TV for HTPC

Is it be better to connect a plasma or LCD TV to an HTPC? I want to use it for watching movies, surfing the web, and playing games.

Steve Norene

Video games and web surfing often include lots of static visual elements, which can lead to image retention on a plasma if they remain on the screen long enough. On the other hand, plasma has no appreciable motion blur, which is better for fast-action games. LCDs combat motion blur with 120 or 240Hz frame interpolation, but this also causes the "soap-opera effect" when viewing movies. With movies, I prefer plasma for its lack of motion blur, often deeper real-world blacks, and better screen uniformity.

Other factors to take into account include the amount of ambient light in the room and how far off-axis you or others will be sitting. For more on choosing between LCD and plasma, check out this article.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

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COMMENTS
hawke47's picture

Good Afternoon Mr. Wilkinson,

I know that costs vary greatly when comparing Plasma TVs to Front Projectors, but I was curious to hear from your wisdom and recommendation on what I should consider purchasing with a budget of $3500. Currently, I am considering between the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700UB Projector and the Pansonic TC-P65VT30 Plasma TV. If I got the Front Projector, I thought I could use the saved money towards an Aperion Itimus 4T Hybrid SD system. I currently own a DENON AVR-2311CI.

Respectfully,
-Stringfellow Hawke

Scott Wilkinson's picture
A front projector can certainly produce a larger image than a flat panel, but don't forget to include the cost of a projection screen in your calculations. Also, a front projector is much less forgiving of ambient light and light-colored walls than even a plasma, so you need to think about the environment in which the display will be used.
JustinGN's picture

When dealing with HTPCs or components with large amounts of static material (game consoles come to mind, as do some set-top boxes), Plasma's flaws do begin to surface. For HTPCs, I recommend LCD displays, even if you're going to watch movies on it. There is, however, a workaround if all you want to do is stream your local video and audio content to your TV and Home Theater - Western Digital makes some of the finest media streamers available, called the WDTV Live (as well as Live Plus and Live Hub), which access the content stored on a computer or network drive, then play it back on your TV. The downside is that the more readily-available streamers lack full support for ISOs or Blu-Ray bitstream audio, and the UI can be really, really clunky. Others with full BD and DVD support don't tend to comply entirely with the Blu-Ray and DVD specifications, and usually have to be imported from China - at a premium price as well, though there are exceptions to this rule.

Long story short, for an actual HTPC, I recommend LCDs if simply to avoid dealing with burn-in of static images. If you're going the media streamer route, however, any display will fit the bill, assuming you know its limitations.

For what it's worth, I'd love to see a future column or feature talk about the increasing prevalence of local streaming devices (Boxee, WDTV Live, Squeezebox, Plex, etc), different options, and a beginners guide of sorts to getting all of that archived entertainment off your PCs, and onto the big screen.

dbenja73's picture

@JustinGN: I too would like to see a column on local streaming devices and different ways to get archived entertainment off PCs and onto the big screen--as well as ways to leave the PC out of the equation. Coincidentally I wrote a similar request to Scott just a few days ago. Do you know if the column ever appeared, and if so, could you point me to it? Thanks in advance!

-DBenja73

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Actually, we are just about to dive into this area big time with Barb Gonzalez, so stay tuned!
jnemesh's picture

@hawke47 I think you would be happy with either a projector or the Panasonic plasma, but, of course, you can get a much larger screen for the money with a projector!

I would hold off on the Epson though. JVC's new RS45 projector will be available in the next month or so and will retail for $3500. At this new price point, (IMHO) no other projector will be able to touch its performance, or the flexibility of installation that the JVC will provide thanks to the 2x zoom lens with horizontal and vertical lens shift.

Scott makes a VERY good point! Dont forget about a good screen! The screen will affect your picture quality just as much (if not more) than your choice in projectors! If you can afford a nicer screen, take a good look at Screen Innovations "Black Diamond II" screens. These amazing screens allow you to use a front projector in high ambient light environments. Even in a darkened room, they provide a lot of advantages over a traditional screen! Its best to talk to a local dealer and see one in person, but if you can't, look them up on YouTube...they have several short (but REALLY informative) videos on the Black Diamond.

Good luck with your purchases, and have fun!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I agree that the JVC DLA-RS45 looks like it's going to be incredible, especially for $3500. Also, the Epson 8700UB is now close to two generations old; the current model is the 9700UB (reviewed here, $3200), and Epson just introduced the 6010 at CEDIA, which will list for under $4000. Unlike the 8700 and 9700, the 6010 is 3D, as is the JVC RS45. Another model to consider is the Epson 61000, which looked incredible at CEDIA. Its price will be under $5000, and it's not 3D, but it does have lens memories for 16:9 and 2.35:1 images (as does the RS45), and it comes with a spare lamp and Chief ceiling mount (which the RS45 does not).

As for the screen, the Black Diamond II is very good, especially in rooms with some ambient light, and Screen Innovations just introduced a retractable version. However, this screen ain't cheap (price depends on size and whether or not you get the retractable version), and it does exhibit some hot-spotting. Still, it's among the best ambient-light-rejecting screens on the market today.

hawke47's picture

Please correct me if I am wrong, but the EPSON Home Cinema 8700UB (8700UB) and EPSON Pro Cinema 9700UB (9700UB) came into the market the same year. In addition, the 8700UB is essentially the same as the 9700UB, but the 9700UB is ISF certified and is only available for purchase through an authorized dealer. This is what I have read online, so far.

Concerning the newer version of the 8700UB ($2K) and 9700UB ($3K), from what I understand, it is the EPSON Home Cinema 5010 ($3K). As for the EPSON Home Cinema 6010 you mentioned, I am not sure about its cost, specifications and comparison to the 5010. Lastly, there is an “e” version of the newer models, but I forget the enhancements (EPSON Home Cinema 5010e).

On a side note, the EPSON Home Cinema 8350 ($1K) is being replaced by the EPSON Home Cinema 3010 ($1.5K).

Any thoughts on any of this…?

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