My Panasonic Plasma Purchase

In the June newsletter I wrote that I was “picking plasma now,” and I asked for input on Panasonic’s 50-inch 1080p HDTV model TH-50PZ700U.

I didn’t get any comments on the specific model, but I was already sold on it. I took a quick look at it running a Blu-ray DVD in the store, and that was it. I got a pretty good deal on this model from Circuit City that included 0% interest and no payments until January of 2009. That gives me 18 months to pay it off, interest-free. I paid $3,050 about a month ago, and Circuit City now lists it at $2,999.

I couldn’t be happier with this purchase. I’m watching my favorite sports team as I write this in perfect, full-screen HDTV. It’s gorgeous. It displays conventional TV better than I expected, and the bright, saturated HDTV colors and crisp shapes continue to wow me. Comcast offers about 30 to 40 HDTV channels, including about 80% of the ones I watch the most. So I’m watching HD programming much of the time.

A lot of SFNL readers have written about brands and large-screen TV types. I made the correct decision for me and for my family. There were no surprises in the downsides to plasma, since the picture quality is far and away the overriding factor for me. The negatives are:

1. Plasma TVs draw a lot of power. My particular unit draws 695 watts. That’s a lot of juice for a TV.

2. It’s heavy. With its pedestal stand, it weighs 123.5 pounds.

3. Long-term plasma reliability isn’t as well established as that of CRT or LCD technology.

4. Installation is not for the faint of heart. You need two pairs of strong arms, and most people should probably leave it to the pros to mount their TVs on the wall. Every year, large-screen TVs kill children and even adults when someone accidentally pulls them over.

The wiring connections, though, are easy. There’s nothing all that special about it. HDMI cabling makes it easier, in fact.

So, while there are some negatives to plasma, the two most important things to me — HD and conventional TV picture quality — are where plasma really shines. That factor gets a 70% weighting in my analysis. If power consumption is your big deal, then by all means, go with LCD. I recommend Sony’s Bravia line.

Many plasma aficionados prefer the Pioneer models. Pioneer staked out the plasma territory early. And while there may be some minor advantages to Pioneer models, I honestly don’t think you’ll see them with your eyes. But you’ll pay more dearly for them at the cash register. For me, the Panasonic models offer the best bang for the buck.

Another common thread among emails about picking plasma was, why did I have to have 1080p? It’s quite true that HDTV is unlikely to be 1080p quality any time soon (if ever). But you can get pure 1080p from Netflix (and its competitors) anytime you want to by buying an HD-DVD or Blu-ray player. My recommendation is for a Blu-ray player, by the way. In fact, I recommend Sony’s new BDP-S300, which has a list price of $499.

I should hasten to add, I haven’t purchased BDP-S300 yet. It’s just that it’s about the lowest priced Blu-ray DVD player ever and from the leading proponent of the Blu-ray standard.

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