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Product Review - Panasonic TX-47WG25H 16:9 TV - April, 1997

By Daniel Long

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Panasonic 16:9 TV
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Panasonic TX-47WG25H Rear Projection TV; Screen size (diagonal) - 119cm 16:9 Wide Screen; Projection Tubes: Three 7-inch High-Brightness Projection Tubes with Radial Faceplate; Screen Configuration: Acrylic Panel, Lenticular Screen, Fresnel Screen; Lenticular Pitch: 0.72mm; CYTOP Coating: 2 sides (Acrylic Panel); Viewing Angle: Horizontal : 1600, Vertical : 720; Colour Filter Lenses:Red and Green; Digital AI; Twin Digital Comb Filter; Digital Picture Improvement Circuitry (CTI/P.DE/Y.NR/V.M./P.NR); Digital Convergence Control; Shading Compensation Circuit; Gamma Correction Circuit; Colour Temperature Select (Low/Mid/High); Multi-Window; Self-Aspect; Speakers: Full-Range Hexacone Sound System; Audio Output: 24W (12W x 2); Auto Sound Equalizer; All-Around Surround Sound; Dynamic XBS (Extra Bass Sound); Teletext Reception; Broadcast Stereo Reception: Triple system (NICAM-I, B/G, German); Hyper-Band CATV Compatibility; 100-Position Auto-Search FS Tuner; Receiving/Video Playback System; World 21-System; Remote Control: TV/Video/Text Unified; On-Screen Indications: Dual-Language (English/Chinese); AV Menu, Picture: Standard/Auto, Sound: Extra Bass/Karaoke/Standard/Auto; Blue Background/Noise Mute; Off-Timer/Noise Timer; Audio Mute; S-Video In: 3; Video/Audio In: 3; Video/Audio Out: 1; External Surround Speaker Out: 1; Headphone Jacks: 2; Power Source: AC 220/240V, 50/60Hz; Power Consumption: 215W; Dimensions (W x D x H): 109.3 x 56 x 121.1 cm; Weight: 60kg; $3,600US; USA ADDRESS: Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, One Panasonic Way, Secaucus, New Jersey 07094; Telephone (201) 348-7000; ASIA : Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., 1006, Kadoma, Osaka, Japan; Telephone (06) 908-1121.

Introduction: Does Size Matter?

Just before the Olympics in 1992, I bought a watch . . . a Japanese sports model, and I received a coupon for a Lucky Draw to be held in conjunction with the Olympics. They (Thong Sia, the people who sold me the Seiko) were giving away a 34" Toshiba every week for 6 weeks. I was the winner in week number 3.

That Toshiba has served me well almost 5 years, even though it didn't always have that perfect picture that only a meticulously adjusted front projection picture has (I have seen this only once, and in a setup that cost well over S$80,000), and was a little warmer than I liked. I liked what it gave me, however, and friends I've had over to my home usually tell me the picture's very good, the colours natural and never too bright or dull.

One thing I've always wondered was how much more I would enjoy my LD collection if I had a larger picture. . . .

Size and Shape

There are several types of picture shapes currently. If you watch regular TV, more than likely you see a picture that's 4:3, almost square-like. Then you have letterboxed widescreen movies (LD, DVD, some VHS), which come in a variety of aspect ratios, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 being the most common.

Most TV sets have a 4:3 aspect ratio, and you get a full picture with regular TV broadcasts. On an LD, however, the picture often comes with two horizontal thin (not so thin) blank bars at the top and bottom of the screen. This makes the picture smaller than it would have been at full screen, and even though a good home theater will add to the impact of a movie on LD, a small picture is . . . a small picture.

With rear-projection TVs (RPTV), where the projection lens tubes sit in a box behind the screen, it is possible to get a fairly large screen (from 41" to almost 80" for a gargantuan RCA model). On some models, it is possible to optimize high aspect-ratio'ed pictures by cropping off the top and bottom and present a screen that is 16:9 (1.78:1, or nearly 1.85:1). In this way, a 47" "widescreen TV" can display a 1.85:1 or even a 2.35:1 ratio'ed picture that uses more of the viewable screen area than a regular 4:3 47" TV (keeping in mind that the quoted size of a TV is usually the size of the screen diagonal) by utilizing zoom features that enlarge such pictures to fill the horizontal width of the screen, while minimizing the amount of blank area at the top and bottom. When this is done, a 1.85:1 picture will fill the entire 16:9 screen almost perfectly, while a 2.35:1 (or anything else in between) picture still leaves small bars top and bottom (but in this case, still much smaller than the bars on a 4:3 screen). See the attached graphic which illustrates how a 16:9 image fits on a 4:3 picture tube screen (figure 1), and how a 4:3 image with 16:9 movie fits on a 16:9 TV in normal mode (figure 2), and finally, how the 16:9 image fills the 16:9 picture tube screen when the expanded mode is used (figure 3) [
click here ]. The present review is just as much about 16:9 TVs as it is about the Panasonic per se.

