Maxent 42X3 42″ HDTV Plasma Monitor Review
December 31, 2005
I really, really tried to like the Philips 32″ LCD, but when all was said and done, the black levels (or more precisely, the lack thereof) did me in.
So I bit the bullet, and went to a 42″ Plasma.
Wow, am I ever glad I did.
LCDs have a lot going for them, and I have no doubt that over time they’re going to be a better bet in most applications than plasma is today, but for this application, and this time, the difference between the plasma and the LCD are like night and day for me.
Of course, I think I hit a lucky find on the Maxent MX-42X3. At $1799 from Costco, this thing is awesome.
Granted, you have to take a bit of a deep breath to drop that kind of change on something that isn’t exactly a name brand. In this case, it was somewhat of a calculated risk, with two deciding factors.
First, I spent a lot of time reading up on it. The best source of information by far was this thread of nearly 1500 messages on AVS Forum’s Flat Panel forum.
This gave me a lot of insight into real-world experiences with this display, along with a few tidbits, such as a substantial amount of evidence that this Maxent uses the same panel as Panasonic’s extremely popular $2500 42″ HD.
I also learned the second very important thing — buy at Costco.
I like Costco a lot — I’ve been a member for several years, and although I’m also a Sam’s Club member for the occasional pantry stocker that Costco doesn’t carry, I tend to purchase at Costco a lot more.
The killer thing about buying major electronics at Costco is that they have a killer return policy. It’s real simple — as long as you’re a member, you can bring it back. For any reason. At any time. (Note that this applies to everything but computers)
Yes, this means that you can take a $2K – $6K TV home, try it, and bring it back if you want something different. Even if it’s two years from now.
I’m not suggesting that this be abused, but what I am suggesting is that this takes a lot of risk out of buying something less than a major name brand.
In this case, it paid off handsomely.
Which is not to say that there aren’t a few issues. There are several things I’d like to see different, but I’m willing to live with at the moment.
First, the form factor.
The Maxent MX-42X3 is hardly alone in this respect, but non-removable, side-mounted speakers drive me nuts.
They make it that much harder to fit it into a tight spot, and how many people are going to blow the money for a 42″ HDTV display that aren’t also going to use a surround audio system, and never turn the speakers on the TV on?
Sure, some won’t, and it should have speakers, but let us take the damn things off.
Secondly, it’s a little weird that some picture elements are adjustable on some inputs and others aren’t.
The display has two sets of component inputs, an RGB (read “VGA”) input, and an HDCP compatible HDMI input (plus SVideo and composite for SD).
I can get a great, nicely adjusted picture on the Component and HDMI inputs, but the RGB input is horribly oversaturated (particularly on red) and won’t let me adjust it.
To be fair, this CAN be adjusted with a computer hooked up to the RGB port, via a terminal interface (instructions in the thread linked above), but I can’t figure out why they wouldn’t have let you adjust the color saturation with the on-screen controls for this input.
Not a terribly big deal — I don’t have to use the RGB port, and I could fix it if I did, it’s just annoying.
On the upside, the picture is awesome.
Viewing HD content from Windows MCE (connected to component input) or my Dishplayer 942 (on HDMI), the picture absolutely blows away the 42″ HD RPTV in the living room.
Once properly adjusted (use a home-theater setup DVD, or in a pinch, the setup section on a THX film DVD), the black levels are good, low light details are excellent, and annoying artifacts are at a minimum (and appear to be more the property of the content than how it’s displayed)
On the whole, I’m fairly thrilled with the thing.
A few notes on buying Maxent…
Okay, just one — be careful.
While the MX-42X3 is a beautiful display, there is another model of 42″ Maxent Plasma sold by some of the big-box consumer electronic stores, the MX-42XM11, that is widely reputed to be horrific.
To complicate matters even more, Costco stores are selling out of the MX-42X3, and replacing them with an MX-42XM11c for $100 less.
Early reports are that the MX-42XM11c is very comparable to the MX-42X3, and much better than the old MX-42XM11 that’s still being sold elsewhere. A friend of mine bought one just before Xmas, and I hope to get a chance to look at it soon and compare it to the MX-42X3.
In the meantime, other than the hassle of dragging it back and forth there’s not much risk buying the MX-42XM11c from Costco, due to the return policy. If I were buying another one, I wouldn’t hesitate to give the MX-42XM11c a try.
Maxent MX-42X3 Specifications:
- 42Ã¢â‚¬Â 16:9 WXGA Plasma Display
- 16.77 Million Colors
- High Contrast Ratio 3000:1
- Brightness 1000 cd/m2
- Pixel Resolution: 1024 x 768 Pixels
- Multi-Scanning PC Monitor Support Up to 1280 x 1024
- Dual HD Component Video Input
- HDMI with HDCP
- RS-232 Control Port
- Integrated Speaker (10W + 10W)