Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-150FD 60-Inch 1,080p Plasma HDTV

With its Elite KURO PRO-150FD, Pioneer proves that quality can't be measured by size alone. Many companies have attempted to raise the bar with the introduction of higher-end flat-panel HDTVs, and while there are sets with ridiculous 103-inch screens, quality depends on more than mere dimensions. Simply put, the 60-inch PRO-150FD plasma HDTV delivers one of the best pictures we've seen in the plasma category to date.

The PRO-150FD is expensive, but as the cliche goes, you get what you pay for. This set offers an outstanding picture with very rich colors and incredibly deep black levels. The black levels had better be good, as "kuro" means black in Japanese. A member of Pioneer's exclusive Elite line, the PRO-150FD with its 1,920x1,080 native resolution is capable of true 1,080p display.

The 720p KURO models are impressive in their own right, producing pictures to rival many 1,080p competitors, so imagine the image quality of a 1,080p KURO. The result is really as good as it gets. While the PRO-150FD doesn't have a gargantuan 103-inch screen, the 60-inch screen is still relatively huge and may be too big for average family and living rooms. For large viewing rooms, however, this plasma HDTV provides as good a picture as any 1,080p front projector.

The PRO-150FD has enough advanced video processing features to handle just about anything you'd care to throw at it. This set can display 480i, 480p, 720p, 1,080i and true 1,080p signals. The picture looks fantastic with HD content, and the set can also display standard-definition content with no problems. There are special modes for video and film, as well as a total of nine viewing modes for everything from daytime to nighttime to even video games.

A room sensor automatically adjusts the PRO-150FD's picture to meet the ambient light conditions and fine-tunes the picture accordingly. There are six aspect ratio settings and four PIP modes. In other words, this plasma has plenty of one-touch settings if you just want to turn on the TV and get watching. If you're looking to make individual adjustments, Pioneer offers plenty of manual controls as well.

The KURO moniker also aptly describes the sleek, almost Ninja-like design of the PRO-150FD. This set features a thin, piano-black bezel that is unobtrusive and stylish. Our only complaint involves the side-mounted stereo speakers, which project enough to ruin the otherwise fine lines. Fortunately these are detachable, and a television this size requires the full-on surround sound experience from a home theater system anyway.

If you choose to keep the speakers attached, the PRO-150FD's 17-watt-per-channel digital amplifier with TruBass does an adequate job for movies and TV. Advanced audio effects include SRS WOW, FOCUS and TruBass Surround Sound, but we'd just as soon keep the speakers in the original box and rely on external speakers.

Another impressive aspect of the PRO-150FD is the connectivity. Pioneer has gone above and beyond by loading this set with four HDMI 1.3 inputs, which include support for the new x.v.Color technology. While there is still very little in the way of media for this technology, or even devices that support it (right now, at least), for the price we'd expect no less.

Other connections include two component video inputs, three composite video inputs, a single S-video input and a PC input. There is even an Ethernet port, so you can link with your home network for viewing other digital content. In addition, the PRO-150FD has a USB port for viewing digital photos and playing back MP3 files, including Microsoft PlaysForSure-protected content.

Many brands throw around words like Elite, but Pioneer delivers a plasma HDTV that produces an incredibly picture and is loaded with extras. While there are larger sets out there, the Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-150FD really is the last word in plasma HDTV for this year.

Pros: Full 1,080p display, four HDMI 1.3 inputs with x.v.Color support, deep black levels and great colors

Cons: Expensive, side-mounted speakers mar otherwise attractive design


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