Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pioneer's 1080p KURO Plasma HDTV - Has Tube TV Finally Met Its Match?

The best CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions ever made were created toward the end of that technology's life span. Early 21st century 34-inch widescreen CRT sets from Sony and 38-inch sets from Loewe presented stunning HDTV images, earned rave reviews from consumers and press alike, and spoiled us while new technologies such as LCD and plasma tried (and failed) to catch up in picture quality. Oh sure, flat panels had their sex appeal (just try to hang a tube TV on the wall), modern conveniences like HDMI inputs, and size advantages, but tube TVs ruled the roost for black level reproduction and contrast. Now I do believe I have seen a set that is a worthy successor to the venerable tube: Pioneer's KURO plasma flat panel.

KURO, roughly translated from the Japanese, means "Really Really BLACK!" And they're not kidding. The single element that can make or break a television, in terms of its portrayal of 3-dimensional images that seem to pop right off the screen is its portrayal of deep, rich blacks. And Pioneer's KURO line has gone where no flat panel has gone before in the reproduction of this difficult shade. When compared side by side even to last year's excellent Pro-FHD1 1080p plasma model, the new 50-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-110FD ($6000, now shipping) presents even richer, more vivid colors, exceptional detail and velvety smooth blacks, so deep they appear to absorb, rather than reflect, ambient light.

Pioneer's Elite Kuro PRO-150FD presents 60 inches of full HD pure plasma goodness.

I don't normally rave about products at trade shows (frankly, because most products don't reach their potential in this cacophonous, brightly lit environment), but to my eyes, the KURO sets presented the most vibrant and enjoyable flat panel images at the show. In the darkened demo environment, the set looked excellent, but even out on the showroom floor, the KURO stood out from the competition, not only in picture quality but in sleek cabinet design. Even the Pioneer logo has been given the high-end treatment with the badge appearing in inlaid metallic finish within the center of the HDTV's frame, rather than as a stuck-on plastic badge.

Pioneer's new KURO plasma HDTV line includes 720p and 1080p models, starting with the 42-inch PDP-4280HD (1024x768 resolution, $2700) up to the 60-inch Elite PRO-150FD (1920x1080 resolution, $7500).

Pioneer KURO PDP-5010FD

Expensive: $4000
Wall-Mount Kit, If Not Included in Unit Price - $199
Good: 78
PC World Tests
Interface Tested HDMI
High-Definition Image Quality Good
Standard-TV Image Quality Good
DVD Image Quality Good
Color Quality Very Good
Brightness and Contrast Good
Detail Good
Overall Quality Good
Good: 75
Screen Specs
Diagonal (inches) 50
Native Resolution (pixels) 1920-by-1080
Antiglare Yes
TV Technology Plasma
Depth (inches) 28.44
Height (inches) 4.7
Width (inches) 48.5
Weight (pounds) 84.9
Features and Characteristics
Cabinet Colors Black
Speaker Type Yes
CableCard Ready Yes
Primary Color Controls Yes
Reset to Factory Settings Yes
HD Formats 720p, 1080i, 1080p
NTSC Tuner 0
ATSC Tuner 2
Remote Control IR
Picture in Picture Yes
RF Coaxial Input 2
VGA Input 1
Composite Input 3
S-Video Input 1
Component Input 2
DVI Input 0
DVI Output 0
HDMI Input 4
HDMI Output 0
RCA Audio Input 1
RCA Audio Output 0
Optical Input 0
Optical Output 1
Other Interfaces Monitor Audio LR; Subwoofer; SR+, Headphone; Home Gallery: Digital Photo Viewer via USB
Physical Adjustments
Panel Tilt No
Panel Pivot No
Height-Adjustable Base No
Swivel No
Wall-Mountable Yes
Included Wall-Mount Kit No
Support & Reliability
Labor Warranty (years) One
Parts Warranty (years) One
Weekday Support Hours 10.5
Saturday Support Hours 8.5
Sunday Support Hours 8.5
Toll-Free Support Yes

