"In a word, stunning!"on by bealha
Pros exceptionally good picture quality out of the box, set up can be relatively simple
Cons no pass-through of 5.1 audio signal from HDMI in, to optical out
Summary There are better things I can think of doing on a Saturday morning than writing a review (and this is maybe the second one I've ever written) but I wanted to share with everyone how pleased I am with the Panasonic TH-50PX50U 50" plasma television, as it's a new product, and there's not alot of info out there on it.
I did lots of research prior to making this purchase (it wasn't easy for me to drop this kind of cash on a TV) and based on this research, ordered it sight unseen back in February. If you don't like to read, and want the long-story-short, my summation is this: You buy a TV to watch, and this TV has absolutely stunning (and I do mean stunning) color and picture quality. For you guys: even my wife said "WOW", and let me tell you, that was quite an endorsement. If you want to know more, read on.
Having only had basic cable TV service, the first thing I did was to upgrade my cable to an HDTV box. Even though the set has a built-in HDTV tuner, a set-top box is still required from the cable company to receive and convert Hi-Def signals over the cable. There's little point in having an HDTV set if you can't get the signal.
I wanted to take advantage of the broad-band video/audio output that the HDMI cable provides from the Hi-Def set-top box to the TV, and then pass the audio signal from the optical out of the TV to my surround receiver, so it was disappointing to find out that the surround audio signal coming into the TV via the HDMI cable, doesn't pass-through to the optical audio output of the TV (I suppose because the TV doesn't have surround capability). There is a way around this problem however. It's just more complicated. To get a true surround audio signal, the optical audio cable must be routed directly from the set-top cable box, to the surround receiver, which in turn means that an audio output setting on the cable box needs to be changed (from HDMI to Dolby 5.1) whenever you want true surround. Doing this disables audio input to the TV as well, so if you just want to sit and watch the news and listen to it through the TV speakers, you'll have to change the cable box setting back to HDMI audio source (one more thing to confuse all the non-power users in my household).
This however should not discourage you. Convenience features are important, but the fact that there are now 4 remotes sitting on my coffee table puts this minor annoyance in perspective, and besides, I bought this TV to watch.
As I said up front, the color and picture quality is simply stunning. I've read much about how you should have a TV like this professionlly set-up to adjust for picture, etc., but my feeling is that out-of-the-box, 95% of most people will be perfectly happy. The TV sits in a room with medium daylight, and with all the settings for brightness, and contrast flat, the viewability is quite good. Panasonic has published a white-paper on breaking in a plasma TV (this can be found at ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/pub/Panasonic/Drivers/PBTS/papers/Plasma-WP.pdf) that suggests leaving settings relatively flat for a period of time. Color balance is excellent, blacks are deep, whites are white, and details appear in the shadows. If there is any color push, it's toward green, not red as is with most sets. Flesh tones, depending on the video source, can be, and are typically, amazingly accurate.
DVD source material simply put, is fabulous. You watch a DVD and ask yourself, "How can the picture or detail get better than this?", and yet an HDTV signal provides a better picture still. I have to say, I can't think I have viewed a better, or even as good a quality picture, anywhere, ever! The panel is such a good quality you can sit very close to the screen (I think even as close as 6') without seeing any screen-door effect, though we sit at a distance of about 13'.
Now for standard TV fare. I think this is where many "big screen" TVs, no matter the format, plasma, projection, or otherwise, fail to please. A 480i image that looks very good on a 19" TV, and pretty good on a 27" TV, just looks flawed on something as large as a 50" screen. I'd liken it to watching a VHS tape that you used to record the latest episode of "The Apprentice". Acceptable, not great. As my friend put it, I think I'm becoming a 480i snob (oh no!). This set does however produce a reasonably good picture from a standard TV network 480i signal, and its 'stretch' mode to fill a 16:9 format from a 4:3 format does a remarkable job at keeping distortions to a minimum. Digital broadcast signals are better quality, and the premium cable channels look pretty darned good. Thankfully, my cable company is working on adding more network HDTV availability in the near future.
The supplied remote is well laid out and easy to use, though its use is diminished when the remote for the cable box is added.
The on-screen menu navigation for audio/video/advanced setting adjustment is intuitive and easy to use.
The sound quality is good with adjustments for balance, bass, and treble, but nothing substitutes for a surround system when watching a movie.
