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I got a chance to do some comparison viewing of Plasma screens this weekend, and I thought I'd add my comments to the mix of those here. I'm not nearly so technically inclined or as expert as many of the members of this forum, but I have learned a lot reading what you guys write here. What follows is mostly subjective impression from a viewing and HT amateur. Take it for what it's worth.


I went to Laserland in San Jose, CA, a store that had been mentioned favorably in several posts here. Before writing anything else, I want to recommend to anyone in the Bay Area the sales guy who talked to my wife and me - AJ. AJ spent over an hour and a half with us accommodating every whim either of had about viewing different source material on the displayed monitors. He was patient, but best of all extraordinarily knowledgeable. I'd been to a couple of other local electronics stores and I will tell you that this guy knows his stuff from what I can tell. Moreover, he was very honest about the various limitations and differences of the products - something I didn't feel I'd encountered elsewhere. When I am ready to actually purchase something - in a few months - I certainly will go first to Laserland and AJ. I'm not sure what the ultimate price differential is between Laserland and online (as I am not into the mode of negotiating price yet), but I'd certainly pay more for the expertise, service and security that Laserland seems to offer.


On to the products: We saw the Pioneer 5030HD and 4330HD, the Panasonic 50PD3-P and 42PD3-P and the Sharp 50HV2U and 43HV2U (which are cobranded versions of the Pioneer models). Laserland has each brand set up in a different location so that you can view the larger and smaller model of each brand together, but can't do side-by-side comparisons of different brands (I didn't ask if this was because of some sort of marketing restriction of one or more of the manufacturers or for some other reason.) We first viewed the Pioneer models. We currently have a large (36") CRT, and naturally are blown away by HD or DVD material on any plasma. Both Pioneer models were vivid and bright to our 'virgin' eyes. I was not surprised that the 5030 seemed slightly less sharp and defined than the 4330 when viewed from a relatively close (~6-7') distance: (I think) the pixels are slightly larger. What did surprise me was that the color on the 4330 was much more vivid and natural - I would have thought that color would be roughly the same on each screen. AJ (the salesman) tried to adjust the 5030, but nothing seemed to bring up the color level to that of the 4330. The 4330 also seemed subjectively to have more contrast and deeper blacks. All in all, despite the size differential, the 4330 had a much more satisfying picture to both me and my wife - a mild surprise.


AJ next suggested that we look at the 50 inch Panasonic. We immediately saw the dramatic difference that some others have commented on. For DVD and HD material, it wasn't even a contest: the Panasonic was the clear winner. As I said, Laserland isn't set up so you can do a side-by-side of the various brands, but one wasn't needed here. The Panasonic is richer, more defined and fuller than the Pioneer. The dimensional quality of the picture rendered by the deeper black levels was almost palpable, and really drew us into the picture. No question that for viewing DVD's (all on progressive feeds at our Laserland visit, btw), the clear choice is the Panasonic 50. We next looked at the 42 inch Panasonic. While the contrast and black levels were the same eye-popping kind we saw on the 50 inch Panasonic, my wife and I both thought the let-down in the total "viewing experience" was substantial. The smaller screen size from our intended viewing distance (9-11 feet) makes a noticeable difference - a difference much bigger than was the case for the Pioneer models (where we actually preferred the 43 inch screen for the most part.) In fact as between the 42 inch Panasonic, and the 43 inch Pioneer, I believe that the extra inch makes enough difference to more than compensate for the lower contrast level. We liked some of the features of the media box (see below) but even based only on the viewing pleasure for DVD watching, I think I'd pick the Pioneer in the smaller screen size.


We next moved to the room at Laserland with the two Sharp screens. AJ said they were the same as the respective Pioneers, and our impressions were exactly that. We also noted the same less defined PQ and curious less vivid color on the 50 inch as compared to the 43 inch Sharp model that we saw on the respective Pioneer screens, leading us to think that what we noticed on the Pioneer was probably not a production run aberration, but something endemic to the larger screen size. (Anybody else notice this?)


