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Fujitsu Plasma TV Review

Models: Fujitsu P50XCA30WH and P50XHA30WS Plasma Televisions
Descriptions: 50-inch HDTV Plasma Monitor, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolutions: 1366 x 768 (WXGA)
Includes:
P50XCA30WH: Remote control; P50XHA30WS: Integrated NTSC tuner with remote
Colors:
P50XCA30WH: Dark silver; P50XHA30WS: Light metallic silver
Reviewer: Robert Wiley
Date: 08-01-04

INTRODUCTION

Viewing video presentation equipment side-by-side using the same pure video sources (without looping the signal) is the only way to truly test and grade these technologically advanced TV/Monitor displays. Internal interpolation, conversion, and scaling all affect the way the naked eye perceives the image quality presented - regardless of the native pixel resolution. Several sources must be used with varying signal resolution.

Fujitsu was one of the first companies to enter the plasma display market in the U.S. and Canada. They have really promoted the perception of first entry status and attempted to capitalize that idea into market share. And to some extent the strategy seems to be working. They are moving product from their myriad of model numbers, primarily through small profit hungry specialized AV retailers and installers. I will explain this in detail later in the review.


Fujitsu Flat Panel Plasma TV

The two model numbers listed above replace the P50XCA11UH and P50XHA10US models. Interestingly, Fujitsu is buying and incorporating the Panasonic plasma display element (i.e. glass) for these units. The company does not own manufacturing for 50" glass. Why build a 1 billion dollar plant when you can OEM the product from a proven performer?

How does their new slate of plasma display offerings stack up against the competition? Let's unravel one of the most enigmatic brands in the Plasma Display industry.

PICTURE - 85/100

Image quality from video sources such as DVD players, HDTV receivers, digital cable or satellite, and even VCR's render the primary concerns for testing picture quality. We use at least three different sources for testing, since plasma display images can vary greatly between signal sources. The picture on the models is exactly the same so there is no reason to differentiate for review purposes or otherwise.

The P50XCA30WH, like most current offerings, displayed incredible color brilliance and brightness. The factory settings on the unit are set very bright which will drive the unit hard and cause burn-in or fading quicker than some of its counterparts. In our dark test room facility I found it necessary to decreased contrast to -15 and brightness to -5 on the unit to optimize it's performance and bring it closer to the operating level of the Pioneer PDP5040HD. There was less false contouring (effectively blending dark gray and blacks) when modifying the factory settings.


Fujitsu plasma in our review set-up
Fujitsu plasma reviewed against other plasma monitors.

Compared to other units tested I felt the Fujitsu offering displayed more pixelation (a pulsating visual artifact effect). Indeed, I will be the first to challenge the internal AVM (advanced digital video signal processor), which Fujitsu claims, "eliminates motion artifacts and flicker, improves vertical resolution and reproduces natural movement with ease." Despite its brightness, the units attempt to blend the color information presented - left me believing Fujitsu has some ways to go technologically with their scalar/processor and internal video card circuitry. Aside from the motion artifacts bringing some distraction there was a good bit of graininess and lack of definition. This appeared to be caused by light leakage from the pixel structure. To evidence this, when viewing dark scenes in 480p from the DVD All The Pretty Horses, I could see purple shadowing around the edges of black images. We also noticed some slightly jerky motion in the video/film transition.

Viewing distance will certainly make a difference with this unit's perceived performance. From 12 feet or closer the P50XCA30WH may show too many motion artifacts for the videophile. If used for public display or home theater from 20 feet the eye will not pick up the visual pixelation. Viewing Distance really matters with this 50" product offering.

Another problem the unit has is up-conversion of low-end video signals (250i to 480i satellite, cable or VCR) to its native pixel resolution. The unit's graininess is increased quite dramatically with these signals. It clearly prefers (as do all plasma displays) an HDTV signal. Nevertheless, Fujitsu should spend more time with the internal scaling and interpolating circuitry to upgrade images from poorer signal sources, which continue to represent 95% of today's programming. Even the nascent plasma manufacturer can show a fantastic picture with an HDTV 1080i signal, and the Fujitsu plasmas are no exception. The three dimensional effect of images in 1080i mode is just stunning on the P50XCA30WH. The high brightness levels bring a depth and vibrancy to the picture to the point where blemishes on performer's faces become apparent. But it takes some adept technology to upgrade the aforementioned low-end signals well.

Out of the box, the P50XCA30WH measured about 8750 degrees at 80 IRE, and after a quick adjustment of the gain controls, I was able to get the 80 IRE window to read just about D6500, the industry standard.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS - 88/100

Connectivity choices for Fujitsu's offerings are fairly standard for today with video signal inputs for one s-video, one composite, one component on RCA, one component on RGB (on 15-pin D-sub), and one DVI-D (with HDCP). Computer/data signal inputs are RGBHV, VGA, and a DVI-D interface.

The P50XCA30WH uses internal fans for cooling. They are both audible and noticeable before turning on a sound system. Depending upon the circumstances they could be distracting - in quiet movie scenes, or during a boardroom presentation. This noise is probably the result of the extreme brightness levels the screen is driven to show.

The Fujitsu's have excellent adjustment functionality for vertical or horizontal positioning of images. This is a versatile asset for presentation materials from computer sources and can be used in viewing streaming video as well. Aspect ratio modes for the plasma are Normal (4:3), Wide 1, Wide 2, Zoom 1, and Zoom 2. The zoom options are extreme and will probably not be used except for presentation. Images appear stretched and lose a great deal of the picture and detail. I found Wide 2 mode to be preferred for DVD and the Wide 1 setting to scale a 4:3 image. This will come in handy, as Fujitsu has omitted gray bars for 4:3 images altogether. This could be a problem since these bars serve to protect the plasma screen from burn-in.

With computer input at wide XGA (1280X768) the pixel conversion was accurate and the detail very acceptable even with text. The P50XCA30WH did a decent job of up-converting VGA signals but showed some serious "jaggies" when rendering text. This plasma display includes a nice feature called "Screen orbiter," which moves the image up, down, left, and right a few pixels at a time. This should help to prevent burn-in on the plasma screen, and should be especially valuable to those who utilize the P50XCA30WH as a computer monitor.

SPECIAL FEATURES

WEAKNESSES

VALUE - 76/100

Fujitsu has a reputation for using price points to distinguish their products from those of their competitors. Hence Fujitsu's plasma TV monitors tend to be on the pricey side. With an MSRP of just under $9000, this is one of the more expensive 50-inch flat panel displays on the market. Considering the fact that superior Panasonic and Pioneer product offerings are priced in the $6000 to $7500 neighborhood, one wonders who will pay more for less, picture-wise and circuitry-wise, with the Fujitsu P50XCA30WH?

OVERALL RATING (with Picture double weighted) - 83.5/100



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