|NEC PX-50XR4A PlasmaSync 50-inch Plasma Display|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs Plasma HDTVs|
|Written by Michael Levy|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2004|
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Testing Movies and HDTV
“Star Trek: Insurrection” (Paramount Home Entertainment) was beautifully colorful, with excellent delineation of hue in the opening chapter on the planet. Faces were well defined in detail, although the skin tone variations were limited. The outdoor hues of the brown trees, the green leaves, the aqua water and the blue sky were well differentiated and the grass looked alive.
Scenes where deep black was needed were faded because the lowest level of light output is not black, but a very dark gray. The black level of the NEC is excellent for a plasma display. Only a CRT-based system, with its own well-publicized inherent limitations, could improve on the PX-50XR4A’s performance. Plasma displays have a minimum threshold output they must maintain to operate properly. Phillips has started marketing plasmas with a back light, since a little light in the room will mask this flaw, but the lowest level details are lost, and movies are supposed to be viewed in darkness. This limitation inherent in plasma displays was most evident in “Insurrection’s” sequences inside caves and in outer space, lacking the deep velvet black we associate with caverns and the vastness of the cosmos.
“The Fifth Element” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment DVD) is a nutty science fiction drama that draws its strength from the visual power of each of its scenes. The costumes, settings and lighting combine with excellent camera work to move you into its crazy world. The attention given to small details when making this movie is clearly and accurately reproduced by the NEC, thanks to its excellent color gambit and wide gray scale. The detail of shades of gold and red in Milla Jovovich’s hair come across brilliantly. The high level of detail is evident in Chapter 9, when you can see the cracks in the glass just before Jovovich’s Leeloo breaks it, and in Chapter 10, there is excellent depth of view just before she jumps off of the ledge. Even the outer space scenes barely evidence the limited black level, and the overall feel of the movie comes across impressively.
“Seven Years in Tibet” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) – talk about being blown away in the Himalayan snows. I almost started to shiver. Detail in white can be as important as detail in black, and the NEC excels here. Small snowflakes can easily be seen and they move smoothly and always in the right direction. Later, in the Buddhist monastery scenes, the colors and details of the wonderful artworks done by the priests jump out with a multitude of hues and fine clarity.
I use “Raging Bull” (MGM/UA Home Entertainment) as my black and white test. Qualities of gray scale and color temperature are much more important for the proper effect. The NEC does a wonderful job. It is impressively smooth and film-like.
High definition sources were predictably the most impressive during my testing of the NEC PX-50XR4A. The knurled look disappeared and the detail level and color definition was excellent. I viewed sports and movies from a satellite source and, while the movies lacked the immediacy of the live sports shots, I was equally impressed with both. They were smooth and detailed and the dynamics of the image were much closer to the open window effect. Unfortunately, due to logistics, I was not able to test the NEC PX-50XR4A with my reference D-VHS movies and HD source material.