Pioneer Elite PRO-200 rear-projection TV Calibration

Sidebar 2: Calibration

The Pioneer Elite PRO-200 presented an unfamiliar and troubling face to John Gannon, a technician with the Imaging Science Foundation. "This television is a scathing attack on the NTSC standard," Gannon said, after he'd pushed and nudged its performance into line with that standard. "This is just not something you expect in a Pioneer Elite product."

At the factory contrast setting, the PRO-200 measured more than 16,600 kelvins (K) through the entire middle range of IRE color-temperature references. In addition, this was true for each of three settings labeled Cool, Normal, and Warm. Pulling down the contrast to -15 did nothing to relieve the picture's intensely blue look, but the change did drop the set's light output from 16.4 footlamberts (fL) to a still-respectable 11 fL.

Moreover, even at the factory-set contrast level, Gannon's measurements did not correspond to Pioneer's claimed color-temperature values for the Cool, Normal, and Warm settings. At the brightest end of the scale, where the Pioneer's color temperatures were at least measurable, the readings were 8600K for Cool (not the specified 12,000K), 7775K for Normal (rather than 9500K), and 7285K for Warm (reasonably close to the declared 7000K).

But when the contrast was steeply reduced to bring the picture tube under control and eliminate the severe ringing of outlines, the measured color temperatures of the three settings fell into nearly identical curves. Measured at 30 and 80 IRE, the Warm and Cool settings were very close: 7040K vs. 7090K in the first instance, 6200K vs. 6700K in the second.

"That's not a nickel's worth of difference," Gannon said. "There's really nothing you can do with that in terms of using Warm to provide a 5500K setting for black-and-white movies and Cool for a 9000K setting for sports. That's pretty much taken away."

The PRO-200 offers two viewing modes: Normal (for use with 4:3 images) and Cinema (for use with all widescreen material). In both modes, the screen is automatically filled to eliminate any black bars around the picture. In Cinema mode, picture geometry measured almost perfect, but in the Normal position, the circle pattern on the Video Essentials DVD measured 28.75" (horizontal diameter) by 27.25" (vertical). Gannon was able to reduce that difference to just under 1".

The set's color decoder and 3D digital comb filter proved to be quite accurate, and Gannon gave Pioneer high points for the PRO-200's nine-point user-accessible convergence system.

Still, he was ultimately disappointed with Pioneer's latest—and, one would presume, best—shot at an NTSC display before the digital dawn. "I wanted to see a line-doubled set from Pioneer," he said, "and the picture is really blue. And that compromise with the aspect ratio is another disappointment. Did I say 'monumentally' dumb? Maybe I should change that to 'cosmically.'"—LBJ

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