Build Quality and Configuration
Wait a second, didn't I just review this panel? Well, yes and no. This is the new version (notice the "9" in the model number) of the TH-50PHD8UK I recently reviewed. My first question was, "So, what's different?" Well, the first thing I noticed from the specs was that the newer display has a stated 10000:1 contrast ratio rather than a 3000:1. The newer model is also missing the REAL Mach system. This new unit uses much thinner glass (from 2.8mm to 1.8mm) which reduces the weight from 94.8 lbs to 81.6 lbs (a 15% reduction). The unit uses 16-bit digital signal processing and improved "sub-field driving technology" to reproduce 3,072 steps of gradation. Other than that, the units aren't really all that different. The remote is the same, the menus are the same, the inputs are the same... if you have a question about this unit that doesn't seem covered by this review, check out the review of the TH-50PHD8UK . Unless it is contradicted here, it still applies.
The TH-50PH9UK is physically identical to the TH-50PHD8UK I recently reviewed. It is about 13 pounds lighter so it is a bit easier to move around. I even used the same stand I used for the first review. The TH-50PH9UK and its older brother has a presence that has to be seen to be appreciated. People walk through my home theater all the time with nary a comment except about the theater seating. Now, the first words out of their mouths are, "Wow." Yes, wow, that it a big freaking display. Even I stand in awe from time to time. Knowing that it is only on loan for the duration of the review hasn't really helped either. My wife is getting a little tired of hearing, "The movie is almost over" every time she asks me if I'm coming to bed. Honey, it's a 50 inch plasma . I'll come to bed later.
Input Configuration and Using the Television
The input and connections are exactly the same as the TH-50PHD8UK. This time I asked for an HDMI blade so that I could a) report to you about how hard or easy it is to install and b) use it to test out another piece of equipment that I had under review. Unfortunately, the other equipment wasn't performing video conversion very well so I can't tell you definitively how the HDMI blade performs. I will say that you should seriously consider installing this (or any) blade while the unit is on the ground. Preferably face down. I already had the unit on the stand and while it is possible to install it that way, it is not easy. Well, it is easy, it is just not very convenient. You'll need a very small screwdriver and a lot of patience.
The best way to install a blade is to lie it face down (on something clean and soft). You'll need a fairly long, thin Phillip's head screwdriver to remove the plate. I chose input one as it was the same size as the blade and it wasn't currently in use. You'll need to remove the cover (four screws) and set them aside. The blade will slide in easily. There is a grove on the metal plate that will let you know you are inserting it the right direction. After you feel it click into place, you can lock it down using the same screws that held on the faceplate. If you are inserting this blade into a double blade slot, there is a blank faceplate and screws to cover the unused side. You are also provided with a label to use that matches the rest of the labeling on the back of the unit. Overall, the process was quick and easy.
I took a lot of flack for listing the blades as part of the cons of the TH-50PHD8UK. The blades do give the user an unparalleled ability to configure their unit exactly how they want (and perhaps save some money by not paying for unused inputs). But no matter how you slice it, it still has two things going against it - 1) you need to pay for each additional blade which I feel people are generally opposed to, and 2) most displays have far more inputs available than you're ever likely to have no matter what blade configuration you choose. If you have significant differences in calibrations between sources, you'll need all the inputs you can get. So, it is still a con in my book. Maybe not a huge con - more like a baby con.
One change in the TH-50PH9UK over the TH-50PHD8UK is that the second input is divided in half. The second input is a double blade that has the composite and s-video together. With the TH-50PHD8UK, the second input combined the composite and s-video while on the current model you can cycle between the two (one labeled 2a, the other labeled 2b). This is nice because now you can use them both for different sources. The downside is that this new spit second input doesn't have discrete input codes. This may create headaches when you are programming your universal remote.
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