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EDTV vs. HDTV plasmas


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#1 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Schaef

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Posted January 21 2004 - 05:44 AM

I am shopping for a 42" plasma. I am willing to spend the $5000 for a HDTV but not if EDTV is is "just as good" or has little noticeable difference and costs $1000-2000 less. I'm wondering, how people have liked their EDTV plasmas?

#2 of 35 OFFLINE   Thomas Brown

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Posted January 21 2004 - 06:40 AM

I've wondered the same thing so I went into Circuit City earlier this week to see If I could make a visual comparison. I was fortunate to find several 42" Plasmas side-by-side: Pioneer, Panasonic, Akai, Samsung (or Sampo maybe) and an Hitachi all showing the same HD loop. The store was not crowded so I was able to stand there for 45 minutes or so and try to find fault. The low end ED Plasmas were good but clearly inferior to the higher priced models (I suspect the Gateway would fall into this group too). The more expensive ED units were not quite as good as the Hitachi HD I was using for reference. However, they were close enough that I decided not to spend the 50% premium for a 10% improvement. Visually, the difference in clarity was most noticeable close up. From eight feet or more away the difference is really hard to pick up. I think plasma technology in general has surpassed the capability of the human eye anyway. I'm 52 and my vision is going south so my comments are all comparatively speaking. I think the Hitachi HD Ultra is the cat's ass. If money were no object I'd throw down on that in a heart beat. Never mind looking at it....it looks good back at you...all sleek and shiney two tone black and chrome. It's a little shrine to materialism!

I also wanted to look at some of the newer 42" DLPs on the market. I looked at a Panasonic, Sony Grand Wega and Samsung models. Although the clarity was quite spectacular none of these were as bright as the plasmas IMO. In my view DLPs suffer from the same off axis shading problem that has kept me away from all projection TVs. I have some wide viewing angles in my living room that projection TVs of any kind just can't overcome.

This was not a scientific experiment....just one man's opinion. One thing I've noticed is that many vendors of ED Plasmas often display a cartoon movie (Monsters Inc etc) or anything by Pixar. This is not a realistic demo since computer generated images do not reflect what you would normally see (night light, skin tones etc) on TV or regular DVDs. I'm sure this practice sells plenty of TVs though.

#3 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Schaef

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Posted January 21 2004 - 06:53 AM

Thanks for the reply...and the experiment! I actually love those DLPs and I was close to buying one before I realized that a plasma hung on the wall solves so many problems for me in terms of room layout and furniture arrangement. But I agree, nothing compares to the bright, crisp picture of plasma. As far as the ED thing goes, I don't really know what to do. I have heard people say that the eye can't really tell the difference, but part of me feels like if I'm going to shell it out for a plasma, I might as well do it right and have no regrets...spend the extra $1500 and get it HD. I just don't know yet...thanks

#4 of 35 OFFLINE   Thomas Brown

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Posted January 21 2004 - 07:09 AM

I feel your pain brother. I'm having the same conflict. As a purist I don't want to buy the ED and wonder what could have been....what am I missing. On the other hand the realist says....save your money. I think of the audio purists who spend thousands to go from .005% to .001% distortion or to go from 400 watts to 500 watts. I was never willing to go the extra mile to chase a couple extra DB. If you have the money...spend it. I'll probably get the Panasonic ED and take a Carribean Cruise with the difference.

#5 of 35 OFFLINE   DaveGTP

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Posted January 21 2004 - 09:07 AM

Most comments from folks on AVS forum (I'd say 80% of people) say that at 8 ft and farther, they are unable to tell the difference between the 'true' HD and HD 'downscaled' ED. Depends on your eyes. Some people can tell father away than others - if you can't tell the difference, don't worry about it.