The Arrival

The Panasonic 47" reviewed here is a 16:9 widescreen RPTV. It comes in a box large enough for several kids to play house in, and weighs 60 kg (132 lbs). It also has four rollers mounted at the bottom that let you move it around easily (not so on carpets, however), and when you have found the place for it, you can slip four matching covers under the wheels so the TV stays put. Sells for US$3,600 (S$4,999).

Let me get through the first thing I found disturbing in the Panasonic out before I begin the review proper: in a word. "hum". The minute I turned it on, I discovered a not so subtle buzz coming from the left TV speaker. Thinking it was probably due to the power supply going into the cable decoder I had sitting right alongside the Panasonic, I checked and found it (the decoder) wasn't even powered on. And even then, the buzz would come on and off unpredictably, so I guess it was just bad shielding on that side or some bad solder joints taking some RFI. It wasn't bad enough to distract me when I watched a movie, but it was noticeable when the TV was powered and I listened to music from the hi-fi in the system. This leads me to believe the unit has a so-so build quality.

Connections

There are three sets of video and audio inputs, the video inputs having both composite and S-Video. There is also a set of monitor outs and high-level speaker connections for attaching a pair of surround speakers. Having done so (I quote from the manual), "the presence of the enveloping sound becomes more vivid".

I used both S-Video as well as the composite video inputs and found that I marginally prefer the S-Video connection. A pity I couldn't try a DVD player's component video outputs. The Toshiba player will arrive on our shores in April, with component video outputs (model 3006), and the Panasonic TV is already selling here, but it has no component video inputs.

Tune-up

Tuning is pretty simple or rather it can be, but be sure to read the appropriate section at least two or three times over so you know exactly what's happening. Basically, there's a manual method for which I won't go into here, and there's automatic. There are two ways the Panasonic will assign stations it finds: Position Select and Channel Select. In the former, the set will assign channels in the order they are found in a frequency search, and in the latter, the channels will be assigned according to a chart (by country/geographic region).

Nothing much to it but again, once you get it right and have done this, you can begin to concentrate on more important things, like . . .

Picture Adjustments

I went throug these in a cyclic manner, meaning I did one, then went to the other and then back again and so on.

Though I find the myriad of adjustments for front projector TVs mandatory and intimidating, I find the limited ones available for the Panasonic insufficient.

First, the aspect ratio is selected (4:3, ZOOM1, ZOOM2 etc), and then further selections are made for each. A small crosshair appears in the middle of the screen for each colour and you just use the cursor keys on the remote to make sure the lines are clean (no blurring). Easy enough, but this convergence is only valid for centrally located pictures. I found after doing this that lines (there are many of them on Joe Kane's A Video Standard - AVS) which stretch all the way either vertically or horizontally across the screen experience blotching at the edges or are even just off-centre.

Of course this meant that I adjusted colour, hue, brightness and contrast using AVS. I avoided adjustments a normal home user might not be able to do him/her-self (not that I found many!). After everything was calibrated, and with the temperature set to standard (the others were cool and warm), I checked out the girl on Chapter One of AVS. Very nice. Flesh tones were very natural, and colours had just right amount of saturation and depth. A very, very life-like presentation.

Ready to Rock

How about with regular movie LDs? First up was a recent acquisition, "The Rock", which isn't the easiest LD in the word to reproduce correctly, especially the first 10 - 15 minutes (the nerve gas break-in scene). Here, I found the blues were a little noisy, and the overall image wasn't as clean as I have seen (very rarely, I must add). A quick check with a reference blue frame from AVS indicated that blues are noisy in general on this TV. Reds, however, were mostly noise-free and very good.

Scenes at Alcatraz were breathtaking! Though I made minimum viewing distance (about 96" away) with only a couple if inches to spare, the picture was fine with just a hint of grain.

I next used the comedy, "Striptease", which I have found to be very entertaining, despite Mrs. Willis. Again, the Panasonic revealed the not-quite reference quality of the picture. With "Aliens" (CAV SE), the picture was grainy, but the LD is that way to begin with. Although with the standard temperature setting, you know you are getting the image as the picture was intended, it was still nice to be able to adjust this from movie to movie.

Conclusion

I will never go back to a 4:3 screen again. Being able to watch standard 4:3 images in the center of the set, and then expand the image for 16:9 movies to fill the screen, gives a much nicer sensation with widescreen presentations than having a progressively smaller image size with increasing aspect ratios on a regular TV. Since the Panasonic review unit was already at home for the review, and even if it didn't have the very best image quality, I decided to cough up the money and keep it.

Daniel Long


Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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