Pros: Great Picture
Cons: No Built-in HDTV Tuner.
I have had a 40-inch Toshiba wide screen television for some time now and decided it was time to move up into a larger screen size. I needed some work on my house and my son always liked my TV and offered to trade the work for the TV. What a deal! He gets a TV that he would not otherwise go out and purchase, and I could upgrade. A deal was struck.
What You Get
I decided on a Zenith R49W36 HDTV ready projection television. Out of the box this baby is 47 ? wide by 54 high by 23 ? deep. It has an attractive silver colored cabinet and weighs in at 146 pounds according to the manufacturer. There are a couple of neat handles built in to assist in the movement of the unit. Also the unit has casters and they supply some stoppers to keep the casters fixed and prevent the TV from being moved.
Buttons and Display
Like most televisions these days this unit is best operated via the remote control. There is a minimum of buttons on the front panel of the unit, however. In addition to the power button, there are volume up/down buttons, channel up/down buttons, TV/video button, menu button and an enter button. Display elements include source LEDs and a standby indicator that is bright when the TV is in the standby mode and dims when the TV is turned on.
Most of the connections are on the rear of the unit. There are three RF connectors, two for inputs from a cable source and/or an antenna and one loop output for the connection of a cable box or VCR without the need of a splitter. Pretty handy.
Also on the rear panel are two sets of component video input connections with audio input connections for connecting a HDTV set top box, HDTV satellite receiver like the Zenith HD-SAT520 and /or a DVD player with component video outputs. These connections are designated as component 1 and component 2 and may also be used to connect a home theater receiver that allows for component video connections.
For the standard video devices, such as a VCR, there are two sets of input connections, a set consisting of a video input, left and right audio input designated as Video 1 and Video 2. Video 1 also has an S-Video input should you have such a need.
There is also a set of outputs on the rear panel that consists of a video output for connecting to another TV, left/right audio outputs for connecting to another TV or your audio sound system. Since the video output will not work with the component video inputs, the only reason I can think of that you would use the video output would be to daisy chain several monitors together, like in a sports bar perhaps.
There are four connections on the right side of the unit for connecting video games or a camcorder. The connections include an S-video, a composite video and left/right audio. These connections are designated as video 3.
The Installation and Operating Manual
The Installation and Operating Manual furnished with the unit is very easy to read and understand. They give you ample drawings and illustrations to help you get the unit connected. They illustrate a wide variation of hook up of other components and you should have no trouble getting the television hooked up and going. Once connected, the manual provides great step-by-step instructions in the operation of the remote control and all of the TV menus. Going through the various operations on a page-by-page basis will train you on the operation of the TV very quickly.
The unit comes with a clock built in that will be set automatically via the PBS signal. There is also a sleep timer as well as the ability to set a turn on time and turn off time. This will allow the TV to be used as an alarm clock, I suppose. How about that? A Big screen alarm clock!
There are several modes of multiple picture formats. There is a picture in picture mode where a small window is displayed with the secondary picture. There is a mode that will display three separate pictures on the right hand side of the screen that will scan through the channels available to the tuner leaving thumbnail shots and then there is the side-by-side mode they call picture on picture where there are two 4:3 pictures presented in the center of the screen.
Another great feature of the set is the HD Digital Auto Convergence, where the set will automatically set the convergence for you. It is quite an operation to watch, as there are squares of colors, red, blue and green flashed at various locations on the screen and in a matter of seconds the set has performed the convergence. For those of you that do not know what convergence is, simply stated it is the adjusting of the red, green and blue guns to precisely hit the exact same spot on the screen as the three colors are scanned. When the convergence is not correct, there will be an outline of a color to one side of an object in the color of the gun that is out of adjustment. For example, if the red gun were hitting the screen to the left, you would see a red outline (or shadow) to the left of an object. This will be particularly noticeable where the object is white on a black background. When all three guns are way out of convergence there will actually be three pictures on the screen!
The HDTV picture on this unit is very good to excellent. Just like they say, it is like looking through a window. The formats the stations here in my location vary between 1080i, 720p and even 480p wide screen. The TV just automatically switches from mode to mode seamlessly.
The set has a unique 540p mode that you can force the TV into. In this mode the TV will take a 1080i signal and convert it into a 540p signal for display. The i indicates the TV will display the picture using an interlaced scan where the picture will be painted on the screen in two passes. The odd numbered lines will be displayed on the screen on the first pass and the even numbered lines will be displayed on the second pass. Each pass will take 1/60th of a second, so with the two passes, a complete screen will be formed in 1/30th of a second, or 30 frames per second. One of the problems with the interlaced scanning method is when there is a great deal of motion happening in the picture, like when a football player is running down the field and the camera is following the player, there will be a slight difference in the picture from the first pass to the second pass. The result can be some jagged edges in some of the objects. This is particularly noticeable in the football field yard lines.
The p indicates the TV will display the picture using a single pass one scan line after another thus elimination the slight differences from the odd lines to the even lines when the picture is displayed in the interlaced mode. When the TV is forced into the 540p mode both 1080i scans are combined into a single 540p scan thus eliminating the jagged edges. Now when watching Monday Night Football or other sports on ABC this is not necessary because ABC (and FOX, I think) are broadcasting their HDTV signals in the 720p format, but when watching sports where there is an 1080i signal, the 540p mode can help eliminate the jagged edges.
One last thing about picture quality. I did notice that the picture quality when using the tuner or composite video inputs from my satellite receiver or VCR is somewhat disappointing. It is very good and acceptable for viewing, but the signal processor built into the TV is not as good as the one in the Zenith HDTV receiver. I connected a Zenith HD-SAT-520 combination satellite and over the air receiver to the TV and I must say the picture quality is much improved using the same source. Also the picture quality of the local TV stations are much superior using the HDTV receiver vs. the satellite receiver. Due to the station using their equipment to up-convert the 480-line picture to the 1080-line picture being of a greater quality than what most people would have for up-converting would explain this. Overall, even standard TV programming looks better viewed with the HDTV format.
If you are in the market for a big screen HDTV ready set, the Zenith R49W36 could be just what the doctor ordered. I have viewed HDTV programming on the Zenith 50 inch and 60 inch plasmas and I consider the rear projection TVs to have a much better picture. If you have limited viewing distance, the plasma display having the individual pixel cells remind me of looking closely at a newspaper as they are grainy compared to the rear projection TVs.