Sound Advice: Plasma is king for the best TV picture

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2012 - 2:25 PM

Answers to your multimedia questions.

Q I'm a big movie and TV buff and am upgrading my main TV from a 50-inch Panasonic GT30 plasma to a 55-inch model and moving the older set to another room. I looked at LCD and LED-LCD models but wasn't impressed. The picture was bright and clear but had graininess or harshness that I didn't like compared with the plasma, which looked natural, realistic and more pleasing to the eye. Is my perception typical, or am I 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's worth the difference to get the VT50 model over the GT50 model?

Finally, I've heard about OLED TVs being the best, although expensive. Is it worth the wait to get an OLED model? When do you think they will be available at affordable prices?

A OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is thought to be the Holy Grail of TV technology because of its thinness, incredible picture quality and low power consumption. The first mass-produced OLED TVs are set to be launched later this year. The LG 55EM9600 and Samsung ES9500 will be 55 inches in size and are projected to sell for about $9,000. As for when prices will drop to levels we see for today's LCD and plasma TVs, the industry response has been "years away." It could be a good while before we see a big OLED TV selling for $1,000, if ever.

Your perception of the differences among plasma, LCD and LED-LCD is spot on. Most videophiles prefer plasma for the natural, realistic picture and the latest models have anti-reflective front panels that make them work well even in bright rooms.

I 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's 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 top of the line and the best plasma technology Panasonic has to offer. It 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 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 on the market, so there really is no wrong answer and you will be thrilled with whichever you buy.

Given that you are a home-entertainment buff, go for the VT50. That way you will know you have the best and never second-guess yourself.

Panasonic's ST50 plasmas are great, too, and sell for even less then the GT50, making them perfect for quality-minded shoppers on a budget.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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