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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Went on a business trip to New Jersey this week, thought I'd check out the Circuit City up here and see how it compares to mine in Atlanta. I was surprised to see how airy and light the store was, with lots of maple and high ceilings. Mine always feels darker. It's carpeted and a little claustrophobic feeling. Go figure.


I immediately headed towards the TVs, looking for the Samsung DLPs, but I was waylaid by a Panasonic LCD-RPTV, which was side-by-side with a Hitachi LCD-RPTV. The first thing I noticed was how good these TVs look, even though LCD is supposed to be "inferior". Black levels looked fine and I wondered what everybody was talking about. The Panasonic had slightly lighter blacks than the Hitachi, but had more detail in its blacks. Of course, that was with both units' displays uncalibrated, so you can't take it to mean anything, really.


The one thing that I didn't like about both sets was the well-known issue of edge-to-edge color consistency. I accidentally set the Hitachi to an input with no signal and the screen turned blue. The edges of the screen were noticeably darker than the center, kind of like a CRT. But while a CRT loses brightness at the edge, the LCD seemed just as bright, but the color was fading to black. I know that's contradictory, but what can I say. It's Hard to describe. The same thing happened with both sets when a commercial came on with a white background, but the effect was usually pretty unnoticeable during normal programming. If I didn't know about it, I might have thought it was just part of the source.


So I moved on to the Samsungs. They had an HLN437 on display, with tags for a 50" and 61". Interesting that they're not selling the 46" or 56", but come to think of it, CC doesn't have that in Atlanta either--only HiFi Buys. I was immediately struck by how much darker the Samsung's blacks were. Oh yeah... that's what people mean when they say LCDs have poor black level. Wow! But then I looked at the Hitachi RP-CRT right next to the Samsung and WOW! That's black, baby! It put the Samsung to shame. Not only were the Hitachi's blacks better, but all of its colors were better. Richer, vibrant, clean. The Hitachi had something else that the Samsung didn't: GLARE! Major glare.


Comparing the Samsung to the other sets, I also noticed the well-known green tint on it. Damn--why do they do that?! The LCDs especially showed up the Samsung, as they seemed to have very balanced, nice whites. The Hitachi CRT was a little redder, naturally. No salespeople were around, so I got brave and went into the service menu. I turned the gamma down from 4 to 0, but the difference wasn't enough to notice at a casual glance. I was tempted to mess with the color settings, but knew it would take too long to get everything right, so I pushed AutoColor instead and voila! Goodbye green tint! Immediately, the picture looked much better... I know Autocolor has gotten a bad rap in the forums, but it only did good things to this set.


I turned the Samsung off to take it out of service mode just as a salesperson came over to ask if he could help me. He seemed a little annoyed and I thought maybe I was going to get yelled at for messing with the service menu, but no... he was just ticked because I turned the set off. I went on my way...


I guess the thing I took away from the experience was that, no matter what you buy--LCoS, LCD-RP, RP-CRT, DLP, or Plasma (or even *gasp* direct-view CRT?), all of these TVs look fabulous. Side-by-side, the differences between them do stand out, but none of them are actually bad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Went back for a second look tonight. Tried to focus on a few specific issues this time. Was glad to see that the Samsung still looked not-green from my surreptitious service menu "autocolor" yesterday. Probably made them a sale! They should thank me :rolleyes:


I took a close look at the HLN43 picture. Closer than about 12 inches, I could see the dithering clearly. I made sure I was seeing the right thing by putting my nose right up against the Hitachi RP-CRT next to the Samsung and looking at a particular area that I thought would be dithered on the Samsung. Then I would hit the freeze button on the Samsung and check out the same thing. Dither! It was wierd because some areas of very delicate shading showed absolutely no dither, while other areas were dither-city. I noticed it especially in dark-but-not-completely-black areas like a man's suit. Also, during the HD Lord of the Rings trailer, there are several scenes where the screen goes black and there are yellow letters haloed in white on the screen. On the Hitachi, the haloing transitioned smoothly from white to gray. On the Samsung, the dithering of the white halo and black background was OBVIOUS! There was almost no white actually, just gray. Check it out for yourself. At normal viewing distance, of course, the dithering wasn't obvious, although it did lend the colors a certain "softness". Purely color-wise the Samsung wasn't as pleasing as the Hitachi RP-CRT, but all things considered (glare from the lights and edge definition), I definitely liked the Samsung better.


