If there was ever a TV that needed no introduction, it's Pioneer's KURO PDP-LX5090. For this 50in plasma TV has been receiving all manner of frenzied media coverage/speculation for some time now, for two key reasons.
First, it's the second proper generation of Pioneer's truly revolutionary KURO technology - a technology which earned universal rave reviews and redefined expectations of what's possible with flat TV technology.
Second, the LX5090 has fascinated us media types because it's the last 50in screen design that's going to roll off Pioneer's own production lines. The next Pioneer generation will emerge from Panasonic factories, as part of a co-operative deal struck between the two companies earlier this year.
Pioneer continues to assure us all in the strongest terms that the move to Panasonic production lines will not affect the quality of its future screens in the slightest. But even so, I suspect there are at least a few telly fans out there kind of hoping that the LX5090 really is a belter, so that they can get one now and not have to worry about any future Pioneer/Panasonic shenanigans.
Not surprisingly, the LX5090 certainly looks the part. It effectively wears a slightly more refined, more slender (94mm) version of the straightforward but strikingly minimalistic high-gloss black bezel that has adorned Pioneer plasmas so classily for a good couple of generations now. It's beautifully built, too.
It's also well connected, with three v1.3 HDMIs standing out, as well as a USB port for digital photo viewing (with Pioneer's superb Home Gallery software to back it up), a CAM slot to support what's clearly a built-in digital TV tuner, a subwoofer line-out, and a digital audio output.
I guess I wouldn't have minded a fourth HDMI on a TV with such a premium price tag as the LX5090; at £2,349 (or more if you want the speakers, stand or wall mount options) it is, after all, around twice the price of something like Panasonic's TH-50PZ80. But I'm kind of hoping the LX5090 will deliver enough goods elsewhere to make me quickly forget such trivial wishes.
All the on-paper evidence suggests that the LX5090 certainly will deliver the goods where it matters most: picture performance. For it turns out that rather than sitting on its hands for a year, as many manufacturers might have done having established such a technological lead as Pioneer did with its first KURO TVs, Pioneer has been doing anything but standing still.
In fact, remarkably the brand claims that its new screens deliver black levels five times as deep as those of the previous KURO generation - even though the black levels of that previous generation were so far in advance of the competition that they actually led to the birth of the KURO sub-brand name, since KURO is Japanese for black.
The LX5090's black level advances are down in no small part to the introduction of a new, even more refined version of Pioneer's already class-leading Direct Colour Filter technology, via which Pioneer has managed to pretty much completely stop plasma cells from bleeding light - something that inevitably results in reduced contrast in surrounding pixels and reduced brightness in the pixel that's ‘leaking'.
With accidental light seepage removed, the latest, newly optimised generation of Pioneer's picture processing is now free to control each pixel much more independently and accurately, with the net result that pictures should have much more black level depth, colour naturalism and brightness than they did before.