42" Plasma Display
Optima are an Australian company who has been known to produce some very respectable products in both the projector and desktop PC markets. Earlier this year, the local manufacturer ventured into the plasma market, and we have reviewed their latest 42-inch display panel - a cleanly designed unit that looks to have some stand out specifications.
- Large variety of inputs, Clean design, exceptional computer support, clear text rendering
- Residual image issues, large presence of noise, large dot pitch, colour gradients not rendered accurately, inferior internal sound support
If you have the will power to overlook quite a few visual aberrations, then this display might do the job.
Price$ 3,999.00 (AUD)
On first look, the panel has a very minimal design, with a thin black bezel that draws focus to the screen. This simple and elegant styling is something we appreciate as it is becoming rare to see displays which avoid the tacky and often gimmick designs seen in so many other consumer electronic devices. At the back of the display, we found a plethora of video inputs, including D-Sub, DVI, two composite, two component inputs, two S-Video, a variety of audio inputs and one composite video/audio output. This is quite an impressive array of video inputs, which we have only seen in high quality displays such as the Samsung PS42S5H.
To set up the TV, we simply plugged in a source, and hit the auto-adjust button on the remote. The image was automatically adjusted to fill the screen and we were ready to test. At this point, we began to recognize quite a few problems with the rendered image. The first apparent distraction was due to the glass covering on top of the display panel. The glass cover creates a slight internal reflection, causing small bright lit elements (such as a mouse pointer) appearing as if they glow. We have seen this before with Avatec's 37-inch which also has a similar glass protective cover.
After leaving the same image displayed on the TV for more than a minute, the display revealed what looked like the notorious and well known plasma burn in. After closer inspection, we noticed that this was not burn in, but has to do with the phosphor layer causing a persistent residual image. Sensitive viewers will find this distracting, as it often can leave a faint mark of previously displayed images for up to 10 minutes. Luckily, when playing movies back, we could not notice the burn in due to the rapid change of scenes.
We also found evidence of the fly screen effect due to the large dot pitch of the display. For users unfamiliar with the term, the fly screen effect appears as if there is a fine mesh covering the screen. This is due to the minute sub pixels being too large or spaced too far apart. In the case of the Optima display, we could clearly see the individual RGB colour sub-pixels at up to a metre away. Even though it is quite fascinating to watch each of the pixels flicker on and off, it is not ideal for a good picture. For distances greater than two metres, we could still notice groups of the sub-pixels, but it was not as apparent, allowing us to comfortably watch video.
One situation for which the dot pitch would be a distraction would be for computer use. We plugged in a computer source through the DVI and D-Sub connection, and we were impressed with the screens ability to render a clear computer signal. The screen was filled entirely without any aliasing or scaling present. But as mentioned above, the large dot pitch would make it uncomfortable for closer proximity desktop users. When attaching higher bandwidth Hi-Def components, there appeared to be a lot of noise present in the image. We especially noticed this when running a DVD through component as well as with a computer source. This noise level was comparable to that of a very low quality LCD panel, and it varied in its representation. The most notable noise was in the form of slight speckles across the screen, and another noise artifact manifested itself as what looked like a slowly moving mist across the display.
Plasma displays often have contrast ratios and colour ranges far greater than LCD panels. The Optima specifies a 3000:1 contrast ratio and in this case, an average 16.7 million colours. We were able to confirm that the contrast ratio was this high, as the darkest of scenes were easily resolved, especially when compared to LCD displays which often are rated with a contrast ratio less than 1000:1. The colour levels produced by the display were slightly disappointing; with skin tones and similar colour gradients suffering what looked like a topographical map of distinct shades.
The onboard sound provides only basic mono sound support, and we anticipate most users would use an external set of home theatre or PC speakers. In all, we found this display to be below average, displaying many visual aberrations and for the price, the Optima 42-inch Plasma Display is not a bargain either.
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