Big fan of the Panny ED here - I was going to get one with Tax money, etc, this year - instead, I'm gonna try out the X1 DLP projector (Since I mainly live in nighttime hours anyway) and pay off some debt. Maybe get the Panny ED next year.
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#6 of 35 OFFLINE   Mort Corey

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Posted January 21 2004 - 09:35 AM

Had the same dilemma and ended up purchasing an HD unit. From eight feet away they were pretty close to my eyes but my wife could see a substantial difference favoring the HD unit.....and who is any man to argue with his wife if she wants to spend the extra money for important toys? Posted Image

This, in the end, has turned into one of my most satisfying and enjoyable purchases ever....on most anything. Took it home (had it delivered) plugged it in and, after some minor adjustments, it looks far better than anything I'd seen displayed on store loops and DVD's are beautiful.

I looked at store displays, from all angles and distances, for over six months (drove myself and my wife nuts) My only gripe is that there's still not much worth watching on television.

Mort

#7 of 35 OFFLINE   CalvinCarr

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Posted January 21 2004 - 09:48 AM

What is the resolution of the ED vs. the HD?

#8 of 35 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 21 2004 - 10:00 AM

480p vs. 720p. There are no plasmas that resolve 1080i.
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#9 of 35 OFFLINE   DaveGTP

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Posted January 21 2004 - 11:44 AM

A better answer would be

ED: 852x480

HD: 1024x768


I don't watch HD, so I'm not particularly interested in HDTV. And personally I doubt HD-DVD will come to useful fruition any time soon.
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#10 of 35 OFFLINE   nick_rh

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Posted January 21 2004 - 01:19 PM

Quote:
And personally I doubt HD-DVD will come to useful fruition any time soon.

The current estimate is late 2005 - early 2006 for the first consumer HD-DVD players. HD movies may not fill the shelves right away, but I'm sure studios are already mastering a lot of their newer films in HD in preparation.

#11 of 35 OFFLINE   DaveGTP

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Posted January 21 2004 - 02:30 PM

Yeah, and it'll be affordable when? I'll worry about 'true' HD resolution in 2008 or so. Until then it's a TV watcher's world.
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#12 of 35 OFFLINE   Thomas Brown

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Posted January 21 2004 - 11:41 PM

Well the higher resolution display must upconvert the low res signal. The ED display must downconvert an HD signal. Any additional processing will create unwanted effects. Since most programming is currently 480i or 480p the ED is your best bet. Starting in 2006 all broadcasters are required by law to be transmitting a digital signal. I suspect most will be high def, or should be. Blue Ray HD video discs will probably be hitting the market then too. It is a virtual certainty that plasma technology will be bested by something else within five years. 3D holograms or something! You can never really get ahead in this game. Just buy what you can afford.

#13 of 35 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted January 22 2004 - 06:55 AM

Quote:
Since most programming is currently 480i or 480p the ED is your best bet.

This sort of depends on what programming you watch. Most prime time, network programming is in HD. Almost all of CBS, NBC and ABC, except new and reality shows (prime time) are HD. Even the WB has a few shows in HD (e.g. Gilmore Girls) and UPN has a couple. There is a modest amount on PBS.

Quite a bit of major sports is in HD.

HBO, Showtime and Discovery have HD channels. Mark Cuban’s HDNet has an HD movie channel.

On the other hand, almost no late night (except for Leno) or daytime TV (except sports) is in HD. And other than a few special channels.

And except for those few special channels, the cable and satellite channels are SD.

So it all depends on what you watch.
¡Time is not my master!

#14 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Schaef

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Posted January 22 2004 - 07:06 AM

Thanks for all the advice...
I normally watch a lot of primetime TV, a LOT of movies and a LOT of sports...so I am definitely looking for the HD programming. However, it is my understanding that the picture quality difference between a ED plasma and a HD plasma is not huge when watching HD programming(5-10%). I also have heard that the ED display is better than HD for DVDs since it is much closer to its native resolution. In the end, I figure that HD programming downconverted onto a high quality ED screen (I'm thinking about a 42" Panasonic) hanging above my fireplace is going to look fantastic and will save me a few thousand dollars which will make me feel a lot better a year from now when the prices have dropped dramatically.

#15 of 35 OFFLINE   James Sarno

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Posted January 22 2004 - 02:31 PM

Well I've been watching the NFL playoffs in HD on a 46" rptv (my wife's uncle's) I'm wondering will the HD signal look as good or close to a HD RPTV on a ED or HD Plasma?

