How long has it been since we reviewed a plasma TV? I frankly can’t remember, it feels like ages. Last year, and a bit into this one, I thought plasmas were a dying breed, but I'm proved wrong. Hitachi, Pioneer, and Panasonic are still active in this field, and it’s Hitachi that's been reviving the trend in India. We got their new model, the P50X01AU, for review, and it brought tears to my eyes – the last time I checked, Plasma looked insanely good!
Design and Features
Setting up is a process in itself, as the stand comes separate, with all its tools and accessories. After screwing in 10 screws, we placed the TV on our rack, and let it gleam for a while. This is the part where I comment on the looks of the unit, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.
The P50X01AU sports a glossy reflective black finish for the bezel, which is medium in thickness. The speakers are at the bottom, and there's a centrally placed logo. The looks are actually very simple; no crazy curves or shiny metal. The stand is large and rectangular, and sturdy as they come, which helps hold upright this monolithic piece of electronic craftsmanship.
The features are straight up, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9. The I/O includes 3 HDMI (ver. 1.3) 2 VGA, and 2 components, plus old-time connections like S-video and composite. An interesting inclusion is an optical digital out (for taking the audio signal out), which is seldom seen in LCDs. The contrast ratio is 10,000:1, while the frame rate conversion and 24p compatibility ensures interest in the product.
We put in Horton Hears a Who!, Batman Begins and I Am Legend, besides the old calibration discs. First off, let me state that the TV was calibrated all wrong, and TV salesmen are idiots. I don’t understand the point of jamming up the contrast and spoiling the picture, and possibly the product.
This being a plasma TV, I took keen interest in setting the levels fine. The final delicate balance we received in the brightness-contrast realm was quite impressive; the blacks were way deeper than in all the recent LCDs, even the highest-end one. Though some intense bright spots did not react well, they look overemphasized and caused borders to bulge a bit, even after calibration.
What was spectacular was the color and warmth of the video. Skin tones were seductively accurate, and so were the natural reds, greens and everything in between (that’s geek humor for you). This aspect, coupled with the deep blacks, make it a great TV till now.
Next come the issues of detail and motion. Firstly, though this is a 50-incher, it upscales SD quite well (we saw I Am Legend in DVD format). Secondly, the motion is smooth enough – there was no real problem with ghosting and dynamic ‘jaggie-line’ formations, though they were there. It's the same with game and animation cadences too; no real judder and all that, and my source was good besides. Horton was a pleasure to watch with all the vibrant hues being depicted quite well. BUT (there is always a but) very high-detailed parts flickered and aliased quite a bit, and slight graininess was seen in the image.
Rs 1,99,990 is what you have to pay for this huge piece of video gear. I think the price is justified to a certain extent, as plasma technology is expensive, and you do get contrast levels that LCD can’t even dream of. All the same, this TV has some flaws in other realms besides color and contrast. Check it out before you decide.
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