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I've been looking into buying a direct view HDTV for several months now and am slightly closer to making a decision then when I started, but am also slightly closer to just giving up and waiting. I'm _very_ interested in the Princeton Graphics AS3.2HD, its comming out this November, similar to the Ai3.2 except it has bug fixes and no channel 1 (which I thought was stupid anyways). This set draws me in for several reasons, I want a 4:3 TV, most of what I watch (DirecTV) will be 4:3, and the AS3.2 can change aspet ratios for 16:9 (and several other ratios) so thats good. I want a set with more then one component input, and a set that has progressive inputs (which bypass the internal line doubler). Also, I want a set to have a good line doubler, which the AS line does, it has film/video/computer doubling modes. And finally, I really want a TV with 720p and this is just about the only one out there (besides the Sampo which I wasn't impressed with). All this for $2800 ($2500 online).

The only problem is I can't find a dealer in the Bay Area that will actually carry the TV, sure they'll order it for me, but I won't get to demo it on the floor. I think Princeton has a $150 return fee which I would absorb just to try it out. And I would have liked to get a extened warranty from a big-name dealer (like I could with Loewe from GoodGuys), but at least my credit card company will double the 1 yr factory warranty to 2 years.


So I've never seen the Princeton, I have seen the Loewe Arconda 30" widescreen TV, and wow! If that is called a HDTV, Sony and their ilk should have to call their TVs subHDTV. And many people equate Princeton's picture quality to Loewe (some say Princeton is better even), so that makes me feel better about buying Princeton. I must say however much I'm wowed by Loewe, I'll never buy one for several reasons. There are no progressive inputs, all of the 3 s-vid and 1 (only one?) componenet imputs get put through the TV's internal doubler (ick), the only way to bypass it is to put it through the 15pin VGA port, and I would have to get a converter to convert my DVD player's output to VGA (which would mess with the signal of course, and cost me extra for the converter). And, all of the s-vid/composite inputs get stretched to 16:9, you can't say 'don't stretch this, leave it 4:3' which degrades the picture quality a little (as I saw it). And for the price ($3700), there is no 720p or built in HD decoder, though the guys at GoodGuys would sell it to me for $2800 on an open box unit they have. Though I do have to say, a non-progressive DVD signal (which is what they had setup) into the componenet plugs did look pretty good (there was some jittering though).


Last and for sure least is the Panasonic 32" 3:4, or the 34" widescreen HDTVs for $2000 and $2500. They look much better then all the other mid-range HDTVs I've seen (Sony, Phillips, RCA, Toshiba), I admit the Sony 34" widescreen looks sweet, but its too expensive.


Does anybody have anything to add to this? A big question I have is does anybody have any complaints about Princeton Graphic's TVs, how is the build quality, what is customer service like, do they run well for a long time, are they a good investment. I talked to a couple dealers who used to carry Princeton but now carry only Loewe and they said they like Loewe more (obviously, since they can't sell me a Princeton they're going to trash talk them).
 

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Dear Sizam:

Below is some text that I posted in another reply. Please forgive the crosspost and a few non-relevant sentences--I'm pretty jammed up here at work--but I felt that you should hear some good things about the new Princeton sets. I really think they are nothing short of fantastic.

I have had very good luck with their customer service so far. I don't think you will ever find another monitor manufacturer that will connect you directly to the actual engineer that designed your set. It was very cool to be able to ask them heavy tech questions.

Do I have any wishes that my set does not meet? Only two. It would be nice if it was flat (but then the geometry and convergence would be unlikely to be as good as it is), because in a lighted room there are reflections on a curved tube. And I fantasize about the dot pitch being just a bit finer (difficult on a tube this big, and the brightness--just prior to the onset of blooming--would not be as high with a finer pitch). With a true 820 lines across (and 720p vertically in the 16:9 squeezed window with no problem), it is certainly up to DVD resolution. But I have not yet fed it an HDTV signal.


Again, let me stress that, with calibration (and an easy manual adjustment of focus with the back off--which the ISF techs don't want to do), this set makes magic sitting just 3 feet away! Very film-like. Not a disappointment at all.


Speaking of focus: I have yet to see a direct view set that did not benefit from a tweak of the manual focus. Even most computer monitors need a touch as well. But big TVs in particular...



