Home Theater Reviews

Pioneer PDP4280XD Review

Pioneer PDP-4280XD 8th Generation PlasmaPioneer’s new 8th generation plasmas are upon us, and it looks like these babies will delight.

The wonderful blokes over at HDTV Test have an excellent review of this piece, and they have found it to be superb.

The reviewer sums up by saying this is the best flat panel he’s ever checked out.

Pros
– Deepest blacks among all the HDTVs I’ve reviewed so far (objectively and subjectively)
– Gorgeous colour reproduction with accurate decoding
– Excellent video mode deinterlacing
– Competent film mode deinterlacing (except in 480i/60 and 1080i/60; see Cons)
– Advance [PureCinema] mode removes telecine judder
– Good scaling quality
– Fluid motion handling as expected from a top-tier plasma
– Effectively no posterization
– No image retention
– No screen uniformity issues
– Generous connectivity: 3 HDMI ports, 3 Scarts, optical audio out, etc.
– Plenty of calibration options in the user menu (but may be confusing; see Cons)
– Independent input memory settings
– Automatic PC adjustments over VGA and HDMI to eliminate overscan
– Excellent viewing angle (> 160°)
– Recessed grip handles and pre-attached stand facilitate quick setup
– Remote control sports high-quality finish and dedicated input buttons

Cons
– Slightly indistinct shadow detail due to skewed 0-20% gamma tracking
– Certain settings increase PWM noise (shimmering pixels)
– Sluggish and flaky 3:2 cadence lock over 480i/60 and 1080i/60
– Plasma buzzing may annoy those with sensitive ears
– The sheer number of options in the user menu can be confusing, especially when…
– The manual does not explain a lot of the functions in the user menu clearly
– Reflective screen may pose a problem if ambient light is not controlled
– Priced at a premium compared to plasmas with similar specs
– EPG lacking in usability

Conclusion
Awesome blacks? Check. Enormous dynamic range? Check. D65 greyscale? Check. Saturated but not overblown colours without hue and decoding errors? Check. Smooth as a baby’s bottom 24fps handling? Check. Top-notch video processing? Check. No image retention, screen uniformity issues nor posterization? All check.

Pioneer have a winner on their hands in the form of the PDP4280XD… I’ve even seriously considered keeping it as a point of reference for all my future reviews.

It looks like this new plasma could be the new king.
Stay tuned for more reviews and info…

Check out the Pioneer PDP4280XD Full Review

HP PL4272N Plasma HDTV Review

HP PL4272N Plasma TV

Looking for a value priced plasma TV in the 42 inch size range? Check this unit out.

Resolution 1024 X 768
Inputs 2 Component, 3 HDMI, RGB, VGA
Tuner Single HDTV

This unit has a great picture for this price range, and is a worthy plasma contender.

The HP PL4272N is an excellent buy. Yes, you can do better by spending several hundred, or several thousand, additional dollars. But for solid performance at a price that will please your wallet, take a close look at this one.

HP PL4272N Plasma HDTV

InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Review

InFocus IN76 new DLP projector

Well, the release for the IN76 is upon us. I have been eagerly anticipating this machine since I first saw pics of her. I am an InFocus fan – I prefer their DLP machines for my HT.

Audioholics is cranking out some great review coverage lately, and the cherry for this week is this preliminary look at a pre-production IN76 Big Play 720p DLP machine. (Thanks guys!)

It looks like this machine may be the trick to beat in this price range. Great performance and good looks to boot – ain’t she a beaut?

Basic info and specs:

  • 1280 x 720 native resolution (true HD)
  • Pixelworks processing which reportedly handles 1080i a bit better than Faroudja
  • HDMI (2 available if you use the M1DA input for HDMI), component, S-Video and Composite connections
  • Both HDMI inputs are HDCP compliant (not found in the review – this info came from elsewhere, see below)
  • Quiet design
  • Limited rainbow artifacts
  • Good color calibration out of the box
  • Sealed optics
  • Medium throw – 100″ screen, mount the PJ 11-14 feet back
  • Fixed offset – 100″ screen, mount the PJ with the lens 7.5 inches above the screen (mount closer to ceiling for cleaner install)

Datasheet (PDF)

Picture Quality
HD Broadcast Material
“Colors were nicely saturated and there was plenty of detail in the HD images. Contrast appeared excellent, and the black levels were very respectable – in fact, blacks were some of the best we have seen from an InFocus projector (InFocus is rating the contrast ratio on the IN76 as 3000:1). Overall, it was a very impressive image with the typical “WOW” factor you get when blowing up an HD image to the type of screen sizes that front projection makes possible.”

