Home Theater => Hardware reviews links en discussies => Topic started by: Marcel_T. on August 21, 2007, 14:33:56

Title: Home Cinema Choice test: Pioneer PDP-508XD
Post by: Marcel_T. on August 21, 2007, 14:33:56
Pioneer proves black is the new black


When the wraps finally came off Pioneer's 8th-generation plasma screens, the world gasped. Even though still in prototype form, attendees at the 2007 CES in Las Vegas were stunned at the impenetrable black level and astounding vibrancy of its colours.

The images looked every bit as good as Toshiba's (then upcoming) SED tech. We weren't too surprised, though: we'd already had a sneak preview months before in Pioneer's R&D labs in Tokyo.

But would the power of these prototypes make it to production reality? In a nutshell, the answer is an emphatic 'yes'.

Black magic
Advertisement  Interestingly, the 50-inch PDP 508XD does not use a 1920 x 1080 panel (these are coming later this year). Actual resolution is 1365 x 768, but if ever there was an argument that pixels alone do not make for a great picture, then this set is it.

What really sets this screen apart from ever other plasma we've ever seen is the unyielding solidity of its blacks.

Take, for instance, the opening space battle of Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith recorded in HD from Sky. The space backdrop to the action has never looked more convincingly, cinematically emphatically ebony than it does on the 508XD. Even Panasonic's best efforts can't match it. And there really is no overstating just what a dramatic impact this has on the dynamism of the picture you're watching.

But its not a fake, dull black: the pictures contain endless amounts of tonal and detail subtleties, ensuring that they look like natural, fully-integrated parts of the picture rather than gaping black holes ripped out of it (a phenomenon seen with many rival screens).

Don't imagine that the 508XD's black level is the only thing it's got going for it. Also stunning is the set's colour fidelity. It's a simple TV picture law that without a proper black level, a TV can't produce a truly natural colour palette. So by advancing the black level, it follows that the 508XD's colours should look richer, more dynamic and more believable. And so it proves.

From the lush digitised colours of Forza 2 on the Xbox 360 right down to the slightly subdued, naturalistic tones of EastEnders, the 508XD constantly gets colours looking exactly right. Even the rich reds of the Sky News channel actually look red, making all previous plasma attempts at showing them look, well, orange.

Pioneer claim an outrageous contrast ratio of 16000:1 - our Tech labs real-world test reveals it to be 1300:1 after calibration, which is blisteringly good.

Four elements aid this revolutionary black level: Pioneer's deeply encased 'waffle rib' plasma cell structure reduces the chance of light and colour seepage between neighbouring pixels; Ultra Black Crystal Layer wizardry increases the efficiency of the cells so that they charge and discharge at triple speed; a Direct Colour Filter soaks up ambient reflections from your room, allowing dark scenes to look much more punchy; finally its image processing engine responds differently to dark scenes than it does to bright ones.

You might also gain some extra black level benefit if you take advantage of the 508XD's facility for having its pictures optimised professionally by a qualified Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) engineer.

To reduce horizontal juddering, there's a 'Smooth' mode, but I felt that while it sharpened moving objects, it actually introduced too much stuttering for comfort.

With the Advance mode engaged during 1080/24p viewing, courtesy of Pioneer's BDP-LX70 Blu-ray player, the clarity and smoothness of the motion handling improves significantly.

Even though the screen has a native resolution of 1365 x 768, its HD images contain absolutely stunning amounts of fine detail information. During close-ups of Daniel Craig's face in Casino Royale Blu-ray, I felt strangely reassured to see tiny blemishes in his complexion that I'd never really noticed before.

Only some of this sharpness is down to sheer pixel-precise detail presentation, though. There's no doubt that this TV's extra subtlety with colour, extra clarity from 1080p/24fps handling, and extra contrast all also play a part in bringing even the tiniest image elements to life.

Yes, that's right: the set's three HDMI inputs are all capable of accepting 1080p in its 50Hz, 60Hz and 24fps incarnations. The 24fps compatibility is particularly significant in Pioneer's case, as it makes the screen able to take the 'source direct', 1080/24p feeds from the brand's BDP-LX70 Blu-ray player. What's more, the 508XD has a 72Hz 'Advance' PureCinema refresh mode designed to work with the player's 1080/24p mode.

The real deal
It would be easy to dismiss Pioneer's hype over these new screens. But the reality is the brand really has reinvented plasma to a substantial degree. The set is darker, more dynamic than any previous Pioneer plasma and delivers a knock-out blow to comparably sized LCDs. It simply demands to be auditioned.

Revolutionary black levels
Excellent coolour fidelity

Not a Full HD resolution panel

It's time to start believing the hype - Pioneer's latest-generation plasmas really do take image quality to a whole new level