The Pioneer Touch: What does a plasma TV maker do when it has superior technology, but more limited production capability than its mass market competitors? Give up chasing the volume sales, and concentrate just serving on the connoisseur market. That’s Pioneer’s ambition with its new line of super grade 42-, 50- and 60-inch plasma screens, which it will tout as “technology for serious entertainment junkies.”
Pioneer’s 8th Gen Plasma “Kuro” line
Truth is, Pioneer’s previous sets already boasted blacker blacks than competitor’s models, plus better sound, more inputs, and sleeker cabinets, and so already commanded higher prices. But now it’s added new Project Kuro (Japanese for black) technology. At the heart is a new color filter and a refined picture cell structure with 80 percent lower idling luminance (the energy still being fed to a pixel when in “off” or standby mode ). With Kuro-tech, the blacks are even deeper, inkier, and richer. And when you start with such super black, you also get sharper details, finer contrast and more vivid colors, “increasing tonal gradations by three times,” Pioneer exec Russ Johnston explained.
The new Pioneer line also boasts a new ASIC scaling/deinterlacing/noise reduction processor which will improve both HD and SD performance. Plus, there’s a smart new picture processing Optimum Mode, which automatically detects the content and changes the settings to best show off sports, news, animation, music videos or a movie. The circuitry also works with a built-in room light sensor, to adjust the brightness and contrast, relative to the lighting conditions.
And for the super tweakers, these sets will offer a much easier and deeper access path to service menus for manual fine tuning of the picture.
Pioneer also is upping the ante on audio – with redesigned enclosures, drivers and whistle clean digital amplification, for those times when you don’t feel like firing up the 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker systems. “You’ll hear the most improvement in the midrange, especially the staging of voices,” said Johnston.
The whole line features CEC control technology for linking different components, even from different manufacturers, via HDMI 1.3 cables. Pioneer’s high end Elite models also pack Home Media Gallery – technology for sharing a/v content between a PC and the TV.
The first Project Kuro sets reaching stores in June will be XGA (720p) resolution models – the 42-inch PDP-4280HD ($2,700) and 50-inch PDP-5080HD ($3,500.) In July, Elite XGA versions will appear – the 42- inch PRO-950HD ($3,200 ) and 50-inch Pro-1150 HD ($4,500) – most visually distinctive because of the Elite’s side mounted (and detachable) speakers, versus the under set mounted (and also detachable) speakers in the core Pioneer line.
If you’re craving for a 1080p Kuro- grade display from Pioneer, you’ll have to wait until September, for four models in 50- and 60-inch sizes. The core brand Pioneer versions (PDP-501OFD and PDP-6010FD) will carry a suggested retail of $5,000 and $6,500 respectively, the top-of-the- class Elite versions (PRO-110FD and PRO-150FD) will go for $6,000 and $7,500.