I noticed also that the Samsung picture had sharper edges than the Hitachi--like, for example, on the PGA logo at the bottom-right of the "golf" segment. Although this could be attributed to adjustment on the Hitachi, it stands to reason that a pixel-based display with a single light source is going to be more capable of showing a straight line and fine details than an analog display with three light sources. Also, it's reassuring that the Samsung looked that sharp "out of the box", without any adjustment.


I took a close look at the LCD-RPs again. Same issues as before. No dithering, though. Screen door effect was noticeable to me, even at normal viewing distance. Saw zero screen-door on the Samsung.


The salesguy was hovering, so I asked him if he had the 61" in stock. He went and checked, and said they had it at the warehouse. I asked him, "so what are you really selling them for?" He said that they couldn't budge on the $4999 price, but they'd match any advertised price. "Come on," I said, "There's no way I'm paying list price for that TV." He stood firm. "Well," I said, "at least you've got them in stock," and I walked out. Except just as I got to the door, of course, he stopped me. If I was really serious about buying, he could go ask his manager. No kidding?! I told him that I was serious, but I wasn't buying today. He comes back and says they can, "definitely do something for me" when I'm ready to buy. Again: No kidding?! Of course they will. Nobody sells that set for list. Still, I don't usually "haggle" on large purchases (I usually research the best price and make them an offer) and it was pleasantly surprising when he came after me. It's good to know that there are many places to get this set and I don't _have_ to buy from anybody who doesn't work with me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Back in Atlanta. Had a dentist's appointment downtown today, so I shopped around a little bit instead of fighting traffic back home. Saw the HLN56 and HLN61 at Hi-Fi Buys in Buckhead. They looked really good, but the dithering that I first noticed in New Jersey really started to get to me. Compared the pictures to a Panasonic RP-LCD and a Sony XBR (don't remember which model) and actually started liking the LCDs a little bit better. No dithering! In addition, to my un-trained eyes, the black levels and shadow detail on the Panasonic seemed to be giving the Samsung a run for its money. Heresy! I know! But what can I say--I calls 'em like I sees 'em.


Went to a Circuit City, also in Buckhead, where they had the HLN61 (a floor model, on sale for $4200--the lowest I've seen stickered) and the Panasonic and Hitachi RP-LCDs. The Hitachi and Samsung both had a DVD player hooked up, so I popped The Matrix in and compared. I took a close look at chapter 2, where Trinity runs from Agent Smith. I knew that that scene had a lot of dark stuff, where dithering appears particularly noticeable on the Samsung. There were also some great closeups of Trinity's face. The Samsung was hooked to the DVD player with component cables, and I set the player to non-progressive mode so that the Samsung could do the deinterlacing. I didn't think to check the Samsung's settings to see if it was turned on, but I think that interlacing is standard on the 480i input... The Hitachi was hooked up with a composite cable *yuck* but that was all I could get.


Immediately noticed the "clay faces" syndrome, which I would call "color banding". I'd noticed this before--e.g. on shots of the sky or a sunset, where the color would break into bands instead of having an even gradation. It is also very apparent on faces. The Hitachi had no such problem, showing a very even gradation of colors on Trinity's face. In addition, the Hitachi seemed to do a better job at showing fine details. For example, as Trinity is running away from Agent Smith on the rooftop, there is a particular frame where her black leather jacket has a bright glint of light reflected off it. On the Samsung, her leather jacket was dithered with gray-blue pixels, so it wasn't a uniform black (although to be fair, this was not directly noticeable from a viewing distance). In addition, the bright glint was sort of swallowed up in the darkness of the jacket. On the Hitachi, the jacket was a dark black with no dithering apparent and the glints were clearly defined. They also appeared brighter. They stood out more from the jacket as a whole. Also, that scene has a big shadow on the side of the building with some architectural details just barely visible. The architectural details were much more apparent on the Hitachi, while the Samsung, again, seemed to swallow them up in the dithering.


