Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Plasma/LCD picture quality revisited

I always include disclaimers in my blogs. I try to be clear that I'm expressing my opinion - and it isn't always on solid ground.

I recently wrote a blog called "Why is plasma/LCD screen picture quality so bad?" It outlined the disappointment I felt at the poor quality of the latest TV technology. Basically, everytime I looked at new tellies, I saw a low quality picture with lots of pixelation and distortion.

To my delight, I received an anonymous comment from someone who'd bought a new TV and agreed with what I'd said. But even so, no-one else was writing anything similar. I started reading reviews of LCD/plasma screens. Programmes like Channel Five's The Gadget Show and organisations like Which? go to great lengths to test things and their reviews of TVs didn't say anything about pixelation or distortion being a problem across the board.

After reading more reviews with descriptions like 'crystal clear' and 'pin sharp', my girlfriend and I decided to take the plunge. We bought a Panasonic 32" LCD TV. By coincidence, it arrived on my birthday. The superior, distant tone of my original TV blog was not evident that day. I love getting stuff - it's true.

All things considered, the TV's pretty good - I'm pleased with it. Image quality from certain sources (like a standard DVD player) is generally good. Image quality from certain digital television channels isn't. Football for instance, one of the examples given in my original blog, proves to be a particular struggle. American talk shows, on-screen graphics and fast-moving music videos or kid's TV (all high brow examples, huh?) are other pixelation-prone areas.

If I make a mistake, I'd like to be the first to say it, but on this occasion a certain Mr. Adamson beat me to it. (Thank you). He politely asked whether there was any hypocrisy in declaring "I'm gonna wait a while before I pay the several hundred pounds required for an ultra-stylish backward steps" a matter of months before buying one. I squirmed a little, conceded the charge and squirmed a little more.

Obviously, I was already aware of my inconsistency, but there are some things I'd like to explain. My girlfriend and I read lots of reviews and we
saw better quality picture quality in some none high-street electrical retailers. If you go into Currys, Dixons or Comet, picture quality of display models is terrible. No doubt. Secondly, I wonder whether the pixelation problem is due to digital TV rather than the screens themselves. Certain types of movement and colour combinations play havoc with the image quality. This was evident on my old CRT TV and a bigger screen may just make it easier to see. If this is the case, if digital TV is the problem, I was wrong about plasma and LCD picture quality and I apologise.

However, I still believe we're not getting the quality we're being promised. Of the years that plasma and LCD screens have been on sale we've had (roughly) three stages - the first lot displayed images at 720p, the second were HD Ready at 1080i and now we have Full HD Ready at 1080p. Mine is the middle one, 1080i. It's good but there are still problem areas - they might be solved at 1080p but they must be terrible at 720p. If the problems lie with digital TV broadcast, this is being glossed over in the drive to switch to digital only broadcasts by 2012. If the problems lie with poor quality connections and SCART leads then I'll have even more egg on my face.

So, as the final word, I apologise for my inconsistency. Sorry.

5 comments:

Tom du Pré said...

Hello.
I read both your bloggy things about the picture quality on plasma teevees wit interest, as I am currently thinking about getting one, but I have certainly noticed that the picture quality of the tellies in the shop seem to be noticably inferior to my trusty 32inch CRT. Watching an HD broadcast on an HD telly looks great, but watching a non-HD broadcast on even a proper HD ready teevee looks, well, shit. Can I justify forking out buckets of money whilst I wait and wait for the channels i want to watch to be broadcast in HD? I dunno. Seems like a triumph of marketing over people actually *looking* at their Tvs. Weird. Emporer's new clothes or something I suppose. Toodleoo.

Travis Howard said...

What you're talking about is how compressed the image is coming from the source. This actually has nothing to do with the television itself, but simply the cable/satellite company who is sending you the signal. Streaming videos also have this issue, usually it's worse. This isn't unusual. You won't see anything like this if you are watching video from a source such as a Blu-Ray player, as the video on the discs is uncompressed.

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