36 inch "Home Theatre" Big Screen TV
and easy to use!
Once upon a
time, the best TV size, as far as picture quality was concerned, was a
20 inch set (measured, of course, diagonally). That's history now, and
thank goodness for that!
With the rise
of the Home Theatre, TV screens started getting bigger and better, and
the projection TV (once the only choice for home theatre) began to be
challenged by new generations of "direct view" (TV's with "conventional"
picture tubes) sets.
This is good.
While projection TV's are wonderful - and are getting better all the time
- the best pictures are still made on direct view sets. The only drawback
is size: you can get truly gigantic projection screens, but direct view
sets stall at 40 inches.
necessarily a bad thing. Depending on your room size, your wallet, and
your taste, a smaller but better TV screen can do the job most admirably.
Take this ProScan, for instance. ProScan, the
high end line of Thomson Consumer Electronics (which also markets RCA
and GE electronics), has a real winner with its PS36125. It's not only
a fine performer with a wealth of neat features, it's affordable (okay,
that's a relative term, but it's very competitively priced), easy to use,
and includes value-added features to sweeten the deal even more.
We found the
36 inch screen size very involving, despite our ever-ongoing and totally
impractical wish for "More Screen Area!" In fact, in our home
theatre setup it fit in beautifully - and quite imposingly. Even with
the factory settings it put out a most credible picture, and after we'd
used the "Video Essentials"
disc on it to tweak it even more it looked positively beautiful. In fact
our only complaint, and this is relatively minor, is that the screen is
so big that its curved surface shows a bit of distortion at times, especially
with straight horizontal or vertical lines - which you won't notice much
in movies or TV shows, but will see when the weather or news headlines
scroll across the screen. The curve also made the set a bit more prone
to reflecting room light, but not to the point that it became annoying.
Even back when
it was "just" RCA, Thomson Consumer Electronics' products were
some of the easiest on the market to use. It's hard to keep that philosophy
in an age in which products are getting extremely sophisticated and complex.
Still, the ProScan does a creditable job here, with easy-to-step-through-and-understand
menus that offer you adjustments for audio and picture quality & preferences
and the bevy of other features from which to choose.
Setting up the
TV is quite straightforward thanks to the menus - and we noticed that
when you search for available channels the set ignores scrambled signals
and only stores the ones you actually get!
feature is "Commercial Skip," which is accessed from the easy
to use and BACKLIT! remote control. Each time you press the Commercial
Skip button adds 30 seconds to a built-in timer, while activating the
Picture in Picture (PIP) feature and putting the program you're watching
into the little secondary screen. Then you can channel surf to your heart's
delight, seeing what else is on TV (a real "guy feature!") and
when the timer winds down it whisks you back to the original program.
We used this a lot and it worked well, though it's impossible to know
in advance how long the commercial break is going to be (it seems, however,
that two to four minutes are the norm).
As if that weren't
enough, ProScan includes a handy little trinket called "TV Guide
Plus+," a FREE service that gives you a listing of the channels you
receive and what's on them. All you have to do to activate this feature
is go through a relatively painless setup routine in which you enter your
postal or zip code, answer a couple of other questions (like whether or
not you want to control a VCR or have a cable box) and then wait for the
next information download.
This is really
slick. We set it up and were told we'd have the info within 24 hours -
and we did. Once the TV Guide Plus+ Fairy magically sends you the data,
you can browse the channel you're watching (to see what's on later) or
take a visual peek at what's on the other channels. Many programs even
come with a little capsule description, and you can even use the system
to get a VCR Plus+ code to make recording a program easier.
One thing we
didn't like, and ProScan isn't the only company to do this, was the VCR
control feature, which consists of a couple of little wires you have to
string from the back of the TV to the front of your VCR. This wire passes
the infrared signals from the TV to your VCR, so the TV can control your
VCR's timeshift recording capabilities. It's a nice idea, but we'd prefer
to see a system by which if you have to string a wire you plug them from
rear panel to rear panel, so you don't have wire creeping around the front
of your home theatre setup.
boasts 770 lines of horizontal resolution (though you'll probably never
use more than about 500 of them, even with DVD),
which is in keeping with its high end competition. It also has features
like "Scan Velocity Modulation" and a digital comb filter, the
gist of which means that this TV is as state-of-the-art as most people
would need. And it shows; we were very pleased with the picture quality,
even when we drove it with DVD. The picture was clean, sharp, and very
satisfying. And the screen size made sports events very compelling, especially
the in-car camera shots in motor racing!
widescreen "letterboxed" movies excel on a screen this size,
because there's still enough viewing area after you add the top-and-bottom
black bars to make for a rewarding movie watching experience.
So whether you're
watching TV sports or pre-recorded movies, there's nothing quite like
the big screen experience you can only get from sets this big or bigger.
It won't do that much for the average sitcom, but so what?
a stereo tuner with dbx noise reduction, a 10 watt stereo audio amplifier,
and SRS ("Sound Retrieval System" - which is supposed to give
you a 3D-like audio experience from 2 channel stereo - and which works
okay) on the audio side and it all works as advertised. Still, if you're
really into Home Theatre, you'll want to patch the TV into your audio/video
receiver and run your main stereo speakers; TV sound has advanced by leaps
and bounds, but there's still no substitute for a nice stereo system.
The PIP is of
the 2 tuner variety, which is the only type that makes sense. This way
you have a tuner for each picture, instead of having to rely on a VCR
or other signal to fill the PIP. And you can move the secondary picture
virtually anywhere on the screen with the cursor control buttons on the
a Parental Control feature that lets you lock out channels you feel might
further warp your kids' minds, or you can lockout the front panel of the
TV altogether, though it doesn't affect remote control operation of the
set (so you'll have to hide the remote and hope your other remotes aren't
The remote control
is pretty straightforward and, as mentioned above, is backlit - which
makes us very, very happy. It'll also control most brands of VCR, DVD
player, DSS system, Cable box, or an audio system (though it wouldn't
control our "other brand" A/V receiver).
One thing you
don't get with the PS36125 is an abundance of inputs and outputs. However,
we don't believe most people will miss them. You get an "S-Connector"
as well as two sets of A/V inputs and a set of audio outputs. If you're
using a central A/V system as your switching unit, all you'll need is
one of the "Video In" jacks and the "Audio Out" jacks.
features aside, what makes this TV worthwhile is its big screen size,
excellent picture quality, and ease of use. It's a high end TV for people
more interested in actually watching something than with figuring out
how to make the set work. And it's competitively priced.
For what more
could anyone ask, besides some good TV programs to watch on it?
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think