Pioneer PDP-4340HD 43-inch Plasma HDTV

Plasma TVs are hardly new, but for me it didn't register that the technology had "arrived" until I starting seeing ads for them on TV. Yes, thanks to companies like Pioneer, when you sit down to channel-surf there's a chance you'll see new flat-panel sets that make your current model seem old, fat, and downright sad in comparison. Are Pioneer and its ad agencies trying to whip the public into a frenzy of techno-lust? If so, they're off to a good start with the PDP-4340HD.

FAST FACTS
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) display, 44 1/8 x 25 3/4 x 3 7/8 inches; Media Receiver, 16 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches WEIGHT display, 67 3/8 pounds; Media Receiver, 13 pounds PRICE $10,500 MANUFACTURER Pioneer Electronics, www.pioneerpurevision.com, 800-421-1404
KEY FEATURES

• 1,024 x 768-pixel native resolution • Dual HDMI inputs • 2:3 and 3:3 pulldown processing options • Includes swiveling stand, side speakers • rear inputs (Media Receiver): 2 HDMI; 2 i.Link (FireWire); composite/S-video and 2 component-video, all with stereo audio; digital and 2 analog RF antenna/cable; optical digital audio • front inputs (Media Receiver) VGA, component-video, and composite/S-video with stereo audio • outputs (Media Receiver): composite/S-video with stereo audio; DVI to display

Of course, nothing stifles lust like a bucket of cold water, and with this TV the $10,500 list price may have the same effect. I've seen it offered for thousands less on various e-commerce sites, although Pioneer's strict Web sales policy means you'll sacrifice your warranty if you buy it from an unauthorized dealer - a huge risk to take on a big-ticket item.

The 43-inch (diagonal) widescreen display has a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. Its outboard Media Receiver - a slim, component-size box that hooks up to the TV via a DVI (Digital Visual Interface) connection - handles the A/V switching and video processing, and an HDTV tuner is built in for off-air digital broadcasts and unscrambled digital cable programs. The PDP-4340HD also has the distinction of being Energy Star-compliant. Basically, this means it won't soak up gobs of current in standby mode, inflating your electric bill and hastening the planet's decline. The Pioneer is one of the best-looking plasma sets I've ever seen, and its screen merges almost seamlessly into a thin, black glass frame with gently rounded corners. Besides a logo, the only features on its front are a power button and a pair of green LEDs to indicate if it's on or in standby mode. A supplied tabletop stand (not the one in our photo) lets you swivel the display 30° left or right, and it also comes with side-mounted speakers.

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