Dipping into the black (level).
Despite my lauding of projectors, it seems like the only question people ask me about TVs is, "What's the best plasma?" I usually respond, as you would imagine, with a detailed description of the strengths and weaknesses of several brands, what that means to the viewer, and a cost/performance analysis. All the while, I'm trying to ignore the bored and distracted look on my questioner's face. "Yeah, but who's the best?" he'll ask. "The Patriots," I reply. At this point, the average questioner's face scrunches up to resemble the average raisin. In an effort to finish the conversation so that I can be left alone to eat my burrito in peace (mmm, Chipotle), I tell them: "Panasonic for black level; Pioneer for processing." There, I said it. There are plenty of companies that make great-looking plasmas, but these guys are the leaders. They shine with regard to their respective specialties but don't screw up the rest of the display. What I love about this business, though, is that nothing is stagnant—everything advances. Just last month, I reviewed a Panasonic plasma that went a long way in improving the company's major processing shortcomings. While its black level was still good, its scaling improved for a much better-looking image overall. So, it's Pioneer's turn. Their processing, on all levels, has been good in the past. Their black levels, on the other hand, have left much to be desired. I was told that Pioneer's past few models have improved black levels. We'll see.