It's been said that DVD's looks somewhat better on a ED than a HD Plasma...

...or is the difference so minute between all three that I'm driving myself crazy for nothing?

#16 of 35 OFFLINE   Rich H

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Posted January 22 2004 - 05:20 PM

Guys,

I own the Panasonic 42" ED plasma, but over the last two years I've demoed most of the plasmas out there (37" to 61"), in good viewing conditions. (And have inhabited the AVSplasma forum over that time).

ED vs HD models? I'd say if going for an ED model there is only one King Of The Hill: The Panasonic model. The NEC models are quite close, but edged out by the Panasonic's better black levels. If you want to watch DVDs, especially in lower lighting, then any other ED plasma is going to look more washed out than the Panasonic (due to poorer black level performance, especially in the "bargain brands").

Ok, with that said, here's what I'd say (btw, I'm assuming we are comparing HD and ED plasmas of the same size - 42/43"" - not 50" HD plasmas to 42" ED plasmas).

FOR DVDS: The ED plasma tends to have the smoothest, and sometimes the sharpest look with DVDs. This has been hashed out by many in the AVSforum over the past two years, but it's surmised that the ED resolution is simply a good match for DVD resolution, necessitating less egregious scaling of the image. Many an HD plasma produce more visible scaling noise with DVDs, which may also result in a softer image. Some people like the slightly softer image of some HD plasmas, which along with the more discrete pixel structure makes for what they feel is a "film-like" image. The ED plasma can look more sharp with DVDs...some say a tad more video-like, others simply say more precise.

That said, many new HD plasmas put out a really, really sharp DVD image these days, which sometimes even looks sharper than the ED plasma, with a bit more color detail. However, they still display a tad more noise to the image, which may not bother you depending on your viewing distance. And, also, there is only one 42" HD plasma that has the black levels of the Panasonic ED plasma, and that's the HD model made by Panasonic. Therefore, if go for one of the many other 42" HD plasmas you'll take a hit on the black level performance. I personally have found the Panny ED plasma's black level performance pushes it ahead of many an HD plasma in terms of over-all picture depth and quality in "home theater" viewing conditions. But you have to decide for yourself (for instance, the Pioneer 43" HD plasma has more color punch than the Panny, and a bit more color detail, but worse black levels).

FOR HI-definition: Well, the Hi-Def models win there. A bit. Well...let me elaborate. SOME Hi-Def models will look better. Again, for me those Hi-Def plasmas with visibly poor black performance distract me, and detract from the over-all naturalness of the image. In which case I would choose the ED Hi-Def image. As has been pointed out, the Panasonic ED plasma looks fabulous with Hi-Def signals. It definitely gives you the super-clear, 3D effect from Hi-Def signals. Many people find a negligible difference between the Panny ED plasma and some other HD plasmas playing Hi-Def, from a typical viewing distance (around 8 feet). I DO see the difference that favors the Hi-Def models, even from 8 feet or so. It's just an added precision, smoothness and clarity with the very tiniest background details that are handled better on the Hi-Def models. But it's not a big difference, that's for sure (even though as an anal videophile I appreciate the difference). The ED plasma will definitely give you Hi-Def thrills though.

FOR REGULAR CABLE/SAT (NTSC) CHANNELS:

No question: the ED model. That's one area of total agreement. With low quality signals perfect scaling is a must - the "noise" in low quality signals tend to get exaccerbated when it's upscaled to higher res panels - it really "stresses" a scaler it seems. Therefore, every HD plasma I've ever seen looks softer, smearier, noisier and more processed looking with NTSC channels than the ED plasmas. The Panasonic ED plasma is well known as producing among the best (certainly the best I've seen) image with regular TV. I find it looks acceptable with average quality TV signals, very good with good quality signals, and stupendous with nice strong cable/sat feeds - near DVD quality. Many NTSC images on my ED plasma drop my jaw at how detailed, smooth, rich, dimensional and natural they look compared to my Panasonic CRT direct view.
I can't vouch for ED models from other companies, but all I've seen are still inferior to the Panasonic with NTSC signals (with the exception perhaps of the new Fujitsu 42" model, based on the Panasonic). If you plan to watch a lot of NTSC, the ED model won't make you regret paying all that money.

