The Good Relatively inexpensive; solid connectivity with two HDMI and one PC input; video processing includes 2:3 pull-down.
The Bad Lack of detail in shadows; inaccurate color temperature, especially via HDMI inputs; color decoder pushes red; no tuner included; soft picture via component video and 1080i HDMI.
The Bottom Line Although it has enough features for most folks, the less-expensive Maxent MX-5020HPM can't keep up with the picture quality of the competition.
Flat-panel HDTVs grow less expensive all the time, and Maxent is one of the big names in no-name panels. One of the company's 2005 50-inch plasmas, the MX-50X3, performed relatively well in our tests, and we expected similar results from the 2006 50-inch plasma monitor reviewed here, model MX-5020HPM. Unfortunately, the new model had more than its share of picture-quality issues, making it a less attractive budget plasma than the stiff competition posed by models such as the Vizio P50HDTV, which sells for around the same price. Like many budget flat-panel makers this year, Maxent went with two-tone black-and-silver for the MX-5020HPM. The 50-inch screen is bordered by a medium-width matte-black frame on all sides, perched atop a silver swath of speakers at the bottom and supported by a wide, silver stand. Not much adorns the simple-looking plasma aside from the smallish Maxent logo and a discreet row of basic function controls on the lower right. The MX-5020HPM measures 49.5 by 35 by 10.3 inches and weighs 110 pounds including the stand. Divested of its 5-pound stand, the panel measures 49.5 by 33.6 by 4.4 inches and will require a wall-mount bracket (sold separately).
Maxent employs the same remote design found on Vizio HDTVs, although the version included with the MX-5020HPM is black instead of silver and lacks the illuminated keys found on some Vizio clickers. The remote is cursed by too many similarly sized buttons and blessed by the ability to directly access numerous functions; we really appreciated the dedicated keys for each input. In addition to the inactive Guide and Swap keys, a few unusual keys are present: 3D comb engages the comb filter to clean up artifacts in composite video sources, while the Q.Acc. calls up just the brightness and contrast controls. The remote can operate up to three other devices.
The full menu system is very basic looking and straightforward, more like a computer monitor's menu than a television's. That said it was still a pain to navigate because, as we've seen on some TV menus such as Philips's, the central OK button annoyingly takes you back a menu level as opposed to confirming a selection. Slightly less annoyingly, you have to wait a second or two for the menu to draw each time before you can make any selections. There isn't much to the Maxent MX-5020HD besides its picture. The panel sports the standard 50-inch plasma native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, swhich hould allow it to resolve every detail of 720p sources. All sources, whether HDTV, DVD, computer, or standard TV, are scaled to fit the pixels.