Brightness
“In terms of brightness, the IN76 falls into the “brighter than average” category. InFocus rates it at 1000 lumens, but we have learned to take ALL manufacturer brightness/lumen claims with tremendous grains of salt. We are big advocates of brighter projectors, as so many people we talk to want to go with screen sizes of 110” diagonal or greater, and many home theater projectors are not really suited for screen sizes much beyond 100”. Based upon what we saw here, I would say that the IN76 would be good up to screen sizes of 110”, but not much beyond that. ”

DVD Performance
“DVD clips looked very good, with the same richness of color and contrast we noticed on the HD clips. Due to the fact that we had the IN76 for just a limited amount of time, we didn’t spend a great deal of time evaluating scaler/deinterlacer performance. Unfortunately, since so many systems we see these days end up having the scaling or deinterlacing done by the source (a cable box, a satellite dish receiver, an upconverting DVD player, etc), we feel that the internal scaler/deinterlacer is becoming less important to the overall performance of the piece from a real world perspective.”

In Comparison
Compared to the Panasonic PT-AE900U, another 720p machine but of the LCD variety, the IN76 did very well.

Notable image differences
The Panny 900U has a bit less SDE (Screen Door Effect) due to it’s Smooth Screen technology. However, due to this technology the picture is quite a bit softer.
The Panasonic test unit did not have uniform color across the screen.
The InFocus IN76 showed deeper blacks, better color saturation, and better depth giving the image an appealing 3D look.
Darker sequenced scenes looked smoother on the Panasonic, due to graininess of the IN76’s dithering noise.
In a nutshell, the image smoothness was superior on the Panny, but the InFocus unit had better contrast, deeper blacks, and the 3D pop.

Conclusion
“The InFocus IN76 seems to have exactly the right features at exactly the right price point. It makes a great entry level high definition projector for someone who wants DLP technology and an excellent true 720p HD image without breaking the bank. In comparison with the LCD competition at the price point, we feel the DLP based IN76 to have a superior image in most regards plus what we have found to be a more reliable technology. While the picture of the IN76 is not quite as bright or as smooth as what can be found on higher end DLP projectors using the larger Dark Chip 2 or Dark Chip 3 DMDs (including Infocus’s own SP-7205 or SP-7210), it is also considerably less expensive, sexy looking, and very quiet to boot! Since the unit we had to evaluate was a pre-production model, we look forward to taking another look at it when the actual production models start shipping. If we find any performance differences at that point, we will report on them here!”

This unit is now shipping, and I am looking forward to more info and reviews. I may just purchase one of these myself, I’ve been suffering from acute upgraditis for a couple of months now.


InFocus IN76 Play Big DLP Projector Preliminary Review

For more info, check out the IN76 thread at AVS forum, where Bob Williams, engineer at InFocus, is answering consumer questions. This is where I found the dual HDCP compatibility info above.

InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 User Guide (PDF)
InFocus IN72/ IN74 / IN76 Reference Guide (PDF)

Screen Innovations Visage Projector Screen Review

mirage projector screen now called screen innovations VisageLast summer we caught wind of the Mirage Projector Screen from Screen Innovations, that filtered out ambient light, allowing us to see our projected image in a non-light-controlled environment.

Well, the product is now final, with the new name of Visage, instead of Mirage. Interesting change there, I guess they didn’t want it to seem like a projector screen, but not really.

Our buds over at Audioholics got to check this thing out, and it seems to work as billed. However, the bills part is the problem – you’ll need to cough up around 4 grand to sport this 92″ model under your HD goodness.

“The new breakthrough screen uses a patented high contrast filter that covers 60% of the screen surface. This enables the projected image to be reflected by the screen while at the same time absorbing ambient incidental light from other angles produced by windows and room lighting.”