Pioneer PDP-4280HD 42-inch 720p Plasma HDTV

Product Features

  • 4 Independent HDMI Inputs (HDMI 1.3) with 1080p 24/60Hz Compatibility
  • Fully Integrated Media Receiver with Dual NTSC and ATSC Tuner
  • TV Guide On-Screen® Interactive Program Guide for easy navigation of TV program services
  • ASIC video processing and scaling for the ultimate in Standard-Definition and High-Definition video performance
  • New Optimum Video Mode with optical light sensor for automated adjustment of picture in both varying light conditions and by program content such as movies- news- sports- etc

Technical Details

  • Model Number: PDP-4280HD
  • Plasma technology
  • High-definition resolution: XGA - 1024 x 768
  • Screen size: 42 inches diagonal
  • Aspect ratio: 16:9 (wide-screen)
  • New cell structure/crystal emissive layer: Yes
  • New filter with enhanced contrast: Yes
  • New ASIC Video processing and scaling: Yes
  • Detachable bottom speaker: Yes
  • Speakers: 17-watt stereo digital amplifier with TruBass 2-way stereo speakers
  • Plasma features
  • New optimum video mode: Yes
  • New smooth film motion mode: Yes
  • New room light sensor : Off/On
  • Advanced PureCinema with 3:3 pulldown: Yes
  • Fully Integrated ATSC and dual NTSC tuners: Yes
  • Built-In CableCard slot: Yes
  • V-Chip parental control: Yes
  • TV Guide On Screen Interactive Guide Ver. 9: Yes
  • Remote control: Glow in the dark/preset mode
  • Picture settings
  • A/V selection memory: 6 options: optimum/dynamic/standard/movie/game/user (PC input: only standard and user)
  • Aspect ratio control: 5 positions (wide/zoom/cinema/full/4:3 )
  • Advanced Picture-In-Picture: 4 positions
  • Still picture capability: Yes
  • Seamless Orbiter: Off/On
  • Auto size: Off/ natural/wide-zoom
  • Side mask detection: Off/On
  • Side mask brightness: Fixed/auto
  • Video pattern: White bar
  • Game control preference: AV Selection only, Off/On
  • Video processing technology
  • DRE : Off/high/mid/low
  • Black level: Off/On
  • ACL: Off/On
  • Enhance mode: 1/2/3
  • Gamma: 1/2/3
  • Color temperature adjustment: High/mid/low
  • 3D digital noise reduction: High/mid/low
  • Field noise reduction: Off/high/mid/low
  • Block noise reduction: Yes
  • Mosquito noise reduction: Yes
  • Tuner noise reduction: Yes
  • Digital CTI - Color Transient Improver: Off/On
  • Video and audio inputs: 4 x HDMI 1.3 (with PC support, 2 with analog audio), 2 x component video, 3 x composite video, 1 x S-Video, 1 x antenna A/B
  • Video and audio outputs: 1 x optical digital audio (Dolby Digital/PCM) , 1 x audio line-out, 1 x monitor audio LR, 1 x subwoofer, 1 x SR+, 1 x 3.5-millimeter headphone
  • Other interface: USB, RS-232C
  • Dimensions: 46.25 x 33.0 x 14.25 inches (W x H x D)
  • Dimensions with speaker: 40.9 x 26.75 x 4.5 inches (W x H x D)
  • Weight: 65.9 pounds
  • Weight with speaker and stand: 69.7 pounds
  • Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

Pioneer's 50-inch KURO plasma reviewed

If it ain't broken don't fix it - and Pioneer's newest plasma proves that statement. 1080p might be the '07 buzzword, but the Pioneer PDP-5080HD shows that you simply don't need the extra pixels in order to produce a superb picture. The 720p 50-inch plamsa happens to be one of the best-looking sets CNET has reviewed - evar (8.7/10). Sure, green wasn't reproducing 100% accurately and they would have liked to see a better picture control menu, but the marvelously deep black level outweighed those small issues like a fat kid on a teeter-totter. The $3500 sticker doesn't make this set the cheapest meal on the menu, but we can't think of a better way to fill your high definition appetite