I conclude that the Samsung DLP either has less color depth than LCD and CRT technologies or that DLP is much more sensitive to calibration for color depth. That would explain the need for dithering and the "banding".


On the Hitachi, I did a freeze frame on the Matrix's menu screen, where Morpheus's face is visible. The Hitachi put Morpheus's freeze-framed face on the left 2/3 of the screen and showed the video PiP on the right 1/3 of the screen (shrunk down small enough that the 16:9 image fit in the right 1/3 of the screen, with gray bars above and below the image). Interestingly, the black level of the frozen image changed SIGNIFICANTLY as the menu looped on the PiP display. I watched the details of the curtains behind Morpheus appear and then sink into blackness as the menu got brighter and darker. This HAS to be an effect of the composite input; I can't believe that this TV can't hold a black level!
 

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The biggest thing I've noticed when making comparisons between these TVs (Panasonic LCD, Hitachi LCD, Samsung DLPs, and Philips LCoS) is that each time I visit the store I get a totally different experience. The picture quality changes every time. It's different between stores and it's different each visit. Before I began my RPTV quest, I never realized just how important adjustment and calibration can be.


Results from this last weekend (best to worst):

Tweeters No. 1- DLP, LCoS, Panny LCD

Tweeters No. 2- DLP, Sony LCD, Panny LCD

Fry's- Panny LCD, DLP

Circuit City- Panny LCD, Hitachi LCD, DLP

Sears- DLP, Hitachi LCD, Panny LCD

Good Guys- I can't remember it was a long day.



I would love to find a store that carried each of the sets I'm interested in and had them all on display and ISF-calibrated. The same store would feed them identical signals, and have them set up in conditions that were more like a home and less like a showroom. I would visit on a Monday night and bring my Two Towers, Episode II, and Matrix DVDs. After checking out the HD MNF game, I would watch selected scenes from each of my DVDs. Once I had judged each set and made my decision I would promptly go to a cheaper store and buy the one I want :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Mayor McCheese
The biggest thing I've noticed when making comparisons between these TVs (Panasonic LCD, Hitachi LCD, Samsung DLPs, and Philips LCoS) is that each time I visit the store I get a totally different experience. The picture quality changes every time. It's different between stores and it's different each visit. Before I began my RPTV quest, I never realized just how important adjustment and calibration can be.
Granted. That's why I try to focus on issues that are inherent to the set, rather than issues that are dependent on calibration and environment. Of course, that's not 100% possible... not even 50% possible, but I try.


For example, I believe that banding and dithering are inherent to the Samsung DLPs. They've been present on every HLN that I've looked at, and I've seen about ten in various stores. Reading these forums, I've heard stories from people who've "reduced" clay faces and mosquito noise, but I haven't heard of anybody who's gotten rid of them entirely. If anybody can refer me to a post from somebody who's cleared these issues up, please PM me.


As for the LCDs: I looked for "smearing", which would be an inherent factor of the LCD's refresh rate, and should not be affected significantly by the source signal or calibration of the display. For example, while watching "Matrix", in chapter 2, Trinity leaves the room with the phone, they cut to a shot of Agent Smith and the cops coming up the stairs at the end of the hall, then there's a close-up of Trinity's face as she turns to run away from the camera. When Trinity turns, I noticed a smearing of her lipstick and thought, "aha! LCD smear!" But when I went back and watched the scene in frame-by-frame mode, the smearing was still there! Apparently it's just part of the DVD, or was being introduced by the composite connection, or something... In fact, I'm going to watch that scene on my direct-view CRT later to night to check this.


If I can eliminate a certain technology or model based on factors that are inherent to that technology, then it doesn't matter what other subjective factors the technology has going for it, and my buying decision is that much simpler. For example, I realized today that about 75% of the time my TV is on, it's showing Media Center 9.1 while I play music. The only thing moving on-screen is the progress bar. Obviously, that completely rules out RP-CRT technology, no matter how superior its picture might or might not be to DLP and LCD. If it proves impossible to get rid of DLP's dithering and banding, that will rule it out for me, no matter how superior it might be to LCD in other ways. In fact, I'm surprising myself in the way I'm leaning now... when I first came to the forums, LCD looked like a clear loser--not as bright as CRT, not as good black levels as DLP, etc... but the more I shop, the more it starts to look like the technology that I will have the least objections to. Don't get me wrong: It's not that I hate all of these technologies and LCD is the one I hate least! Rather the opposite: all of these technologies are so good that the only way to choose between them is to pick the one with the fewest down-sides.


