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Pioneer PDP4270XD Picture Quality

by Colin Tang
16 March 2007

Uneven Screen Uniformity (Dirty Screen)

After my last experience with clouding on the Sony KDL40W2000, I was mildly shocked to encounter another problem with screen uniformity, this time from a plasma screen. The patchy irregularity behind the display glass (dirty screen effect) can be seen on uniform grey or light colour backgrounds. On normal programmes, you can look for this effect on panning shots over uniform colour backgrounds, say in football games or skiing events. To be honest the effect is quite mild on our set and unless you know what you are looking for, you probably won't notice it.

To my knowledge, there has been no official word from Pioneer regarding this matter. Personally, I could live with this issue given the minor blemish on my unit, but more serious 'defects' may need a formal explanation and/or solution.

Torture Test

Dead pixels Passed
Screen Uniformity Uneven (Dirty Screen effect)
Overscanning (HDMI) 2-3 percent
Blacker than black Passed
Black level Below average . Greyish blacks
Black level retention Stable
Primary chromaticity Excellent
Scaling Fair
Video mode deinterlacing Excellent
Film mode deinterlacing Good with PureCinema
Viewing angle Excellent
Motion blur None
Digital noise Not noticeable at 8 feet
Sharpness Defeatable edge enhancement

Our review model arrived in Standard mode with Contrast 40, Gamma 2, Colour Space 1, Mid Colour Temperature and most video processing features turned on. Out of the box, these settings were much more pleasant than the dynamic settings used on many models. There was a slight haloing effect on the default sharpness settings but this was easily fixed. While the picture clearly appealed to our instinct, we were more concerned with accuracy and so we proceeded to calibration.

Black Level

For me, the Achilles heel for this plasma is its black level. It is disappointing to see a greyish black level that is subjectively worse than a LCD (Sharp LC42XD1E or Sony KDL40W2000). This will have an effect on other picture aspects as we will explore later.

The Pioneer plasma accepts blacker than black data so you can be assured that the signal is not compromised along the video chain. Black retention patterns are stable.

Dynamic Contrast ratio

We only achieved a dynamic contrast ratio of 469:1 because of poor black level and lowered peak brightness (contrast, white level) setting to achieve a more stable greyscale.

Greyscale

Greyscale CCT
Greyscale graph at gamma 2.36
The dotted blue line shows 6500K at 0 to 100 percent stimulus

At contrast settings above 20, the greyscale curve exhibits a non-standard S-shape (not shown here). Smooth greyscale tracking is important for correct reproduction of image characteristics. We had to lower contrast settings considerably to achieve the above curve, taking a hit on peak brightness and dynamic contrast ratio along the way. This affected the panel's overall brightness on higher signal levels and daytime viewing.

The CCT is not perfect at the extremes but tracks 6500K (colour temperature) quite well between 30 to 80 IRE. The crude sensitivity of the user menu controls and lack of ISF calibration service menu controls prevented us from finetuning the colour temperature at both extremes.

A smooth greyscale ramp did not show any overt posterization or contouring, as you may expect from a 10 bit video processing.

Colour

CIE
Excellent primary chromaticities!

After a number of painstaking runs, this was the closest we got to the HD 709 standard for colour decoding. To achieve this we had to use Colour Space 2. Colour Space 1 produced oversaturated greens. This is a fantastic result because we will get the most accurate colours for any material encoded in HD 709 colour space (basically all your Blu-ray and HD DVD movies). Pioneer's reputation for colour accuracy is well deserved.

Motion

In case you didn't know, the latest generation plasmas do not suffer from poor response time. I have no problems with fast action material on the Pioneer.

Detail and Sharpness

Being a 1024x768 display means that any 1080 material will have to be downscaled to fit the panel. All scaling process involves some filtering and resampling, causing loss of detail. When compared to a fully fledged 1080p LCD, the effect is small but noticeable; you get a small amount of blurring on the overall picture. This however will not significantly detract from your enjoyment.

The scaling of this plasma exhibited no annoying ringing, jaggies or excessive blurring of detail.

Viewing Angles

Absolutely wicked viewing angle that LCD's can only dream of.

Video Artifacts

Digital noise in the Pioneer plasma is kept to the minimum even with all its noise reduction features off. Sitting at 8 feet, I wasn't bothered by any excessive image noise. This benefit may be attributed to the all- digital PURE DRIVE 2HD processing, minimising analog and digital conversions.

Shimmering pixels is an inherent noise of the plasma technology due to Pulse Width Modulation. It appears most often around the eyes and lips on pictures but it is not overtly distracting to me.

Another inherent effect of plasma technology is the `plasma rainbow' or plainbow effect. It is most obvious with bright objects moving over dark background, leaving a yellow-greenish trail. Some users are more affected by this more than others.

The Pioneer has superior video mode deinterlacing (by consumer display standards) capable of motion adaptive processing AND directional jaggies reduction. Basically, it reduces twitter, jaggies and combing while helping to prevent loss of resolution as much as possible. Film mode deinterlacing was very good too, although you need to manually apply it for the best results. The best thing is its ability to reconstruct 24fps from film derived 1080i60 source and outputting it at 72Hz. Bye bye judder!!!

