I've Been Framed!

I'm currently in the final stages of framing a theater room. The walls are up and electrical/drywall is next. I framed up a spot for a Mitsubishi 73-inch RPTV, but now I'm having second thoughts. I'm scared away from the disappearing RPTV category, but I've ruled out front projection because my memory of projector pictures is that they looked pretty bad. On the other hand, I admit that I'm not up on the latest technology.

I'm now looking at the Panasonic TH-65PZ850U plasma. I'm thoroughly confused and need to settle on something very soon so I can finish framing the wall for the TV! It will be a mostly dark room, and I want a great picture that's also big.

Paul Jankowski

I would also be a bit nervous about RPTV becoming extinct, though conventionally illuminated models still offer the best bang for the buck in terms of large screen sizes. On the plus side, they're not going to stop working just because fewer companies are making them.

Still, I can see several drawbacks. First, if you're building it into a wall, will you have easy access to replace the lamp? That's very important unless you're planning on getting a Mits LaserVue, which is very expensive and thus negates the price advantage of RPTVs. What if it needs repair at some point in the future? Will a tech be able to easily reach its innards or extract it from the wall? And how long will it be before repairs are unavailable? I don't know, but buying into a dying technology is not the way I would want to go.

If you want a really big picture, I would reconsider a front projector, especially if the room can be completely darkened. You say it will be "mostly dark," but a front projector really needs complete darkness to look its best. Projectors have come a long way in the last few years, and modern models can look spectacular, even those that aren't outrageously expensive. This approach also means you can change the lamp and access the unit for repairs much more easily than anything you install in a wall because the projector will presumably be at the other end of the room on a shelf or suspended from the ceiling.

On the other hand, a good projection system ain't cheap, especially when you include a good screen, but an 80-inch system is usually far less expensive than any flat panel of comparable size. Also, this is the most "cinematic" approach to a true home theater.

The Panasonic TH-65PZ850 is an excellent plasma, so if that fits your budget and you can easily access the back panel for making connections, it should work just fine. Since you are putting all this effort into it, I would spend an extra few hundred bucks and have it professionally calibrated to look its best.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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Ron's picture

Unless the room is unusually large, my preference would be the Panasonic plasma. Perhaps to solve the issue of access for any future service that might be required, might I suggest securing a good stand with casters on which the monitor would sit and possibly support a center channel speaker. There are several out there that could "artistically" match your work. This could be integrated "freely" in to the wall but, allowing for enough slack in your cable connections to be rolled in and out when necessary. Looking at the stage where you are now in your construction it may not be possible to do this but if you can make adjustments, the above is an option.

Vir Sodhi's picture

Also consider the Pioneer Elite 60". While 5" smaller than the Panasonic, it is no doubt the best image you can get on a flat panel display. Also a tad more expensive, but consider the 3 year standard warranty as opposed to the one year from Panasonic. If you're going to be building a room for the best viewing, you may as well save up for the best medium through which to display it.

Colin Robertson's picture

No offense, but I am sort of baffled that anyone building a dedicated home theater would a) not be up to snuff on at least the basics of modern video technology, and b) consider using anything but a front projector!! To me, it aint a true home theater unless it's using a projector! I also would say, I woulndt let the fact that you need a darkened room to enjoy a projecor scare him away from one. To me, a little ambient light is not that bad if the PJ is bright enough, and the size outweighs the pros of a rear-projection TV. Besides, most projectors, when set up and used properly, hardily outperform a rear-projection TV these days. That said, boy am I jealous! I wish I had a room I could use to build a home theater! Stupid apartment living...

Gregor Samsa's picture

If you want a big screen, get one. Don't let the FUD about RPTV being circulated here get in the way of your getting what you want. I have a 50" Kuro, and I love it, but it does not provide the immersive experience that my Mitsu 73736 provides for movies in my other system. Yes you'll need access to the back to replace the bulb ($99). Of course you'll need the same access to unplug or plug in a source. The bulb in my last Sammy DLP is still going strong at it's new home after over 5 years. The new Mitsu's were positively reviewed by TJN. Since he also writes for this site, I would figure he has some credibility. Despite advances, you will need good light control for FP to look good. Remember that the light output of the projector starts dropping the minute you start using it and continues until it fails. FP still adds cost and complexity to an installation too. Finally, be wary of posts that cast aspersions on your taste and knowledge level. You came here for information

Fred M's picture

Paul, I would do both, though I'm a known pig when it comes to home theater. But imagine, a good sized plasma, for when it's "mostly dark" and then a drop down screen for when it's really dark, i.e., night, unless you live across the street from a Kenny Roger's Fried Chicken. Don't forget you'll want an AVR or pre/pro that has two HDMI outputs to make this happen.

Michael Knight's picture

It's going to be a great looking room from the look of things so far Paul! I'm in the front projector camp on this one. They really have come a long way. Besides, based on the picture you could easily upsize your screen to 80 or 100 inches and believe me: SIZE DOES MATTER! Panasonic makes a very nice 720p model that sells for about $2k. I believe that knowledge is power though so do a little research at projectorcentral.com and choose what's best for you! Any way it goes, enjoy!

Will's picture

Paul: Panasonic, in fact, offers an excellent 1080p front projector, the PT-AE3000U, which is getting rave reviews at it's street price of $2500. You can find reviews of it here: http://www.projectorcentral.com and at Ultimate A/V's sibling mag HomeTheater: http://www.hometheatermag.com Unfortunately, Ultimate A/V has not reviewed it (or much of anything, lately); although these reviews certainly are competent, they aren't quite as comprehensive and "pull-no-punches" as the UA/V reviews we've come to know, love and miss...(TJN, where are you?!)

CaMar k's picture

Hi Scott, looking nice! I have a question for you. What kinda sub woofer your going for that room? And can you make youtube video of your theater? that be sweet :)

Jsandass's picture

Great looking room! Are the framing plans your own or did you purchase them?

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