Of course, the next major step of my shopping will be to calibrate various sets with DVE in-store and compare them post-calibration. That should provide a more objective comparison of their characteristics. Very soon...
 

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This was a great journal of your experiences with these sets. It just adds to the confusion of decision making in terms of a purchase of one of these things. They all seem to be a really overpriced comprimise that is still in its sophomore year technologically, so to speak. I'm having a hard time justifying the cost to myself for a unit that will not outperfom an ordinary RPTV that is less than half its price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Mfusick
Your observations are quite typical. It's really to bad most stores can't calibrate the CRT and remove the red push and glare... and perfect convergence and focus.... I think more people would buy CRT
Very possibly. I wonder, though: given that a very low percentage of CRT buyers ever properly calibrate their TV, calibrating store units might actually lead them to choose a television that, for them, provides a worse picture than, e.g. a DLP or LCD. They'd buy based on the stellar CRT in the store and then find that their uncalibrated, out-of-the-box unit, looked like crap compared to the uncalibrated DLP/LCD that they could have bought. I mean, if you're never going to calibrate it anyway, might as well buy the best out-of-the-box picture instead of the best potential-picture-after-calibration.


In addition, raw picture quality is not the ultimate factor in a buying decision for everyone. Viewing angle, size and weight, burn-in, frequency of maintenance, and availabiilty of inputs are major factors for many buyers, and are all areas in which the new technologies, in general, show up CRTs--but I know you've been over that on many other threads, so I'd rather not clutter up this thread with that discussion. I want this thread to be more about one person's subjective experiences while shopping for a set than about the objective pros and cons of different technologies. There are plenty of threads for that debate.


Regardless, for me, CRT is right out--as I posted previously:

Quote:
For example, I realized today that about 75% of the time my TV is on, it's showing Media Center 9.1 while I play music. The only thing moving on-screen is the progress bar. Obviously, that completely rules out RP-CRT technology, no matter how superior its picture might or might not be to DLP and LCD.
 

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Loraan,


Great Thread my man! I totally enjoyed your unbiased opinions. So many threads at AVS rip apart one technology or the other and you did not. You merely wrote of your subjective opinions. I applaud you for that and hope you find what you are looking for regardless of the technology.


addendum: to those of you looking in.....that are continuing on your quest...THE PERFECT TV DOES NOT EXIST! With that in mind, some of the technology out there is truely magnificent despite it's flaws.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Spent about an hour and a half at Circuit City tonight comparing the Hitachi 50V500 and the Panasonic PT50LC13 (there--now the model numbers are finally in this thread so people who search will find it). I walked in with DVE in hand, hooked up a DVD player to each unit, and calibrated brightness and contrast. I didn't want to take the time to do color and tint, since that involves looking through color filters and major tweaking. More than I would feel comfortable doing in-store.


Before using DVE, I calibrated both sets' user menus (black enhancement off, dynamic contrast off, color temperature as closely matched as I could eyeball, and so on).

Brightness: I started with the good old pluge pattern with gray scale(DVE ch. 12, t. 2). On the Hitachi, I immediately noticed that I couldn't see the pluge bars--only the grayscale. I was totally confused until I realized that black level "expansion" was set to high. Duh! I turned it off and the bars appeared. More on "black level expansion" later. Honestly, it was quite hard to set brightness using pluge on either of these sets. This was in part due to the bright lights in the store making it hard to tell when the 0 IRE "blacker-than-black" bar had faded into the background. I ended up switching to "reverse gray ramps" (DVE ch. 12, t. 14) and using the black-to-white squares.


