First Flat Panel, VHS Upscaling, Panasonic Layoffs
No Matte Screens
I'm looking to buy my first flat panel, probably an LCD, around 46 to 50 inches. What would you recommend in the $1000 range? I really don't like screens with a matte finish.
If you don't like a matte screen, you'll probably prefer a plasma over an LCD, though there are some LCDs, especially from Samsung, with shiny screens. However, keep in mind that you will see clear reflections from a shiny screen that will be much more diffuse from a matte screen. This isn't a problem if you watch with little or no ambient light in the room, but if you watch in a well-lit room, a matte screen is actually better.
We don't normally review inexpensive TVs such as you're asking about, though I'm working on adding them to our coverage. Among Panasonic's 2011 plasmas, I'd look at the 46-inch TC-P46ST30 ($1300), which includes 3D capabilities. Even if you don't care about 3D, sets that provide it also tend to be better 2D performers. If you can stretch your budget a bit more, the 50-inch TC-P50ST30 is only $200 more, and the bigger screen is definitely worth it; in fact, most people buy a screen that's too small for their seating distance.
I'm finally taking the plunge into HD LED televisions. I'm leaning toward buying a pair of Samsung 55-inch 6300 or 6500 sets for two rooms in my home.
One thing I've learned from you and Leo Laporte is the importance of how non-HD media will look on the TV. I'm most concerned about how my old VHS tapes (some purchased, most made by me) will look on my sets. To a lesser degree, I'm concerned about how standard-def DVDs will look as well.
What brands/models do VHS tapes look the best on? What features or criteria should I look for with this in mind? 3D isn't important to me, but will my old tapes look better on a set with 3D capabilities? Is the Samsung 6300 or 6500 appropriate for a guy who hasn't yet transferred all his VHS tapes to DVDs?
The picture quality of standard-def material on an HDTV depends on the TV's video processorspecifically, a function called upscaling. However, there's only so much that any processor can do with VHS, which is very poor quality to begin with. And keep in mind that no processor can make an image better than it starts outthe best you can hope for is that it doesn't degrade the image too badly. Blowing up a VHS image to 55 inches will mostly make the flaws in the pictureand any flaws in the upscalingall the more obvious.
Chip maker IDT, which acquired the rights to the HQV video-processing technology, has been demonstrating its new Vida processor chip at the last couple of CES and CEDIA trade shows. Among other things, the Vida is specifically designed to upscale poor-quality video images, such as Internet video from the likes of YouTube, which means it should do a good job on VHS as well. The Yamaha RX-A2000 and A3000 A/V receivers include the Vida processor, but I don't know of any TVs that use it.
We don't normally test a TV's ability to upscale VHS, so I can't say which brands or models do the best job of it. We do test the ability to upscale standard-def DVD, which is much better quality than VHS. We haven't reviewed the Samsung 6300 or 6500 series, but other Samsungs we have reviewed exhibited good upscaling, so I'd wager that these models are good as well. However, I wouldn't get my hopes up about how good VHS will look on them, or any other consumer TV.
Should we read anything into Panasonic's two-year plan to shed 17,000 workers? LED LCDs are the hot consumer thing; is there any risk that Panasonic will eschew plasma for LED LCD?
I have no direct insight into what the layoffs will ultimately mean, and I'm sure that no one at Panasonic will tell me. It's not good news, but 17,000 represents only 4.6 percent of the company's current worldwide workforce, so it's not as bad as it might seem. Of course, tell that to the people who get their pink slips!
As for whether or not Panasonic will eschew plasma for LED LCD, I very much doubt itat least, I very much hope not! On the other hand, the company is pushing LED LCD more and more these days. Still, given its strong presence in the plasma market, I can't believe they would abandon that market altogether.
According to a recent article in TWICE, "Panasonic will increase the purchase of LCD panels from outside vendors and transfer a production line of its third domestic PDP plant in Amagasaki City, in Japan, to China to reduce costs. The company will also focus on panel sizes with which it can give full play to its competitiveness in flat panels. For TV sets, it will focus on improving profitability by introducing TVs with distinctive features, while stepping up production overseas, the company said." Interestingly, the TWICE article also reports that Panasonic announced a profit and higher sales for fiscal 2011, which ended March 31.
Ultimately, it seems that the layoffs are part of a larger restructuring program in response to a sluggish economy, the current market for CE products in key worldwide regions, and the continuing economic impact of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. I honestly don't think we'll see the end of Panasonic plasmas as a result, but that's total speculation on my part.
The e-mail address to send questions for Ask Home Theater has changed; please send your home-theater questions to email@example.com.