When plasma first arrived on the scene 15 years ago, Fujitsu was a pioneer in the technology -- announcing the world's first 21-inch, full colour plasma display. Other companies were soon to follow, but Fujitsu has retained its name as a premium plasma brand. But has the company rested on its laurels? With Pioneer and Panasonic both announcing benchmark products, landing here shortly, is there room for Fujitsu's 50-inch P50XHA58EB?
The Fujitsu is quite an attractive looking beast with its (compulsory) piano-black finish and unusual glass stand. It's a heavy unit though, that glass stand adds considerably to the already hefty 43kg. And while we're on the topic, it's an absolute bugger to attach as none of the screws seem to line up properly. But once set up, this plasma looks the business -- even if the speakers do hang off the sides like the wingnuts on an eight year old.
Unlike some competitors, there's no provision for side-mounted AV inputs -- the speakers put paid to that -- but TV controls are located on the front for convenience. Unfortunately, they look a little cheap and mobile phone-like with their silver plastic coating. And speaking of tacky-looking, the remote may be quite functional -- if a little simplistic -- but it looks like it belongs with a AU$40 DVD player and not a AU$9,000 plasma.
Two separate wall-mounts are also available for this TV, a swivelling mount for AU$599 and a fixed version for AU$499.
The P50XHA58EB is getting long in the tooth now -- it's been available since November last year -- and the latest crop of plasmas have far outstripped it in feature count. But for the record, the Fujitsu boasts 1366 x 768 resolution -- which will see it perform in HD, if not 1080p -- and comes with two HDMI ports.
Given the price, we were a little disappointed to see that the panel lacks a tuner -- for example, the full HDat AU$5499 features one. As an added disincentive, the "optional" stand and speakers add an extra grand to the Fujitsu's bill. That puts it in the league of the , but at least that screen has full 1080p resolution while performing in a superior manner as well.
Being an older screen, you won't find any of the newer modes offered on 2007 TVs, such as 100Hz or 24p. These processing capabilities enable fast motion and camera pans to be more fluid and life-like, with 100Hz in particular working exceptionally well. Interesting that the Fujitsu's nemesis -- the Pioneer -- featured native 24p support before anyone really knew what it was. Strike two to Fujitsu.
One thing we've noticed with HD plasmas is the tendency for rainbowing -- in a manner similar to DLP projectors. This effect shows as a faint rainbow on leading edges or as white on black screens. And we're happy to say that of all the recent plasmas we've seen, the Fujitsu shows little to none of this effect.
Image quality in general is actually quite good, and using an external tuner to stream SD and HD content shows little blurring or artefacting. Colours and black levels are suitably rich and deep respectively.
Funnily enough, one of the screen's only weak points is its ability to replay HD discs -- but this is something that its newer plasma competitors also falter at. Fine detail and moving images in the Troy HD-DVD tended to get lost in fizzing artefacts when replayed on the Fujitsu. The aforementioned Pioneer has no such issues, however.
When we used the sameHD-DVD player to replay SD, though, the Fujitsu handled itself flawlessly. The climactic scene in King Kong atop the Empire State Building showed some of the cleanest images we've seen in a long time. This plasma is able to replay DVDs in a way you've never seen before -- its image processing capabilities are excellent.
Sound was a little underwhelming, though -- especially when you have to fork out an extra AU$500 for poorly matched speakers. We've seen some great external speakers in the past -- with thein particular sticking out for its excellent bass performance. Bass from the Fujitsu was a little dreary, but at least dialogue was intelligible. If you're buying a screen worth almost ten grand you deserve a decent surround system to go with it, or possibly already have one, and can probably save the extra expense of these speakers.
As with most consumer electronics 12 months can mean a lot, and plasmas are no exception. After a period of stagnation, plasma has experienced a healthy resurgence and the technology now represents quite good value for money. Unfortunately for Fujitsu, its rivals are now able to replicate the performance of this TV for half the price -- and they also throw in an HD tuner.
We look forward to see what Fujitsu can do next -- new models are expected in the next six months or so -- but unfortunately, the P50XHA58EB no longer represents much of a return on your investment.