Once the shining light of TV technology, plasma’s aura is starting to wane so far as an increasingly LCD-obsessed public is concerned. Clever spin-doctoring, savage price cutting and ever-bigger screen sizes from LCD makers have started to push plasma so far into the background that we’re starting to think it needs to sign up Max Clifford if it’s going to survive. Either that or the latest screens to carry the plasma flag, like Pioneer’s PDP-436XDE, need to be so darned good that they win punters over with their sheer quality.
The 436XDE makes a solid start on this daunting mission by looking quite stunning. The high-gloss finish on the jet-black screen frame creates an impression of both opulence and robust build quality. And the thinness of the frame ensures that the 43in screen doesn’t occupy any more of your living room space than necessary. You should note, though, that the screen as described does not include built-in speakers. The speakers provided are in fact detachable, giving you the flexibility of either fastening them to the TV or mounting elsewhere. Or, of course, you may just leave them in the box and use your own home cinema speakers instead.
The speakers aren’t the only thing not built into the 436XDE. Its TV tuner and connections are also sited externally, inside a separate AV multimedia receiver/switching box. Few manufacturers use such external receivers these days, though there can be advantages; not least the fact that if you’re thinking of wall-hanging your TV, it’s much easier to live with/hide a single cable connecting the screen to the receiver than the usual cable spaghetti caused by directly connecting all your AV gear.
Sockets on the external receiver are prodigious. Particularly eye catching is the future proofing offered by two HDMI sockets – double what most TVs currently carry. But also gratifying to find are three SCARTs, component video jacks, a D-SUB PC input, a multi-format card slot for direct viewing of digital photos, a subwoofer line output, an optical digital audio output, and a slot for adding subscription services like Top Up TV to a built in digital tuner.
Did we say digital tuner? Sure did. What’s more, this tuner is backed up by full support for the 7-day electronic programme guide offered by the Freeview terrestrial digital service.