Most gigantic, ultra-thin plasma TVs show up in corporate headquarters and various other commercial venues, and the 61-inch Marantz PD6140D ($21,000) retains a good deal of this commercial heritage. On one hand, this means that its user menu offers extensive adjustments not often found on mainstream products. But on the other, customary TV features like a built-in tuner are nowhere to be found.
Nothing about the 6140D's smart-looking exterior says "industrial." Its 2-inch-thick frame is tinged a subtle silvery-bronze, and its top and bottom horizontal edges are angled in for a distinctive flourish.
The minimal remote lacks number keys, backlighting, and the ability to control other devices. Three keys let me choose between DVD/HD, video, and PC inputs; the last two each cycle among three choices. A prominent zoom control allows magnification of areas of the picture, and the timer control lets you turn the 6140D on or off at a set time and even select the input that will appear onscreen.
Calling up the menu, I was startled to discover fully adjustable controls for color temperature, gamma, the color decoder, and other highly technical functions. If you know what you're doing and have access to specialized equipment, you can use these controls to tweak the picture to near perfection. And there's no danger of permanently screwing up the picture thanks to reset buttons that return the parameters to their factory defaults.
The menu offers a good number of options for preventing burn-in, which occurs when a still image is left onscreen for too long. These include an adjustable pixel orbiter that moves the still image around the screen, a peak-brightness limiter to combat the intense whites that are most likely to burn in, and a wiper mode that sweeps the screen with a white bar over a period of hours to even out irregularities.
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 57 7/8 inches wide, 34 3/4 inches high, 4 3/4 inches deep
WEIGHT 135 pounds
MANUFACTURER Marantz, Dept. S&V, 1100 Maplewood Dr., Itasca, IL 60143; www.marantz .com; 630-741-0300
Other features include custom picture presets for each input. Five factory picture presets, designed for various lighting conditions, run the gamut from Theater to Bright. I liked Theater 2 best for watching movies in the dark. The excellent selection of six display modes offers choices like 2.35:1, to eliminate the black bars on ultra-wide CinemaScope movies (it also lops off the extreme sides); Full and 4:3 for widescreen and nonwidescreen material, respectively; and a Stadium mode that stretches the sides more than the center. Only the 2.35:1 and Full modes functioned with HDTV program sources.
Like most other plasma TVs I've seen, the 6140D can't muster a true black - the best it can do is a very dark gray. When the Hulk first encounters his father, he leans his bulky form forward, and once the shadows in his chest and face reached a certain level of darkness, they leveled out to a consistent dark gray instead of getting darker or more detailed, as they would on a good tube-based TV. But the panel did generally display clean, smooth shadows that blended well from one intensity to the next. They also stayed accurate in hue instead of becoming greener in darker areas as on many plasmas I've seen.
Both the Hulk and the Marantz hit their strides in the bright desert scenes. The clouds from exploding shells looked real enough to touch, and the dunes shone majestically as the Hulk sailed over them. When he ripped the turret off a tank to use as a shield, I saw shards of metal blowing about in the explosion and every ripple in his skin as he smashed another tank.
Test patterns revealed that the 6140D's green wasn't as powerful as it could be (see "In the Lab"), but the Hulk's almost fluorescent skin looked suitably intense. The rest of the palette was accurate, so I was able to turn up the color control without making everyone's face red. This resulted in a beautiful vista of varicolored reddish hills, a light blue sky, and deep blue water in the scene where the green man bounds over the Grand Canyon.
The space-shuttle montage on the 1080i version of Digital Video Essentials looked unbelievably realistic. I could see tiny technicians scrambling around the gantry, and the huge screen drew me in with its expansive shots of the shuttle orbiting over azure oceans as well as the minute details of closeups. I could actually see ridges in the white plates near Atlantis's nose and count the rivets around a window. The Marantz was excellent with both 1080i and 720p material, although the 720p format looked slightly better - at this high resolution and size I noticed smoother lines in the 720p images.
I recently reviewed another huge plasma, the 63-inch Samsung HPN6339, and the Marantz outperformed it in most areas. Granted, nobody would call this $21,000 TV a bargain, but if you've got the cash and a lot of wall space to fill, it'd be tough to do any better.
So given your choice, what would you want to take along with you to a desert island? When it comes to wowing the indigenous population with high-definition images, nothing beats a plasma TV. But no matter where you're stranded, plasma's combination of a big image and a super-thin form factor can turn any living room - or cave - into an entertainment paradise.