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ProScan's PS36125 36" TV

ProScan's 36 inch "Home Theatre" Big Screen TV

Big, involving, 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.

Which isn't 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!

Another thoughtful 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.

The PS36125 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!

Even better, 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?

ProScan includes 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 remote control.

There's also 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 universal ones!).

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.

Abundance of 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?

 

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