Conclusion:

The impeccable build quality, engineering and over all luxurious design of the screen make it an easy recommendation. We will be very sorry to see the new Visage screen returned to the factory. Watching Nascar on a 92-inch diagonal screen on Sunday mornings was an awesome experience. Going back to a 42-inch diagonal screen will be painful to say the least. The Visage screen is pricey but if you can afford the price of admission get it and you will go where no front projection system has gone before: into the light.

Well, if you can afford it, go for it. If you’re like me and shop with $3k or so projector budget, this thing is a bit out of the question. If I added the $4k to my projector budget, I could afford a light cannon that wouldn’t need this screen. Well, not as much anyway.

I’ve also read that this product has a much more limited viewing angle. So, if you have wrap-around seating, or use projection in a regular living space, this could be a big problem. Still, an innovative product that could push our tech forward.


Screen Innovations Visage Projector Screen Full Review

Pioneer PDP-5060HD Plasma Review

Pioneer PDP-5060HD Plasma Flat Panel Review
Cnet found this excellent Pioneer set to be a bit on the pricey side, but if the feature set and quality are what you’re looking for, this could be the ticket.

Features include true HD resolution at 1280 x 768, digital tuner, CableCard, TV Guide EPG, PIP (picture in picture), color temp settings, and setting saves for each input.

The good: Able to reproduce deep blacks; solid feature package; sleek, glossy-black finish; excellent connectivity, including two inputs for HDMI and three for component video.

The bad: Less than perfect color decoding with red push; minor visible low-level noise in dark material; limited to four concurrent inputs, including front panel.

The bottom line: The Pioneer PDP-5060HD offers excellent picture quality, great style, and superior features–its only real downside is that it’s priced more than the competition.

Design: 8
Features: 8
Performance: 8

While the Pioneer PDP-5060HD has slightly more stable blacks than does our reference 50-inch panel, the Panasonic TH-50PHD8UK, the Panasonic has better color decoding, gamma, and grayscale tracking. It is a tough choice between the two, but we give the picture-quality nod to Panasonic.


Pioneer PDP-5060HD Reviews

Via HDblog

Sony VPL-HS51A Projector Review

Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Projector
The HT addicts over Audioholics have good review of Sony’s Cineza LCD projector, the VPL-HS51A.

I still remember when I first caught the projector bug a few years back, I was viewing them at local dealers. I saw one of the early Cineza models, and I remember wondering why they named it something that sounded like a variation of the common cold. Anyways, on to the review:

Specs
Resolution: 1280x 720 (Yes, true HD)
Native Aspect: 16:9 – an HT requirement
Contrast: 10,000:1
Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens
Inputs: HDMI with HDCP, component, S-Video, composite and HD15
Lens Shift: 100% vertical, 50% horizontal

As inherent with LCD projectors, this unit has some SDE (Screen Door Effect) when viewed at a distance of 1.5 X screen width. This can be a problem for some, depending on your desired or actual screen size and viewing distance.

“I was also greatly impressed by the vibrancy of the color as well as the detail that showed up throughout the [Madagascar] film. Good examples f this would be Alex’ mane and the abundance of fur and plant detail that was shown throughout the film. It seemed that every scene contained at least one element that looked like it could be touched and handled from the seating position.”

“One other thing I was looking for in viewing HDTV was how well the Sony handled mediocre input sources such as the output from my digital cable box. It seemed to handle both component video and HDMI output from the box without any issues and the 1080i and 720p source material was clean and crisp with no visible artifacts beyond the compression associated with the cable channel. ”

“Just as the Panasonic PT-AE900U I recently reviewed set a new standard for interpixel LCD spacing, the Sony Cineza VPL-HS51A sets a new and impressive standard for black level detail in an LCD projector. This will be a bar others will need to match and the result will be better products for consumers and customer installers to integrate into their systems. At its street price there is some stiff competition, but we can definitely recommend the Sony without reservation. ”


Sony VPL-HS51A Cineza Full Review

Via HDBlog.net

Sony 60″ SXRD R60XBR1 Review

Sony 60 inch SXRD KDS-R60XBR1
Here is yet another review of the Sony 60″ SXRD HDTV. This time up, the HTGuys.

