capsule review

Maxent MX-50X3

At a Glance
  • Maxent MX-50X3 50" Plasma TV (16:9, 1366x768, 3000:1, HDTV)

    PCWorld Rating

Maxent MX-50X3
Photograph: Chris Manners

Maxent's MX-50X3 50-inch plasma HD monitor delivers good image quality on both high-def and standard TV content, but it's not exactly a TV. Like any plasma monitor, it offers neither an analog NTSC tuner (for standard content) nor a digital ATSC tuner (which makes high-definition content possible). It's not an HDTV; it's just HDTV-ready. Maxent is admirably forthcoming about the distinction between a plasma TV and a plasma monitor, calling out the differences on a package insert and in prominent text on the box. The biggest surprise is the combination of pleasing image quality and low price.

The MX-50X3's price of $2500 (on 4/17/2006) is competitive for a plasma HD monitor of its size--Vizio's P50HDM matches it--but substantially lower than that of a 50-inch plasma HDTV, such as the $4000 Samsung HP-S5053. If you already own the necessary tuner or tuners (or get them from your TV content provider), you could save some money.

On our tests for high-definition and standard-definition TV viewing, the MX-50X3 performed well. Its scores for brightness, contrast, color, and detail followed close on the heels of the high-end Samsung's scores. Our jury especially liked the Maxent's strong greens and reds. It maintained satisfying color and contrast on our bright-lights test as well. In our DVD movies test, color looked less impressive, and the skin tones of Seabiscuit looked somewhat unnatural. The MX-50X3 didn't display details in a shadowy scene on our The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King DVD, either; these two problems contributed to a low score for DVD image quality.

The matte silver cabinet sports matching speakers on each side. I thought the surround sound from these speakers sounded good, but not great. The MX-50X3's audio-out ports--located on the back of the unit, with all other ports--are analog-only, with no digital option. At least there's a subwoofer port, though.

The remote control, which keeps to the matte silver theme, feels comfortably rounded in the hand. At first glance, the remote appears uncomplicated; this is because many of the advanced-function buttons, such as those for V-Chip protection and closed captioning, lie under a sliding panel on the bottom third of the remote. Before playing with this device, you'll want to check out the manual to see which of the buttons (mostly for TV functions) do nothing. Though the documentation clearly spells out this information --and the external tuner(s) you'll need will probably come with their own remotes--the presence of buttons that activate no functions can bewilder users. The MX-50X3 does not provide a CableCard slot.

The Maxent MX-50X3 50-inch plasma HDTV monitor does precisely what it claims to do. In fact, with standard-def and high-def content, it performs better than you might expect from a budget model. An HDTV monitor--especially one with a confusing remote--does take a little more know-how and setup time than an HDTV. That said, the Maxent MX-50X3 provides image quality approaching that of an expensive TV, and does it at a substantially lower price.

Laura Blackwell

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Good image quality and low price make this plasma HD monitor a good buy for those who already have a good HD tuner.

    Pros

    • HD and standard-def content look good
    • Low price, honest documentation

    Cons

    • No NTSC or ATSC tuner
    • Confusing remote
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