A client just asked us about the Pioneer PDP4280 Plasma TV – 42″. We recently installed a Pioneer PDP5010FD – 50″, the quality of which was absolutely phenomenal, so we weren’t reluctant to encourage them to go for it. But then we looked at the specs for the PDP4280 & were a bit surprised. This was our response:
You’ll also notice that the Spec Sheet indicates that the Plasma “Can Accept A 1080p” signal. That’s totally different than actually being 1080p.
480, 720 and 1080 all refer to the output vertical line resolution of the display (number of lines – or pixels – vertically). The horizontal pixel resolution is implied (based on a 16:9 aspect ratio) & rarely ever mentioned.
480 is actually 852 x 480 = 408,960 pixels
720 is actually 1280 x 720 = 921,600 pixels
1080 is actually 1920 x 1080 = 2,073,600 pixels
A display capable of rendering 1080 resolution produces over 2 million pixels. Wow.
The Pioneer PDP4280 is actually 1024 x 768 (not true 16:9 aspect ratio) = 786,432 pixels.
The ‘i’ and ‘p’ refer to the scan mode – interlaced and progressive. The different between the two is that progressive scan mode displays all pixels every 1/60th second. Interlace displays all pixels only once every 1/30th second. You can’t really say that ‘p’ capable displays have a better resolution than ‘i’ capable displays, but you can say that ‘p’ capable displays show more frames than ‘i’ displays, which makes for a truer picture, since video is simply individual frames strung together sequentially & viewed very rapidly. The more rapidly they’re displayed, the better the quality of the video.
Now to complicate things, many sources aren’t capable of resolutions as high as the display. DVDs are only 480p. HD TV (real HD TV) is only 1080i. Only Blu-Ray and HD DVD are actually 1080p.
What the Pioneer does is take a 1080p signal and ‘downsample’ it – strip out pixels it can’t possibly display & only render what it can. It’s like cheating. We think Pioneer thew in the an unusual pixel dimension (1024 x 768) and referenced 1080p on their spec sheet to trick people into thinking it was capable of the highest possible output resolution. They didn’t fool us.
Pioneer isn’t all bad though, because most of the time it doesn’t make any difference. Can you see a difference most of the time: No. Can you see a difference between HD TV and a DVD: Sometimes. Can you see a difference between SD TV and HD TV: Absolutely. Can you see the difference between DVD and HD DVD: Yes. To achieve true HD – 1080p resolution, you need to have 100% true HD equipment. Your TV needs to be 1080p. Your receiver needs to be 1080p (if you have one). Your source – like Blu-Ray – needs to be 1080p. Many people think that if they order “HD” service from Time Warner and tune in to an HD channel, they’re seeing HD. Usually not the case. Your TV needs to be 1080i. Your receiver needs to be 1080i (if you have one). Your set-top box needs to be 1080i (or you need to be using a TV with 1080i and a CableCard), And you need to be watching an HD channel. Tuning in ESPN still won’t be HD. It has to be ESPN-HD.
Now that doesn’t mean that the Pioneer – or any good quality display – won’t generate an amazing picture. It will for sure. It simply means that it’s not capable of displaying certain sources the way they were meant to be displayed. 2 million pixels is a lot – way more than the human eye can process every 1/60th second. But as far as quality and resolution is concerned, there are better options.
The Syntax 7-Series are excellent, as are the Sony Bravias.