LG 50PG30: 1080p plasma for less

When we first checked out LG's entry-level 50-inch plasma with 1080p resolution, model 50PG30, we thought it looked pretty good, especially for less than $2,000. The classy gloss-black styling and long list of features, including plenty of picture controls, boded well for this model's chances on paper. We'd also had positive experiences with two other 50-inch LG plasmas we reviewed earlier, the THX-certified 50PG60 and the entry-level 50PG20, a 720p display that's enough of a bargain to occupy second place on our Best budget HDTVs list.

In person, however, the 50PG30 was a bit less impressive. Our main gripe has to do with color accuracy; despite a plethora of adjustments, including a full color management system that allows tweaking of primary and secondary colors, we couldn't get color to look quite right. Just-average black levels didn't help, and while video processing was solid, it couldn't make up the gap between the LG and other entry-level 1080p plasmas.

For the complete scoop check out our full review of the LG 50PG30.… Read more

Counting blurry lines: Should CNET test for motion resolution on HDTVs?

In the course of testing for HDTV reviews here at CNET, I always compare displays directly against one another side-by-side using both normal program material--typically Blu-ray movies, HDTV, and standard-definition material--and test patterns from special discs. I'm always on the lookout for new test patterns, so earlier this summer when I spoke with another TV reviewer, Gary Merson of, about his tests for motion resolution, he was kind enough to pass along a Blu-ray Disc called "FPD Benchmark Software for Professional." It contains a variety of test patterns, most of which I've seen and used before, with one notable exception. A suite of patterns and program material is devoted to testing and demonstrating motion resolution, and I'm considering incorporating it into CNET's regular HDTV tests.… Read more

Samsung's 50-inch plasma is red all over

Trust us when we say that Samsung makes waaaaay too many different varieties of flat-panel televisions for one self-respecting reviewer to keep up with. Case in point is the PN50A650, a red-tinted 50-inch plasma released in May that we're just getting to now. Call us slackers, but having already reviewed the PN50A550, which is basically the same but with a black frame in place of the 650's red, we felt that base was already covered. But the 650 surprised us with a somewhat better anti-reflective screen than we saw on the 550. More details are available if you … Read more

Panasonic puts plasma TVs on a diet

We had inklings that thin was in for the HDTV business this year after CES, but the sets being shown off at IFA in Berlin this week confirm it.

Panasonic showed off the 50-inch version at CES in January, but brought out 58-inch and 65-inch versions of the startlingly thin TVs at IFA at the Berlin trade show Thursday.

Unsurprisingly, Panasonic is saying that the sets are not as heavy as normal plasma TVs. Plus, the prototypes are being made with WirelessHD inside, which means fewer pesky wires. Keep in mind, this is not a real TV. It's just … Read more

Plasma TV on the rebound?

It appears the TV industry's self-prescribed medicine of pushing smaller flat-panel sets is working.

The second-quarter check-up is in, and the industry is in far better health than a year ago. DisplaySearch's Quarterly Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report was released Thursday, and worldwide TV shipments increased 11 percent from the same period in 2007, but just 3 percent from first quarter of 2008.

Still, the news is encouraging to an industry that was wringing its hands back in March over running out of places to sell its rapidly maturing, but still-pricey sets.

Around that same time, some … Read more

Samsung's showcase in San Fran

Samsung Electronics, an arm of the giant Korean company (second only to General Electric in annual revenue among conglomerates), held a press event in San Francisco last week to show off its products for the coming holiday season.

I'd been looking for an excuse to go up to the city, so off I went-- taking Caltrain rather than driving. Conveniently, the Samsung event was just a few blocks from the train station in San Francisco.

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New Samsung Series 7 plasmas add digital media capabilities and limited networking

Not content to expand only its LCD line-up, Samsung unveiled some new plasma TVs as well. As with the step-down Series 6 models, the Series 7 plasmas utilize the company's increasingly ubiquitous Touch of Color bezels (in this case, rose red accents), and feature the same digital media playback functionality and InfoLink online data access found on the Series 7 LCD models. Full details follow. … Read more

Some salespeople still think flat-panel LCDs beat plasmas?

In a time when CNET's two top-rated HDTVs of the year are Panasonic's TH-50PZ800U and Pioneer's PDP-5020FD, we have to wonder why a salesperson would recommend flat-panel LCD HDTVs at the rate that J.D. Power and Associates claims in a recent report.

The report, which surveyed more than 2,000 shoppers on their experience in big-box electronic retailers, a specialty television retailer, a mass merchant, and a warehouse store, found that retail salespeople recommended LCDs over plasmas at a three-to-one rate.

Sure, plasmas have a long list of supposed failings: they're allegedly bulky and power hungry, and have image burn-in issues and leaks, and a short lifespan. However, most of these problems--image burn-in being the most common with early plasma sets--have been resolved on modern plasma displays.

According to the report, however, "37 percent of salespersons warned their customers that images may be permanently burned onto the screen of plasma TVs." The lifespan argument doesn't hold up either, as both LCD and plasma lifespan claims are basically the same now at 60,000 hours each. And, with LCDs still costing more at equivalent screen sizes, it's certainly convenient for retailers to promote the LCD technology over its less expensive rival.… Read more

Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD reviewed, and why Panasonic is rated higher

For quite some time, the battle for CNET's "Best HDTV Overall" has essentially been between Pioneer's and Panasonic's plasmas. Plasma technology may be losing market share every year, but it's still the clear winner when it comes to image quality, thanks to deep, rich blacks that LCDs still can't match. And the conventional wisdom lately has basically been that Pioneer is the best bet for flat-panel videophiles, due to its industry-best black levels (excluding Sony's little OLED set.)

We posted our full review of the Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD on Friday, and home … Read more

Homemade plasma speaker puts on a light show

Cruising around YouTube, I found "Plasma Speaker/Singing Arc," an intriguing little video of a homemade "speaker" that makes sound by directly ionizing air.

It's not exactly high-fidelity, but it shows there are still a few tinkerers out there thinking about something other than the iPod.

The person behind the video describes the process: "This is a prototype of a FM modulated plasma arc speaker/tweeter. Have since built this circuit on a custom PCB & made an improved vertical discharge setup, using tungsten-tipped electrodes (see my other videos). This stops the plasma hopping … Read more