The 2002 Direct-View HDTV Face Off What Do You Think?

What Do You Think?

Are my colleagues loons? The Sony set is by far the most accurate and therefore should have won the Face Off. By the same rules, the Toshiba should have come in a close second. Granted, I might give up some of that accuracy for the Philips set's smooth motion interpolation, particularly if Philips added 3:2-pulldown detection, but accuracy is what we're after, isn't it? Maybe not. You don't necessarily have to pick the most accurate set. You can pick a TV with the bluest, most exaggerated-looking image you can find. After all, it's your TV, and you're the one who's going to watch it. Then again, if that's the case, you probably don't need our recommendation. The point is, it's impossible to know what's accurate without either measurements or a reference (or both). So I guess my colleagues aren't loons (or at least I can't use this as evidence). Why did our Face Off turn out the way that it did? During the Face Off, no one, including me, had any idea which TV was the most accurate. I left our calibrated reference monitor out of the room because I didn't want its presence to sway people's opinions (as I felt it did in the RPTV Face Off last March). Since they knew the reference was accurate, they might feel pressured to pick the display that looked the most like it, instead of the display they actually liked. I wanted to know what people perceive as being the best, not what they match as the most accurate. Measurements show that the Sony and Toshiba displays offer the most accurate image, thus assuring you that the artist's vision will be portrayed faithfully. Philips trades some of that accuracy for a more-detailed image. However, if purism or detail isn't your absolute goal and you want a set that's both pleasing and seemingly neutral, check out the Zenith.—Mike Wood

This Face Off couldn't have come at a better time. My sister is shopping around for a new TV, and I approached this Face Off as her eyes and ears. What truly amazed me was how different each set could look and still be pleasing. I absolutely loved Philips' Pixel Plus video processing. I don't understand how some of the judges weren't impressed. During the Training Day DVD, the Philips had remarkably smooth, filmlike image motion and looked, for my money, as if we were watching true HD. I thought the Zenith had incredibly natural, lifelike fleshtones. Mike was quick to point out that the Zenith suffered from exaggerated reds, and this may be true; however, it didn't alter my fondness for the overall color. The Toshiba and Sony TVs looked so similar that, at times, it seemed as if they were one and the same, although Sony sets seem to push a little blue before calibration. This tends to make the whites look pristine, but it was a little jarring when we were watching a high-definition waterfall scene. The white water was bluish on the Sony, while it remained white on the other sets. I can't really pick a favorite. I've tried. All of these sets have their strengths. No matter which one you take home, I think you'll be thrilled. That's what I'm going to tell my sister.—Maureen Jenson

This Face Off was interesting in that the displays were as similar as they were different. My first impression when I looked at a full-white field was that they were all using the same picture tube. The characteristics were the same, down to the same errors in white-field uniformity (evenness across the tube). I had to look even harder for the differences. The Philips had a very pleasing picture, but the color wasn't as true as it could've been. The Zenith was very good. Although it pushed red, the set had an otherwise pleasing image and a filmlike look. There was some serious ghosting in the image, but we weren't sure if that was particular to our sample or not. I especially liked the fact that the Zenith had a built-in tuner. The Sony TV wasn't bad and did create a respectable picture. Compared with the other three, though, it lacked clarity. The Toshiba was also good. It had a natural-looking image and was reasonably sharp, but it also had black-level problems. All in all, I'd say the picture quality was good on all four sets. Although I initially chose the Zenith as my favorite, I later settled on the Philips because of the detail from Pixel Plus and the way it handled motion blur.—Ron Williams

Although I can't always tell you why, I've come to accept that my eyes like what they like. In this case, Old Blue One and Old Blue Two liked the Zenith. Post-calibration, the Zenith's picture was simply the most pleasing to my eye. Fleshtones looked natural, the black level was dynamic, and, for the most part, the set handled motion decently. The Blues and I went back and forth, though, comparing the finer points of the Zenith and the Philips. While Philips' Pixel Plus did wonders for fine detail, I concluded that the resulting videolike image would pose too great a distraction for me in the long run. I'll sacrifice some detail in exchange for the Zenith's more-natural, filmlike image. Some of my colleagues didn't mind Pixel Plus, but it's definitely something you need to see for yourself before you decide for or against it. As always, let your eyes be your guide: They'll never steer you wrong.—Claire Lloyd

I hate to be indecisive, but my vote was split between two choices. I think that the Philips' image is highly detailed and fairly accurate, but it comes at a cost. The Pixel Plus processing that makes the image seem so detailed also makes everything look like video. Granted, everything comes off the screen at the same frame rate, but Philips does something to make the image look different. It's a strange motion that you either love or hate. It's so subtle that many people may not even notice it, but I did, and I didn't like it. Film should look like film, not video. If you notice it and don't like it, check out the Zenith. The picture isn't quite as good as that of the Sony and Toshiba sets, but the added value and convenience of a built-in HDTV tuner make up for the picture's shortcomings. Both the Sony and the Toshiba were fine sets, but the Zenith's tuner and the Philips' extra (albeit fake) resolution push those two sets into a tie for last place. Why a tie? Because the differences between the two sets were so subtle that I could barely notice them.—Geoffrey Morrison