Dwin Plasmaimage HD-250 Review: Part 2

June 20, 2006

Dwin PlasmaimageContinued from, Dwin Plasmaimage HD-250 Review: Part 1

Would HD Cable Let Me Down Again?

Obviously I can’t speak for the rest of the country’s cable systems, but lately my HD cable has been a royal pain in the buttocks. Sure I get great results from time to time with my Comcast HD service, but lately it’s been a crap shoot as to how the images will look.

To this end I’ve taken to archiving “good” HD programming to the DVR for review purposes. Currently I have two stand-by recordings, the first is a recent airing of the Pixies in concert on INHD and the second (also from INHD) is Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. I find that cueing up HD-Cable programming from the DVR makes it much easier to find certain scenes for comparison rather than just flipping channels, in hopes of catching a glimpse at superior HD content.

Starting with the Pixies concert, this proved to be a great black level workout as many of the scenes that pan-out into the audience reveal deep pockets of total blackness, that are broken only by the stage lights focused on the band members.

This silhouette effect proved easy work for the HD-250. Lesser displays would have rendered these scenes as a pixilated washed out mess, not the Dwin however. The HD-250’s processor took in the video, processed it and then sent it to the PDP and what was rendered on-screen was the next best thing to being there.

I can honestly say as someone who’s never quite understood the attraction of concert films, that I found myself just kicking back and enjoying the sights and sounds, instead of worrying about the macro-blocking, black crush or posterizing that has taken me out of so many otherwise immersive programs, while watching Comcast.

The second bit of HD-Cable programming I viewed could hardly be described as dark or monotone, the INHD airing of Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams may not be the sharpest HD transfer I’ve seen of late but it certainly is one of the most interesting.

I was anxious to use Dreams for this review as much of the HD content I watch are these older film to HD transfers and I was anxious to see how they would compare to previous viewings, without the benefit of a quality video processor.

In the “Sunshine through the Rain” segment of Dreams where the young boy is walking through a field of flowers, I found myself mesmerized by the HD-250’s color reproduction. Rarely have I seen colors this vivid, properly saturated and dare I say lifelike on a video display, again I found myself just watching and almost forgetting to take notes, almost.

While I’m on the subject of color reproduction, many reviewers seem to focus on contrast and black level as their primary criteria for judging image quality. I have to wonder if the importance of proper color saturation and purity hasn’t somehow gotten lost along the way.

I suppose given the technical limitations of black level and contrast (in the past) with DLP, LCD this shouldn’t be too surprising but I have to say it was really nice to spend some time with a display where worrying about black level reproduction, wasn’t an overwhelming concern. With the HD-250 I found myself focusing less on how dark certain scenes were and instead just taking in how colorful they were.

Minor aside, did anyone else catch Aliens 3 on INHD2 last night? wowie was that impressive. Some of those close-ups were jaw dropping on my screen, while other shots appeared a bit soft. This was a prefect illustration of the odd dynamic that presents itself in film to HD transfers.

Before We Break Out the HD-DVD’s

Before I get to my results of the HD-250 with HD-DVD, I want to give a few details on my system as it’s obviously changed a bit. My Denon DVD-1910 has been retired, as I find that the Toshiba HD-A1 handles SD-DVD just as well and in some cases even better.

But my main reasoning for the switch-out is just a simple matter of space and available inputs. That and the fact that after viewing several HD-DVD’s, I’ve decided to only purchase SD-DVD’s that won’t be appearing on HD-DVD in the immediate future.

So with SD-DVD and HD-Cable out of the way, I had one last source on tap for the Dwin HD-250. My Toshiba HD-A1 has provided me with pristine, gorgeous, artifact free images paired with my InFocus 7205, so I was obviously anxious to see how it performed with the HD-250.

Benchmarks:

HQV on DwinBut before evaluating the Dwin with HD-DVD content I wanted to perform one last check with the HQV Benchmark DVD, to gauge how well to HD-A1 performed with the Plasmaimage scaler. Feeding the Plasmaimage scaler 1080i video allowed me to bypass the HD-A1’s internal scaler and make use of the superior video processor in the Plasmaimage.

As expected the HD-A1 and Plasmaimage scaler performed quite well under the HQV disc, the player scored a 118 out of a possible 130 throughout the various tests. For clarifications sake keep in mind these tests are synergistic between player and display, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume the HD-250 would score even higher with the use of a reference quality stand-alone SD-DVD player.

