I've Been Framed!

I'm currently in the final stages of framing a theater room. The walls are up and electrical/drywall is next. I framed up a spot for a Mitsubishi 73-inch RPTV, but now I'm having second thoughts. I'm scared away from the disappearing RPTV category, but I've ruled out front projection because my memory of projector pictures is that they looked pretty bad. On the other hand, I admit that I'm not up on the latest technology.

I'm now looking at the Panasonic TH-65PZ850U plasma. I'm thoroughly confused and need to settle on something very soon so I can finish framing the wall for the TV! It will be a mostly dark room, and I want a great picture that's also big.

Paul Jankowski

I would also be a bit nervous about RPTV becoming extinct, though conventionally illuminated models still offer the best bang for the buck in terms of large screen sizes. On the plus side, they're not going to stop working just because fewer companies are making them.

Still, I can see several drawbacks. First, if you're building it into a wall, will you have easy access to replace the lamp? That's very important unless you're planning on getting a Mits LaserVue, which is very expensive and thus negates the price advantage of RPTVs. What if it needs repair at some point in the future? Will a tech be able to easily reach its innards or extract it from the wall? And how long will it be before repairs are unavailable? I don't know, but buying into a dying technology is not the way I would want to go.

If you want a really big picture, I would reconsider a front projector, especially if the room can be completely darkened. You say it will be "mostly dark," but a front projector really needs complete darkness to look its best. Projectors have come a long way in the last few years, and modern models can look spectacular, even those that aren't outrageously expensive. This approach also means you can change the lamp and access the unit for repairs much more easily than anything you install in a wall because the projector will presumably be at the other end of the room on a shelf or suspended from the ceiling.

On the other hand, a good projection system ain't cheap, especially when you include a good screen, but an 80-inch system is usually far less expensive than any flat panel of comparable size. Also, this is the most "cinematic" approach to a true home theater.

The Panasonic TH-65PZ850 is an excellent plasma, so if that fits your budget and you can easily access the back panel for making connections, it should work just fine. Since you are putting all this effort into it, I would spend an extra few hundred bucks and have it professionally calibrated to look its best.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.