Sound advice: Is plasma a good pick?

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Q I am a big movie and TV buff, and am upgrading my main TV from 50-inch to 55-inch and moving the 50-inch into another room. My current main TV is a 50-inch Panasonic GT30 plasma.

I looked at some LCD and LED-LCD models but wasn't impressed. The picture was bright and clear, but had a bit of a graininess or harshness that is hard to describe, but which I didn't like compared to the plasma. The plasma looked natural and realistic and was more pleasing to the eye. Is my perception typical, or I am doing something wrong with the LCD TV's picture settings?

If I go with plasma, I plan on staying with Panasonic. Do you think it is worth the difference to get the VT50 model over the GT50 model? Finally, I have heard about OLED TVs being the best, though expensive. Is it worth the wait to get an OLED model, and when do you think they will be available at affordable prices comparable to today's televisions?

NORM POOLE II,

Sewickley

A. I'll start with your last questions first, regarding OLED TV. OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode and is thought to be the Holy Grail of television technology because of its thinness, incredible picture quality and low power consumption.

The first mass produced OLED TVs are set to be launched during the second half of this year. The LG 55EM9600 and Samsung ES9500 will be 55-inches in size and projected to sell for around $9,000. When asked when the price point will drop to the levels we see for today's LCD and plasma TVs, the industry response has been, "Years away." It was "years away" five years ago, so it could be a good while before we see a big OLED TV selling for around $1,000.

Your perception of the difference between plasma, LCD and LED-LCD is spot on. Most videophiles prefer plasma for the natural, realistic picture, and some of the latest models even have antireflective front panels that make them work very well even in bright rooms. I myself can appreciate a good LCD TV and have a small one in my dining room, but if you want the best picture, plasma is king.

It is hard to quantify whether the VT50 is worth more than the GT50 because the answer will vary according to the buyer. The VT50 is the best plasma technology Panasonic has to offer. The VT50 has Panasonic's Infinite Black Ultra plasma panel, an upgrade over the Infinite Black Pro panel of the GT50. The VT50 also has an ISF calibration mode for tweaking the picture to perfection. Otherwise the specifications are very similar.

There is about a $600 price difference between the 55-inch GT50 and the 55-inch VT50. You are comparing two of the best televisions, so you will be thrilled with whichever you purchase. Given that you are a self-proclaimed home entertainment buff, I would go for the VT50. That way you will know you have the best and never second-guess yourself. Panasonic's ST50 plasmas are great as well and sell for even less then the GT50, making them perfect for quality-minded shoppers on a budget.

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Read product reviews by Don Lindich at soundadviceblog.com.


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