Pioneer Elite PRO-101FD Plasma Monitor Setup & Tests
I calibrated the grayscale and color-management system from the user menu rather than using the Sencore software, and the process presented no problems. As I was setting the brightness and contrast, however, I noticed that above-white was totally clipped. After some back and forth with Pioneer and a visit from a plasma tech, we finally determined that turning DRE (Dynamic Range Expansion) control off—which I had done as a matter of course—reduces the dynamic range such that levels above video white are not distinguishable. Interestingly, below-black was visible even with DRE off.
Turning DRE on revealed above-white, but it also caused a white halo to appear around the below-black bar in PLUGE patterns, which are used to set the black level. I settled on the Low setting for DRE, which induced the least haloing and still allowed me to set the contrast so that above-white was fully visible. Fortunately, the haloing didn't seem to affect real-world material. Sill, I would prefer the ability to display the entire dynamic range of 0 to 255 with DRE disabled, since I'm told this function automatically alters the contrast and brightness controls depending on the image being displayed, something I try to avoid whenever possible.
To understand why the ability to see above-white is important, a little background is necessary. The brightness of any portion of a video image is represented by an 8-bit value from 0 to 255, but the useable dynamic range is defined as 16 to 235—video black is 16 and video white is 235. Theoretically, there should be no information below 16 (an area called below-black) or above 235 (an area called above-white).
Generally speaking, there is no content with any below-black information, but some content does include above-white information—for example, the white waiter's uniform worn by a disguised Mangalor in The Fifth Element includes some above-white info. Other examples include some broadcast sports and snow scenes. Thus, it's important for a display to be able to render above-white so you can see these details.
Starting with the HQV Benchmark test DVD at 480i via component, detail was quite good for standard-def. Jaggies were very mild, among the best I've seen. Among the four noise-reduction controls, 3DNR and Field NR were very effective, though 3DNR seemed to darken the picture a bit and Field NR might have softened the image ever so slightly. Block NR and Mosquito NR were ineffective on the HQV tests.
All three deinterlacing modes took more than a full second to lock onto the 3:2 cadence, and they all lost the lock near the end of the race-car clip. In addition, all three looked quite shimmery with 2:2 video, with little difference between them. The horizontal text crawl over film was totally broken up unless Text Optimization was turned on, which defeats 3:2 pulldown compensation in the lower portion of the screen.
Turning to HQV Benchmark on HD DVD at 1080i via HDMI, the video resolution-loss test was solid as a rock, and jaggies were invisible. On the film resolution-loss test, all three deinterlacing modes performed very well, picking up 3:2 pulldown quickly with no shimmering. Advance mode yielded the smoothest motion; the other two were slightly jerky in the pan across the bleachers. All three modes lost a fair amount of detail in the bleacher seats.
The FPD Benchmark Blu-ray test disc revealed that the Pioneer's motion resolution was excellent—much better than any 60Hz LCD TV and no possibility of frame-interpolation artifacts as with 120Hz LCDs. The 0-100 ramp looked very smooth with minimal banding, but the 0-25 ramp had much more banding. Differentiation between different shades of black in the mostly black shots and shades of white in the mostly white shots was superb.