Pioneer PDP-508XD

14th Aug 2007 | 23:00

Pioneer PDP-508XD

Pioneer puts faith in black with a premium pricing gamble

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

A true milestone in flat TV quality, and reasonable value for money to boot

At £2,700 without speakers or stand, Pioneer's new 50in plasma is very expensive. But the price will ultimately seem fair if, as Pioneer claims it will, the PDP-508XD redefines expectations of flat TV picture quality.

The main focus of Pioneer's picture quality boasts concerns black levels. The PDP-508XD's quoted contrast ratio is 16000:1 - the highest on a flat TV.

Four Pioneer innovations make this possible: a new pixel structure that reduces colour and light bleed; a new Crystal Emissive Layer that enhances the screen's brightness, contrast and response times; a proprietary colour filter that soaks up ambient reflections; and processing that works completely differently for dark footage than for bright.

Groundbreaking black levels aren't the PDP-508XD's only claim to fame. The TV can also play 1080p/24fps sources from hi-def discs using a 72Hz refresh rate, which should result in less noise and smoother motion, and improved sound quality.

Once installed the PDP-508XD can also be professionally calibrated to match conditions in its room, connected a PC, and play digital photos using its USB 2.0 port.

The set also gives a satisfying three HDMIs. These are 1.3 affairs compatible with features like the Deep Colour extended colour palette, and automatic lip synching.

To test Pioneer's black level claims for the PDP-508XD, we played into it the darkest source we could think of: Superman Returns on HD DVD. The TV really did deliver a performance that completely outclasses any other 50in TV we've ever seen.

Flying high

As Superman takes Lois on a night tour of Metropolis the night sky was utterly free of greyness. What's more, subtle shadow details and greyscale shifts gave Metropolis at night appropriate scale.

In other words, the PDP-508XD's black levels really are a quantum leap. But the good news certainly doesn't stop there.

For the black level prowess also helps the PDP-508XD deliver an expansive colour palette which reproduces the endless subtleties of the The Daily Planet offices as well as skin tones on the human actors that appear completely believable rather than slightly orangey or overripe as happens with most flat TV rivals.

More good news comes with the PDP-508XD's handling of motion, which reproduces all the flying debris as Metropolis is hit by an earthquake with total solidity, smoothness and clarity.

This same scene also provides ample evidence of how incredibly sharp and detailed the 508XD's hi-def playback looks, suggesting that having a full HD resolution really isn't so important (the PDP-508XD has a 1365 x 768 pixel count) if everything else about your pictures is spot on.

The PDP-508XD's picture is also almost completely free of video noise during hi-def viewing (especially using a 1080p/24 source like Pioneer's BDP-LX70 Blu-ray player), and unusually accomplished at upscaling standard-def.

A new standard

Unfortunately the optional speakers Pioneer is making for the PDP-508XD weren't available in the UK in time for our review. This really doesn't matter for with the PDP-508XD it's all about the picture quality. And thanks chiefly to its sensational black levels, that picture quality is the best we've ever seen on 50in TV.

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