The user manual is relatively complete and easy to use (though it doesn't mention the inability to pass-through the surround signal, even though this was mentioned in my cable box manual... odd) and is available on Panasonic's web site (http://service.us.panasonic.com/OPERMANPDF/TH37PX50U.pdf).
I've read mention of fan noise on past models, but have detected none from this set.
I have to mention my reading of the 3:2 pulldown circuitry that this set lacks (at least there's nothing to say that this set has it) that seems to be a contention point for the many of the editorials I've read. All that I can say is that "If I don't have it, I don't miss having it, and if I do have it, I don't know it!".
Pros Exceptional Screen for HD Channels; Great Contrast Ratio; Decent Price; Partly Future Proof
Cons Mediocre Bottom Screen Speaker; Only 1 HDMI Input
Summary I live in the NYC area and was searching for either a 43" or 50" plasma hdtv and was receptive to LCD hdtv's 37" or larger.
Beyond looking at specifications, I went to about 8 electronic stores over a 2 month period compared LCDs and plasmas of various makes side by side. Found, for instance, the Sharp Aquos (37" and 45" models) and Samsung 40" LCD were relative weak in blacks and contrast when compared to low end consumer plasmas tvs.
Afterwards, based on price, I opted to forego higher end consumer plasma models (i.e., over $4500) and any industrial models (which are stripped of many features you don't necessarily need such as speakers (get with own home theater set up), hdtv tuner (a cable or sattelite provider will give you an hd receiver built into their unit), but lack certain inputs and thus need to buy cards for such inputs making industrial models comparatively expensive; but being ablet o buy different cards for insertion allows for some future proofing).
I narrowed my choice to several basic consumer plasma models. Further, I opted to forego looking at 43" plasma tvs because they were not true HD tvs compared to the 50" in terms of resolution. While I was not excited about spending an extra $1,000, there was a slight difference between the 43" and 50" in resolution that was noticeable, but if you live in a small space, the 43" might still be a better option for you, especially since the price now of 43" Panny is a steal at $2.5K.
After I settled on a 50", I looked at several models at various stores, such as the Panasonic TH-50PX50U, Pioneer PDP-5350HD and a Mitsubishi and LG model. Hands down, the Panny TH-50PX50U had the best screen (which could be attributable to how it was calibrated in a particular store, but I went to several electronic stores in NYC; so concluded it was decent). I use Dish Network satellite tv with a Dish Network HD 811 receiver to get HD channels; pictures are simply amazing; highly suggest getting this plasma. As to non-HD channels, well, because 50" plasmas are so sharp, you get to see some flaws. But by early 2006, Dish Network as well as Direct TV with offer 100+ HD channels because they will switch their receivers from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4 format that will allow them to compress more HD channels in the same bandwidth of broadcasting. There is a Cnet.com article on in their HDTV world on best options for getting HDTV channels, and they picked satellite tv as the one that will offer the most HD channels by year end or early next year.
As to speakers, while the Pioneer or higher end consumer models (including Panasonic's higher end models) might have better speaker quality, the speakers are just fine for wattching news, movies and sports, as long as you are not trying to go for a surround sound theater feel. Otherwise, like any plasma, you will still need to get a home theater setup (i.e., multiple speakers (front left/right, center, subwoofer, rear speakers), audio/video receiver (or preamp, decoder, amplifer), dvd upconverting player with hdmi output, etc...).
As noted in the con area, only one hdmi input; while the Pioneer from what I recall has two HDMI inputs, you will need an a/v receiver with HDMI input/output (not cheap yet, but mid-range models due out by year end) or a $240 HDMI switcher (allows to plug all HDMI video sources into one then up to the plasma, e.g., hdmi dvd upconverting player and an hd satellite receiver with DVI output are plugged into the switcher then one hdmi cable up into the tv); for a switcher, go to www.gefen.com Gist, if you can wait, by year end, the generic, non-audiophile manufacturers such as Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo etc... will have mid-range a/v receivers with HDMI input/output; if cant wait, then you need an HDMI switcher. Argument can be made to get the Pioneer instead because 2 HDMI inputs, but the screen is just not as sharp by year end it is a non-issue; dont get me wrong, the Pioneer models were nice too, even if slightly more expensive.
Bottom line, if you enter the realm of plasma HDTV (that is 50" or up), you will end up investing in a lot more than just a tv. Good luck with your purchase.
Pros Great picture quality, great price (if you negotiate well)
Cons Very awkward to connect components when mounted on wall
Summary I spent about a month trying to pick a plasma to buy. After reading reviews and seeing the units on display at local superstores, I decided on this unit.
