Pioneer KURO PDP-6020FD Plasma HDTV
When Pioneer released its first KURO plasma sets last year, its eighth generation of plasmas overall, they met with nearly universal praise. Critics acclaimed the KURO series for the new standards it set with the depth of its blacks. Fittingly, the word “kuro” means deep, dark, and penetrating in Japanese.
But it’s a new model year, and Pioneer just unleashed its ninth-generation plasmas, which still carry the KURO name. While the plasma panels are similar to last year’s, Pioneer has improved the electronics and filters to further darken the already superb blacks.
Pioneer still manufactures the panels in this new lineup of sets. But next year, Pioneer will source some modules for its plasma panels from a third-party company in order to keep prices competitive. Pioneer will still assemble the sets and add exclusive technology aimed at differentiating the KURO brand in the market.
At 60 inches, the PDP-6020FD is the largest model in Pioneer’s line. Later this year, Pioneer will introduce Elite sets and Signature Series (monitor) models with more extensive picture adjustments and other features.
Around the Block
The input set on the KURO PDP-6020FD is divided between the front and side panels. Pioneer generously equipped the set with four HDMI jacks. However, the single component video input may not be sufficient for all potential users.
The back panel also includes a subwoofer output and two sets of output terminals for the included soundbar speaker that sits below the screen. Even without a subwoofer, the Pioneer’s audio sounds much better than most flat-panel sets.
The remote can control four components, including the TV. It’s well configured and easy to use, but I marginally prefer the remote that came with the Elite eighth-generation models. The latter’s buttons were larger, more generously spaced, and (mostly) backlit. The new remote is not backlit, although its buttons do glow faintly in the dark.
Pioneer created new onscreen menus for the KURO PDP-6020FD, although the changes are not all for the better. It now takes four button pushes to get to the Picture menu. A Tools button on the remote does offer a shortcut to a few controls, but not to the Picture adjustments.
PureCinema film mode detects film-based sources and offers three options. The Standard setting feeds the panel the usual 1080p/60 signal, complete with 3:2 pulldown for film-based sources. Pioneer designed the Smooth setting to produce “smoother and more vivid moving images.” It does, but I didn’t find the improvement particularly dramatic. The Advance setting converts film-based program material to a display rate of 72 frames per second by eliminating 3:2 pulldown. The Standard setting works only with interlaced inputs. Additionally, you cannot select Smooth or Advanced with a 1080p/60 source. However, if your program material is already at 1080p/24, the Pioneer automatically converts it to a display frame rate of 72 fps (using repeated frames, not interpolation), regardless of the PureCinema control setting.
The KURO PDP-6020FD offers the usual assortment of aspect ratios. Users will want to use Dot by Dot since it offers the lowest overscan. But it’s available only for 1080i and 1080p sources. However, if there’s noise at the border of the image, you can fall back on Full. Full provides some overscan to crop off the garbage with a small loss of resolution.
Pioneer also designed several features that minimize the risk of image retention or image burn-in. You can use the Screen Protection control to turn most of them on automatically or together. While we always recommend that you take reasonable care to minimize the risk of image burn-in, Pioneer plasmas generally resist visible image retention better than any other plasmas I’ve tested.
Additional features include a USB jack, so you can display your own photos and videos. The Pioneer even displays HD videos recorded in a compatible format, like H.264/AVC or WMV9. The KURO PDP-6020FD also includes a home network connection via the set’s Ethernet port and HDMI Control (for a control interface with other equipment through the HDMI connection). The set offers Multi-Screen settings (picture-in-picture or two images side by side) and a three-position Energy Save control, as well.
Set to Standard mode, the PDP-6020FD meets Energy Star 3.0 standards. Because of that, the Standard mode includes some automatic image manipulation, but it’s not visually perceptible. Pioneer also drastically reduced its power draw in standby mode. Its power went down from 26 watts in last year’s models to less than 0.3 watts in the new models.
The Picture menu offers seven different preset A/V selections: Optimum, Performance, Dynamic, Movie, Sports, Game, and Standard.
The Optimum mode uses software and a room light sensor to automatically and continuously adjust the picture settings. It optimizes the image in response to the room lighting and the program material’s characteristics. When you choose Optimum mode, a selectable onscreen menu shows the changes made to your settings.
The Optimum mode does not permit you to manually adjust any of the main picture controls (only the PureCinema setting can be changed). However, you can alter the picture settings in most of the other modes (except Dynamic).
You can also engage the Room Light Sensor control in other modes to compensate for room lighting. Oddly, the On/Off option for the sensor is available in Optimum mode, although nothing changes when you turn it off.
Pioneer clearly made a concerted effort to simplify the operation of its standard sets. However, this simplification comes at a price. The set includes few specialized controls: no color space options, no gamma settings, no noise reduction, no enhancements, and no other special tweaks.
Perhaps most important, none of the picture modes offers any color-temperature control. They don’t even provide fixed settings such as Low, Middle, and High. Plus, according to Pioneer, you can’t calibrate the gray scale, even via the hidden service menu. You just get what the factory ordered, no more and no less. This would not be a problem if one or more of the modes adhered closely to the D65 color temperature standard. But none of them does.