Insignia NS-42P650A11 Plasma HDTV Review$499.00
Resolution & Formats
While 1080p is by far the fan-favorite resolution amongst fair-weather TV oglers, perhaps because the much adopted opinion amongst the general public is that more pixels means better picture quality (and in truth it does), the fact is that almost no television broadcasts support 1080p just yet. While this is likely a closer than a distant future dream for broadcast stations, and it likely dates the effectiveness of native 720p televisions to a degree, it means that with the NS-42P650A11 you'll be getting the maximum resolution out of live cable television. If you're a gamer and you want a big, beautiful 1080p resolution for your hadouken-tossing, dragon-slaying night life, this Insignia is perhaps not the best choice, though a 720p plasma is like to give better overall fps response when the processing gets tough. Its native resolution is 720p, meaning that it isn't at its best in 1080p formats, but does exceptionally well scaling live broadcasts. One odd thing we found was that while it suffered a minimal amount of overscan in its home ratio setting (16:9), 480, 720, and 1080p all scaled perfectly when the ratio was switched to Screen Fit mode. On-screen text was fairly illegible at smaller fonts in 1080p, but the other resolutions fared much better.
We test viewing angle in order to determine how much real estate a TV can offer in terms of viewing comfort for groups of people or its flexibility in room placement (as in, do you need to be staring straight at it, or is there some leeway to be taken?). While we originally bemoaned the NS-42P650A11 for having no stand flexibility, it appears it may not be as much of a problem as it first appeared. During our testing, we measured the overall contrast ratio up to 90 degrees off-center, and this Insignia's total viewing angle simply blew us away. Usually with LED/LCD televisions, the contrast ratio drops below 50% somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees off center. The NS-42650A11 dropped to 68% contrast ratio at 50 degrees, and then began going back up again at 60 and 70 degrees. To put it more plainly, you can pretty much watch content with no loss in contrast ratio from the side of the television.
The NS-42P650A11 showed us some great motion performance, with almost perfect smoothness, and Indiana Jones would've thrown a fit at this model's almost complete lack of artifacts (this is a good thing: they belong in a museum, not in a TV). While there was just a touch of shape distortion during our color and pixel based motion tests, we found that the NS-42P650A11 was able to very effectively display complex moving pictures with very little distortion of any kind, maintaining foreground and background clarity in things like faces, intricate latices, and the details of hatched brickwork.
The NS-42P650A11 performed decently during our screen uniformity tests. We did find that it initiated a bit of auto-dimming, though this feature only seemed to kick in during an entirely dark screen, and only when the screen had been entirely dark for about 2.5 seconds. It seemed that this dimming feature was not something that could be toggled on or off, but was programmed into the TV to occur whenever there was a lack of signal. We doubt it would happen during any kind of "fade to black" prior to commercial (because of the delay), but there was also some bizarre flickering that occurred while the TV attempted to process whether or not it was receiving a signal. This doesn't seem likely to pose any kind of problem within the realm of everyday viewing, but it's something to keep in mind.