|Fujitsu P50XHA10US Plasmavision 50-inch Plasma|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs Plasma HDTVs|
|Written by Ben Shyman|
|Monday, 01 December 2003|
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I began my evaluation with Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 Oscar-winning thriller “Fargo.” Fargo is the fact-based story of a Minnesota car salesman (William H. Macy) who hires two lowlifes (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in an attempt to collect a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. The lead role of the local police chief is brilliantly played by Frances McDormand, who won the Oscar for Best Actress.
Much of “Fargo’s” gripping tale is filmed in the snow-blanketed, brightly lit outdoors of Minnesota’s frozen wintry plains. It is during these scenes where the P50XHA10US presents “Fargo” at its best, with excellent clarity and sensational detail. During Chapter 16, “Lou’s Police Work,” the contrast between McDormand and the snow-covered background is excellent. It is easy to perceive the finest details of the American flag patch and gold badge on her shoulder and hat. Although at times I found the Special Edition DVD to contain minor pixelization during some scenes, the Plasmavision still reproduced “Fargo” with realistic flesh tones, well-contrasted shadows and balanced colors. After being impressed by the Fujitsu’s ability to render “Fargo’s” brighter scenes with superb realism, I turned to Chapter 13, “Killing for Compliance,” to test the monitor’s capacity to handle shadows and deep blacks. Despite great improvement over the years, plasma monitors still have difficulty reproducing dark scenes as accurately as traditional CRT monitors do. Chapter 13 was shot at night and depicts the unexpected confrontation Buscemi and Stomare have with a Minnesota Highway Patrol officer. The Plasmavision reproduced this scene with surprising ease and not once was I distracted by video noise normally seen in gray-black areas, as on many plasmas. This is not to imply that the P50XHA10US was perfect in handling grays and deep blacks, but relative to other plasmas, its performance here was among the best that I have seen. After watching “Fargo,” my interest in the P50XHA10US was piqued and I was eager to watch other DVDs and HDTV.
Like millions of others, I have patiently awaited the release of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ trilogy, “The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection” (Paramount Home Entertainment). Well, the collection is finally here. The four-disc set includes all three movies – “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – and a bonus disc with segments on the making of each film and theatrical trailers, plus information on sound, music, special effects and stunts. The film’s picture has been digitally restored in a widescreen version enhanced for 16:9 televisions and the sound has been digitally remastered in THX 5.1 surround. While not the focus of this review, I would be remiss not to mention the exceptional sound quality of all three films, including scores by composer John Williams. There is no doubt that Santa Claus will be very busy delivering this collection to millions this Christmas.
While I watched all three movies on the Plasmavision (could you resist?), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” as the most recent movie in the trilogy, not surprisingly has the best picture and sound. In the film, Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and his father (Sean Connery) find themselves on a perilous quest and race against the Nazis to find Christ’s famous chalice, the Holy Grail.
Watching “The Last Crusade” on the P50XHA10US, it is easy to see the finest details of the picture from its vast landscapes to colorful costumes. This was nowhere better depicted than in Chapter 8, “To Venice,” when Indy and friend Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) arrive in Italy’s great city. The city’s architecture and waterways look remarkably lifelike, almost three-dimensional, not flat as it might look on a conventional television. When Indy arrives at the library, which contains the tomb of Crusader Sir Richard, the colorful stain glass window comes alive with rich and vibrant color. Finally, when Indy enters the tomb of the ancient knight, the P50XHA10US does as good a job handling deep blacks as it does on “Fargo,” with only limited video noise.
I watched scenes from the film both at night and during the day in my apartment, which is well-lit even with the shades drawn, and came to realize one of the Plasmavision’s strengths was that it performed admirably even in a well-lit room. The picture maintained its brightness without becoming washed out. The Plasmavision imparted a sense of realism to movie watching that made viewing “The Last Crusade” immensely enjoyable.
As many residents of Manhattan already know, Time Warner Cable New York City leads the nation in bringing volumes of HDTV to its customers. Live sports are without question the most dramatic presentation for HDTV and I made sure to catch CBS’s weekly Saturday presentation of SEC College Football. I was lucky that this Saturday’s game was a classic, the Florida Gators playing the Georgia Bulldogs at the Gatorbowl. The picture was simply dazzling. Florida’s orange and blue and Georgia’s red and white uniforms overloaded my visual capacity. Colors were incredibly saturated. The green field and white markings had exceptional contrast and were razor sharp. Whether viewing names on player uniforms or the facial expressions of coaches and players, all the game’s most minor details were so easily visible that it made viewing the game at home as enjoyable as I could possible imagine. Graphics such as the clock in the upper corner of the screen were so sharp and well-contrasted it was almost spooky. The P50XHA10US even maintained a reasonably sharp picture without much pixelization or other motion artifacts during quick camera pans. While not perfect, the P50XHA10US was very good here and some flaws in the picture were no doubt because Time Warner Cable New York City broadcasts all its HDTV in 1080i rather than 720p, a format that is arguably superior.
I spent much time watching various HTDV programming, including Jay Leno on NBC and “The Sopranos” and “The Panic Room” on HBO. The P50XHA10US Plasmavision monitor made it easy to see the texture on the fabric of Leno’s suit and tie. The added resolution allows one to connect with the emotional anger of an enraged Tony Soprano with an even more impressive effect. It is during moments like this you will know you have arrived in home theater heaven. When I recently had friends over for Movie Night at my home, I auditioned the P50XHA10US by tuning in to WNET-HD, which offers around-the-clock high-definition broadcasting. It was comical to see the looks of disbelief on their faces during programming which showed aerial shots of Italy’s gorgeous Mediterranean coast.
The P50XHA10US separates itself from the pack when viewing HDTV and presents a picture that is simply state of the art. You will find yourself, as do the millions who already receive HDTV programming, wishing that more high-def broadcasting were available. Thankfully, much more programming is just around the corner. Simply put, the P50XHA10US with HDTV will put you in the front row at Madison Square Garden or in the director’s chair on the set of your favorite movie.