Samsung 3D-Ready Plasma

When Samsung announced a series of 3D-Ready plasma TVs at last year’s CES, our expectations were high, but tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, it is commonly understood that plasma display technology suffers from less-than-excellent refresh. When the first sketchy reviews emerged for 3D plasmas, we were disappointed, but not surprised, to hear that ghosting was an issue.

Samsung 42A450 Plasma 720P HDTV

When the Samsung plasmas started streeting at incredibly attractive prices, 3DRoundup decided to put one through its paces. Our test setup was a 42” Samsung 42A450 Plasma 720P HDTV ($689 delivered), a big honking PC with a recent nVidia card running Peter Wimmer’s excellent Stereoscopic Player (if you don’t have it, you don’t get it) and Samsung’s own SSG 1000 shutterglasses. The test images were shot through the lenses of the Samsung shutterglasses with a fixed exposure point-and-shoot digital camera.

Our first test compares the ghosting (stereo extinction) between plasma and our reference standard Samsung 3D-Ready DLP:

Note the heavy ghosting areas to the left and right of the black and white squares in the plasma image. These are completely absent in the DLP image.

Our second test uses the extinction test pattern supplied with the TriDef DDD software:

Note the ghost of the “R” in the center of the plasma image and the smaller circled R’s on the right of the image. This is bleeding through from the right-eye image and should not be visible. The DLP image exhibits a very small amount of this as well.

The test images above, by design, are worst-case scenarios for ghosting. They have the maximum possible contrast variation between the left and right eye views. Real-world results are less clear-cut. While the trailer for the 3D animated movie Fly Me to the Moon had considerable ghosting in one scene, the overall impact of the ghosting was very slight. In fact, a stereo novice would likely not notice at all. In the following real-world stereo pairs, the high contrast of the dolphin’s snout has a high potential to ghost:

There are, however, no ghost snouts here.

Ghosting aside, the plasma display delivers very solid picture quality. Brightness, color balance, and color saturation (qualities often diminished the by fast switching and shutterglasses required for 3D) are every bit as good, if not better, than DLP displays. Additionally, the viewing angle of the plasma is wider than that of a rear-projected DLP display. There is, however, a small amount of video noise introduced by the required checkerboarded 3D input signal. The checkerboard interlace format was originally intended for wobulating DLP-based displays and is not native to plasma technology.

Plasma is not DLP. If you have seen a Samsung or Mitsubishi DLP 3D TV, you have seen the current penultimate in home 3D viewing. It’s hard for the pickiest 3Dstereofile to find fault with a 3D-Ready DLP. Plasma, like almost all other 3D display technologies, is a second-class citizen to DLP. The ghosting is noticeable, but, if you’ve lived with green-lagging-phosphor CRT/shutterglasses combos or with an iZ3D display, you can certainly live with plasma ghosting.

On the whole, Samsung has done a great job making plasma work with stereo 3D. They obviously have an engineering group that understands stereo. The quality is darn good and the price is fantastic. For 3D movie viewing or gaming, dollar-for-dollar, plasma is hard to beat. And, it’s wall mountable (unlike DLP), if you care about such things. Let’s hope Samsung preserves 3D compatibility as they evolve the plasma product line.

Score Card
- Ghosting (lack of): 5
- Brightness: 9
- Color: 10
- Viewing Sweet Spot: 10
- Platform Support: 5 (will be 9 when XBOX 360 solution is available)
- Gaming Support: 5
- Value: 8

Editor’s Note: A very interesting bundle combining the 42” Samsung 42A450 Plasma and an XBOX 360 was recently available at Circuit City for $799. It’s not just the price that is interesting, if the persistent rumors of an XBOX 360 3D movie player and download service are true.

By Raymond Gunn, 3D Roundup