Sony Plasma TV Review

 

 

Model: Sony PFM 50C1 Plasma Television
Description: 50-inch EDTV Plasma Display, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 1366 x 768 (WXGA)
Includes: Integrated ATSC tuner and standard remote
Color: Silver bezel
Reviewer: Robert Wiley

Sony PFM50C1 plasma tv

INTRODUCTION


The ultimate test of all plasma TV's is how well they show when they are actually tested for video or computer image quality. Forget the native pixel resolution, the built in converter/scalar, the sometimes-unrealistic contrast ratio listed by the manufacturer. The manufacturer that wants to sell their product provides the specifications. Comparing TV's of any kind side by side with the same input signal playing the same video material at the same moment is the best way to truly understand how the signal information is received, converted and shown to the naked eye. With plasma display monitors the differences are sometimes much more pronounced than with other types of televisions.

Sony brought this 50" plasma offering in May of 2002 with essentially the same technology that they have incorporated into the new PFM 42B2U and the PFM 32C1. Images and scaling characteristics appear very similar on all three as do color temps, contrast and black levels. The following are some of the changes and added features to this latest generation plasma display. First, they have added progressive line doubling techniques to the unit's conversion capabilities. Secondly, they have drastically increased the black levels and contrast. Next, Sony has provided 3:2 pulldown implementation to display original film sources. Lastly, in making these changes to cut some corners they have made the unit more affordable by coming down to a retail price of $9000 and with recent online prices of around $8000.

PICTURE - 93

The image quality from video sources and graphics displayed by computer input are really the primary concerns when considering plasma TV's for purchase. All else falls under "Other Considerations" for this reviewer's purposes. I found the Sony 50C1 to be a very sound enjoyable plasma. Sony has really focused on aspects of this new model that drastically improve the black levels and contrast over the previous offerings. The changes are welcome. I was delighted to see the improvement, especially when displaying a lower end signals such as 250 to 480 lines of horizontal resolution from cable, satellite, or VCR. The Sony 50C1 also performed excellent up-conversion work from a 480 interlaced source from DVD. The unit performed amazingly well - displaying deep rich black levels, vibrant color saturation, and bright clear images. This is the work of the new built in progressive scan converter. With this signal of 480i, the unit actually outperformed even my reference standard Panasonic 50". Strangely, when the DVD player was set to 480 progressive scan mode, the Sony plasma TV picture suffered - becoming lighter in the blacks, and displaying less color richness. Recommendation: When using a DVD source - input a regular 480i signal instead of 480 progressive. This will save you a few $$ on your DVD player purchase. Why is this the case? Your guess is as good as mine. The internal scalar converter is conflicting with the incoming progressive signal.

The Sony plasma TVs have always had excellent color reproduction and vibrancy. Colors on this display were rich and soothing and the brightness level was excellent on this plasma. Sony has corrected the "washed out, faded" image appearance of the previous 42" plasma 42B1U with the new and improved scan converter. Contrast has been significantly improved as well to an unspecified (by Sony) level. And now there is little to no noticeable false contouring.

This is a very enjoyable plasma display. Cable and satellite 4:3 image scaling to full screen size is effective but there is some visible stretching. This can be somewhat corrected and compensated for by the vertical and horizontal enlargement features the unit offers.

HDTV broadcasts are in true resolution and are exceptionally stunning on this unit. The richness and color saturation is unbelievably clear and deep. There is no question about where your friends will be going to watch the ball game.

The factory settings on the Sony PFM 50C1 are close to perfect. While testing the unit with Video Essentials Pluge Patterns, the following are my recommended levels for viewing (depending upon ambient light conditions): Brightness set at -3, Sharpness - Low setting, Contrast - between 65 and 75 depending upon conditions, color settings - normal. There was no noticeable blooming in the whites when peaking out the contrast setting controls, meaning the Sony 50C1 is set up to prevent user error which could drastically decrease the life of the unit with overpowering contrast

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS - 89

The Sony 50C1 offers four aspect options for viewing: W ZOOM to enlarge a 4:3 image to the 16:9 screen as naturally as possible; LB ZOOM (letterbox zoom) to enlarge images in various aspect ratios to fit proportionally to the left and right sides of the screen; 4X3 to display standard 4:3; and 16X9 to display standard 16:9 widescreen image. For inputs the unit has an s-video, composite video, audio input, and two VGA type 15 pin inputs, a weak input selection compared to other plasma TV's.

The remote commander (Sony's word) was one of the best I used with special controls for contrast, brightness, and all of the input options listed separately. The look of the unit is stunning. Sony has engineered some looks into this plasma display. It is razor thin around the edges (maybe an inch) and slopes down the back and sides to make it look even thinner. The 50" Sony plasma display offering is produced only in a striking silver with black ribbon banding around the picture to add contrast. It is a piece of artwork in and of itself. The control buttons are seen on the lower right hand corner of the monitor in an attractive diagonal manner. I measure the depth at 4.

Using a computer input to the Sony units' 15pin VGA input is a pleasure, especially in XGA (1024X768) format. This unit is a great value in the market for XGA presentation. The fixed pixel structure of 1365X768 matches up extremely well with 1024X768 computer resolution. Text images, through such software as PowerPoint, display very nicely as do graphics and video games.

One more "other consideration" for this plasma panel is hookup options. The unit has two VGA 15 pin inputs in the input cavity. The top input may be used for DVD component input or high definition input from a decoder box. In the case of a DVD player or some HDTV decoder boxes a special component to VGA cable will need to be applied. The second VGA input is to be used for input from a PC computer source. The Sony 42B2U then contains one s-video for use with a DVD player or satellite box, and one composite input selection for use with cable signals, or VCR. It has just enough inputs to get the job done. Watch your system configuration when using this plasma display.


SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Memory function saves picture settings for up to twenty input signals
  • 1024X1024 high definition native pixel resolution
  • 3.5" depth bezel in silver or charcoal
  • New progressive scan converter

WEAKNESSES

  • No built in amplifiers
  • Limited input selection

VALUE RATING - 91

Considering the new price at around $8000, this unit will be a leader in the 50" market. Sony has come down from the initial market entry price. The Sony plasma displays are well built and more durable than most. The appearance is detailed and the resolution is befitting even the best HDTV source signals. This plasma display is an artistic piece of beauty. If a person new nothing about plasma TV's at all, and walked into a house with the brushed silver version sitting on a table stand they might guess that it costs double its price. It just looks like something that would cost thousands… and indeed it does

OVERALL RATING - 91.5 (picture double weighted)





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