3D TVs, AVRs, Screen Size

3D Quandary
I'm looking for a 3D TV in the 55- to 65-inch range. I was leaning toward the Panasonic TC-P65VT25 until a salesperson at Best Buy told me the Samsung PN63C8000 is better, plus it includes a Blu-ray player. I thought Panasonic made the best plasmas. Also, which is better for 3D—LCD, LED, or plasma? Is Sony, Samsung, or Panasonic the best brand?

Rich McGready

In our reviews of 3D TVs so far, we haven't seen a big difference in 3D performance between the major brands. Tom Norton and I both think plasmas produce slightly less ghosting than LCDs and LEDs (which are LCDs with LED illumination), and it has seemed to me that Sonys produce slightly more ghosting than other brands, but this is not a big problem with any technology we've seen yet.

The big 3D issue for me is screen size. To get the most out of 3D, you need as large a screen as you can get. That would tip the scale toward the Panasonic in my view, though the difference between 63 and 65 inches is not significant. Another important issue that is often overlooked is the comfort of the 3D glasses—the Panasonic glasses are the least comfortable I've tried, and the LG glasses are the most comfortable, followed closely by the Sony glasses.

We haven't reviewed the C8000, but the C7000 had a slightly higher black level than the VT25, which is another factor in favor of the Panasonic. On the other hand, the Panasonic provides no setup or calibration controls for 3D, nor does it have 2D-to-3D conversion, both of which the Samsung includes.

Also, keep in mind that we have seen various problems with all 3D Blu-ray players and certain 3D titles—freezing, pixelation, color splotches, etc. This doesn't happen very often, and it's often not repeatable, but it sure is annoying. Also, some players can play certain titles fine, while other players choke on the same disc. We suspect these issues are a symptom of 3D growing pains, and they should be resolved fairly soon, but for now, it's something to be aware of.

Two for One
I have an Yamaha RX-V1 A/V receiver, which I got about five years ago for $500. It has now died, and I am looking to replace it. I went into a Best Buy to look at some receivers, and the salesperson told me they don't carry anything in the same class as the RX-V1 and that I might want to try separates. He mentioned two brands that he said where great for entry units—Outlaw and Emotiva. Have you heard of these two manufacturers. Which one would you rate better, or is there a receiver I should be looking at that will perform like my old Yamaha?

Also, I am looking to replace my TV with a 50-inch plasma. I sit 10 to 12 feet from the screen. Will I see a difference between 720p and 1080p? The guy from Best Buy said that 720p would be fine since I sit that far away—they would be about the same in terms of detail, so he recommended getting a 720p model and use the money I would save to have the TV calibrated. Is this a true statement? I always thought you needed 1080p to get the best picture.

Brian Woods

The RX-V1 was Yamaha's flagship receiver in its day, costing $3200. There are a lot of receivers in this price class, many of which are excellent. I'd look at the high-end Pioneer Elite, Integra, and Denon models, many of which are less than that. Yamaha just came out with its new Aventage line, which top out at about $2000; we haven't had a chance to review any of these models yet, but I'm sure we will.

If you want something under $1000 (since you paid only $500 for the Yamaha), I recommend the Onkyo TX-SR608, which lists for $600. See HT's review here; in fact, check out all the recent receiver reviews on HomeTheatermag.com (look for models that have gotten a "Top Pick" designation) and buyer's guide. In the reviews, pay attention to the Video Test Bench section, and avoid receivers that clip above-white and below-black.

I know Outlaw very well; it makes excellent products at very reasonable prices, though it hasn't introduced a new preamp/processor in several years. Emotiva has the same reputation, but I have no direct experience with their products.

 Audiophiles prefer a separate preamp/processor and power amplifier because each has its own power supply, and there's no chance of electrical interference in the function of each one. Also, you can upgrade one without having to replace both as with an AVR. But many modern AVRs do a great job, so I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand.

As for a TV, I always advocate getting 1080p if possible, even if you sit far from the screen. You might not be able to see the difference in detail between 720p and 1080p, but you could well see visible artifacts on a 720p set as it scales a 1080i (most broadcast) or 1080p (most Blu-ray) signal down to 720p.

Size Matters—Sort Of
I was about to pull the trigger on the Samsung UN55C8000 until I heard that the UN65C8000 would be coming out soon. Will the picture quality look worse on the 65-incher compared to the 55? The resolution is 1920x1080 on both. Does this mean that the dpi (dots per inch) is lower (worse) on the 65 than the 55? If so, should I get the 55 for quality? I have pre-buyers remorse on the 65 mostly because it is $6000 and I can get two 55s for the same price.

Todd Palermo

You are correct that both sizes have the same resolution, so the "dpi" is lower on the larger screen, and as a result, smaller screens tend to look sharper at a given seating distance. However, this isn't a problem if you adjust the seating distance accordingly. Depending on which recommendation you follow, the best seating distance from a 55-inch screen is between 6.1 and 8.7 feet, while the best distance from a 65-inch screen is between 7.3 and 10.2 feet. So if you sit 10.2 feet from a 65-inch screen, the detail will look the same as if you were sitting 8.7 feet from a 55-inch screen.

Most people sit too far from their TV for a good, immersive experience, so if your seating distance is 10 feet (the minimum typical distance in many homes), I'd go for the 65-incher.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

Michael's picture

Scott, is there a magic formula to calculate the seating distance from a given screen size?

