Plasma in Steps Page 7

Using these controls, I was able to tweak the picture to my satisfaction and then some without entering service menus. The set's nine picture memories let me store settings for each input, but I needed to call them up as I switched sources - a more roundabout method than having a custom memory associated with a specific video connection and a bit of a pain. Out of the box, the set's -3000K color-temperature setting gave the most accurate and natural-looking color, but making additional tweaks via the User color-temperature option let me dial it in even better.

PICTURE QUALITY The Fujitsu's video processing proved to be amazingly clean, with progressive-scan upconversion that's probably superior to 99% of the DVD players out there. With my player's standard (480i) output connected, a scene from the Constantine DVD where Angela first sees the corpse of her dead sister (played by the same actress, Rachel Weisz) looked crisp, with Angela's pale yet flushed skin tone in stark contrast to the whitish flesh of her expired twin. The TV's natural color rendition also caused more vivid hues, like the red of a nearby fire extinguisher, to pop from the screen. Blacks looked deep - a good thing with a dark movie like Constantine. But while shadow detail was pretty good overall, there were some scenes where details like folds and creases in Angela and Constantine's dark clothing seemed obscured. I also felt the picture could use a tad more contrast in general, although it looked sufficiently bright in my dark home theater.

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Tuning once again to ABC's Lost to check the set's HDTV performance, I found that compared with the other two TVs here, the Fujitsu's 55-inch screen seemed to reveal even more layers of detail in Sawyer's unsteady face as he approached the vending truck. Fine creases around his eyes were apparent, as were the individual strands of his eyebrows. In a flashback scene in the Jungle where he comes across Jack, the branches, vines, and grass all retained their distinct texture rather than blending into a formless mass. I was also impressed by how rich and real the green foliage surrounding them looked.

BOTTOM LINE Fujitsu's 55-inch offers a small but noticeable step up in size over a 50-inch model. In this case those few inches come at a steep price, and you don't get extras like a built-in HDTV tuner or even a complimentary TV stand. But what you do get is exceptional video processing - something that really makes a difference with standard programs - and an usually high level of tweakability that lets you hone in a truly satisfying picture. If you've got ten grand to spend and want a bigger and, in many ways, better than average picture, this plasma TV is worth checking out.

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