You all remember the first DVD players, right? There were only a handful of them, with Toshiba and Sony being the most prevalent, and as groundbreaking as they were at the time, most of us would wince at the thought of using them today. Just as yesterday’s DVD players are not comparable to today’s, yesterday’s plasma panels are vastly inferior to the current crop.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen the steady improvements made in Fujitsu’s line of plasma displays at CEDIA and CES shows. But until I received the P50XHA30WS ($8999) for review and spent some quality time with it, all I could say was: “Fujitsu is getting it.” Now I can say: “By George, it’s got it.”
The Fujitsu P50XHA30WS is a 50" (16:9) plasma display with a native resolution of 1366x768. Its cabinet is a fairly neutral gray that, with its matching tablemount, blended in well with my light-colored room. The lower front right side of the display has several silver buttons that control menu, volume, aspect ratio, and power, and blend in very well with the cabinet. As with most plasma displays, all inputs are located at the rear of the unit.
The P50XHA30WS has two component inputs and a DVI-D input with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). The latter input assures the panel’s compatibility with tomorrow’s HD source components. It also has a 15-pin D-sub input for computer signals (or other RGB sources), but I highly recommend that you do not use this plasma for a computer monitor unless you want to permanently burn the word “Start” into the bottom left corner of the display, and a variety of your favorite icons everywhere else.
In addition to the video inputs, there are three stereo audio inputs that could be used with Fujitsu’s optional speakers (which weren’t provided for this review).
I’ve reviewed products that almost require a separate review just for the remote control, but the remote for the P50XHA30WS is so simple I could almost forget to mention it. The few buttons this smallish remote does have generally provide enough functionality, including discrete source selection. I’m all for uncomplicated remotes, but with all the available room on this one, discrete aspect-ratio selection would have been welcome.
The menu system is easy to navigate with five submenus— PICTURE, POSITION/SIZE, AUDIO, FEATURES, and FACTORY DEFAULT. The PICTURE menu consists of all the usual suspects (CONTRAST, BRIGHTNESS, etc), and also overall picture mode and memory settings. The POSITION/SIZE menu allows you to center the image and change its size (though I didn’t find this necessary). With DVI input however, the size/position selections will not be available. FACTORY DEFAULT simply puts all settings back to factorypreset levels.
The juiciest menu is FEATURES, which contains all the other functional adjustments. These include phase and clock corrections for the RGB input (for computer signals), the ability to force 3-2 pulldown on or off (called “24-frame” mode), configuration of the inputs for automatic detection of signals (e.g. PAL, NTSC, etc.) or for assigning the three audio inputs for a desired source. For those of you who insist on using the P50XHA30WS with a computer there is a function called “Screen orbiter” that moves the image up, down, left, and right a few pixels at a time. While this will help burn-in from happening too quickly, it cannot completely prevent it. I’d still recommend keeping computer use to a minimum.
In a semi-bold move, Fujitsu elected to omit the use of gray sidebars with 4:3 images. Fujitsu training director David Fink commented that the panel’s designers opted not to use them as the gray sidebars might actually encourage people to watch more 4:3 video by providing them with a false sense of security against burn-in. (While the gray sidebars may be a reasonable compromise, they can’t totally prevent burn from occurring.) Still, I think having the gray bar option is better than not having any safeguard at all, since it’s likely that people will watch 4:3 video, anyway. I have an idea: How about eliminating the 4:3 aspect ratio altogether? [Before we went to press, the films Citizen Kane and Casablanca e-mailed in to respectfully disagree. —Ed.]
My normal M.O. when starting a review is not to hit the unit with countless test patterns or to connect so much test equipment to it that it looks like an ICU patient. I simply connect my normal sources, perform a simple front-panel calibration, and see what the set looks like right out of the box. I’ve never seen a display that’s properly calibrated outof- the-box, but my initial impression was that the Fujitsu wasn’t far off, which the pre-calibration measurements verified (see technical sidebar).