Avoid widescreen burn-in with easy steps
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Q: I recently purchased a Samsung plasma TV and love it. However, I am confused about widescreen DVDs and the possibility of burn-in.
With widescreen DVDs I sometimes still get black bars, only this time they are above and below the screen. They are relatively small but I thought a widescreen DVD should fill up a wide screen 100 percent. I know that with plasma you should not watch with bars for long lengths of time because it can cause burn-in. Am I in danger of damaging my plasma TV?
WAYNE TODD, Bethel Park
A: Widescreen HDTVs have a 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning they are 16 units wide to 9 units high. While nearly all HDTV broadcasts are 16:9, many DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are recorded in the movie's original format. This is often 2.35:1, which will result in black bars above and below the image. If you mix it up between widescreen movies with bars and other source material that fill the screen entirely (such as HDTV broadcasts, or stretched or zoomed standard TV broadcasts) the chance of burn-in is small to nonexistent, especially in newer plasma TVs possessing anti-burn-in technology.
If you want to go an extra step, after you watch a widescreen movie go to your TV's setup menu and select the burn-in protection feature. Run the white screen until the screen is a solid white, then run the scrolling gray bar for a pass or two. This will clean up any faint image that may remain.
Q: What do you think of the Toshiba XDE DVD player? It looks interesting but at $149 it costs a lot more than other DVD players. Is it worth it?
DAWN WALTON, Norfolk, Va.
A: The Toshiba XDE-500 DVD player is an upconverting DVD player that uses proprietary technology to enhance the colors, sharpness, and contrast of ordinary DVDs. It's created some controversy in the industry, some reviewers liking it, others being less impressed.
I've tested it myself and preferred the XDE-500 over any other DVD player selling for under $200, including the Oppos I have often recommended in the past. It lacks the Oppo's audio capabilities, but I always preferred the XDE's picture quality, especially with older film-based material and CGI movies such as Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story," which looked phenomenal. The picture enhancements don't always improve the picture, but they can be toggled on and off to find the look that pleases you.
The downside is price. You can now get an Insignia Blu-ray player for $229, and it upconverts DVDs as well as play Blu-ray Discs in true high definition picture and sound. The Insignia does not do as well with DVDs as the XDE-500 does, but DVD performance will be satisfactory for most consumers, and when you play a Blu-ray disc and compare it with the XDE and DVD, there is no comparison visually or sonically.
I'd recommend the XDE to anyone with a large DVD collection or who wants the best DVD playback for under $200. If you can only have one player I would recommend spending a bit more for the Insignia Blu-ray. With its true high definition capability it's a better investment.
First Published October 19, 2008 12:00 am