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Pioneer PDP-LX508D Picture Quality
High Definition (Blu-Ray)
There's no denying that 300 is a stylistically stunning big screen adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. Although not the best for demonstrating the awesome eye-popping qualities of HD due to intentional grain introduction and colour desaturation, this movie nevertheless allowed me to gauge a few crucial elements of real-world picture quality on the Pioneer PDP-LX508D.
The post-processing efforts that went into achieving a high-contrast look to mimic the appearance of a graphic novel were not wasted on the Pioneer PDP-LX508D. Blacks were suitably inky: when the last of the Persian messengers was pushed down the pit, he was swallowed by an abyss of blackness (13:16) rather than a murky grey that commonly afflicts lesser flat panel televisions.
But in my opinion no other scene encapsulates the Pioneer PDP-LX508D's enormous contrast ratio more than when the hunchbacked Ephialtes revealed the secret goat path to the Persians (around 1:34:05). The jet-black silhouette of the Immortals, the menacing glow in their eyes, the remaining hint of shadow detail in the rock layers of the cliff, and the rays of sunlight bursting through the clouds:
As is to be expected from a top-tier plasma television, fast-paced action scenes were handled with aplomb, allowing me to savour the different combat moves Leonidas executed during battle (48:06), and his thrilling fight sequence with the snarling 7-feet Uber Immortal (1:05:42).
Even from 10 feet away, the Pioneer PDP-LX508D's resolution advantage in [Dot-By-Dot] mode over the PDP-508XD sitting beside it was clearly visible. The crisscrossing arrows sticking out of the ground and the dents on the shields (51:03) were quite simply sharper and less blurry on the LX508D compared to the 508XD:
Similarly, less effort was required to discern the fineness of the detail on the Pioneer PDP-LX508D, for example the delicate patterns on the stairsteps, and the intricate ornaments on Xerxes the Persian king (57:41):
Standard Definition (Freeview Digital TV)
If you're dropping more than £3,000 on the Pioneer PDP-LX508D, you shouldn't skimp on obtaining as much high-definition material as possible if you want to do the plasma television justice. That said, some content are only available in standard definition, and you'll be pleased to know that the Pioneer PDP-LX508D copes well with lower resolution source.
More than well, in fact. Thanks to some exceptional scaling and deinterlacing (though with the latter you may need to learn when to apply the correct modes to different material), the Pioneer PDP-LX508D delivered the best Freeview digital TV picture I've seen on any flat screen television to date.
High bit-rate US dramas like Ugly Betty of course looked DVD-esque, but even Michael Ball's interview on ITV's This Morning (certainly not the first programme to spring to mind when talking about broadcast quality) was immensely watchable: faces and objects appeared sharp without any telltale signs of excessive edge enhancement; blacks were fantastic; colours were balanced and natural; and there was little to no noise nor posterization from 8 feet away.
PS3 Console Gaming
While it remains one of the best-value Blu-ray player on the market, the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) sadly lags behind the Xbox 360 when it comes to gaming software development and rollout. Granted, the latter has had a 1-year head start over the former, but this can't hide the fact that the highest-rated examples of HD games currently belong exclusively to the Xbox 360 platform, e.g. Bioshock, Halo 3 and Gears Of War.
Fortunately one of most anticipated first-person shooter this year – Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – was recently released on the PS3 as well as the Xbox 360:
Although in the past I have usually refrained from recommending plasma TVs to serious gamers due to certain technology-specific issues like image retention and lower (relative to LCDs) peak brightness level, the Pioneer PDP-LX508D proved itself to be a welcome exception. Due in no small part to its expansive contrast ratio, fluid motion handling and 1920x1080 resolution, the PDP-LX508D didn't even skip a beat in portraying the exquisite detail, lifelike animation, wonderfully layered textures, and terrific lighting effects found in abundance in COD4.
The Kuro plasmas I have tested in the past were extremely resistant to image retention/ screenburn, and the Pioneer PDP-LX508D was no different. After hours of intensive gaming, I could detect a hint of retention only on a black screen, and even then it would usually wash away within a few minutes of normal viewing. Still, there's no harm in following the advice in our plasma screenburn prevention article, at least for the first 200 hours.
I did not notice any phosphor trails when the "Activision" logo started spinning speedily every time I entered the game, but then again I don't usually see such green/ yellow flashes. Because phosphor trails are inherent to the plasma technology, and whether you see them or not depends on your individual susceptibility (retinal persistance theory), I suspect that if you have witnessed this problem on other plasma televisions, you'll probably see them on the Pioneer PDP-LX508D as well, in which case you should seriously consider an LCD TV (will have some other drawbacks) instead.
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