==============


I own an ISF calibrated (by John Gannon of SGHT) Princeton Ai3.6HD. It is a 36" 4:3 (modestly curved Toshiba tube) with built-in DVDO Sil503 3-2 deinterlacer/scaler, full control over color temp, aspect ratio and geometry tweaking (with multiple memories), and plenty of high-scan and NTSC inputs. Direct input access too. Displays true 720p and also 800x600 SVGA (can even be pushed to 1024x768, but it is not so sharp there).


As for the picture? Truely amazing after calibration! I had shopped for over a year, looking at EVERY high-end 34" 16:9 and 36" 4:3 set, both flat and curved. I wanted at least a 29" picture width to sit just 30" away from (with headphones on late at night after the kids are asleep).

The only others that came close for me were the Sampo, Loewe, and Panasonic. The built in doublers on most every set other than the Princeton drove me nuts--especially on broadcast, VHS, and satellite. The DVDO (iScan Pro chip) in the Princeton appears flawless on a set of this size, so much so that I'm not even that curious about running a prog scan player into the high-rate input--unless I can try someone's 720p player! (Cinematrix anyone? I'm more a Mac guy, so while I could build up an HTPC to try, I'm just not motivated.)


So why did I choose the Princeton (aside from the above)? True the dot pitch is just 0.9mm versus the .82 of the Sampo. And it does not have the flat Toshiba micro-filter tube that the Sampo has. But I have a family and the Sampo is an ergonomic mess, has no doubler, dificult aspect control, and received many mixed reports that seem to make it sample dependent as to whether you get a good one. Believe me, I watched a Sampo for a while (non-ISF calibrated, but I tweaked it in my small local store in the dark).

The Panasonic was certainly better than the Philips (IMHO), and the Loewes always look good out of the box (and their remote is so sweet). But limitations of inputs and scan rates, and the fantastic performance of the Sil503 doubler in the Princeton threw me over.

Plus the Princeton stays very sharp (no blooming) even calibrated to about 24fL. Some of the others really need to be set dimmer to stay sharp. Great family viewing on the weekend days.


As for the gentleman recommending the Princeton Arcadia series: I am glad you enjoy your set. It is a fine and flexible unit. But it really is not in the same league as the AS3.2HD (their only flat tube model), AS3.6HD, or new AS3.0HDW (30" 16:9 micro-filter tube, .63mm dot, Sil503 version of the Joe Kane AF3.0HD--now retailing for just $2,299!). The colorimetry on Princeton's HD sets is what really sets them apart. The high bandwidth video amps help as well.

So even though my set may have a slightly coarser dot pitch than some others, it is the colors and blacks, the geometry, and artifact-free scaler that make watching it (up very close) even with lesser sources a pure joy.

And Princeton's new agressive prices (keeping pace with the bigger firms) are a plus.

BTW, the Ai3.6HD which I own and which is detailed on their website, is identical in construction and video performance to the AS3.6HD. Same set without the CH1 module.

I have had a number of recent conversations with the chief engineer at Princeton, so I have a pretty good idea of what is up with them. Now if they would just market their new sets more agressively.

Cheers,

ALEX.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you thank you thank you! I hadn't heard a review of the Ai (or HTX for that matter) from anybody. I have a hard time finding anybody who has seen one, let alone owns one. Thanks a _ton_ for the input, I'm for sure going to get the AS3.2HD now or maybe the AS3.0HDW though I watch much more 4:3 stuff then 16:9. Anyways, awesome!


Oh and I'm a Mac guy too, I guess we just know superior hardware when we see it.
 

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I have the Loewe Aconda and really like it quite a bit. I have had it for 4 or 5 months now, and have very few complaints. The picture quality is really good -- HDTV, DVDs, even regular digital cable looks great. A couple of things to keep in mind: the HDTV and progressive scan DVD signals must connect to the 1 VGA port on the back of the TV. Loewe doesn't recommend a progressive scan DVD player because the internal line doubler is really good. I had my DVD player hooked up via component video and switched it to progressive scan recently. Progressive scan looks really good, but it is hard to tell whether there is a noticeable difference. I was receiving HDTV first through a DTC-100 (which I am now looking to sell) connected to the VGA port. It looked great. I recently got a Time Warner HDTV cable box which has component outputs -- I connected it to the Loewe Aconda via a Loewe transcoder -- it works flawlessly and the component video cable signal is much better than the coaxial or s-video signal. And the 3 HDTV channels look great. The only issue I would bring to your attention is that the signal that comes through the VGA port cannot be stretched. In other words, you cannot stretch a 4:3 signal or DVD movie to fully fit the screen on the VGA signal. You can do that for all of the other inputs (it has settings for 16:9, zoom, cinema, panorama). Nonetheless, the Aconda is built really well -- and I have no regrets about purchasing it.


