Mitsubishi PD-5050 Plasma Monitor Page 2

Why? Well, in this day and age, it seems to me that anyone who purchases such a plasma monitor probably will be using a set-top box outputting 720p or 1080i, a DVD player using 480p or upconverted 720p/1080i outputs, or pure digital DVI/HDMI connections. Composite video probably doesn't play much into the equation.

The panel was calibrated for the best grayscale image using Video Essentials (480p) and my AccuPel HDG2000 test pattern generator (720p). Once I had those settings in memory, I found the transition from black to white quite smooth except for some very faint false contours at low levels and ever-so-slight color shifting from black to 100% white. (That color shift is considered the "signature" of an NEC-manufactured plasma, by the way.)

The PD-5050 is pretty much at home with just about any signal from a PC or set-top box. That includes a wide range of PC resolutions into the analog RGB input, from VGA (640x480) to SXGA+ (1400x1050) in addition to widescreen modes (852x480, 1280x768). The PD-5050 also handled 480p, 720p, and 1080i signals just fine, and it's even supposed to work with a 1080p/50 source. Alas, I could not get it to sync up to a 1080p/60 test signal from my Extron VTG300 generator.

The HDMI input worked with DVI signals from a V, Inc. Bravo D1 DVD player in 480p, 720p, and 1080i modes (using the appropriate adapter) as well as an HDMI connection from a Humax HFA100 terrestrial set-top DTV receiver. I could not test a full-blown HDMI connection with audio playback; only video could be carried on the cable I was using.

Image Quality
The PD-5050 tracks the grayscale reasonably well, its color temperature varying by a total of 530 kelvins (see Calibration). Black levels are about the same as on previous Mitsubishi plasma monitors and comparable to a 4th-generation Pioneer that was in my studio at the same time. The factory white-balance presets are useful, but a hands-on calibration will make significant improvements in color temperature accuracy.

For image-quality tests, I used the Video Essentials DVD to check composite video decoding, de-interlacing, and motion compensation. More critical tests for bandwidth, image detail, and motion compensation were conducted with my AccuPel HDG2000 test-pattern generator, along with a selection of off-air HDTV signals and various 720p and 1080i live-sports programs recorded to D-VHS.

Although I can't imagine running straight composite video into any plasma monitor without some sort of outboard scaling, the internal video decoder does a passable job—at least with picture detail. The Snell and Wilcox Zone Plate revealed plenty of detail at 300 lines, but some interference at 400 lines and crosstalk between the Pb and Pr signals.

Progressive material at 24fps was as smooth as one could expect—the Silicon Optix HQV Video Benchmark DVD has a nice test for film-mode lockup, and the PD-5050 caught the change to 3:2 quickly every time. The panel's problems lay in scan-line artifacts; this monitor had plenty of them using its own de-interlacing circuitry, as revealed by the waving flag and two "jaggies" tests on the HQV Video Benchmark DVD. This will be a problem with any 480i source (even component). The panel looks much, much better with 480p sources (such as my Panasonic RP56 DVD player) and a decent outboard video scaler.

The moderately high black levels (0.146 to 0.175 foot-lamberts) makes shadow-detail rendering come up a bit short, but it's still better than you'll see from even the best LCD TVs. The nearly complete lack of false contours helps plenty, too. Dark scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean held up well even in a normally lit room, as did the nighttime scenes from the Video Essentials Montage of Images. Color saturation was consistent whether viewing bright or dark scenes.

The PD-5050 shines when fed a diet of 720p and 1080i HD programming, and after a while, that's all I wanted to view on it. I played back D-VHS recordings of the recent Super Bowl (720p) and there was a world of difference in picture quality compared with DVD.

The fast action close-ups were almost completely free of mosquito noise and compression artifacts, and the colors of both team's uniforms reproduced well, given the often wacky phosphor colors that plasma monitors can produce. Even the football field had a realistic shade of green, not too "lime" green.

Changing over to Discovery Channel HD (1080i), I found a nice travelogue program involving an ancient archeological site in Asia with excellent picture detail, good grays, and clean color (not too bright or over-saturated). Switching to INHD (1080i), I watched the pre-Grammys show which was an interesting mix of black-and-white clothing and flesh tones, all of which were nicely reproduced by the Mitsubishi.

In summary, the PD-5050 tracks the grayscale well, once you set the right brightness and contrast settings and perform a good calibration with the RGB gain and bias controls. The slight false contours and color banding I mentioned earlier won't show up with 99% of the material you watch. But you'll want to scale all video sources to 768p or 720p for the sharpest images that are free of any interlaced picture artifacts.

Highs and Lows

• Fine overall performance
• Good remote with direct input access
• Shines on 1080i and 720p HD material

• Mediocre de-interlacing on 480i sources; use with a good progressive scan DVD player or outboard video scaler
• Blacks are merely average for a plasma display
• It's a monitor only; you'll need an outboard tuner for NTSC or ATSC reception