Pioneer Kuro TVs

The first plasma display I reviewed was the Pioneer PDP-V401E, way back in 1998. Then, this 640 by 480 pixel unit cost $17,000 and I thought it was pretty amazing. Since then, plasma TVs have got better and I’ve got more discerning. In general, I’ve got more discerning faster than plasma TVs have got better, so I’ve usually found some element of picture performance unsatisfactory.

That was until now. With Pioneer’s new range of Kuro plasma TVs, plasma has caught up and overtaken my higher standards.

It first started a couple of weeks ago when I went to Pioneer Australia’s Melbourne headquarters. They had set up a couple of the new Kuros in a fairly dark conference room. There was a fifty inch one, sitting next to a seventh generation Pioneer (the previous model, the PDP-507XDA) and a Sony Bravia X-Series LCD and a recent Panasonic 50 incher plasma. What intrigued me on entry was the new 42 inch Kuro at the end of the room facing me. Its screen was black. But was it on, or was it off?

Except in the very brightest rooms, I can always tell if a plasma TV is switched on, even if it’s showing a full black picture. But I couldn’t be certain with this one, despite the dim room.

Yes, it was on. The blue indicator light was showing, so it must have been.

There are four new Kuro TVs, as follows:

Size 107 127 127 152
Resolution 1,024 x 768 1,365 x 768 1,920 x 1,080 1,920 x 1,080
Contrast ratio 16,000:1 16,000:1 20,000:1 20,000:1
RRP $4,699 $5,699 $7,499 $11,999

I trust those contrast ratio specifications. These are not ‘dynamic’ numbers, but the native performance of the panel, regardless of whether the screen content is bright, dark or mixed. For example, a test Blu-ray had a colourful small flower in the middle of a full black background. On the Kuro PDP-508XDA it just popped out, almost hovering above this absence of anything behind it, unlike the other large TVs in the room, which all seemed muddy by comparison (especially the LCD).

Pioneer had some nifty test clips on a Blu-ray disc showing how good the TV was an deinterlacing 1080i, eliminating mosquito and block noise, and so on. It seemed to do all this perfectly, unlike all the others. So I whipped out my deinterlacing torture test DVD, expecting to find a flaw in the processing. After all, Faroudja DCDi and Silicon Optix HQV in their ‘Auto’ modes always fail at points on my two main test clips. Bloody hell, the Kuro processed them all perfectly. Unbelievable.

I went upstairs to another (darkish) room where they had the full 1080p 50 inch model, and it simply repeated this performance.

What else is there? All four models come with three HDMI 1.3 inputs, all support 1080p24 and, indeed, not only support it but present it at the correct frequency so Blu-ray movies are silky smooth if you have a Pioneer or Sony BD player, or a Playstation 3. All have both analogue and HD digital tuners. All have a USB port for photo display. All come with a five year warranty, toll free customer support line, free delivery, free installation, free in-home demonstration.

They aren’t cheap, but they are magnificent.

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