I actually got Circt Cty to drop thier price from $4,999 down to $3,649. I told them about a few stores located in NY that advertise this price. I also told them that I could buy the unit in the store (important cause they won't match web prices from warehouses). They didn't even check what I said, and matched the price on the spot.
Well, brought the tv home and mounted it on the wall. This was pretty simple if you're somewhat handy. The difficult part is trying to connect components once the tv is mounted. I had to use a flashlight and a mirror to attempt to see what I was doing. I also had to do this 3 or 4 times, since I adjusted the hieght of the tv. You really have to just feel your way around the back of the tv blindly to connect them. I lowered the rating from 10 to 9 for this reason.
The HD picture is phenominal (I use comcast). The neat thing i like is that if i'm switching back and forth from HD channels to regular channels, I don't have to change anything, the tv does it.
The unit is very impressive, even when it's not even on. As for the people complaining about the remote and the speakers... I haven't used either. I have a bose 28II, and don't even have any audio going into my tv at all. The bose compliments this tv great. The bose remote does all that I need it to as well.
Great deal, great purchase!
Pros HD is so real you could almost jump into the picture.
Cons None so far..... I am not as picky as some of the other reviewers.
Summary I don't view much TV. I am a computer geek and a PC gamer. This TV was not designed for a PC by the way. I had no intention for using it as such, so that doesn't matter to me. My Wife is a TV freak. This purchase was geared around her enjoyment....not mine.
My Wife is totally awestruck with this new TV. Her verbal description of the picture quality was similar to *HOLY BAT POOP*!
Well, my Wife and I now have a problem. All of a sudden this TV and it's AWESOME picture quality have us fighting over what to watch. DVD's are so incredibly clear and just mind boggling to watch. NASCAR? Holy Bat Poop! You have to see it to believe it. I use Dish Network. I also opted for their newest receiver the 942 ( at a premium ) which is causing me a minor issue at this point. The issue is with the Dish Network receiver....not this magnificent TV.
The remote is very easy to use if you spend a few moments of your time to understand what it can do. I disagree with some of the previous opinions regarding the remote. As far as the sound from the TV's speakers.....what do you expect? A surround sound system is certainly in order here if you are a sound freak. For the average laid back consumer that doesn't need to be blown away by sound, the built in speakers do nicely. We are planning on getting a surround system eventually. We are sound
I could have purchased Panasonic's 50" 7UY Pro series without the bells and whistles for approximately $600 less. That is last years model however, and you would most likely have to purchase at least one extra card to make it function the way you want. For the difference in price I opted for this years newest model with the tuner and speakers. With the satellite dish I have no use for the tuner and eventually will have no need for the speakers. My primary interest was this TV was the 8th generation rather than the 7th I just mentioned. If you are going to spend this kind of money....go for the gusto!
I gave it a 10 rating because I am totally satisfied with it and have no reservations of any kind. I did a lot of research prior to this purchase.
In conclusion, I am not easily impressed. This TV is impressive. VERY impressive!Updated
In reply to the person regarding the Dish Network 942 receiver:
After shutting the TV and receiver off, I have to reset/reboot the 942 every time we turn it back on. The 942 apparently has a problem communicating the HDMI signal to the TV after you shut down. It works perfectly after the reset/reboot. I spoke to Panasonic and Dish Network about this. After much testing, my conclusion is that the 942 is the problem.
"Very nice TV"on by cadbiker
Pros Great HD picture, simple hook up
Cons HD Cable box overrides TV functions, definitely need a home theater system. Built in speakers don't do it service.
Summary We bit the big financial bullet and bought into the future. The hardest part of the set up was drilling the holes in the brick fireplace for mounting it above the mantle. We had HD cable already but the cable company came by to hook up all the features of the box. Once we got the HD running it was awesome! We have only 10 stations in HD including the 3 local but it is incredible what you see. We went from a 26" analog TV to this 50" monster. The first thing we drove was the Star Wars Prequels and it was better than the movie theater experience. A must have is the HDMI cable. It is worth the money. The component cables did an OK job and we have to use them for the DVD system but straight from the DVR to the monitor via HDMI make sthe picture very sharp and clear. Even the sound stepped it up a notch. We run the resolution from the DVR at 1080i. Anything less is pretty fuzzy. Now if I can keep the kids from watching their programming I might enjoy it more. (I have to admit, Spongebob looks pretty clear on the big screen)