I also looked into the Princeton Graphics and decided to go with the Aconda which seemed to be more of a TV than a monitor.


Hope this helps.
 

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Sizam:

You are welcome. Glad you found my input helpful. The new Princeton sets are so good that last night I watched an only mildly interesting "chick flick" DVD with my wife, and while I got bored at times, I found the colors and the image so mesmerizing that the time just flew by!


If the size is right for you then I think you will find that the Princeton AS3.2HD is an even better set than my Ai3.6HD (which is exactly the AS3.6HD but with the now defunct CH1 module). The 3.2 is the only set on the market (that I am aware of, other than the .82mm pitch 34" 16:9 Sampo) to use the FLAT Toshiba microfilter tube (the microfilter stuff is not just marketing BS--I think it allows for a wider phosphor color pallate for HDTV--see some of the Joe Kane articles about it). And the dot pitch is just .65mm! That just about as fine as the AF3.0HD (now AS3.0HDW with Sil503 scaler built in for $2,299), which uses the curved 30" Toshiba .63mm microfilter tube.


So for $2,899 MSRP, I nominate the new Princeton AS3.2HD as the BEST REFERENCE LEVEL DIRECT VIEW 4:3 set on the market. Though the 16:9 image will be about 4 inches narrower than a 34" 16:9 set, the 4:3 image will be much bigger. Versus the other tweaker's favorite, the Sampo, this Princeton has an incredible scaler built in that makes all sources look film-like (you'll have to see it to believe me) whereas the Sampo has none and has some other issues of ergonomics.


My friend just brought over his terrific Sony NS700P progressive player (a fantastic unit for just $349; read the review in The Perfect Vision), and I was anxious to see how it would compare to the DVDO Sil503 built into my set. One skips a D/A step, so in theory the Sony should look better. I don't have time to detail all the comparisons and what we saw, but suffice it to say that the Princeton's hot built in 3-2 deinterlacer/scaler gave up nothing to the Sony! I have no nagging desire whatsover to get a prog scan player! Maybe if I could borrow a Sage/Farouda chip player (Kenwood Sovereign or a Skyworth) or even better a Cinematrix 720p unit--then I might change my tune if it could be seen (doubtful at this resolution).


Princeton has 3 truly great direct view products, they just need to promote them. Please spread the word. You can see a pic and read specs on the AS3.2HD at their site: http://www.princetonhdtv.com/Products/PHDTV-Ai32a.asp

The link is for the Ai3.2HD, but the AS3.2HD is exactly the same but without the CH1 module, and the retail is $2,899 not $3,499. (Ignore all the AR series models under the HDTV heading as these were the inferior Arcadia series, half of which never even shipped. The specs for the AF3.0HD and HDS apply to the new AS3.0HDW excpet that the new one has the above discuss DVDO Sil503 doubler and an astounding price of $2,299 versus the old retail of $4,100--not that the AF3.0HD has actually sold for that for a long time.) They do need to update their web site in the worst way.


Happy hunting,

ALEX.

P.S. I have absolutely no affiliation with Princeton Graphics other that that of a thrilled set owner, though I admit to wanting to see the company survive to continue putting out good products. I am sort of in the industry--as the director of sales & marketing (and co-owner) at Hovland Company, a high-end two-channel audio manufacturer http://www.hovlandcompany.com
 

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I've owned the Princeton AF3.0HD for over 2 years now, and I think you've seen from prior posts that these monitors consistently have:

--superior color decoders

--better geometry

--flexible I/O (still one of the few HDTV's w/multiple *HD* component inputs)

All I can add is the small dot pitch and built-in line doubler were ahead of their time, and are still respectable.
 

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A press release indicated that a new Princeton Graphics model to be released in Nov. would have some type of upgradeable connector module. I emailed their customer service as well as the person listed on the press release to ask the following question and received no reply: "Will this allow the television to have both DVI and firewire connections added to it and about how much would the additional module cost when it is available?"


The Mitsubishi promise module only deals with firewire and not DVI and at $1,000 it may even be better to put the money toward a new tv purchase. Similarly, instead of buying the upgradeable Princeton Graphics now, it might be better until the fall of 2002 and buy a set that actually has the new types of connectors.


