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Pioneer KURO PDP-428XD 42in Plasma TV - Pioneer PDP-428XD
Not least among the highlights is a mode in the onscreen menus that allows you to adjust the TV's frequency to 72Hz. This allows the TV to show the pure 1080p/24fps feeds now delivered by some Blu-ray players (including Pioneer's own BDP-LX70) using a relatively simple 3:3 pulldown system. This hopefully results in 1080p/24 playback that looks cleaner and smoother than you'd expect with the more complicated calculations required to reproduce 24fps on less adaptable screens.
Given the importance of the 428XD's black level performance, it's also worth quickly outlining the innovations Pioneer has introduced to make this happen. There are five main ones. Number one is new glass in the plasma panel, driven by completely new address circuitry. Two is the use of deep-set plasma chambers - in a structure dubbed the Deep Waffle Rib - to reduce cross-light and cross-colour seepage between pixels.
Third is an improved version of Pioneer's Deep Colour Filter system, which integrates into the screen in place of the usual thick plasma glass and reduces the amount of reflections on the screen.
Fourth is brand new image processing that applies entirely different techniques for dark and light scenes. And last but certainly not least is the latest version of Pioneer's crystal emissive layer; a layer sandwiched between the plasma glass and the individual light cells which not only improves luminance efficiency, but also enhances the efficiency of the plasma discharge cycle so that pixels can go from pure white to deep black and back again faster.
The result of all this black level obsession is a class-leading claimed contrast ratio of 16,000:1 - though as with the 50in KURO, we have to say that our experience of actually watching the 428XD suggests that this figure is in reality quite conservative.
Take, for instance, the highly stylised, extremely contrasted images of the battles in 300 on HD DVD or Blu-ray. Essentially no other 42in TV that's come through our doors before has ever managed to produce black levels as deep, natural, and packed with subtle detailing as this Pioneer.
What's more, as well as helping you clearly detect every last pixel of detail in the impressive 300 transfer in a way just not possible with typical flat screens (where dark areas are masked behind a wall of greyness) the black level depth here gives the picture a truly cinematic dynamism.
Not that this dynamism is restricted to great black level depth. For the 428XD also produces a remarkably vibrant, rich, solid but also completely natural palette of colours that delivers a perfect counterpoint to the immaculate blacks. Indeed, the overwhelming naturalism of the 428XD's pictures gives us a salutary reminder of the fact that you really can't expect a totally natural colourscape from any flat TV that doesn't have superb black levels.