|Samsung PPM63H3 63-inch Plasma Monitor|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs Plasma HDTVs|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Sunday, 01 August 2004|
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Movies and Television
I used two sources for regular TV viewing: a Comcast DCT5100 HDTV Digital Cable TV Tuner and a Sony SAT-HD300 DirecTV Tuner (both tuned to normal NTSC channels, of course). I used a DirecTV HR10-250 HDTV TiVo Recorder for TiVo evaluations. Honestly speaking, I’ve never been very impressed with the picture quality of regular NTSC television on plasma televisions, and the PPM63H3 is no exception. The combination of compression applied by the broadcasters (this is how they can offer 60 different Home Shopping channels on your cable system) and the relatively limited resolution of fixed pixel TVs creates a picture that seems muddy to me. The contrast of the monitor seems much weaker on regular TV sources. Even on a high-quality broadcast channel like CNN, Aaron Brown’s dark suit was very washed out and I could barely distinguish the lapels or any contours on his suit. Watching golf highlights on ESPN, I was very aware of the grass color as an unnatural shade of green, and again, the natural color gradations of grass were totally lacking.
In a way, the poor quality of NTSC broadcasts from satellite or digital cable shouldn’t be considered a downside for a resolute video monitor, which at its absolute best performance, is limited to the source material that it is fed. It is important to note, however, that with increasing amounts of compression running on digital cable and satellite TV that your NTSC picture is unlikely to get better-looking over time.
Testing DVD Movies
The PPM63H3 definitely proved to me that it is capable of displaying a pretty incredible picture, given a higher quality input. I was very clearly able to see the quality differences in DVDs. The “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (New Line Home Entertainment) DVD looked very impressive upon first glance and never relented. The detail level was as clear as I’ve seen on any flat screen TV and competitive in many ways with the bulkier yet less expensive HDTV CRT sets. In the second chapter when the two hobbits Frodo and Sam (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin) are walking through the rocks with a grassy valley in the background, the picture approaches HD quality. However, there were still noticeable aberrations in the picture that merit mention. The first issue is the appearance of skin – it just never looked quite right. This monitor just didn’t seem able to get human skin perfectly natural-looking. The other notable deficiency was in depth of field – it was actually pretty good, but when compared to the 37-inch Sony plasma TV that I had on hand, the very deep images in this movie seemed a little more blurry.
The movie “Independence Day” really demonstrated some strengths in this monitor. In the opening scene, an alien spaceship approaches Earth, passing the moon with a star-filled sky in the background. These star-filled sky images that you see in many sci-fi movies can really punish plasma TVs, showing bright white spots against a pure black sky background, cause many plasmas to wig out – a very noticeable blurry gray cloud appears around the stars. This was thankfully not the case on this monitor – I was very impressed with the PPH63H3’s ability to show the pinpoint spots of white stars against a black sky without any hint of blurriness. The Earth looked great in the background, too. Another strength of this monitor is its color reproduction – the vibrant colors seem to jump off the screen, especially when compared to other plasmas.
As I mentioned earlier, regular broadcast TV usually disappoints me on plasmas. Conversely, true HDTV usually blows me away on most of the higher-quality plasmas I’ve seen. The PPM63H3 exemplifies this further. It really seems like this set is ideally suited for HD. I didn’t have that many chances to watch a lot of HD sports (thank you, NBC, for not giving us the US Open in HD!), but I was able to catch the final NBA Finals game on ABC, which looked spectacular. When Al Michaels began the broadcast, it looked like he was sitting in my living room on the other side of the coffee table talking to me – he was right there. Every hair on his head was discernable; the color saturation was as real as life; every fan in the stands was as clear as if you had spent $2,500 for a ticket. ABC used a few non-HD cameras for some of the odd angles. It was painfully obvious when they switched to a non-HD camera – the picture went down the proverbial shit can when compared to the gleaming 720p HDTV. Unlike many sets, quick camera motions did not phase this plasma a bit – when the cameraman panned across the court, the image never became unstable. One criticism I do have is that the monitor would get a little unstable along the lines of the court – there was a very slight but noticeable shimmer on the floor lines when compared to the smaller Sony plasma.
I had an HDTV D-VHS copy of “Independence Day” around, so I was able to see this movie in both DVD and HDTV versions on the PPM63H3. The DVD looks really good, but as I watch the HD version, I am awestruck at how much better it looks on D-VHS. The opening titles are razor sharp. That same star-filled sky seems to have three times as many stars. The skin tones look natural and detailed: every wrinkle and freckle is visible (not so on the DVD). In terms of this detail and color accuracy, the Samsung really seems to better the Sony KE-37XS910 – this is especially significant, considering that the plasma is nearly four times bigger than the Sony. The Sony, however, did seem to have better contrast. Early in this movie, in a scene in a dark government room at Space Command, when the two senior military guys walk into the room, their uniforms are almost lost in the background. One of this monitor’s weaknesses seems to be in ultimate contrast and shadow detail. In all honesty, I’ve never seen any flat screen TV that was great at shadow detail, but I have seen some Panasonic sets that seem to do a better job then any of the other plasma sets out there.
The PPM63H3 contains Faroudja deinterlacing technology. There really isn’t any way to turn this feature on or off, but I do have to say that this set seems to handle motion pretty well. As I mentioned in the NBA Finals game, fast-panning camera shots did not seem to faze the Samsung a bit. Fighter plane scenes in “Independence Day” were very clear. There were scenes on the DVD that would cause the monitor to pixilate slightly, but all in all, I was impressed with the monitor’s ability to handle motion.