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Pioneer PDP-LX5090 Image Quality
High Definition (Blu-Ray)
To use anything less than a reference-level disc to assess the high-definition picture performance of the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 would be doing this Kuro plasma TV (whose predecessor delivered the best image quality among all the HDTVs we've reviewed last year) a great disservice. The nigh-on impeccable Blu-ray transfer of Enchanted – a delightful mix and twist of several classic Disney plotlines into one heart-warming modern-day fairy tale – was just the ticket for the task.
"Kuro" means black in Japanese, so let's start with that. But first, we need to get one thing straight. Many people pass comment on black level by stating whether the blacks on screen blend seamlessly with the (black) bezel of their TVs. Such statements should be qualified by concurrently describing the content on screen and the ambient light condition. If you're watching a completely black image (for example a video black or 0% stimulus test pattern) in a pitch black room, even the slightest hint of residual glow on screen would be visible after some time. This is due to dark adaptation, which refers to how our eyes slowly increase their sensitivity in low-light conditions to be capable of detecting luminance levels as low as 1 x 10-6 cd/m2. By extension, unless the light-emitting units (e.g. plasma cells or LCD pixels) on a television can be totally switched off, the screen will appear distinct from the bezel in a viewing environment devoid of light.
Even taking into account the Samsung F96 local-dimming LED LCD TV which can achieve 0 cd/m2 true blacks but only when there's little to no content on screen, for normal viewing the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 dished out the deepest blacks among all the flat screen HDTVs we've tested thus far, beating last year's Kuro plasmas by not an insignificant margin. During the opening chapters of Enchanted where the crisp hand-drawn 2D animation is windowboxed on all four sides, to our eyes the black bars were practically indistinguishable from the bezel in low ambient light.
And the sequence immediately following the expansion of the image to 2:35:1 aspect ratio provided the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 plasma HDTV with an opportune moment to flex its enormous dynamic range. As Giselle (Amy Adams) lies beneath the Manhattan manhole where evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) has banished her (00:10:53), the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 effortlessly portrayed the ominous blacks of her surroundings, and the rays of sunlight seeping through the manhole cover... two contrasting elements that would have severely tested lesser panels. Yet the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 still managed to find the capacity to delineate every shadow detail (e.g. the embroidered patterns on her wedding gown, and a few speckles of fading stardust) and bright highlight (her jewelled tiara upon which the sun is directly shining) in between, and did so with supreme conviction and clarity.
Not only did the splendid black level on the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 plasma television shower the film with an exquisite sense of depth and dimensionality, it also served as a pristine canvas (greyish blacks tend to wash out the picture) which allowed the wonderfully rich colours inside the movie to "pop" off the screen. And thanks to accurate colour palette and D65 greyscale after calibration, skin tones and sunlit scenes – like the over-the-top musical number "That's How You Know" in Central Park – all looked spot-on.
Using the slow horizontal camera pan across the clutter (when Giselle inspects the living room where she has spent the night) around 00:25:04 as our test scene, we checked out 1080p/24 (fed from a Sony PS3) playback on the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 Kuro plasma. With [PureCinema] engaged, we observed no evidence of telecine judder. However, if [PureCinema] was disabled by setting [Film Mode] to "Off", a subtle telecine judder would become visible on screen.
Standard Definition (Freeview Digital TV)
The combination of impossibly deep blacks, balanced greyscale, well-saturated colours, and above all some quite outstanding scaling and deinterlacing meant that the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 plasma television performed admirably in dealing with Freeview content (the source quality of which can vary from programme to programme), provided a sensible viewing distance was assumed.
One caveat though: due to the mind-boggling number of picture control options offered in the user menu, it's very easy to inadvertently introduce some video artefacts by applying the wrong settings to the wrong source material. For example, engaging [PureCinema] > [Film Mode] for video-based material (e.g. news or sports) would lead to instances of combing and jaggies. On a similar vein, the scrolling tickers at the bottom of the Sky News channel would tear/ comb intermittently unless [Text Optimisation] was engaged, or [PureCinema] > [Film Mode] disabled.
The easiest thing to do – it would seem – is to set [PureCinema] > [Film Mode] to "Off" when watching Freeview. But alas, if a film-based programme (such as movies and American dramas like CSI) comes on, the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 won't be able to deinterlace it properly with [Film Mode] "Off", which means that you're effectively throwing away half the resolution, and may notice various deinterlacing artefacts like moire, jaggies and line twitters.
All we're saying is... the Freeview picture is great, but if you wish to obtain the best image quality across the board, you'll need to manually change the settings for different programmes, since the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 lacks the ability to automatically detect (and apply the correct deinterlacing to) video- vs film-based content.
HD Console Gaming (PS3)
For console gaming, there are 3 ways to minimise input lag on the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 plasma HDTV:
- Setting [Game Control Pref] to "On" in [Game] mode
- Engaging [PC] mode by setting [Option] > [HDMI Input] > [Signal Type] to "PC"
- Connecting via VGA input (which basically uses [PC] mode)
In each of these scenarios, we measured the input lag on Pioneer PDP-LX5090 to be equal to our resident Samsung F96 LED-backlit LCD TV that was set to [Game] mode. Otherwise, the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 would be 30ms slower.
Just like previous Kuro plasmas, the Pioneer PDP-LX5090 was extremely resistant to image retention/ screenburn. That said, there's no harm in following our plasma screenburn prevention advice... at least for the first 200 hours.
In [Game] mode, the default [Colour Space] is "1", and we saw no reason to change it knowing that not many games are mastered to broadcast industry standard anyway. We did tone [Sharpness] down to its minimum value of "-15" to prevent excessive edge enhancement from aggravating in-game aliasing. We also engaged [Dot-By-Dot] mode for 1:1 pixel mapping, and [Game Control Pref] for the least amount of input lag.
With these settings in place, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue was absolutely dripping with detail, vibrance and depth on the Pioneer PDP-LX5090... and we had no complaints about the gaming response either. Fast motion was rendered fluently with minimal blurring, though as is the case with most plasmas, a select few viewers whose eyes are more sensitive to the temporal fluctuations of plasma cells might notice green/ yellow flashes (a.k.a. phosphor trails) on fast-moving, high-contrast edges. We did not witness any.
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