Bottom line: If you think you are going to end up concentrating your viewing on Hi-Def, or are paranoid about missing out on Hi-Def, or view this as the last TV you'll buy in the next 10 or 15 years, go with a Hi-Def model.

If you can take a teeny hit on Hi-Def performance, then an ED plasma will give you an all-around great performance on every source you plug into it (even VCR). There is nothing on my ED plasma that does not look superb.

That's my (more than) 2 cents.

Oh, and you can see how an ED plasma can look with DVDs once tweaked nicely by looking at my screen shots. For instance, I recently used my digital camera to take screen shots of The Hulk playing on my Panasonic ED plasma:

ED PLASMA SCREEN SHOTS: THE HULK

(PS, when viewing the screen shots: they are large, so if you are using Internet Explorer press "F11" on your keyboard to open up browser space, and make sure images enlarged to "original" size - noted below the photos)

Cheers,

Rich

#17 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Schaef

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Posted January 23 2004 - 01:09 AM

Rich - Thanks a LOT. That is a great and detailed explanation and confirms what I had decided was probably trhe best way to go. The 42" Panny ED.

I think people also need to remember that in the grand scheme of things (in my newbie opinion) we are witnessing a major shift in TV technology right now and we are probably just on the cusp. Rear Projection TVs are getting slimmer and lighter (and cooler), plasma prices are coming down, HD is more and more common, new technologies are emerging etc. It's beginning to remind me of computer technology over the past few decades: Rapid change, new technology on the market every month (it seems), and prices fluctuating like mad. Unless you are a serious purist with a big budget, it just doesn't make sense to me to drop a heap of cash on an HD plasma right now. Especially when at 42" even an HD plasma can't display true 1080i anyhow.

I would also like to point people to plasmatvbuyingguide.com. I was skeptical of the site at first, but much of what I have read there has been confirmed here. It has been a very informative resource for me. They have a great explanantion of HD vs. ED, great reviews, a great FAQ section and more.

Tomorrow I visit Tweeter, credit card at the ready.

#18 of 35 OFFLINE   James Sarno

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Posted January 23 2004 - 01:46 AM

Rich,
Great detailed explanation!...I've learned more from your post than in countless trips to Best But & Circuit CityPosted Image
...And what Mike says its true also about technologies constantly changing...who knows what kind of display will be the rave in about 5 years

ED/HD Plasma,RPTV,LCD RPTV,DLP....Can't say we don't have choices

#19 of 35 OFFLINE   DaveGTP

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Posted January 23 2004 - 04:32 AM

Personally, the ED Panny was my selection. I care more about picture quality and black levels than anything numerically superior to it. I prefer the lack of washout, viewing in all light levels, etc to the other technologies.

I would take an ED plasma with superior black levels/picture quality over an HD projection set any day. To me, a plasma is basically a giant CRT, as far as the advantages and drawbacks - the realatively minor risk of burn in will disappear as the technology matures - kind of like CRTs are now.

Perfect convergence and geometry are also very much admired.



This said, I'm paying off some debt and probably getting a DLP projector (the trustworth X1) as a standby. Really 80-90% of my use is nighttime anyway. That should hold me by for now.

The same thing applies to the X1 SVGA projector - I'd rather have the improved contrast & black levels and less screendoor, than get a higher-rez XGA LCD projector with poor black levels.


I am getting married this year and have to finance a honeymoon, etc. Want to improve my finances. Hopefully I will get my Panny next year to supplement the projector.
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Gideon - "Probably. Screw them."
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#20 of 35 OFFLINE   Mike Schaef

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Posted January 23 2004 - 04:37 AM

As a man who has been married for 3.5 years, my advice to you is make all of your important technology-related purchases prior to your wedding. Soon you will need approval for these things.





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