I set the bright level to the darkest setting that would still allow me to distinguish the darkest square from the second-darkest square. On both sets, this was subjectively quite a high level. With the brightness set to the appropriate level for the displays' dynamic range, overall the screen was brighter than I would have liked. Of course, this is the "poor black levels" that LCD is known for, and frankly, I'm sure that if I had compared this picture to a CRT side-by-side I would have been horrified. My impression was that owners of LCDs may want to set their brightness slightly darker than optimal and sacrifice a small amount of shadow detail for greater overall dynamic range (a more contrast-y picture with darker blacks).

Contrast: For contrast, I continued to use "reverse gray ramps". Since LCD displays don't exhibit blooming like CRT displays, all I had to go on was detection of "white crush". White crush is the point at which the white level is whiter than the display can show, so it gets clipped to the maximum value. Just like if you turn brightness too low, the "blackest black" and the "second-blackest black" will both look "blackest black", if you turn contrast up too high, the "whitest white" and the "second-whitest white" will both look "whitest white". The result is loss of detail in highlights (white areas) exactly analogous to loss of shadow detail when brightness is too low.


I set both sets' contrast to the maximum value that would sitll allow me to distinguish the "second-whitest" bar from the "whitest" bar. For both sets, this was a surprisingly high number--near the maximum! Even moreso than for brightness, I ended up setting the contrast to a value that produced an asthetically pleasing image (somewhat less than maximum), rather than pusing the display to its maximum limits.


Although I have tuned the heck out of my direct-view CRT, I think that tuning LCD and DLP displays must be somewhat different because using CRT methods to tune brightness and contrast didn't give the results I was expecting. On my CRT, the point where the 0 IRE bar in the pluge pattern disappeared into the background was very clear--within a few notches of the brightness slider. On both of these LCDs, there was a much wider range of "technically correct" values (in terms of displaying the test pattern in a certain way), but clearly not all of these values were optimal for normal viewing.

Black Levels: People say that the Hitachi has darker black levels than the Panasonic. Honestly, I didn't see it. Both sets pictures looked basically the same when displaying black and white test patterns such as gray bars, pluge, etc... Now, I must confess that I was not able to put the exact same test pattern on both screens at the same time! The DVD player only had one set of outputs, after all. So it is very possible that, should I see the Panasonic and Hitachi with optimized user menu brightness/contrast side by side, I would see a difference. But short of that direct comparison, neither picture's black levels was clearly better than the other.

A special note on "black level expansion" on the Hitachi: *GAG*. For those who don't know, a "gray ramps" display consists of a series of gray rectangles, with the left-most rectangle completely black and the right-most rectangle completely white. Intermediate rectangles step from black to white in fixed increments. What Hitachi's "black level expansion" does is pull down all colors below a certain black level to "blackest black". On the gray ramps display, this causes the left-most three to five (depending on whether you have "low" or "high" expansion set) rectangles all to become completely black! In real life, this translates to major loss of shadow detail. In addition, when comparing freeze-framed images with various levels of black "enhancement", turning up black enhancement tended to overall darken the entire image while simultaneously losing shadow detail. What? You mean I can make the entire image darker and lose shadow detail at the same time?! Yeah--that's what I call "enhancement". Note that the "enhancement" does not change the blackness of the blackest black at all--it just makes slightly less blacks darker. Bottom line, for me, is don't use black enhancement. This is a "make it look good for people who don't know any better in the store" setting only.


Of course, if you like it, more power to ya, but at least now you know what it does. If you're not sure, try this: freeze-frame a picture on the Hitachi and then turn black level off, low, medium, and high. Notice the difference. Especially look at areas containing lots of shadow detail like people's black or dark brown hair, leaves on trees, or shadows underneath an overhanging roof. You'll find that details in these areas tend to disappear when even low black "enhancement" is on.

Picture Comparison: So, then I set both TVs to the in-store "HD" feed and used the freeze button on the sets' remotes to freeze certain frames for comparison. Before I get into details, I have to tell you that both sets had an extroardinarily good picture and that the differences between them were, frankly, negligible. If you are having a hard time deciding between these two sets, the picture quality should be the last thing you consider. Again, sure, the Hitachi might have marginally better blacks... whatever. For me, these sets have other differences that are far more significant than the marginal difference in their picture quality.


