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Pioneer Electronics PureVision Elite PRO-930HD Plasma HDTV Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 August 2006
Article Index
Pioneer Electronics PureVision Elite PRO-930HD Plasma HDTV
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Television and Movies
Any minor frustration you may experience during set-up will be instantly forgotten when you sit down to reap the rewards. The PRO-930HD’s picture is simply gorgeous, both with DVD and HDTV content. Even upconverted SDTV channels, while soft, look much better here than through many flat panels I’ve seen.

The TV’s excellent black level has much to do with its picture quality. After reviewing several LCDs in a row, I had forgotten just how much better a well-designed plasma can render a good black. The PRO-930HD didn’t have the deepest blacks I’ve seen in a plasma, but it was pretty darn close. The film “Collateral” (DreamWorks) is shot almost entirely at night, and director Michael Mann used HD cameras for much of the inside-the-cab exchanges between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. The PRO-930HD’s improved black level not only lends greater depth to the overall image, but also lets you take in the extra bit of detail in darker scenes.

Likewise, fine details in the dark background shots of “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” (Warner Bros.) were clearly evident. Usually, such good blacks demand a sacrifice in light output, but I found the Pioneer’s picture to hold up quite well during the day. Pioneer has incorporated a Crystal Emissive Layer between the plasma glass and the individual light cells that, according to the company, “allows each cell to be charged and discharged three times faster than before, for greater light emission.” It works as intended, and the company’s First-Surface Pure Color Filter technology helps reduce ambient light reflections to improve viewability in a brighter space.

I happened to have a similarly-sized LCD panel on hand, so, for fun, I set up a side-by-side comparison of over-the-air HDTV content. It was no contest in terms of black level and viewing angle. The Pioneer’s picture had much more depth and dimension, especially in a darkened room, and suffered no loss in contrast when I moved off-axis. The LCD’s brightness created a more vivid picture during the day, an effect most noticeable with whites, but the difference wasn’t that dramatic. I’d say the PRO-930HD wasn’t hindered as much by daylight as the LCD was by darkness, which makes it a good all-round choice. I made a point to tune in to an NBA playoff game in 720p on ABC to check out how each TV handled motion. The plasma demonstrated noticeably less blur in background detail as the HD camera followed the action on the court.

The Pioneer also has ample dynamic range to render all the steps between black and white in an image. That makes for a smoother picture, with less digital noise in solid colors and grey, even with all of the aforementioned noise-reduction features turned off. During the rescue sequence in chapter 10 of “Ladder 49” (Buena Vista), the smoke that hangs over the entire image actually looked like smoke, not pixels, and the improved black level revealed more detail in this scene than I’ve seen to date. Flesh tones were natural and colors were rich without going overboard, although greens appeared just a bit oversaturated in ABC’s “Lost” and ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Pioneer’s PureCinema processing includes two modes. The standard mode handles 3:2 pulldown for interlaced sources like DVD and the advanced mode uses 3:3 pulldown, converting 24 frames-per-second film to 72 frames-per-second video, which should create even smoother motion. I didn’t see much of a difference between the two modes with the Snell & Wilcox test on Video Essentials or in my test scene from “Gladiator” (DreamWorks), chapter 12. They both did an excellent job creating a jaggie-free image with only a hint of shimmer, so a good progressive-scan DVD player is not a necessity. The TV also does an above-average job handling video-based signals like DVD extras and many TV programs, although it occasionally stuttered with text scrolls, such as sports and news tickers.

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