High Definition

With superior colour accuracy, the Pioneer has the edge on natural flesh tones and green foliage colour reproduction. HD DVD movies are given the `film look' that is very difficult to replicate on inferior panels. Despite a screen resolution of 1024x768, you never feel that you have been shortchanged on detail and sharpness on any scene. On bright scenes, the Pioneer paints a world class image that is compelling to watch.

With PureCinema [ADV] turned on and our Toshiba HDE1 outputting 1080i60, the 24 to 60 frame rate conversion judder was eliminated and replaced with smoother motion. Reversing the 2:3 pulldown recreates perfectly matched frames and avoids deinterlacing artifacts.

Motion handling on fast action sports and movies was excellent with no hint of smearing. Together with jaggies reduction, watching hidef football matches have lately been more satisfying.

The black level deficiency was difficult to ignore and is most apparent in predominantly dark movies. (e.g Batman Begins). The greyish blacks prevents the Pioneer from getting top marks for picture quality in my book. Black level shadow detail was salvaged by the plasma's ability to produce subtle gradation over lower signal levels.

Corrine   Deer
 
Seagulls   Robin Hood
...
 

Standard Definition

Strider
Return of the King

The Pioneer PDP4270XD can take the most mediocre SD programmes and churn out a decent performance. Besides the obvious strengths in accurate colour reproduction, adept motion handling and wide viewing angle, the Pioneer possesses some advanced video processing features that are not usually found in consumer displays at this price point.

Perhaps the most surprising feature is the video mode motion adaptive deinterlacing and directional jaggies processing included in this set. On some of the poorer SD feeds, the lack of twitter, moire and jagged artifacts noticeably improved picture quality. Hard edges and diagonal lines are given royal treatment as gone are the step-like boundaries that frequently troubles inferior displays with poor video mode deinterlacing.

Although SD football is still riddled with mosquito noise (inherent in low bit rate MPEG2 encoding) the effect can be lessened with their 2D MPEG NR spatial filter. While still a far cry from high definition sports broadcast, the SD sports quality is better than a lot of displays out there at the moment, thanks to its deinterlacing capabilities.

The scaling from this panel won't compete your high end external video processor or even an expensive DVD upscaler, but it does a decent job in up or down-converting your source material. I didn't notice any significant jagged or ringing artifacts during normal viewing. I noticed a touch of softness on the edges and fine detail in the images when comparing with our commercial Panasonic set but again, nothing to worry about.

PureCinema [Standard] performs 2:2 cadence detection and recreates film frames for 576i50 film material. On a vertical scrolling text (like in end movie credits), the feature removes line twitter and restores clarity, resolution and smoothness to the text. Please refer to our Technology Section to see how to make the best use of this feature.

HTPC

The Pioneer display can only accept certain resolutions from the HDMI input, making this display not very attractive to the casual HTPC user. With our ATI Radeon card, we could not get the unit to display 1024x768 at 60 Hz. On 1280x720 Hz the Windows screen is overscanned and unusable. Hardcore fans will want to use Powerstrip or some NVIDIA graphics card to make this unit work at unsupported and unofficial resolutions.

Pioneer PDP4270XD Settings

The following settings were calibrated for HD broadcast and HD DVD performance via HDMI input in a dark viewing environment. There are several reasons why they won’t work for you, as they can all affect `final’ picture quality.

  • Personal preference
  • Ambient light
  • Source material
  • Player
  • Intramodel variation

General

Contrast 0
Brightness 2
Colour 0-10
Tint 0
Sharpness -3

Pro Adjust

PureCinema
ADV – for HD movies
Standard – for DVD movies
Off – with video material, or if you’re experiencing artifacts with the above modes

Colour temperature
Manual
R High +1
G High 0
B High +1
R High 0
G High 0
B High -7

CTI Off

Colour management
R -8
Y 0
G +7
C -7
B 0
M 10

Colour Space 2

Intelligent Colour Off

Noise Reduction All Off

Dynamic Range Expander

Dynamic Contrast Off
Black Level Off
ACL Off
Gamma 3
Intelligent DRE Off

If the contrast control is set too low for you, you may try the following settings:

Contrast ~20
Gamma 2 for daylight and 1 for dark viewing conditions
Colour temperature Low

On our measurements, these changes boosted the contrast ratio but incurred a greyscale penalty above 80 percent stimulus.

For SD broadcast, I tend to make a few further adjustments given the wide quality of material.

Colour 0 to 10
Colour space 1
Sharpness higher than -3
Digital noise reduction Low to Mid
MPEG noise reduction Low to Mid

Don’t worry if all this doesn’t make any sense. I want to encourage you to experiment with these settings, knowing what they do and how they affect picture quality. That’s what so great about a TV like this. You get to tell the TV how they should show pictures and not the other way around. In the end, your eyes will be the judge.


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