That being said, I did notice some things. First, the Panasonic had what I perceive to be truer colors than the Hitachi. Granted, judgement of colors is hard to do by eye, but, for example, in shots of the Washington Monument, the stone had a reddish cast on the Hitachi that wasn't present on the Panasonic (and yes--remember, I did match the color temperature settings on both units as closely as I could). The difference was especially noticeable when orange sunset reflected off of skyscrapers in certain shots. On the Hitachi, the sunset was a slightly glaring orange, while in the Panasonic, it just looked like a sunset. In a shot of magenta flowers, the Hitachi looked slightly neon, while the Panasonic looked flat in a very realistic way. Yellows on the Hitachi glared slightly while on the Panasonic, again, the looked realistically and pleasantly muted. I adjusted the Hitachi's color setting to see if I could fix this issue, but wasn't able to do much. I would say, in general, that the Panasonic's out of the box picture was more "true" than the Hitachi's.


Buuuuuuut... for reasons I can't fully describe, I still overall liked the Hitachi's picture better. I don't know what it was. If I had the set at home, I would definitely tweak the color, tint, and (if necessary) color decoder to fix the issues noted above, but even if I couldn't, I would still probably pick the Hitachi if I had to choose today.


I put up chapter 2 of "The Matrix", which is swiftly becoming my reference DVD (even though I know that many scenes intentionally have a green cast, I've actually watched the scene so many times on my direct view CRT that I'm used to it and consider a display's color to be inaccurate if the flesh tones DON'T look green on this DVD). I paused both sets on the picture where Trinity is talking to Morpheus on the phone and he tells her there's an Agent coming. The camera is close-up on her face, in profile. Before going in to the store, I intentionally studied this shot very closely on my direct-view CRT--specifically the color gradation in her cheek and under her mandible (jaw bone) down her neck. Remember, this was the shot where I first recognized "clay faces" or "banding" on the Samsung DLP. Interestingly, with the picture paused (from the DVD player), I noticed a very slight amount of banding underneath her chin on the Hitachi--but nowhere near as bad as the Samsung. I really wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't studied the picture on my CRT. Even at "normal watching distances" (about 8 to 10 feet, which maybe is a little closer than normal for some people) I could see that the color gradations on the paused shot weren't as good as on my CRT. But, in a fit of inspiration, I went back to the start of the chapter and played it through. Interestingly, when I didn't pause the picture, the gradations looked much better! Either the motion was smoothing them out or the DVD player had a cruddy pause.


I did the same thing on the Panasonic (with the same DVD player) and saw a little bit of the same thing, but it looked somewhat less pronounced on the Panasonic. On this specific scene, I actually liked the "natural" look of the Panasonic much better than the Hitachi. It seemed much more appropriate to The Matrix's muted colors.

They Call It the Streak: To check for streaking, I ran a Snell and Wilcox Zone Plate Test Pattern (DVE, ch. 16, t. 3). This pattern consists of a finely detailed "ball" bouncing diagonally around a rectangle. It's intended to test (among other things) your deinterlacer (jaggies will be apparent if your deinterlacer doesn't do a good job, and the stop-start motion of the bouncing makes it extra hard for any but the best deinterlacers to pick up on the pattern of interlaced frames). I figured this would also be a good test for streaking or smearing on the LCDs. I'm happy to say that I didn't see any. The ball did distort somewhat as it moved, but I have seen this same kind of distortion on my CRT and it didn't look like smearing.

Overscan: The Hitachi measured about seven to eight percent overscan vertically and about four percent horizontally, when set to 16:9 normal mode. That doesn't seem right to me. I didn't measure overscan on the Panasonic, but I checked the location of the "HD" logo on the Discovery channel HD feed and it was in basically the same place as the Hitachi's.