Also, what on-line discount retailers carry Princeton Graphics and are these sellers reliable?
 

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I too am interested in the answer to ericlhyman's question, so....bump.


Superdad, where did you get your set? It's November. Are the new models out yet?
 

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Superdad or others-


This is a great topic that I have also been trying (unsuccessfully) to research. Looking for a unit that meets the dimensions of a 27"-30" 4:3, in HD, for a specific cabinet. My family and I still watch a lot of 4:3 material (Discovery/ Natl. Geog./ History Channel)...as well as football and other sports (yea, I know about HDNet).

Was recently advised of Pr. Graphics. Don't want to spend more than about $1400 for a 27" 4:3 but like everyone, want the max for whatever amount of money. Is the Arcadia series something to "avoid" ?...as inferior...or just inferior to cutting edge. I don't need cutting edge, but at least "decent" quality and dependable build...in a 27" w/ HD. Want component connections, that i might be able to hook up w/ one of those Zenith STB's.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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Hi Guys:

Princetion Ai3.6HD owner Alex here again.


Let me see if I can address a few of the recent questions that popped up. Remember, I do not work for Princeton, I just own one and have had recent dialog with their engineer and sales director, along with some of the magazine reviewers (I am sort of in the industry, so I guess that is how I get away with the privilege).


The mysterious Expansion Connector Port that is/will be on the AS3.2HD and AS3.6HD sets: This wide internal connector socket offers an internal wideband input that gets selected separately from any of the other inputs (separate geometry and picture memory is available for it, and there will be a direct selection of it on the remote just like the 8 other inputs on the remote).

How do I know this? Certainly not from the Princeton press release which announced it only in the title line and then said nothing at all in the text about what is is or would be used for. Well, my Ai3.6HD (and the Ai3.2HD which I don't think ever shipped) already have this port--it is what the now defunct computer for the CH1 service is plugged into! When I had the back of the set off (to sharpen the focus after ISF grey-scale calibration) I saw the big box and the connector port. It is positioned above the main jack-pack.


Well what will they use it for? I spoke with the Princeton engineer and he said he was working on an ATSC HDTV tuner module (release next year perhaps?). The spot inside the set is certainly big enough and the interface is definitely wideband to accomodate an ATSC tuner. Will they do DVI or Firewire? Don't know. Maybe I'll ask if we speak again. Keep in mind that Princeton is a relatively small American firm and their plans are subject to change. But I hear that they will be improving their marketing, product launches, and overall operation during the next six months.


I don't think that the AS3.2HD and AS3.6HD sets are actually shipping yet, but they should not be too far off (stripping the CH1 modules and changing the badges on the Ai3.6HD sets to make AS3.6HD sets should not take them too long).


The 16:9 AS3.0HDW is scheduled for release in December and the list price will be $2,399 (not $2,299 as quoted on their press release)--both date and price facts are direct from their HDTV Natl. Sales Mngr. last week.

It seems they cut the dealer margin on the 16:9 set. That is how they are able to get the price down on this improved version of the famous AF3.0HD which originally listed for $4,100. I think they must be taking a loss on them but may have a lot of those industrial chassis sets around which need to be sold at some price. A calibrated AS3.0HDW will blow the chips off of any of the big brand 16:9 direct view sets (of course it is still just 30")--an incredible picture for those, who like me, sit very close.


And for the fellow that is looking for a really fine 32" 4:3: As per my post above, I still think the forthcoming AS3.2HD with .65mm pitch, flat microfilter tube, and best-of-breed scaler/deinterlacer built in will make it the one to beat for at least the next 6 months.


So support an American company that is trying to bring forth exceptional TVs for HD enthusiasts.


Someone asked about mail order dealers: Princeton is not a high volume seller and the dealer margins do not not start out quite as high as for the major brands. So do not expect to find their sets highly discounted. If they had even a few heavy discount mail order dealers, then you would NEVER see their sets in any retail shop. Better to push your local dealer for a 10% break and expect some service and support. It works out better in the long term.

That said, digitalconnection.com is a good place to order Princeton sets from (talk to Kay Clark, she's great and will tell you the real scoop on how the sets look).


Hope this all helps. The reward for your hard reseach on such a big purchase decision will come when you watch a whole DVD from 40" away and enjoy the film in greater detail than you could at the local theater (most multiplexes really resolve only about 800-900 lines from their 3rd gen prints and average optics + jittery film anyway--or so I've been reading of late).


Cheers,

ALEX
 
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