Gateway GTW-P42M102 42-Inch Plasma HD Monitor
Plasma panel prices continue to drop precipitously as the technology gets hotter and hotter. Gateway, provider of digital-technology solutions, has entered the home theater market with the GTW-P42M102 42-inch plasma panel, which has a native resolution of 852 by 480 in progressive-scan mode. It's a perfect example of plasma's ongoing price reduction. The streamlined display is 25.2 inches high, 40.8 inches wide, and a very slim 3.7 inches deep, and it weighs less than 70 pounds. The handsomely designed set sports a silver finish with a small, dark border surrounding the screen. The GTW-P42M102's performance characteristics are a mixed bag; however, at a list price of $2,999, there's no denying that it's the best value by a country mile in the 42-inch-plasma-panel category.
The GTW-P42M102's connectivity suite is quite generous. Two wide-bandwidth component video inputs with stereo audio allow you to hook up both a progressive-scan DVD player and an HDTV set-top box, which isn't the case with all plasma panels. There's one S-video input and one composite video input with accompanying audio ins. You also get a 15-pin VGA-style RGB input for use with either an HDTV set-top box or a computer and a DVI input for computer use only, each with its own stereo audio input. There's also a 15-pin RGB output for routing the video to another display, an RS-232 port for use with a touchscreen remote system, one RF input, one set of selectable (fixed/variable) audio outputs, and a subwoofer output for enhancing the onboard audio.
The most important picture-enhancing feature is the video processor's 3:2 pulldown, which is designed to prevent artifacts in images from film-based material. To tweak the overall color palette, you get a choice of four selectable color temperatures—low, 6500D, mid, and high—which run from a warm reddish cast to a very cool bluish cast. The set also sports a 3-D comb filter for composite video sources like VHS and cable TV. The remote is large and a bit awkward to handle, but it's well laid-out and fairly intuitive to use, as is the onscreen menu system.
In terms of convenience features, the GTW-P42M102 has dual-tuner picture-in-picture (with selectable window-position settings) and picture-on-picture, which allows you to watch more than one program at a time or keep tabs on two sporting events simultaneously. In addition to the subwoofer output, the Gateway has a 5-watt-per-channel onboard amplifier that drives the left and right speakers. These are uncommon features for a plasma, as most plasma displays are just monitors with no tuners, and only a few plasmas on the market have onboard audio systems and speakers. Thanks to the fact that it has no fans, the GTW-P42M102 features whisper-quiet operation. Audiophiles will no doubt appreciate this feature, as fans can often disrupt the home theater audio experience. Plasmas generally run quite hot, and I don't know of another plasma that doesn't have multiple fans for cooling.
Expectedly, the GTW-P42M102's out-of-the-box performance at the factory settings was pretty dismal. The set comes from the factory with its contrast set to 100 percent and its brightness set at 50 percent, which initially produced a very washed-out picture with no detail to speak of at or near black. A full calibration for both NTSC sources and HDTV material toned down the overdriven picture and made the set much more enjoyable to watch. Using my Sencore Color Pro 5000 spectral-based colorimeter, which was designed specifically for fixed-pixel displays such as plasma, DLP, and LCD, I found that the gray scale in the 6500D color-temperature setting was fairly close on the bottom of the gray scale, measuring 6,200 Kelvin at 20 IRE. It was also quite blue at the very top, measuring 10,200 K at 100 IRE, with a blinding peak light output of 63.5 foot-lamberts.