Pioneer's New Plasmas

Pioneer announced eight new plasmas on Wednesday. That in itself is not terribly exciting. What is exciting is that it is based on their 8th generation glass, which I’ve talked about before.

Called “Project Kuro” (Kuro means “Black” in Japanese), the 8th gen glass is a substantial reworking of how Pioneer’s plasmas work. I’ll go into more detail when I review an actual product, but here’s the short version. By using different electrode placement, they were able to reduce idling brightness by 80%. Basically this means that blacks can be significantly darker than before.

They also announced a new pricing strategy that would take them away from the “race to zero” that every other flat panel manufacturer is going for. So don’t expect the new plasmas to come cheap (like Pioneers ever were).

They proof, they say, is in the pudding. At the unveiling, all the plasmas were shown with some bias lighting. This was unlike CEATEC from last year where the prototype of this glass was shown in a totally dark room. If Pioneer was so sure of their black levels, why not a black room? We didn’t get a chance to see anything interesting on them that night, but the next day we were invited back to see the new plasma against some competition.

Any time a manufacturer, any manufacturer, sets their product head to head with another manufacturer, you have to take the results with a grain of salt. Without being able to check all the settings, one would have no idea what they’ve done to each display to make them look good or bad. That said, when one of the displays is one of their own models (which is still for sale), you can at least garner some initial opinions. Here, judge for yourself:

The upper left is their PRO-FHD1 that I reviewed a few months ago. Up top is a new Samsung, and the bottom right is the latest Panasonic. That leaves the lower middle, which is a 768p version of their 8th gen glass. I think the picture pretty much says it all. The black level was noticeably better on the new glass. How much better? I won’t know till I get one in the lab, hopefully in a few months when they’re released. Keep in mind the settings on all displays were supposedly "out of the box."

Even if the new black level is close to a Panasonic (it looks a lot better), then that is big news. Now you have some of the best processing in the business, and a good black level. I can’t wait to check one out.

The 42 and 50-inch 768p models will be out in June for $2,700 and $3,500. A 50 and 60 1080p models will be out in September for $5,000 and $6,500. These for are straight Pioneer models. The Elite models (which have some step-up features and such but the same glass), will have the same sizes, but the 768p models will be available a month later. Prices on those are $3,200, $4,500, with the 1080p 50 and 60 being $6,000, and $7,500.

And in case you didn't see it anywhere else on the site, the Home Entertainment Show starts Friday. If you’re in or near NYC, come on down. I’ll be doing a panel called “HDTV 101” on Saturday at 1:30. Feel free to come heckle say hi.

John's picture

So Geoff, how would you compare what you saw in the Pioneer to let's say... the holy grail of black a CRT?

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

Hard to say, as there was no reference and the room wasn't completely dark. I'd bet it was as low if not lower than the best flat panels we've reviewed before.

John's picture

So we're talking lowest black level of any flat panel currently out. Probably not the "true" black we get from CRTs just yet...Were you pretty impressed with the demo overall? Compared to say SED?

Geoffrey Morrison's picture

Could be. We'll have to wait till I get one in the lab to be sure. With SED being MIA/DbeforeA the comparison is barely worth it. That, and I've never seen one side by side.

Bruce's picture

When are you going to get one in the lab? They have been out for a while.

Tom Gooding's picture

Will you review the Elite models? I hear those have a slightly better picture, more features, and a better warranty. Will 720 or 1080 versions be reviewed? Also, could you review more than one of these Pioneer plasmas as you did with the new Panasonics?

Andy's picture

Which would recommend? The Kuro PDP-5010FD 1080P or the Elite Kure PRO-1150HD 720P. They are about the same money and I can't decide.

PRO-110FD 's picture

Have had two PRO-110FD-50" panels (first overheated) and the screen buzz is a real annoyance. Heard above normal volume, and at ten feet away! Only solution so far: Power Controls in Menu, knock it down to Mode 2. Then reset all picture variables. That only reduces the electronic buzz by about 50%.Anyone have any ideas? Pioneer is researching this now. They have had several complaints about this. Too much money for such a problem, though it is an excellent panel, as close to a CRT as you can get!

Buzz's picture

I bought the Pioneer PRO 1150HD which is a step down model from the PRO 110FD and the buzz is quite distracting. When I have my kids in the room and I am watching something its hard to hear the buzz. But whenever I am watching it without the kids I can hear the buzz. I wonder if it is altitude related. I live South West of Salt Lake City, UT and I am at about 5000 feet.Its a shame because the entire rest of the display is top notch and I really like it, but for $3k this is almost too much. I have a couple of weeks to decide if I can live with it... otherwise the display may just go back to the store.

Buzz's picture

Follow up to my previous post. It seems that the overheat problem has bitten me also. When watching it this evening it spontaneously shut off several times giving me a blinking blue led every time... Not good

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