|The Pros and Cons of Plasma TVs|
|Home Theater Feature Articles Video Related Articles|
|Written by Mike Levy|
|Thursday, 01 July 2004|
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How to Decide If Plasma Is Right For You?
When comparing the specifications of plasma displays, what is the most important factor? Is it the pixel count? Is it the brightness? Is it the contrast ratio? The answer is -- none of the above. As usual, the most important specifications are generally left out by most salespeople and even some manufacturers. What you really want to know about is black level, gray scale definition and digital processing. Often, the specifications don’t exist. Black level could be stated as an absolute value of light output when the image calls for black, and gray scale is sometimes stated in bits, such as 10 or 12, but the most important factor, digital processing, can only be judged by viewing moving images on the screen.
Video processing quality is very important to your day to day enjoyment of a plasma set. Poor processing will result in blurred images and/or strange dots and lines flashing onto the screen. Some sets now include excellent processing chip sets made by Faroudja, Silicon Graphics or DVDO. Video processors sense the difference between film and video-based material and react accordingly.
The pixel count, maximum brightness and contrast ratio are of secondary importance, albeit not according to most salesmen in the stores. While a higher pixel count is preferred (high definition has a minimum of 720 by 1280), it is meaningless if the processing either blurs the image or shows nasty digital artifacts. High brightness and contrast ratio are meaningless if the image shows artifacts due to a limited gray scale or has a high black level.
One solution is to buy a display that has very good fundamental parameters and match it with an external “native rate” processor from Faroudja, Silicon Image or other top video processing companies. The cost can be much higher, but the difference is amazing. Runco sells many of their plasmas exclusively with truly excellent video processors as part of their package.
The idea of using a good progressive source, like a progressive (i.e., video-processed) DVD player can really help on a plasma set-up. Interlaced sources playing film-based material are the hardest to process and adding a processor such as the I-scan from DVDO can greatly improve the image quality. The processing quality in both cases is much better than what is in most units. A topnotch AV dealer will demonstrate the difference a processor will make.
The beauty of this on-the-wall technology is how easily it integrates into rooms, ranging from dedicated theaters to studies to the most impressively decorated living rooms. Plasmas can nonchalantly lay waiting until called upon to turn your favorite room into an outrageous showplace of technology.
While on an ultimate scale, there are some other video technologies to consider before dropping major coin on a plasma, the overall strengths of the format and the picture quality level that plasma has now reached make it easy to understand why this is the hottest video technology since color TV.