|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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NEC is a premium Japanese audio/video manufacturer with a long history of producing some of the finest display devices made. They are famous among industry inner circles for being sticklers for detail and their products are known for quality and advanced design for both professional and consumer usage. The clean lines of this new $8,995 50-inch NEC plasma give it an elegant look in a dedicated theater or indeed almost any living environment. It is a mere 3.8 inches deep and the bezel is as thin as a minimal picture frame. It comes in a beautiful matte silver finish that can actually be removed for painting. This allows the room designer options not available with other units.
The PX-50XR4A offers every desirable input and is fluent in both digital and analog. Colors are deep and image quality is first rate. The gray scale is well delineated and accurately displayed. Most importantly, it is impressive when viewed with any source, but it particularly excels with digital sources. Live sporting events in HD look like a window into the playing field and movies have the natural warmth and delicate hues called for by the director.
With its slender 3.8 inches of depth, handsome in its picture frame bezel, the unit can be either wall-mounted or placed on its stand. It sports a multitude of video inputs. There are two RGB analog inputs (one BNC, one 15-pin D-sub), one DVI-D HDCP, two composite video (one BNC, one RCA), one S-Video and two analog component HD (one BNC, one RCA). External speakers can be added and are powered by an internal nine-watts-per-channel amplifier. Its weight of 96.4 pounds requires care to make sure of the strength of a wall installation. In addition to its IR remote, the unit can be controlled via a 9-pin mini D-sub RS 232 input, an important feature, if you have a whole-house control system such as Crestron or AMX.
As with any display device, proper calibration is important for achieving the ultimate level of picture quality. As a professional video calibrator by trade, I felt the unit was set up to be impressive but not ultimately accurate out of the box. The white-level contrast is set so that the output is at maximum on an image that calls for full output. This puts it into a non-linear area of performance where the last two levels of white in the gray scale are bleached out. The black-level brightness setting is too low, removing the last two levels of gray scale detail before black. The good news is that this is easily correctable and, when set up to industry standards, it is very linear and presents all of the available information.
While the unit has color temperature settings that range from low to high, with several stops in between, they are all set incorrectly at the factory. None of them are linear, and with 7,100K at the lowest light level to 10,100K at the highest light level, they are well above the reference of 6,500K. The highest light output is 48.4 foot lamberts, well above the reference of 30 foot lamberts. The adjustments for color temperature are available by simply pressing enter on the remote when in the color temperature setting on the menu. The unit adjusted easily and, when the white level (contrast) was set at reference, was quite linear. I was amazed that this feature was easily available to the user. You will need a trained calibrator with a meter to complete this task and I highly recommend that you do not attempt to do it on your own. Even the best calibrators will not attempt a color temperature setting without a reference.
The technical test material on the Video Essentials reference DVD revealed flaws in the digital processing, even when the unit was fed directly through the DVI. These flaws were exacerbated when the input was analog. The noise reduction caused a knurled glass look as it froze a noise pattern over the image rather than eliminating it. This was apparent only when looking closely at fine details, but I still found it bothersome. Diagonal lines moving quickly broke up and some digital artifacts were evident in small details when they crawled across the screen, rather than moving smoothly. An external processor, such as those offered by Faroudja Labs or DVDO, would most probably remove most of the artifacts when set to the native resolution of the display.