The Panasonic TH-50PZ800U is one of the first HDTVs to earn THX certification. But you might ask, “Isn’t THX mainly into audio?” I can see where you’re coming from, but THX isn’t exactly new to the home video business. It has certified video software for years and has begun to do the same for projectors and flat-panel displays.
The video world woke up last Friday to the news reports that Pioneer Electronics, long a leader in consumer video display technology, was getting out of the video display business. At first, the reports did not come from Pioneer itself, but rather from news agencies (first in Japan, later overseas) that put two and two together and concluded that they really did equal four.
Founded in 1972, UK-based Monitor Audio has long produced speakers that offered good value, from its low-end Bronze line, starting at around $325 for a pair of two-way bookshelf models and extending up to $4500/pair for the company's priciest Gold Signature model. Even that is not an outrageous price for an upscale design in today's speaker market. The number of current speaker lines topping out at over $20k/pair, however, would be alarming if it weren't counterbalanced by excellent speakers selling for a fraction of that price.
I watched a lot of television growing up. But I was also a passionate reader. Okay, more often than not what I was reading was a Radio Shack catalog or the latest issue of the now-defunct <I>Audio</I> or <I>High Fidelity</I>. But sitting at least a dozen feet away from my parents' 21-inch console television with all the room lights on, it was easy to divide my attention between the book—er, magazine—and the latest episode of <I>Gunsmoke</I>.
Price: $3,299 At A Glance: Unique audio design • Inaccurate color tracking • Blacks measure better than they look
LCD Picture, Widescreen Sound
Many of today’s flat-panel HDTVs can look amazingly good. But when sets frequently offer similar features that differ mainly in name, it’s hard for any particular model to break loose from the yada, yada, yada sameness of the pack. That is, unless the manufacturer can convince the consumer that its Super Dynamic Image Enhancer is something he’s just gotta have.
You know who you are. You're an experienced <I>Ultimate AV</I> reader with friends who just bought a new flat panel HDTV for the holidays. They've had it delivered and set up by Crazy Zeke's TV and Refrigerator Superstore.
Price: $5,000 At A Glance: State-of-the-art black level and shadow detail • Superior color and HD resolution • 480i video processing could be better • Poor off-axis viewing
XBR Goes LED
LCD flat panels now dominate the television marketplace. But despite their popularity, they have been notably inferior to the best plasma sets in the depth of their blacks and the quality of their shadow detail.
Price: $1,700 Highlights: The price is right • Accurate color • Crisp, dimensional image with excellent resolution • Poor black level and shadow detail
At 61 inches diagonal, the Samsung is the smaller member of this two-set match-up, but it’s still considerably larger than most comparably priced flat panels. Also, like the Mitsubishi, you’ll be surprised at how light it feels. Even better, the price will also be light on your wallet.
The set provides an adequate number of inputs, including a WiseLink port—Samsung’s name for the USB connection that lets you view JPEG photos, listen to MP3 audio files, and input possible future firmware upgrades.