Concerns that stepping up a whole 10in from any flat TV Pioneer has done before might lead to picture quality problems are quickly and dramatically quashed by the 607XD. For if anything we found the extra screen inches emphasised Pioneer’s image strengths rather than highlighting weaknesses.
Usually one strength in a picture catches our eye ahead of any others, but that’s not the case here, as various image facets vie for our attention. Black levels, for instance, our outstanding for a screen of this prodigious size. Especially when it comes to the amount of subtle shadow detail information the set manages to render while still avoiding the tell-tale greyness in dark areas that gives away lesser flat TVs. This means, for instance, that Alien becomes even more intense an experience than usual, as you find your eye drawn into every dark nook and cranny in search of the elusive xenomorph.
Partly because of the depth of the 607XD’s black levels and partly because of what’s an unusually high brightness output for such a large plasma screen, colours look superbly rich and well saturated. The vivid hues during the Barbados scenes on the Casino Royale Blu-ray transfer are suitably vibrant and inviting, while the rich gardenscape of Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360 is even more addictively appealing than ever.
It’s important to add here, though, that the 607XD can do subtle as well as vivid in colour terms, holding onto realistic skin tones even during infamously tricky-to-render sequences like the Mines of Morir on The Fellowship of the Ring.
Also winning plaudits is the 607XD’s sharpness – even without a full HD resolution. Fine detail levels with HD sources are acute, proving once again that the bigger a good screen gets, the more eye-catching the benefits of HD really are. But implicit within the screen’s obvious HD sharpness are the facts that a) its image processing does its stuff without generating seemingly any nasty side effects, b) motion is presented without the sort of resolution loss seen with LCD screens or the sort of dotting noise seen with weaker plasma screens; and c) noise of all types is impressively suppressed.
Adding to all the picture glories we’ve described is a suitably awesome performance from the optional extra speakers, which deliver almost hi-fi levels of clarity, power and frequency range and make the speakers built into many TVs sound like two tin cans and a bit of string.
If really pushed, we could come up with one or two areas where the 607XD’s pictures could be better still. For instance, while black levels are excellent, they’re not quite as richly deep as those of Panasonic’s current plasma generation. Also one or two issues (arguably inevitably) raise their heads while watching standard definition, namely a fairly noticeable step up in video noise levels, and the sudden appearance of a slightly unnatural hue to greens.
We guess that unless you’ve got a truly huge living room so that you don’t have to sit too close to the screen, the 607XD’s tiny standard definition problems might – though probably shouldn’t – put you off it as a direct replacement for a family TV. But as a high definition monitor for a plush home cinema room, it’s as good as it gets. At least until those 8th gen screens get here…