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Let’s start this review by admiring Pioneer’s guts. For while history suggests that the more a company hypes a product the harder it is for us reviewer types not to ultimately feel disappointed when it finally arrives on our test benches, Pioneer has blithely gone about hyping its latest plasma TVs to the heavens.

So now that the first of these supposedly revolutionary new Pioneer sets – dubbed Project Kuro for reasons we’ll get to in a minute – are finally with us, surely they’re destined to fall short of the sky-high expectations their marketing has raised in us? Um, actually, maybe not…

Before we get into all of that, though, we’ve got a tonne of ground work to cover. Starting with that Project Kuro nickname Pioneer has given its new ‘08XD’ plasma screens.

Kuro is actually Japanese for ‘black’, suggesting right away that the colour black is somehow particularly important to what makes the new screens tick. As it happens they’re dressed – very nattily – in a minimalist high-gloss black finish. But this isn’t the reason for the fancy Project Kuro name. Rather it’s all to do with the TVs’ black level performance.

Put like that, Project Kuro sounds about as interesting as a bag of spuds. But if we tell you that in the opinion of pretty much every TV aficionado we know – including ourselves – black level is quite possibly the single most important element of a TV’s picture performance, then hopefully the fact that Pioneer is claiming the best black levels ever seen on a flat TV for its 08XD range starts to sound rather more exciting.

To put some numbers on Pioneer’s claims, the 50in PDP-508XD we’re looking at today boasts a claimed contrast ratio of 16000:1 – a huge 80 per cent improvement over anything Pioneer has managed before, and indeed the highest such figure yet claimed in the flat TV world. What’s more, unlike the contrast ratio figures of most LCD TVs, this figure is a ‘pure’ one, not dependent on any brightness-reducing ‘dimming backlight’ shenanigans.

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