Four key innovations have gone into making the world’s best flat TV black level, with arguably the single most important being a new Ultra Black Crystal Layer element that significantly boosts the speed with which the plasma chambers go through their charge/discharge cycles. This matters because it means a plasma pixel can go from white to pretty much total black in the blink of an eye, so that there’s no residual ‘greyness’ to reduce the black level in a dark shot.
Also important to the 508XD’s black level response is its screen’s use of a Direct Colour Filter arrangement instead of the usual glass, which results in a big reduction in the amount of contrast-reducing reflections from your living room.
Element three in the black level story is a new processing engine that treats dark scenes entirely differently to bright ones, while the final contribution comes from Pioneer’s uniquely deep-set plasma cell design – dubbed Deep Waffle Rib – that keeps leakage of light and colour between neighbouring pixels to an absolute minimum.
Heading now into slightly more prosaic territory, the 508XD has a sterling set of connections, dominated in fine style by three HDMI inputs. What’s more, these are no ordinary HDMI inputs, for they’re compatible both with the ‘CEC’ industry standard (allowing operation via the TV’s remote of any CEC-compliant source device), and with the 1080p/24fps ‘pure’ HD movie format used to encode the vast majority of films to HD disc.
This latter feature has particular significance for Pioneer for two reasons. First, its debut Blu-ray player, the BDP-LX70, features a 1080p/24fps output. Second, the TV is highly unusual in carrying a special 72Hz mode that permits simple 3:3 progressive pull down of 24fps inputs. If that’s all just so much mathematical gobbledegook to you, then all you really need to know is that it should add up to a 1080p/24fps picture with less noise and judder in it than usual.
Next on the 508XD’s frighteningly long features list is its USB 2.0 input, which permits you to view your digital photos in high resolution via Pioneer’s impressive built-in Home Gallery software.
Then there’s the fact that the TV carries all the firmware necessary to have itself fine tuned by an Imaging Science Foundation engineer so that its picture is totally optimised to your particular living room conditions.