Mailbag: Display Decisions

June 7, 2006

XBR2Time for another installment of the Home Theater Mailbag, this time around Steven is in search of some recommendations on which display to go with, in his media room. The following is Steven’s original email followed by my recommendations.

“My “media room” is 10.6’x 20.5’, and the seating will be 10′ or more from the screen. I want to get a display that will be good for a long time, so I assume I want 1080p (I know there’s virtually no 1080p source material now, but there will be soon). I’m only asking about the display — not amp, speakers, etc.

I’m thinking of a 50-60″ display and, within that category, I want to get the best there is under $6K. I’ve been thinking of the Sony KDS- R60XBR1 (rear projection – highest rating of all HDTV’s on cnet.com, available at my local Video Only for $3699) or the Panasonic TH-50PX60U (plasma, although I worry about burn-in, at least of those terrible network logos at the bottom right of the display).

Maybe a 720p projector would be better, like the Panasonic PT-AE900U. I also saw the 50″ Pioneer Elite PRO-1130HD Plasma, but it is half again the price of the Sony KDS-R60XBR1. I’d *prefer* something I can hang on the wall, but if the Sony is clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest, I can let go of a wall-hanging unit.

I am not *aching* to spend $6K. If you told me that diminishing returns sets in at a lower number, and that a Vizio 50″ plasma, sold at Costco for exactly $2K and highly rated by cnet, was almost as good as the Sony, I’d buy that. It’s just that I plan on getting 10 years enjoyment out of this purchase, and I don’t mind spending the money if it’s worth it.

Please let me know if you need more info about my preferences.

Thank you very much.

Steven”

My Response:

First off Steven, I want to congratulate you on your research thus far, it’s obvious you know your stuff and have put quite a bit of thought into this. Ok let’s dissect your requirements, room constraints and come up with some recommendations as well as maybe a few additional options

Starting from the top, I see that 1080p is important, more importantly your budget tells me that you’re not only interested in 1080p, your willing to invest accordingly to achieve your goal. If today’s date was June 7th, 2004 my recommendations would differ significantly than what I’m about to explain.

Since we’re at a point in time where second generation, 1080p displays are right around the corner as well pre-recorded 1080p content and your budget allows for a higher resolution display, I’m going to go ahead and steer you away from the Panasonic TH-50PX60U and the Pioneer Elite PRO-1130HD.

Let me explain why, first off the TH-50PX60U happens to be one of my favorite plasma’s and the PRO-1130HD is backed by Pioneers excellent 2 year in-home service plan. (I was serious about how impressed I was with your research) But given your inclination for 1080p, your room size and your desire for “10 years enjoyment out of this purchase” I think you would get much more service and enjoyment out of a 1080p based display in the long run.

Taking this into consideration by default also eliminates the 720p front projection option as well. I just don’t feel that a 720p display for someone who has already expressed a clear interest in not only 1080p but in getting a long service life from their purchase, would make you happy in the long run.

If you had indicated something to the effect of “I’m just looking for a large HDTV image” and or “I’m looking for something to tide me over until 1080p projectors are more affordable” then I wouldn’t be so quick to make this assessment.

So with all that I’m left leaning (based on your options) with what I feel was your first choice to begin with. The Sony KDS-R60XBR1 is by appearances a fantastic display; SXRD’s inter-pixel spacing puts it in a different league from the other displays you mentioned. The gap between pixels plays a critical role in how smooth the images appear on-screen, and by all reports the Sony SXRD’s excel in this area.

Other Options:

But, I do want to give you two other options as well, I don’t want to confuse or deter you from your original goal, but I would be remiss not to mention two other possibilities.

First off (and you may be well aware of this) is Sony’s up-coming replacement to the KDS-R60XBR1, namely the KDS-R60XBR2 (available this fall), the XBR2 bumps well up into the upper end of your budget ($5,300) but offers a few things I feel are worth considering versus the XBR1.

First off the XBR2 accepts 1080p over HDMI where the XBR1 de-interlaces 1080i internally, I know 1080p and many years of service are important to you. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider the lack of a 1080p input a deal breaker, it is something worth considering.

Secondly while the XBR1 is a fantastic display, I would have to assume that Sony has (with the XBR2) remedied some of the minor QC issues that some users reported on the early XBR1 models.

The other option I mentioned isn’t a XBR, but Sony’s 2007 KDS-60A2000 ($4,500) uses the same 0.61-inch SXRD chips found in the XBR line and obviously benefits from another years worth of tweaks and problem solving, over last years models. The KDS-60A2000 also accepts 1080p over HDMI.