Things they liked:

  • 1080p (upscaled picture)
  • Color representation
  • Sharp detailed picture
  • Very Good Contrast (great job with dark scenes)
  • Good Black Levels
  • Two HDMI inputs

What they disliked:

  • No 1080p input
  • Ugly cabinet. Speakers look like ears
  • ATSC Tuner performed so so
  • Performance with highly compressed content
  • Cost

“We really haven’t been too impressed with SONY’s offerings in the HD area. That is until we saw this baby. SXRD is based on LCoS technology which we really like for its smooth motion and dense pixel placement. This TV builds on these inherent strengths of the technology with SONY’s CineMotion® technology. The SXRD has spectacular color and great detail. It did a great job with dark scenes. When compared side by side with two other TVs (one DLP and another based on LCoS) the SONY displayed detail that the other two TVs missed. One of the best TVs we have seen! The only real complaints I (Ara) had were the cabinet was very big and the speakers stuck out like a sore thumb, there is no 1080p inputs and its a bit pricy at $4,500 US.The TV weighs 113 lbs (51Kgs) and is 21 inches (53 cm) deep. We can not definitively state that the HDMI input supports HDCP. There is no mention of this in the manual or at SONY’s site.”


Sony 60″ SXRD Review – HTGuys

HP Digital Entertainment Center z556

hp media center z556
PC mag took HP’s Z556 home theater PC for spin, and they really liked the results.

Their “bottom line”:
The HP Digital Entertainment Center z556 is cheaper than its predecessor, the z555 and includes Windows Media Center Update Rollout 2, which improves the Media Center experience. The system remains the standard for home-theater-friendly Media Center PCs.

———-

This unit has one HD and 2 SD tv tuners. That’s the only problem I really see – no PVR functions for HD with only one tuner. If that’s not a major issue for you, this $1500 unit may be for you.


HP Digital Entertainment Center z556 – Full review

HP md5880n 1080p HDTV Review

HP md5880n 1080p HDTVHere is HP’s latest offering in the 58″ DLP rear projection category.

It uses the new “wobulation” technology, that I’m personally not quite sold on yet. It uses half of the pixels normally required to produce a 1080p image. With a mirror, the DLP chip reflects light to each half of the pixels in each frame, every 1/120th of a second. Sort of a “wobble” back and forth. It does have a better resolution than 1080i, and has less screen door effect, but I’m not sure it would stand up against true, native 1080p.

However, this unit looks to truly be a contender in its size and prize ranges:

Highs
Detailed, natural-looking image
Satisfying contrast and black level
Specified to accept direct 1080p input (not tested)

Lows
None of the pre-programmed color temperatures (Cool, Neutral, and Warm) are close to accurate
Rare, but occasional, color wheel rainbows
Slight pincushioning and vertical stretch

Conclusions
I am immensely impressed with this model from HP. This is a great debut for a company previously known mainly for its computer products; HP hit the target from almost every direction. I could live happily with this set—if not ever after, at least until the next big jump in video display devices, whatever and whenever that may be.

Ultimate AV: HP md5880n 1080p HDTV

Sony STRDA 7100ES 7.1 Home Theater Receiver Review

Sony STRDA 7100es Receiver
Ecoustics ran this Sony 7100ES through its paces, and found it a bit lacking in the setup department, as well as being light on the audio side.

But still, it seems a decent entry in the sub 2 grand category.

“The Sony STRDA7100ES has, at its core, all the right moves: seven channels of raw power, all of the latest surround sound decoding options and HDMI capability wrapped in a shiny silver casing worthy of boutique style electronics. Add to that equation its sub-two-thousand-dollar price tag and you’ve got a receiver with a lot going for it. But in all the areas it succeeds, it falters where others have shone.

Its sound with both music and movies comes off a little lifeless and unsure of itself and its own up-conversion claims come with a barrage of fine print. Top it all off with a user interface that is anything but user-friendly and a remote that simply isn’t worth the plastic it’s made of and you’ve got a receiver that comes up short. I am confident that the architecture of this receiver is a solid foundation for success and would consider reviewing a future revision of this product as the art of digital amps gets more advanced and HDMI switching becomes more developed.”


Sony STRDA7100ES 7.1 Home Theater Receiver Review – eCoustics.com