Pioneer KURO PRO-150FD Plasma HDTV Page 2
There are a wide variety of additional controls. The ones I found most useful were DRE Picture (the Low setting produced a subtle but worthwhile improvement over Off), Enhancer Mode (both the 1 and 2 settings worked well without producing over-enhancement or ringing), and Gamma (I alternated between 1 and 2, depending on the program).
PureCinema automatically detects film-based sources and offers three options. Standard feeds the panel the usual 1080p/60 signal, complete with 3:2 pulldown on a film-based source. Smooth is said to produce “smoother and more vivid moving images.” It does, but I didn’t find the improvement to be particularly dramatic. Advance converts film-based program material to a display rate of 72 frames per second by eliminating 3:2 pulldown. The Standard setting is available only with interlaced inputs, and you cannot select Smooth or Advanced with a 1080p/60 source. If the program material is already at 1080p/24, however, conversion to a display frame rate of 72 fps (using repeated frames, not interpolation) takes place automatically, regardless of the setting of the PureCinema control.
You can set the Pioneer to change its aspect ratio automatically for HDMI sources. But those sources must carry the proper digital flags to trigger the change, and since they don’t always do so, the choices weren’t always correct. The Dot by Dot option produces the lowest overscan (0 percent) and highest resolution but is available only at 1080i and 1080p. Other aspect-ratio settings produced no more than 2.5-percent overscan at 720p and 1080i/p (and approximately 3 percent at 480i/480p).
Based on Pioneer’s track record and some of the advanced technology the company displayed at last January’s CES, I would not be surprised if its upcoming line of next-generation KURO displays, due later this year, is even better than the current one. But in the here and now, if there’s a better-looking, more impressive video display on the market than the PRO-150FD, I’m not aware of it. That includes not only one-piece televisions, but any projector I’ve reviewed—although a separate projector and screen can still provide the sort of immersive, theater-like experience that no 60-inch television can claim.
As with the other recent Pioneer models I reviewed for UltimateAVmag.com, a good share of the credit for the performance of this set is due to its stunning black level and excellent shadow detail. Even on difficult dark scenes with few or no bright highlights, the Pioneer shines. For example, at the beginning of chapter 6 of Charlotte Gray (DVD), there’s a slow dolly shot as the camera moves through a darkened room, illuminated only by a very dim lamp, toward a shadowed, partially opened doorway. Charlotte sits in the room inside, highlighted only by the light from a small window. The darkness sets the mood. The blacks here are deep and rich on the Pioneer, and the shadow details are well defined, in contrast to other sets, which often render the image in a distracting, foggy gray.
The Pioneer’s great blacks also contribute to a convincing sense of depth. It’s not the sort of 3-D you get with those special glasses, which often looks like a collection of flat, cardboard cutouts, one behind the other, but a relaxing, believable dimensionality.
I had to turn up the Pioneer’s Color control significantly (between +5 and +10, depending on the source) to get an adequate level of saturation. The action of the control is quite subtle, so this isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. With that caveat, however, the colors were nearly ideal. Fleshtones looked clean and neutral, without that sunburned, red-push look. Sunlit green foliage, while not perfect, was far more convincing than I see in many competing digital displays. And blue sky, another acid test because we see it so often, looked more subtly real than on most displays, which tend to make it pretty but too deep and oversaturated. Reds did edge a bit toward orange, as they do on many displays, but the deepest reds in the standard ATSC color space are definitely more orangey-red than deep crimson. Don’t blame the messenger.
The Pioneer’s lack of motion blur certainly doesn’t hurt the set’s superb overall presentation of detail. Whether you’re looking at chapters 13 and 14 of Alexander Revisited: The Final Cut (Blu-ray) as Alexander and his men enter Babylon and take up residence in the Persian palace, or the simpler pleasures of the stark production design in Gattaca (Blu-ray), you won’t be disappointed by the PRO-150FD’s sharp, crisp-looking images.
On page 66 of this issue, I give a positive review to the Panasonic TH-58PZ750U. Viewed directly side by side and driven by the same source, the Pioneer is clearly the better set, with the single exception of 1080i/p resolution, particularly chroma (color) resolution, where the Panasonic is superior. But the latter is clearly visible only on test patterns, and overall, the Pioneer has, for me, the more natural color. Both sets are comparable in their visible reproduction of detail on most real program material. And the Pioneer’s deeper, richer blacks are obvious, particularly in a dim or dark room.
But this isn’t really a fair comparison. At $5,000, the Panasonic is a compelling performer. If that’s your budget, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.
But if your checkbook or loan manager smiles back at you, the 50-percent premium that this Pioneer demands will be money well spent. The PRO-150FD has provided me with more “wow” moments than any other set I’ve seen to date.
Rich, deep blacks
Outstanding color and detail
Smooth, judder- and blur-free motion
An awesome picture… but at an awesome price