I will note that all of the DVD and HD viewing on the various screens was done in fairly dark rooms. AJ was honest enough to say that he'd read a review saying that the Pioneers were preferred by some experts in lighter room conditions. (I assume he was referring to the Pete Putnam review I once found through this forum. Just knowing that AJ had read that review made me think well of him.) We played with the lights a little, but it never really got to 'daylight' conditions. I can't say how much the difference we saw between the Panasonic and Pioneers would be vitiated in a bright day-lit room.


I think I could manage to set up and operate any kind of HT/Plasma with the help of this forum and some knowledgeable friends, but I must say that the convenience of the self contained tuner and media-box of the Pioneer/Sharp has its attractions to a relative novice like me (and I think would make me choose it over the 503CMX and 433CMX some have written about here). Even so, to both my wife and me, the Panasonic was so much better than the Pioneer, we'd pick it in an instant if all we were going to use it for was DVD's in a dark room - and would even pay a price premium for it. However two things have us hesitating a little: first a fair amount of our viewing (maybe around 50%) will be plain TV. And the room where we'll be putting the plasma is normally fairly bright during the day. As I said, we didn't fully evaluate the daylight issue at Laserland, but we did go to all the screens once more, and watch both digital satellite feed and OTA antenna feed. And for this kind of watching, the Pioneer/Sharp screens clearly outperformed the Panasonic - the exact reverse of the case for DVD/HD. The Panasonic screens showed a lot more of the broadcast noise and garbage than the Pioneer and for some material (broadcast baseball game, e.g.) the Panasonic was pretty much unwatchable. The Pioneer was much more pleasing and versatile with its various screen modes. (You guys undoubtedly know the reasons for this. As I can tell, it's partly because the inherently lower definition/lower contrast on the Pioneers display less of the broadcast signal noise, and partly because the stretch/wide screen modes on the Pioneer are better for this purpose than those on the Panasonic.)


One more minor factoid: The Pioneer and the Sharp had brushed chrome bezels, which my wife found more pleasing when the set was off (and more in tune with her ideas for decorating). However the darker, non-reflective bezel on the Panasonic was less distracting when watching in a darkened room as it disappeared and blended into the background.


I plan to try to see the Fujitsu also (although I'm a little concerned about the fan noise issue I've read about here), and will post some impressions when/if I do.


Well, that's about all I have for now. I hope this is helpful to some of you. Thanks to all you guys for the education I've received on this forum. I'm not sure what plasma I'll choose to buy, but it'll be a more informed choice thanks to all you forum members. This is what's great about the Internet.


Chris
 

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I too liked Laserland when I went, though I can't comment on the salespeople, as I'm not the type to use them, even when they're knowledgeable.


I also appreciate your willingness to pay more for the knowledge, but I think you'll find that you'll be paying a LOT more -- probably around 50% more.


Interesting that you liked the Panasonic 50 much more than the Pioneer 50. I had a 503CMX and was only sorta happy with it; the black levels didn't really do it for me.


Anyone know what the best price on a Panasonic 50 is? Any way to get it down to the ~$7500 shipped of a Dell 503CMX? I didn't see the Panasonic 50 at Dell.


Alex
 

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Chris,

I too spoke with AJ and he was very helpful indeed. Compared to other salesperson I have spoken to, he stood out quite a bit.


You mentioned about seeing a Fujitsu. I did manage to see a Fujitsu in a couple of places in the past couple of days : Mangolia HIFI ( http://www.magnoliahifi.com/cgi/loca...ion=santaclara ) and Good Guys off Stevens Creek. At Mangolia HiFi, they were driving the 61' Fujitsu off a distributed feed which made the PQ quite bad. At Good Guys, the 61' fujitsu performed much better than the 50' model. The colors on the 50' model were off and even though the salesperson tried to fix them, the picture was noticably superior on the 61'.