Other Areas of Comparison:


Like I said before: in my opinion picture quality doesn't differ enough on these sets to actually make a buying decision. Both sets looked basically the same, and both sets looked FABULOUS. Here are some other areas that I compared:
  • User menu. Winner: Hitachi, hands down. The Panasonic's user menu was so chintzy, so cheap, so limited, that it really turned me off on the set as a whole. Basically, you get color, tint, brightness, contrast, and sharpness, and that's it. By comparison, the Hitachi's user menu gives access to the color decoder, 2:3 pulldown detection, and many other advanced settings. In addition, the Hitachi's menu is just plain better looking than the Panasonic's. I know that overall that shouldn't matter, but I can't help but think that if Panasonic did a crappy job on the user menu, then what else did they do a crappy job on? If Hitachi took the extra time and detail to get the user menu right, then what else did they do right? If Hitachi put color decoder controls into their user menu and Panasonic didn't, then which of those two is more likely to understand what I want out of set? All I can say is that I hope the Panasonic's service menu kicks ass because, picture being equal (and in my opnion, they are), I'd buy the Hitachi for the menus alone.
  • Remote. Winner: Hitachi, hands down. Not that I'll actually use the remote that comes with the TV, but there's something to be said for separate buttons for each input. In addition, the Hitachi's remote had obviously had some thought put into it. Common buttons were large and clearly marked. The joystick was easy to use, with a clean click on actuation. The Panasonic was harder to figure out, with many buttons small and hard to find. In addition, you have to cycle through inputs on the Panasonic, which is especially annoying because there are more of them.
  • Inputs. Winner: Panasonic. More component inputs, VGA input standard. However, the Hitachi does have DVI input, which could be used for a PC.
  • PiP. Too close to call. Both sets had good picture-in-picture. The Panasonic added Picture-on-Picture (side by side), which sounds good in theory, but I didn't like the squishing of the pictures to get them to fit. I don't think I'd actually watch that way.


As you can tell, I'm leaning towards the Hitachi... and don't forget a final advantage: it comes in a 60" size!


Questions that remain to be answered:
  • Can you adjust overscan on either of these sets?
  • What options are available in each set's service menu?
  • More info on the Hitachi's color decoder options? There appeared to be two different sets of color options--one adjusting Magenta, Cyan, etc... and one adjusting Red, Green, and Blue. I didn't want to F* up the store's display unit, so I didn't experiment with them.


Anybody who can assist with these questions, please go for it!
 

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Loraan, it sounds like you have put a lot of effort into your testing. I would have loved to have seen the results and comparison with a GWIII.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Feddie
Loraan, it sounds like you have put a lot of effort into your testing. I would have loved to have seen the results and comparison with a GWIII.
Thaaat's what I need: one more TV to start testing. :p
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by loraan
Thaaat's what I need: one more TV to start testing. :p
Sure, and when you finish testing that, there will be another new one to test. :D


I live in an area that doesn't have CC, so I am not able to do a test of the three TV's in the same store. As of now, there isn't a store with two of them. I think I am going to get the GWIII from what I have seen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Feddie
As of now, there isn't a store with two of them. I think I am going to get the GWIII from what I have seen.
If there's one thing I've learned from my testing, it's that you can't really go wrong with any of these sets. They all look great even though they all also have certain tradeoffs. If the GWIII makes you happy, go for it!
 

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Loraan,


Again, mucho gracias for your posts. It is one of the best I have read at the avs forum. Now my comments: I agree probably with 98% of your observations on these two sets. Keep in mind that I have had both in my living room. I would say that your comments about black enhancement and loss of detail on the Hitachi are dead on.


As far as the "True Colors" test......for me it is the Hitachi.....for my wife it was the Panny....suppose that is subjective.


One thing you did not mention was internal sound and for me the Hitachi was better. Not that this is a major determinant for people with surround systems. Another thing was screen.....for me the Hitachi screen was better with no ripples at the top. Another thing was the ability of these two sets to handle non-high definition signals. I found the Panny to be better at this. SDE.....I give the edge to Panny. Build quality.....edge to Hitachi.


As you said, these two sets are too close to call. Both are good "bang for the buck sets" and I would be hard pressed to pick a clear winner. Depending on your preferences, I can see either coming on top. I think all things considered they are both good choices and depending on what one wants, either can fill the bill.


As it relates to the GW3 and the DLP's. ok.....now i will proceed to entangle the entire area: Why are we comparing these two sets to others that have a price point that is close to a thousand bucks with tax different?