Scott's picture

Here is a great article dealing with seating distance vs. screen size. It should be helpful to Michael and others:http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/features/2006/02/maxing-out-resolution

Dar_of_Emur's picture

Also, the "720p" set is probably not actually 720p, its, most likely, 768p, which adds even another scaling step. Go with the 1080p set.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

My favorite viewing-distance calculator is found here:myhometheater.homestead.com/viewingdistancecalculator.htmlThe two main recommendations for screen size vs viewing distance come from SMPTE and THX, and this calculator includes both. You can enter a viewing distance and see the recommended screen sizes or a screen size and see the recommended viewing distances.

kelsci's picture

Tod, I did a google search and looked at some articles on this. You can try the link below and see what you think. http://hdinstallers.com/calculator.htm

Samsung PN58C8000's picture

Scott, Thanks for all the informative articles as well as the great podcasts. What is the word out there on the Samsung PN58C8000? Will you be reviewing it soon? Keep up the good work!

Robert's picture

Ok, first off the morons at worst buy don't know their a$$ from a hole in the ground. The Panasonics are the best 3D sets available reviewed repeatedly. Second, they are the only full HD 3D sets as the others convert to 720P per eye in 3D. Third, off axis viewing and glasses stability is far greater on the Panasonic plasmas than any set from Samsung, Sony, LG, etc... And to let you know, I'm a dealer for all brands, so I know which ones are the best. The Panasonic's have the smallest profit margins, while the Samsungs have the largest profit margins and is why Worst Buy is trying to push you towards that set. Plus, right now, if you buy any Panasonic 3D set you get a 3D Blu-ray player and a starter kit with 2 sets of glasses and 2 3D Blu-rays. The VT series has a set of glasses with them, so you end up with 3 sets, the GT series doesn't, but it does convert 2D to 3D which is a gimmick at best on any brand, and it has separate calibration controls for 3D. So much for the "E

jan parquette's picture

mitsabishi has a 82 incher ( 3D ready )

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Robert, I have no idea where you got "the others convert to 720p per eye in 3D." Absolutely not true; all the 3D sets I've seen from Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung display 1920x1080 pixels for each eye. I do agree that off-axis viewing is much worse on LCDs than it is on plasmas, though I haven't experienced any significant stability issues with any of their glasses.Jan, the Mits 82 is a nice, large screen, and it does display 3D, but you need an adaptor to feed it 3D from Blu-ray, and it displays each eye at half resolution, since the adaptor converts 3D to a checkerboard pattern with half the pixels for one eye and the other half of the pixels for the other eye.I don't know when or if HT will review the C8000 plasma; that's up to editor Shane Buettner.

Ed's picture

Hello I have a Hitachi V500 series that must be replaced due to failing lightengine for the fourth time. I bought this set before I read yourmagazine in case you were wandering how I made such an uninformeddecision. I am very interested in the Panasonic VT25 series. I have beento the store and watched the VT25 and VT20. I have a concern about theclass action lawsuit against Panasonic for a lack of customer supportconcerning black levels and I don't want to go through this with anothercompany. The good side of my internal debate absolutely adores this 3DHDTV. The news of using Pioneer Elite technology, if that is true,intrigues me even more. This is the best picture I have ever seen andmind you I haven't seen as many televisions as you have, but I find thisset to be remarkable in 2D and 3D. I don't have a Blu-ray player yet andI am willing to hold out for Panasonic's bundling they are proposing inDecember with Fox for 3D Avatar. Do you have any clues as to what will

Bill's picture

Scott, I am in the market to replace my Plasma and have been teetering on whether to buy the Panasonic VT25 series. My only hesitation is that I have no interest in 3D and fear I will be over paying for a feature that I will not use. However, the VT25 has received excellent reviews and may be worth the premium. Can you provide a few suggestions for the best non-3D plasma in the 55-60 inch range (or should I consider going with the VT25)?? Thanks!

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Ed and Bill, As I write in this week's "Ask HT," the VT25 is a superb 2D TV in addition to providing 3D capabilities, so I think it's worth the premium price even if you're not interested in 3D. As for the black-level issue, I'm starting to relax about that, at least with 2010 models and beyond. We've had a G20 running constantly for about 1800 hours now, and it has not exhibited an elevated black level over that time.

wayne's picture

Scott, What say you regarding the buzzing/humming noise in the Samsung C8000 series? I have seen this topic lighting up the chat rooms.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

We haven't had a C8000 in for review, so I can't say from personal experience. I'll see if Samsung has anything to say about it.

Adrienne's picture

I would like to know if charter broadcasts in 3D yetand what is the smallest 3D I can buy.I want one for the bedroom.I have a 55" in LR...but looking to upgrade 32" hd in bedroom to a 3D but don't know if i can find one to fit in armoire any help would be great.Thank youA.S.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

I don't think Charter broadcasts in 3D yet; as far as I know, Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, and DirecTV are the only providers of 3D broadcast content at this point. And I don't think you can get a 3D TV as small as 32 inches. Besides, I certainly wouldn't want a 32-inch 3D TV, because for 3D to be effective, it needs to be on a really big screen.

Billy's picture

Scott, I was about to pull the trigger on the Onkyo TX-SR608 but have read in multiple forums that there is an HDMI pass through issue. It was not mentioned in the HT review. Have you heard about this or did Mark see it during his test? Thanks!

Eric's picture

Scott, have you seen this?...http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20018722-1.html?tag=rvwBodyLess encouraging than your personal results on the G20, and somewhat disappointing on the VT25.

Robert Reese's picture

I am thinking of upgrading to a 73"Mitsubishi DLP 3DHD TV...is there something I should be aware, or bewareof DLP...they seem almost taboo at retail level.Thanks, Robert