Cheap Dave's Home Theater


To Plasma or not to Plasma

Ok I am a self proclaimed projector bigot. I am unabashedly biased toward projectors for HT. So I built a dedicated HT room and I have the full HT experience in there. But with a little bonus coming, prices dropping and a big room that needs a big TV, maybe it is time for me to look at plasma TVs. I have always been amazed how excited people were about plasma TVs and they have been waiting 15 or 20 years for them to become affordable. Well it looks like that time has come.

Ok I am a self proclaimed projector bigot. I am unabashedly biased toward projectors for HT. So I built a dedicated HT room and I have the full HT experience in there. But with a little bonus coming, prices dropping and a big room that needs a big TV, maybe it is time for me to look at plasma TVs. I have always been amazed how excited people were about plasma TVs and they have been waiting 15 or 20 years for them to become affordable. Well it looks like that time has come.

I have a little extra money coming and now seems like a good time to think about putting a plasma TV into my living room. I pre-wired the room for a 5.1 system. Even though this isn't my main theater I figure that eventually everything will be in surround sound and HD so I might as well plan for it.

Let me set the scene for you a little bit. This room is really large. It is 42' long and 22' wide with 20 foot ceilings at the peak. It is really a "greatroom" with the living room, kitchen and dining room combined. So a relatively small TV like the 27" TV I have in here now is really too small.

So I am just not starting to shop for Plasmas. I am concentrating on the $2,000 price point. There are 42" EDTVs starting at about $1500. At $2,000 there are a lot of 42" HDTVs and precisely one 50" HDTV. That is the VIZIO P50HDM 50" that is sold at Costco and Sam's club, and Amazon (see below). I went and looked at these today. I have to say I have been casually looking at plasmas for a long time. I am often disappointed in the picture quality I see in stores. Sometimes I blame this on the source material.

I have never understood why people selling HDTVs don't display them with a HDTV signal. I saw the Vizio at Sam's club and I was impressed with their set up. They had 10-15 HDTVs set up and were feeding them all with an HD signal. You could easily compare them side by side.

The Vizio compared well to more expensive 42" HDTV monitors from Philips the extra size of the 50" really helps it to stand out. I have a space that is just about perfect for this size. It will seem like a little bit of an odd placement but we are planning on setting the TV on the hearthnext to our fireplace. This will be a relatively low position but it will be visible from just about everywhere in the room.

A quick word about 16:9 TVs. It is a little hard to get used to the 16:9 TVs when you grew up in a 4:3 world. So when you are talking about a 42 inch 16:9 TV that sounds like a big screen. But the vertical height is close to a 34" 4:3 TV. (just a little stretched on the width). So I don't really know if I would consider that a "Big Screen". The 50" will be closer to the size vertical height of a 40" 4:3. Or roughly 40% larger picture by area.

When my wife first went shopping with me for plasmas at a high end local store, she said "I don't know what it is but I like these over here better". I said "congratulations dear you have found the larger 50" TVs". So apparently size does matter.

In the end I plan to basically have the living room system set up like a separate HT. It will closely resemble the types of HT many of my readers will use. So I will try to treat it like a full HT and see if I can apply the Cheap Dave philosophy to it. (Heck today the Incredibles was on free cable and we watched just about the whole thing. It seemed like we should just move into the HT put on the DVD and watch it in the real deal, but sometimes when the sun is out you don't want to go into the dark HT). SO we curled up on the couch and enjoyed it for about the 12th time. (Man that is a great movie. Can anybody name a better movie character than Edna?) So when it is all done I will be able to turn on the surround and enjoy that kind of afternoon movie and get 80% of the HT experience in my living room.

My budget for the whole system will be about $3,000. Not bad and I hope it will qualify as a good Cheap Dave system. Keep in mind after staking claim to my HT room and establishing full control of that space, I will be moving into my wife's dominion. So my choices will be scrutinized. Speakers will have to match the paint (!?!). And things like speaker size will matter. Wish me luck, I'll keep you posted.