not that complicated and rather easy to rein in the colorimetry. It is not like a 12 hour overhaul on a Pioneer Elite or Mitsubushi.
 
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