But with a score of 118, were only 12 points away from a perfect score, something I doubt we’ll see anytime soon if ever, the HQV disc is a real ball-breaker.

The individual tests from the HQV disc played through the HD-A1 paired with the Plasmaimage broke down as follows:

Color Bar/Vertical Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
Jaggies Pattern 1: Pass – Score 5 of 5
Jaggies Pattern 2: Pass – Score 3 of 5
Flag: Pass – Score 10 of 10
Picture Detail: Pass – Score 10 of 10
Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
Motion Adaptive Noise Reduction: Pass – Score 10 of 10
3:2 Detection: Pass – Score 10 of 10
Film Cadence: Pass – Score (Combined) 40 of 40
Mixed 3:2 film, Horizontal Text Crawl: Pass – Score 5 of 5
Mixed 3:2 Film, Vertical Text Crawl: Pass – Score 5 of 5
Total Score: 118 out of a possible 130.

Note: The Dwin HD-250 actually scored a 120, with a Denon DVD-1920 loaned at the last minute, making it the highest scored Source/Processor/Display combo to date at Home Theater Blog.

After one last calibration of color, contrast and brightness with the Monster/ISF disc, it was time to try out the HD-250 with HD-DVD. Once again the first thing that jumped out at me was how well the Dwin excelled at color reproduction.

HD-DVD on the Dwin HD-250:

Starting in the same order as my Toshiba HD-A1 review, the first disc up was ‘The Last Samurai’. The beginning of chapter 4 reminded me of just how much background detail is present in HD-DVD’s, the scene where Cruise and company land in Japan looked fantastic on the Dwin HD-250. I’ve included a screenshot, but of course screenshots are worthless for judging image quality but what the heck, it’s a good reference for the scene I’m referring to.

Later in chapter 15 where Cruise is practicing his ‘new moves’, I noticed the colors and the grain of the wood floor with much more vibrancy and detail than in previous viewings. The colors and details in the fabrics, stone and wood (all things that ordinary displays have trouble rendering) appeared very realistic on the Dwin.

Even with direct light in the room, I was able to make out shadow detail in the already dark outdoor scenes, in Chapter 19. In Chapter 34, toward the end of the film in the major battle scene, I noticed how smooth and fluid the action appeared on screen. The movement of the actors just seemed to be more precise and articulate than in previous viewings. I would attribute this directly to the Plasmaimage scaler.

Moving onto Serenity:

The opening scenes were absolutely gorgeous, even more so than I remembered in previous viewings. I can only attribute this to the Plasmaimage, which is tuned specifically by Dwin for use with the HD-250.

Serenity might not be the best movie to use for equipment reviews. It’s really hard to pick up the pen and take notes while laughing at the over the top sarcasm, shot back and forth between the actors.

One scene in particular I wanted to view was the beginning of chapter 14, “Learning the Secret”. The outdoor shots were some of the best high brightness/high contrast outdoor scenes ever displayed on my projector and I wanted to see how the Dwin Plasma compared. The Dwin offered a slightly different, but just as impressive, rendition of this scene.

Even in the bright sunlight that dominates this scene, I was able to make out subtle differences in the flesh tones of Serenity’s crew members. This isn’t something I take lightly, fleshtone is often one of the biggest tasks as display has to render, doing so accurately in bright daylight is quite a feat.

Phantom of the Opera:

I’m really enjoying HD-DVD. Having great looking HD-discs on tap that I can use for reviewing equipment is an already indispensable tool.

Moving onto the third and final HD-DVD on hand, I wanted to compare the Phantom of the Opera against my last round of HD-DVD tests. Again this is a great looking disc, but the movie itself isn’t something I’d normally watch.

Side Note: Phantom will be replaced by a new HD-DVD shortly; I just can’t stand those show tunes anymore. Late last week I purchased Blazing Saddles, Cinderella Man and Jarhead so far those look great, but I might wait till I can get a hold of ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’(They were out of copies of Riddick, damn it)before deciding which disc replaces Phantom in my review repertoire.

Anyway, back to Phantom of the Opera, the scene I most wanted to view on the Dwin is at the beginning of Chapter 3, where the cast is rehearsing. Again, slightly different presentation than with my 7205, but it was just as impressive.

The Dwin’s color reproduction was as usual mind blowing, but even more importantly I (again) witnessed the clarity that’s presented in the space between the foreground and the background objects in this scene. It’s as if you are looking over the cameraman’s shoulder as the film was being shot and not at the film itself.

