The digital tuner is actually just the tip of a monster feature iceberg, too. The innovations start down at core manufacturing level, with Pioneer introducing two key new features for its sixth generation of plasma screens. First, the plasma cells are built using a new ‘deep waffle rib’ design that apparently reduces light and colour leakage between separate cells. Second, a new Crystal Emissive Layer applied to each plasma chamber boosts the stability of the gas plasma light discharge, resulting, it’s claimed, in better brightness and contrast, as well as greater energy efficiency.
The 436XDE’s picture processing, meanwhile, comes courtesy of the latest generation of Pioneer’s PureDrive II engine. This comprises all manner of image trickery, including MPEG noise reduction (for cleaning up the blockiness seen on weaker digital TV broadcasts), multiple contrast boosting measures, and a ‘3D Y/C’ filter aimed at improving clarity and sharpness.
There’s a new ‘I-Clear Drive’ technology, too, which Pioneer has developed to make colour gradations more subtle and, as a result, pictures look more layered and three-dimensional.
We could go on for hours about everything else the 436XDE has to offer, but for the sake of your sanity and our servers, we’ll restrict ourselves to just a couple more points. One is that the set has the facility to have its picture settings configured according to Image Science Foundation picture calibration guidelines (provided you can be bothered to find someone qualified to do the job).
Also, the set is extremely rare in today’s TV market in that it’s compatible with the up and coming 1080p high definition picture format. In case you’re not familiar with it, 1080p goes a step further than the AV world’s high-def ‘standards’ of 720p and 1080i. And it has become a hot potato since Sony announced 1080p output for both its Playstation 3 games console and Blu-ray high definition DVD players.
With so many features to cover, the 436XDE hasn’t left us with much room to discuss its performance. But actually we could make do with just two words: simply breathtaking…
Starting with its colours, we found outrageously rich, vibrant saturations, endlessly subtle blends, and tones that remain completely natural – even with people’s skin colouring – at all times.
Also impressive is the 436XDE’s rendition of black, helping give TV shows and especially films a striking sense of depth. In this regard the plasma 436XDE embarrasses many of the current LCD fraternity, which tend to suffer with dark areas that are obscured by a sort of flattening grey mist.