Pioneer PDP-507XD

3rd Jan 2007 | 00:00

Pioneer PDP-507XD

Pioneer improves on its previous plasma

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

Not the cheapest 50in plasma in town, but it's worth every penny for the performance it delivers

Like:

<p>Stunning all round performance</p>

Dislike:

<p>Not particularly cheap</p>

According to independent research by global market research company Synovate, consumers exhibit a clear preference for plasma display screens over LCDs, when presented with both formats side by side.

The Synovate study asked consumers which screen provided the best overall image quality for the following criteria: sharpness, colour, response speed, contrast, black quality and resolution. On medium- and large-screen sets, 73 per cent of respondents rated plasmas as providing the 'best image quality' ahead of LCD.

Perhaps it is unsurprising to learn that the study was commissioned by Panasonic and Pioneer, but it provides an interesting backdrop to this latest visitor to the our tech labs. Certainly Pioneer's plasma screens have had more than their fair share of critical accolades. Last year's sixth-generation screens scored plenty of prizes. So expectations are obviously high for this latest iteration of the brand's glass.

Aesthetically, the PDP-507XD is extremely reminiscent of what Pioneer has done before; the sleek, gloss-black, ultra minimalist bezel is as glossy as ever. The screen can be rotated on the detachable desktop stand too. The display can sport speakers either side-mounted or under-screen. Talk to your dealer if you have a preference. If you really want, you can also purchase the screen sans speakers.

Connectivity is on the money. Two HDMIs and a set of component video inputs satisfy high-definition needs. What's more, the HDMIs are able to take a 1080p/24Hz high-definition signal, however, no BD player can output this yet. Other jacks of interest include a D-Sub VGA PC input, three Scarts, a subwoofer line out, a Common Interface slot, and a digital audio output.

As with all Pioneer's seventh-generation TVs, the 507XD carries its connections on board, rather than using an external switching box a la some generation six offerings.

Those specifications

When it comes to the specifications, it certainly seems as if Pioneer has not been twiddling its thumbs. Almost all the various processing and construction innovations delivered for the 06XDE ranges have apparently been tweaked and improved.

A souped-up version of Pioneer's 'Intelligent DRE' processing allegedly delivers improvements to sharpness, contrast and brightness. The clever Direct Colour Filter system that replaces the thick, image-ghosting glass found on normal plasma TVs with a much lighter, single layer screen has also been refined, as have the plasma chambers phosphors, with the latter tweak resulting in the delivery of a claimed nine per cent improvement in colour spectrum.

Colours supposedly benefit, too, from new Intelligent Colour processing algorithms purported to produce even greater tonal subtlety than witnessed on Pioneer's sixth-gen screens.

The 507XD also provides loads of optional tweaks for the user to experiment with. Since most of these aren't new, however, and we'll get into how the TV actually performs, we'll restrict ourselves to passing mentions of MPEG noise reduction, an enormous colour management section and the provision for Imaging Science Foundation associates to calibrate the picture even more minutely than before.

In action, the 507XD is not an enormous step forward from the 06XDE range. Its improvements are subtle. But it is nevertheless better - and since we proclaimed the brand's sixth-gen screens to be the best we'd ever seen, it's actually pretty spectacular that Pioneer has been able to improve things at all!

The most notable embellishments can be seen in the 507XD's colours. Not so much in their vibrancy, perhaps; when it comes to the richness and brightness of saturations the 507XD is on a par with its predecessors. But tones seem even more natural and expressive, especially where deep greens are concerned; the white balance seems slightly more neutral and fine colour blends are portrayed with even more finesse.

After calibration it's possible to get the screen 6500K perfect, which ensures absolute fidelity with what filmmakers intend you to see, at least from a colour perspective. A sense of enhanced subtlety in the picture is also evident in dark picture areas, thanks to an improvement in the 507XD's greyscaling. While blacks look as impressively free of grey or blue tones as previously, there's now slightly more shadow detail on show.

One final area where the gen-seven 507XD subtly builds on previous strengths is noise reduction. Remarkably there's even less MPEG noise, motion noise and, most of all, pixel dot crawl than with the gen-six screens, leaving HD pictures looking surely as pristine as it's possible for a 50-inch TV to make them - at least for this year.

The various incremental steps forward described have not compromised other traditional strengths of Pioneer's plasma picture. The screen is capable of outstanding sharpness with HD footage, especially evident while playing crisp Xbox 360 games; remarkable freedom from onscreen reflections; a picture that maintains its integrity from even very acute viewing angles; and standard-def pictures, which - provided they're of a fair broadcast quality, at least - survive the trip up to an HD Ready 50-inch flat TV.

The seventh-generation

Of course, one might have been forgiven for thinking that the move to seventh-generation glass would herald a new era of Full HD 1,920x1,080 panels for the brand. Unfortunately it's not to be; ultra-high resolution remains the province of the company's PDP-5000EX monitor. There's no doubt that the lack of Full HD will soon begin to be a factor on large-screen plasma panels. It's just a matter of when, not if.

Sonically, the set is fine. The rather unassuming looking speakers Pioneer makes for the screen turn out to be sweethearts, combining great dialogue clarity with a welcome body of midbass.

Pioneer has not had the best of years financially and we approached this new generation of glass worried that cost-cutting measures may have undermined the performance of its plasma range. But we needn't have been concerned. For while the 507XD may only be an evolution rather than a revolution, Pioneer has nonetheless succeeded in polishing what is widely regarded as one of the best large-screen plasmas around.

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