I don’t care much for television, which partially explains why the last time I bought a TV was over 20 years ago. I was a college student, i.e. poor, but I managed to scrounge up about $300 one summer and bought a 19″ Zenith that had been used as a display model. No remote–this is old school, you have to get up off your butt and walk over to the TV to change channels.
This has served me (and later my family) for quite some time, but its age has been showing. About five years ago, it developed a need to “warm up” when first turned on. The picture would be fuzzy or completely garbled, then it would suddenly snap into a clear picture after a few minutes. Lately, this delay has been getting longer and longer. It never bothered me overmuch, but it did bother my wife. A few months ago she started working an extra half-day each week to save up for a new TV. Last weekend it took over half an hour to warm up, and I finally decided to throw in the towel with my old Zenith.
We don’t watch much (if any) broadcast television, and we don’t have cable, so we didn’t need an [HD]TV tuner or cable input. But we do like to watch movies, so we wanted a wide screen (9:16 aspect ratio) capable of displaying HD images. We also wanted a large wall-mountable display for about $3,000. We toyed around with a bleeding-edge “1080p” unit, but almost all of the currently-available units are projection systems (not wall-mountable), or LCD systems that are too expensive or smaller than we’d like.
We’re planning to mount this on the wall in the living/family/great room once we remodel the house. There will be a lot of windows on the south side of this room, so we need a fairly bright technology with a reasonable viewing angle. LCD’s and plasma displays were what we finally settled on. I did a lot of research on Consumer Reports online and came up with a few possible candidates.
After checking some prices online, I wasn’t sure that we were going to be able to get everything we wanted. CR suggested that warehouse membership stores often had the best prices (as well as very flexible return/refund policies), so we headed over to the nearest CostCo to do some first hand research. The LCD and plasma displays were in two adjacent aisles, but by standing in one particular spot we were able to get a good head-on view of all the displays. The best thing about checking these out at CostCo is the crappy lighting/viewing conditions, compared to a dimly-lit “home theater” store. The LCD panels might be fine given better (i.e. dimmer) lighting, but in the warehouse it was immediately obvious to me that plasma was the way to go. My wife didn’t notice much of a difference at first; however, as soon as I asked her to compare the backgrounds in the images she too voted for plasma. (We were watching Olympic figure skating, and there wasn’t much difference between the images of the spotlighted skaters. But on the plasma screens you could see the faces of people in the darkened stands, whereas on the LCD screens you could merely see the outlines of heads and shoulders.) Then a clip from a basketball game was played, and that clinched it–whenever a player moved across the screen very quickly, the LCD pictures got “chunky” while the plasma screens displayed the motion smoothly. I’m not much of a sports viewer, but it sure makes a good “stress test” for TV’s!
I jotted down all the model numbers and prices of suitable displays at CostCo and we came back home to do some more research on CR-online. Of course, none of the models that CostCo was selling were reviewed by CR, but we got some good comparisons of brands and features. We settled on a Panasonic 50″ plasma screen, model TH-50PM50U. After some online price shopping, it looked like CostCo did indeed have the best price. (Plus we would get the unit home that same day–instant gratification!) So my wife and I hopped in the truck and drove back to CostCo and picked up a monster-sized TV screen.
(For comparison, the tape measure in this image is still set to 19″ as in the Zenith picture at the top of the article.)
Since it’ll be very difficult to get a good look at this later, here are pictures of the connection panel and the manufacturer’s information:
Panasonic model TH-50PM50U, ser#YP6140357 (Not that anybody else cares about this–it’s just here for my future reference.)