The other scene in Phantom I wanted to view takes place in chapter 23. In this scene Christine is walking through a snow covered graveyard wearing a black cloak; a contrast and brightness work out if I’ve ever seen one.

The subtle shades of gray and black in the monuments jumped off the screen even with deep blacks and bright whites present. Again no small feat for any display, the preponderance of light and dark shades never overwhelmed the subtle detail in the monuments. Ugh on second thought these two chapters are such killer references, that I may never be able to ‘get rid’ of this disc, oh well.

It was these two scenes that finally allowed me to feel that I had poked and prodded the HD-250 enough to reach a conclusion.

Summary:

The Dwin HD-250 is one of the very best high-definition plasma displays I’ve ever had the pleasure of auditioning. I suppose a statement that bold requires some clarification.

In the 10 plus years I’ve cast a critical eye toward flat panel displays, whether from the likes of Sony, Pioneer Elite, Hitachi, or Panasonic all of them (thus far) exhibited some degree of NTSC artifacting, from DVD source material.

While no display technology will ever been immune to mediocre source video, the Dwin HD-250 excels at both HDTV and standard definition, NTSC video reproduction. This is no small feat in my opinion, many of us have large DVD collections, and I know it will take quite a bit of time before I’m ready to abandon those discs.

I feel that the Dwin HD-250 reproduced the best standard definition DVD images I’ve witnessed in recent memory, that’s not to say HDTV wasn’t gorgeous on the Dwin, it was, I’m merely pointing out that the HD-250 isn’t a one trick pony.

Many displays can make great looking images with HD source material but the mark of a great display is in its ability to faithfully display whatever video source is thrown at it. With this in mind, I can easily say the Dwin HD-250 should be at the top of any list of ‘must audition’ plasma displays

The Dwin Plasmaimage HD-250 retails for $6995 and can be auditioned at authorized Dwin dealers throughout the U.S. as well as its 42” counterpart the Dwin Plasmaimage HD-242 which retails for $5495.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Plasma Reviews, Reviews


Comments

  • Mike

    Bryan, great review! I am a big fan of DWIN and your review proves my preference once again.

    I would like to clarify one thing about lack of HDMI for the first commenter. Since this is only a display device and there is no audio handling, HDMI is not really necessary as HDMI and DVI are exactly the same for video signal. If you have any HDMI sources, a simple HDMI-to-DVI cable solves the problem. No active adapter is necessary. And this is not specific to DWIN or any other manufacturer.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • Mike

    Bryan, great review! I am a big fan of DWIN and your review proves my preference once again.

    I would like to clarify one thing about lack of HDMI for the first commenter. Since this is only a display device and there is no audio handling, HDMI is not really necessary as HDMI and DVI are exactly the same for video signal. If you have any HDMI sources, a simple HDMI-to-DVI cable solves the problem. No active adapter is necessary. And this is not specific to DWIN or any other manufacturer.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Jason,

    The answer is yes and no I suppose. While a high quality external scaler would improve the image quality of just about any display. Dwin’s plasmaimage scaler is tuned specifically for their bundled displays.

    But in a broader sense, sure an outboard scaler would be an improvement on many displays.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Jason,

    The answer is yes and no I suppose. While a high quality external scaler would improve the image quality of just about any display. Dwin’s plasmaimage scaler is tuned specifically for their bundled displays.

    But in a broader sense, sure an outboard scaler would be an improvement on many displays.

  • Jason Tucker

    Great review, If I’d not just bought a 50″ fuji panel I’d be all over this.

    I do need something cleared up a bit. Is the fantastic picture quality because the external box is only doing the one scale to 768 or is a combination of that and the plasma?

    If it’s just the box then shouldn’t I be able (if it exists) to hook up that box to my fuji and get increased performance?

    Thanks,

  • Jason Tucker

    Great review, If I’d not just bought a 50″ fuji panel I’d be all over this.

    I do need something cleared up a bit. Is the fantastic picture quality because the external box is only doing the one scale to 768 or is a combination of that and the plasma?

    If it’s just the box then shouldn’t I be able (if it exists) to hook up that box to my fuji and get increased performance?

    Thanks,

  • westcott

    Nice review. I have been contemplating the purchase of a flat panel for the master bedroom and I may have to to see if I can audition this display.

    My only complaint is that it is not HDMI.

  • westcott

    Nice review. I have been contemplating the purchase of a flat panel for the master bedroom and I may have to to see if I can audition this display.

    My only complaint is that it is not HDMI.