Conclusion:

So there you go Steven, I would be hard pressed to say that any of the displays you mentioned wouldn’t be enjoyable, but given your desires and budget I have to think that the 60” SXRD televisions from Sony (all three of them) would offer you years of service and most importantly stunning picture quality.

I hope my additional recommendations (Sony Press Release) don’t throw you off track, but at this price level I feel the KDS-R60XBR1 and KDS-60A2000 are at the very least, worth considering alongside the Sony KDS- R60XBR1.

One last thing to consider… The introduction of the XBR2 and KDS-60A2000 may very well push down the price of the KDS-R60XBR1 even further. If this happens it would (in my mind) normalize the cost to feature balance back in the XBR1’s favor slightly.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under High Definition Televisions


Comments

  • Chynnon

    We have purchased a Visio and we are mounting it to the wall above the fireplace. My question is:
    We want to remove the plastice silver speakers on the bottom so that only the black frame is exposed. We were told at Altex that there is no 5 pin cable in order to amp the speakers if we remove them and put them on top of our component cabinet. I see many photographs of televisions without the speakers and feel that there must be a way to accomplish this task. This has become a very sore subject in our household and a good solution may save me from divorce. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  • Chynnon

    We have purchased a Visio and we are mounting it to the wall above the fireplace. My question is:
    We want to remove the plastice silver speakers on the bottom so that only the black frame is exposed. We were told at Altex that there is no 5 pin cable in order to amp the speakers if we remove them and put them on top of our component cabinet. I see many photographs of televisions without the speakers and feel that there must be a way to accomplish this task. This has become a very sore subject in our household and a good solution may save me from divorce. Thanks for any help you can offer.

  • Ben Hobbs

    You guys don’t know how lucky you are, over here in Thailand they don’t have LCOS, SXRD or comparable Televisions, the only rear-projection units are Sony’s LCD’s, CRT and a couple of older DLP’s. Which are starngely enough all as expensive than comparable non-rear projection LCD TV’s.

  • Ben Hobbs

    You guys don’t know how lucky you are, over here in Thailand they don’t have LCOS, SXRD or comparable Televisions, the only rear-projection units are Sony’s LCD’s, CRT and a couple of older DLP’s. Which are starngely enough all as expensive than comparable non-rear projection LCD TV’s.

  • B.Greenway

    Unfortunately the TH-65PHD8UK is 1366 x 768 and about $2000.00 dollars over his budget.

  • B.Greenway

    Unfortunately the TH-65PHD8UK is 1366 x 768 and about $2000.00 dollars over his budget.

  • westcott

    I agree with Bryan’s recommendations, to a point. Although rear projection has come a long way, I still have issues with off center viewing and the difference in video quality depending on where you sit or stand in the room or adjoining room like a kitchen or game room. If you are going to sit in one spot, this may not matter to you but if you like to entertain or share your HT with a living space, it might affect your decision.

    I would lean toward a plasma (Panasonic TH-65PHD8UK Plasma Monitor) for this reason and since your budget seems to be able to accomodate it, it should give you the ten years of service without concern of burn in (the new gases used in plasmas do not suffer from long term burn in like the first models produced years back).

    LCD’s have come a long way and are producing images that compete favorably with plasma but can suffer the same problems rear projection exhibit.

    My next purchase may be SED, and by the time they come out, I may actually have something in my bank account to purchase one.

    Good Luck and let us know what you decide!

  • westcott

    I agree with Bryan’s recommendations, to a point. Although rear projection has come a long way, I still have issues with off center viewing and the difference in video quality depending on where you sit or stand in the room or adjoining room like a kitchen or game room. If you are going to sit in one spot, this may not matter to you but if you like to entertain or share your HT with a living space, it might affect your decision.

    I would lean toward a plasma (Panasonic TH-65PHD8UK Plasma Monitor) for this reason and since your budget seems to be able to accomodate it, it should give you the ten years of service without concern of burn in (the new gases used in plasmas do not suffer from long term burn in like the first models produced years back).

    LCD’s have come a long way and are producing images that compete favorably with plasma but can suffer the same problems rear projection exhibit.

    My next purchase may be SED, and by the time they come out, I may actually have something in my bank account to purchase one.

    Good Luck and let us know what you decide!

