Pioneer PDP-4340HD 43-inch Plasma HDTV Page 3

Like other Pioneer plasmas I've tested, the PDP-4340HD looked very good right out of the box with only minimal adjustment. But a few additional tweaks made its picture look even better (see "in the lab"). In the surprisingly funny Bad Boys II DVD, the Pioneer displayed clean colors and punchy contrast during the outdoor scenes. The trees and grass surrounding the Cuban ecstasy kingpin's mansion came across with rich green hues, and shadows looked satisfyingly deep in the mid-afternoon sunlight. The set didn't perform as well in tougher dark scenes, like the one where the Boys, posing as exterminators, gain entry to the drug honcho's basement - blacks looked more like dark gray, although this is the norm for plasma sets.

PLUS Stylish looks. Extensive video connection options. Excellent video performance for a plasma set. MINUS Expensive. Unresponsive signal-strength meter. No electronic program guide for digital broadcasts.

If DVDs looked good on the Pioneer, then well-lit HDTV programs were stunning. A college basketball match between USC and WSU airing on HDNet appeared crisp and completely seamless, with the bold reds of the player's uniforms clearly distinguishable from the more muted reds on the court's painted surface. Picture detail was a slight notch below some of the higher-resolution plasmas I've tested, but the image was sharp enough to reveal scuff marks on the polished wood planks.

High-def movies recorded on Dish Network's DVR 921 hard-disk recorder also looked solid on the Pioneer. In a scene from Die Another Day where James Bond unwinds in a hotel room after getting out of prison, the intricate play of light on the cellophane wrapping of his new shirts came through clearly, and I could even see the condensation on the side of a champagne urn. But what most impressed me was the TV's natural color rendition: the skin tones of the international cast - including Koreans, Cubans, and Brits - all looked utterly real.

Pioneer has an excellent track record in plasma TV, and the PDP-4340HD is yet another in a long line of impressive sets. Design-wise, it stands head and shoulders above most plasma models on the market - this is one TV people are bound to do a double-take on even when it's turned off. And with its extensive, up-to-date connection options, advanced video processing, and Energy Star certification, it's worthy of your techno-lust even with its higher-than-average list price. That old TV of yours starting to look tired? I'll bet it is.

In the Lab

Color temperature (User preset/Warm color temperature setting before/after calibration) Low window (20-IRE): 7,767/6,727 K High window (100-IRE): 6,653/6,516 K

Brightness (User preset/Warm color temperature setting before/after calibration) 45.4/42.9 ftL

With its Warm color temperature selected in the User-present menu, Pioneer's PDP-4340HD displayed excellent grayscale tracking, emasuring close to the NTSC standards of 6,500 K through most of its randge. A slight blue bias at the low end was corrected via grayscale calibration using service-menu adjustments. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician with specialized equipmetn, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.)

Picture overscan was 3% on all sides which is average. Using the color-decoder-error pattern on the Avia test disc, I measured only a 5% deficiency on the green channel, while the red and blue channels were spot-on. At 43 ftL post-calibration, the Pioneer put out a satisfyingly bright image. Its 3-D digital comb filter performed extremely well when a composite-video connection was used, with minimal cross-color artifacts visible on either test patters or TV programs.