Regarding the fan noise, I could hear the fan noise only when I stuck my head behind the panel, but I suspect the store ambient noise was a factor in it. However the fan doesn't seem to be as noisy as some of the reviews here have made them out.


-g
 

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hey - the vast majority of the folks here are "amateurs". in fact, many of the people who are supposed to be "professionals" sure seem like amateurs some of the time :)


great writeup, dude.


doody.
 

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I have to think based on your comments that the 50 inch Pioneer was out of adjustment. I have seen the PRO1000 next to the Panasonic and would say that what you saw was not what I saw. My main impression was that the Panasonic 50 was fuzzy in comparison with the PRO1000. The colors were different but it wasn't a clear difference.


This might have to do with which plasma the "professional" wants you to buy. Thats the problem even with a side by side. If the profit margin is higher on model A he will want model A to look better so it will. The place I saw them the PRO1000 was $4k more so I guess it really needed to look better.
 

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Alexander,


Check out TVAuthority (A AVS Sponsor), About $8400 for the Panny 50".


Call and ask for Neil and talk to him and see what deal he can work out for you. I think its free shipping right now. Click on the banner above.


Panasonic fuzziness- these things come out of the box at about 38fl. This is\\almost crushing the whites. Turn down the contrast to about -20 and you get a whole different viewing experience. I can attest to the fact that on the Panny 42" and 50" that it displays a more 35mm film like appearance after calibration. This is with the "Contrast" set around 22-25fl and "Greyscale" at D6500.


Dave
 

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one thing that im not sure you are aware of, is that the new 43inch pioneer is a 1366x768 hd panel where the 42inch models are 840x480. so the new pioneer is not just an inch bigger, but a totaly different panel.


jun
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by disoriental
one thing that im not sure you are aware of, is that the new 43inch pioneer is a 1366x768 hd panel where the 42inch models are 840x480. so the new pioneer is not just an inch bigger, but a totaly different panel.


jun
jun - You wanna take another stab at that?



Chris - Thanks for sharing your observations with us.


Regards, Bruce
 

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The new 43 Pioneer is 1024 x 768, not 1366. The pixels are long and wide. I agree it's totally different than the 848 x 480 panels. So far, though, I'm not convinced its a slam dunk over the Panasonic, the Fujitsu 4233 or the NEC 42MP3.


Mark
 

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Mineral,


Thank you for sharing your conclusions.


I recently posted a message about my observations which mapped yours.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=136603


It is still a mystery to me that most of the people posting on this board are focusing on technical characteristics and neglecting the simple visual experience.

Based on the apparent consensus on this board I had selected on my short list the 50" Pioneer and the Fujitsu. My mistake...


Last week-end I had the occasion to watch a 50" Panasonic plasma...big surprise. I discovered the most natural picture I had experience so far. BTW whoever said that soft meat blurry, please put your glasses on.


Today I went to another store and tested the Panasonic again against the Pioneer and came the exact same conclusion.


I understand that true natural picture is a subjective notion and can mean different things to different people but as far as I am concerned my decision is made: I am going to buy a Panasonic plasma.


As an advise to everyone searching for a Plasma display I would say:


1. Trust your eyes instead of a product commercial flier, magazine review or forum posting.

2. Look at the Fujitsu and Pioneer but do NOT write the Panasonic off until you had a chance to watch it in action.


Franz.
 

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Mineral- Thanks for the kind words. Its nice to be appreciated for what you do, and I'm glad to see you and your wife were pleased with all the options we discussed.


-AJ


On a side note, I was mentioning this to Mineral, and I'm not sure if its been discussed here before. But the reason the Pioneer 4330 and 5330 look so close to the Sharp plasmas is because they're pretty much the same. Pioneer is supplying the plasma and Sharp is supplying the outboard media box. Esentially they're sharing products with one another.

Just thought you guys would like to know.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

IUknown- The Pioneer plasma discussed here is the standard pioneer 50 " PDP5330HD not the Pioneer Elite Pro 1000.
 
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