Q You previously recommended the Panasonic ST30 plasma HDTV, which is no longer available. What is your current hot recommendation for a 50-inch plasma?
A I'm evaluating the Panasonic ST50 series plasma, which replaced the ST30. It is better in every way, but three things stand out.
The Wi-Fi is now integrated, so you no longer need an awkward Wi-Fi dongle tethered to the TV via a USB cord. The picture quality also is noticeably improved and looks a lot like Panasonic's much more expensive plasmas of last year.
What impressed me most, though, was the ease of adjusting the picture to look perfect. The ST30 needed precise adjustment to look its best, and I spent a lot of time tweaking it and then published the settings on my website. With the ST50, it took me just minutes to achieve a picture with realistic yet beautifully saturated color, natural flesh tones and deep blacks, with excellent shadow detail.
I've been watching a lot of Blu-ray on the ST50 and it is just super. The "Austin Powers" movies are fun to watch when evaluating a TV due to the mix of action, bright colors and lots of interesting characters with radically different appearances. I don't think I have ever seen the movies look better than they have on the ST50.
The 50-inch Panasonic ST50 is available now for $1,150. Larger sizes also are available.Tabletop radio update
After I recently recommended the Cambridge SoundWorks i765 Radio, readers complained about it being sold out and what they felt was poor service from Cambridge's customer service, which told them they could no longer receive the 20 percent discount even if they pre-ordered. It got to the point where I felt I had to contact Cambridge SoundWorks about the issue.
I was looking over reader correspondence and organizing my thoughts when I was actually contacted by one of Cambridge's executives. He explained that the radio was in the midst of a production change and that upcoming units will have an improved disc drive that does a better job of reading scratched discs.
Cambridge sold out of current stock more quickly than anticipated (and I am sure my column did not help things), and the new radios are still weeks away. The customer-service reps didn't have instructions on how to proceed, and there was no way to use the discount code online once the radios were out of stock.
Cambridge recognized that it had a problem and assured me that everyone who wants a radio at the promotional price will be able to get one. Details will be posted soon on its website (www.cambridgesoundworks.com).
It was a relief to see that one of my favorite products looks to be in good hands, after all.