  • B.Greenway

    Dave,

    I feel pretty damn strongly about DLP, that’s what I own 🙂

    Please don’t take my recommendations for Steven as a knock toward DLP in the slightest. I fully expect DLP to continue on its upward sales trend for at least several more years. After that, who knows? SED maybe, but that’s still a ways off.

    I felt that Steven was looking for something slightly different (dare I say better) based on our emails, and what he was willing to spend. Pixel for pixel however DLP still offers a big bang for the buck, I look at D-ILA and SXRD technologies as icing on that already tempting cake.

    Funny you should mention the LED (DLP’S) it now appears as if they might not be released quite as soon as some had first expected, so you haven’t missed out on anything but more waiting, on that front.

    Much to the joy of several of my manufacturer reps that frequent the site, I have never been one to recommend that folks ‘wait’ on a particular technology, that is unless its literally right around the corner and or there’s just an overwhelming reason to do so.

    Just like you said, no matter what it is you’re looking to purchase, inevitably there’s always something “better” on its way. Wait long enough and then you’ll get caught up in a mindset of ‘well if I wait just a little longer it will be cheaper’. Carry that on long enough and all you did was just wait….

    Oh and congratulations on that 50” Samsung, I think you’ll be quite happy. And oddly enough again your comments couldn’t have been timelier.

    Today I stopped by one of my distributors to pick up some TV mounts, I noticed they finally got in a HD-DVD player and were showing it on a Fujitsu plasma, sad thing is the 61” 1080p Samsung in the other corner, hooked up to a Escient/Sony DVD changer combo looked better!

    I wanted to ask them “how on earth did you guys manage to screw up such an easy slam-dunk?” But instead I just paid for my mounts and went on about my business. I don’t know, the last time I checked Clint Eastwood’s face wasn’t green, the cabling must have been screwed up.

  • B.Greenway

    Dave,

    I feel pretty damn strongly about DLP, that’s what I own 🙂

    Please don’t take my recommendations for Steven as a knock toward DLP in the slightest. I fully expect DLP to continue on its upward sales trend for at least several more years. After that, who knows? SED maybe, but that’s still a ways off.

    I felt that Steven was looking for something slightly different (dare I say better) based on our emails, and what he was willing to spend. Pixel for pixel however DLP still offers a big bang for the buck, I look at D-ILA and SXRD technologies as icing on that already tempting cake.

    Funny you should mention the LED (DLP’S) it now appears as if they might not be released quite as soon as some had first expected, so you haven’t missed out on anything but more waiting, on that front.

    Much to the joy of several of my manufacturer reps that frequent the site, I have never been one to recommend that folks ‘wait’ on a particular technology, that is unless its literally right around the corner and or there’s just an overwhelming reason to do so.

    Just like you said, no matter what it is you’re looking to purchase, inevitably there’s always something “better” on its way. Wait long enough and then you’ll get caught up in a mindset of ‘well if I wait just a little longer it will be cheaper’. Carry that on long enough and all you did was just wait….

    Oh and congratulations on that 50” Samsung, I think you’ll be quite happy. And oddly enough again your comments couldn’t have been timelier.

    Today I stopped by one of my distributors to pick up some TV mounts, I noticed they finally got in a HD-DVD player and were showing it on a Fujitsu plasma, sad thing is the 61” 1080p Samsung in the other corner, hooked up to a Escient/Sony DVD changer combo looked better!

    I wanted to ask them “how on earth did you guys manage to screw up such an easy slam-dunk?” But instead I just paid for my mounts and went on about my business. I don’t know, the last time I checked Clint Eastwood’s face wasn’t green, the cabling must have been screwed up.

  • Dave

    How do you feel about DLP technology, B? I just ordered the new Samsung 50″ 1080p DLP. Mistake?

    I realize the new DLP LED technology is coming out “really” soon–which would nearly eliminate the rainbow effect and I’d get the advantage of instant-on and wouldn’t ever have to worry about replacing the bulb–but, soon after that, it’ll be lasers…and then 4320p displays…and then holodecks. I imagine that soon after that, society will crumble. So I decided not to wait.

  • Dave

    How do you feel about DLP technology, B? I just ordered the new Samsung 50″ 1080p DLP. Mistake?

    I realize the new DLP LED technology is coming out “really” soon–which would nearly eliminate the rainbow effect and I’d get the advantage of instant-on and wouldn’t ever have to worry about replacing the bulb–but, soon after that, it’ll be lasers…and then 4320p displays…and then holodecks. I imagine that soon after that, society will crumble. So I decided not to wait.