I guess I don't understand. I suppose that should be a credit to the Panny and Hitachi that they are but I do not see those as valid comparisons based on the price points. I have yet to see anyone want to compare either the Panny or the Hitachi to a set costing a grand less.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by manpig
One thing you did not mention was internal sound and for me the Hitachi was better. Not that this is a major determinant for people with surround systems.
Yes. This was not a factor for me as I use my home theater speakers exclusively.
Quote:
As it relates to the GW3 and the DLP's. ok.....now i will proceed to entangle the entire area: Why are we comparing these two sets to others that have a price point that is close to a thousand bucks with tax different?
Good point. Although I'd like to say that I leaned away from the Samsung DLP on the basis of picture quality alone, that extra thousand-to-fifteen-hundred dollars sure sweetened the deal. I had to ask myself: is the Samsung's picture one thousand dollars better than the Hitachi? All other factors (except VGA input, of course) were basically equal between these two sets.


In another thread, somebody asked, "why LCD?" My answer is that, even though LCD's picture might not be quite as good as DLP or LCoS's in some areas, for me, DLP and LCoS are not enough better to justify their price difference. And in the case of DLP, I question whether a dithered picture with good black levels is really better than an un-dithered picture with worse black levels. I'll take the second, I think.


Of course, that's how I feel tonight. My impressions have shifted significantly over the course of my shopping experience, and who knows where they'll end up when it's finally time to buy? But that's kind of what this thread is about: documenting one person's shopping experience, with all the testing, trials, tribulations, and vacillations intact!


Whichever set I end up taking home, I'm sure I'll love it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by loraan
IOn the Hitachi, I did a freeze frame on the Matrix's menu screen, where Morpheus's face is visible. The Hitachi put Morpheus's freeze-framed face on the left 2/3 of the screen and showed the video PiP on the right 1/3 of the screen (shrunk down small enough that the 16:9 image fit in the right 1/3 of the screen, with gray bars above and below the image). Interestingly, the black level of the frozen image changed SIGNIFICANTLY as the menu looped on the PiP display. I watched the details of the curtains behind Morpheus appear and then sink into blackness as the menu got brighter and darker. This HAS to be an effect of the composite input; I can't believe that this TV can't hold a black level!
By the way, I checked this again on my return trip with DVE. The DVD player was hooked up with component cables this time, and black levels were rock solid in both pluge patterns (switching between high-contrast and low-contrast) and the "morpheus freeze frame with looping menu in PiP" test. As expected of a TV in this price range, it can hold its black levels with varying dynamic content on screen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just FYI, I'm going to temporarily bring this thread to a close for a while. I feel like I've pretty much settled on the Hitachi LCD as the best choice for me. I hope the 60" looks as good as the 50", 'cause 60" seems like the right size for my room, but nobody's got them on display :rolleyes: Thank gods for 30 day return policies.


I won't be actually buying until the January time frame, when the new place is ready, but I'll come back and post again when I've finally got the unit set up. Let you guys know how it turned out... I'm sure I'll love it!
 

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Excellent post.


Wanted to comment on what you referred to as 'Picture-on-Picture' -- is this the same as split-screen mode? I thought this feature was pretty standard (it was on the Sony tubes I looked it), is it absent from the Hitachi?


I've found the split mode to be very handy on my Panny for watching SD material, for example, the non-HD CBS Patriots game alongside the non-HD ESPN Red Sox game. 2 SD images fit side-by-side (no aspect ratio distortion) pretty well, and in my opinion the SD feed looks much better when it isn't blown up to the full 40ish inches (or whatever the 4:3 diagonal would be)


You can engage in further trickery by using the TV's (crappy) speakers for one signal, and your receiver's signal from the external cable box for the other.


Finally, I'll often use it to play video games alongside a SD broadcast that does not require my full attention (i.e. Sunday NFL Countdown). I only wish you could use it to split two arbitrary inputs (instead of one arbitrary input and the internal tuner).


-Kordos


P.S. I _hate_ cycling through inputs on the Panny -- didn't know the Hitachi had one button for each. That's great, and would impact my decision were I to make it again. But I'm still a very happy customer.
 
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