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Torn between two sets...PLEASE help!


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Madmax18

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Posted October 23 2008 - 05:33 AM

I've narrowed my display possibilities to two, but can't seem to make up my mind. Was leaning heavily on the Panasonic 800U, but it doesn't look nearly as good as I expected it to on the store floor. Very dark picture. And not as much detail as I wanted to see. Not even compared to it's younger sister, the 85U. Plus, from a specs standpoint, the same resolution can be had for a little more money, but in the larger 58" Samsung.

Would you mind telling me which set you would prefer and any special reason why? BTW, my room is 20wx16d and I'll be viewing from 11 or more feet. Thank you for your help.

Samsung PN58A550 ($2599) – A considerable step up from a 50". It was the highest rated set in its class by Consumer Reports. 30,000:1 native contrast. 1,000,000:1 dynamic. Three HDMI inputs.

Panasonic TH-50PZ800U ($1905) – THX certified. Pre-calibrated. CNET Editor's Choice (May 2008). Consistently one of the highest rated plasmas of any class. Perhaps, second only to the Pioneer KURO. Although it did fail CNET's test for 1080i film resolution. 30,000:1 native contrast. 1,000,000:1 dynamic. Four HDMI inputs.

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted October 23 2008 - 06:10 AM

From 11 feet if I had the physical space and the budget for a 58" television I'd get it. Our distance is 8 feet and 50" seems just about right, although I think 46" would have been fine 42" was way too small. Your distance is three screen widths back from the display and IMO that's just about the limit on having anything like a movie-watching feel from a home theater, two to two-and-a-half is much better.

But if you decide that 58" is too big or too expensive I'm not sure why you would be considering the TH-50PZ800U if you thought it's picture looked poor in the store. Now admittedly it may have been a problem with the environment or the setup of the display but no way I'd soak a couple thousand bucks into a television that my available evidence suggested was sub-par in picture quality. No way.

So the way you pose the question is almost in straw-man territory. It's a no-brainer to go with the PN58A550 if you like its picture better than the Panny and you can use the extra size. BTW, all those contrast numbers are like the Vice Presidency according to LBJ...not worth a bucket of spit. And in my personal opinion CNET ratings are a very minor factor in a purchase decision. You've got to buy a TV that's big enough to feel like you're watching a movie and that has picture quality that Wows you, the rest is just a bunch of numbers.

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Madmax18

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Posted October 23 2008 - 06:38 AM

Extremely true, but it's insanely difficult to make an informed decision based on "looks" alone when shopping for one of these things at say Best Buy. You're left gazing at a wall with 30 huge screens in your face, all usually playing the exact same picture. There are noticeable differences in many, but it's too deceiving given the environment is nothing like it will be in your own home. Not to mention virtually every display fights for your attention with manufacturer settings that aren't near what they should be in your own own. Just for the sake of amping up brightness, color and perceived clarity in hopes of you opening your wallet. It just seems like a crapshoot even armed with all the research and learning you could possibly walk in with.

BTW, my room is about 15 ft. deep, so I have some play on how far or close I sit from the set.

This is supposed to be fun and I'm sick of hashing the same questions out over and over again. I just want to buy a set I can't go wrong with and will fall in love all over again every time I turn it on. Is that too much to ask for $2k?

#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted October 23 2008 - 06:52 AM

Well, I only spent half that on a TH-50PX80U and so far after a month it still makes me sit back and go Wow every time I fire up a Blu-Ray disk or watch an NFL game. I don't know for sure about the '800U but the Panny like we bought was running in a non-torch mode in Best Buy when I was shopping. It may well be that the one you saw was running at a reasonable brightness in a overlit room, surrounded by torch-mode displays and it just seemed to suffer by comparison.

I still say if your wallet or plastic can stand it and the 58" will fit OK in your room that sounds like an awfully good choice since you liked the picture. If you do decide on a 50" I'd be inclined to scootch your seat up to within ten feet of the screen and get that big field o' view thing going. Especially for movies. But a 58"-er at 11 feet sounds real sweet. I watched on in a store for a while at somewhere between 10-11 feet and it was awesome.

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Madmax18

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Posted October 23 2008 - 08:01 AM

I debated quote a bit about the 80U and 85U myself, not knowing if the jump in price to the 800U was worth the money. Both of these sets looked considerably better when I viewed them in the store than the 800U did. I'm inclined to think something was off in the settings though. How does your 80U look with standard def TV as well as Standard DVDs in your Blu-Ray player. That's one of my biggest concerns as well. I own over 300 DVDs and not one of them is HD or Blue Ray. That said, for my TV and movie watching experiences, I'll be relying on the upconversion capabilities of my AVR, Blu-Ray or progressive scan DVD and the TV itself.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted October 23 2008 - 08:18 AM

Well, to me standard definition TV programs look kinda washed out. They looked washout out on our previous CRT, too (Sony 36XBR800). On the other hand I've been very pleased with regular DVD's. When I brought the new TV and Panasonic BD30 Blu-Ray player home and hooked them up the first thing I did was pop in a good-looking DVD (the immaculately transferred "North by Northwest") and it looked worlds better on the big flatscreen than it had on the smaller CRT. Just gorgeous. Of course minutes later I put in the Blu-Ray disk of "I Am Legend" and it was no contest, not just gorgeous but absolutely razor sharp.

The thing that really doesn't come across as well on the 50" is anything that has compression artifacts (i.e. cable television HD shows with too low a bitrate) and standard definition DVD's with pronounced film grain. For instance we watch the old Stargate SG-1 episodes on DVD and especially in the first couple seasons whenever they were filming in a dark interior the film stock they were using goes grainy as all getout. That gets really accentuated when you're sitting inside of eight feet from a 50" digital display screen.

But a cartoon like "The Incredibles" or a burnished-looking classic film like "North by Northwest" looks great. I have not tried an old DVD player with the new television BTW since I bought a Blu-Ray player along with it. Analog TV looks bad because it's analog TV, I think the Panny is treating it OK there's just not enough information in there.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Madmax18

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Posted October 23 2008 - 08:41 AM

Great to know. My singles biggest fear is the upconversion aspect given my extensive library of standard DVDs and the fact that so few cable channels are broadcast in HD. I can't stand the thought of dropping 5k on an entire HT system, only to have the picture on a shiny new TV be a glaring disappointment 95% of the time I'm viewing it.

Do you have any issues with the loading time of the Blu-Ray player? A cousin of mine has one and said it takes a few minutes sometimes for the player to start reading the disc.

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Brent Hutto

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Posted October 23 2008 - 09:21 AM

Yeah, it's slower than our old DVD player (which was no speed demon). When you put a disk in you'll get stuff on the screen in about half a minute I'd say. But if the disk has those Java menus (seems to be most disks) you'll get a little icon while the menu finishes loading for close to another half a minute. That's not too bad but those menus tend to be slow any time you stop the movie and access the menu for something.

But a standard DVD or a Blu-Ray with the plain-vanilla (DVD-like) menu structure isn't bad. I'd say a minute or so from disk-in to see the first trailer or FBI warning or whatever. [EDIT] I just put a Stargate DVD in and it was just under 30 seconds until the main menu appeared after I closed the tray.