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Pioneer PDP508XD Picture Quality

by Vincent Teoh
16 August 2007
TLC Broadcast

High Definition (HD DVD)

As someone who watches more than his fair share of films, I have lost count of the number of times I cursed boring and tepid movies (that should not have made it out from the cutting room floor) for wasting my money (cinema/buying/renting) and precious hours of my life that could have been better spent elsewhere. Yet most of the time (and I don't know why) I still grit my teeth and sit through these agonising moments... in a twisted sense I suppose I'm adhering to the "finish what you started" mantra.

So it was with the lowest expectation that I watched The Prestige HD DVD on the Pioneer PDP508XD. I had no prior knowledge of the plot: this film was simply one of the many high- definition discs I've inadvertently added to my Lovefilm rental queue list over time.

The Prestige

And I was enthralled (two hours flew by and I hadn't even noticed)... it's one of the most interesting movies I've watched in ages. Set in 19th-century Victorian London, The Prestige narrates the competitive and vengeful rivalry between 2 magicians whose obsession to upstage and destroy one another spiralled out of control, eventually consuming everyone and everything that they loved. The true wizard here – however – is director Christopher Nolan, who masterfully weaved twists and turns through his favoured non-linear storytelling format to bring us a wonderfully absorbing tale of cruel darkness and layered misdirection.


Even though this is not the first 8G Kuro plasma I've tested, the Pioneer PDP508XD still took my breath away with its inviting reference-level blacks and gorgeous colour palette. These components worked hand in hand with a D65 greyscale to successfully deliver an evocative mood for the movie, and create a truly stunning visual onslaught of elaborate costumes, believable illusions, and slick cinematography. Flesh tones were realistic, as could be expected from a calibrated display panel sporting a colour management system.

Alfred's Hand

But the one aspect on the Pioneer PDP508XD that I thought outperformed the PDP4280XD was its shadow detail presentation. The Prestige can at times be a very dark film not only in its subject matter but also its image luminance. Due in no small part to its now-flat gamma tracking, nuances in grey gradation were portrayed visibly with a fade-to-black transition that was natural enough to inject "pop" to the picture. During theatre scenes where the single source of illumination was a spotlight shining on the magician performing on stage, I could still make out the subtleties in the audience (which could have been easily swallowed into a vast swathe of blackness on lesser televisions).


Capable of outputting only 1080i/60 signal and not 24Hz for HD DVD material, the Toshiba HD-E1 that I used to run The Prestige nevertheless presented the Pioneer PDP508XD with the perfect opportunity to showcase its prowess in eliminating 3:2 judder. With its [Pure Cinema] "Advance" mode working furiously to recontruct 24fps to be refreshed at 72Hz, sweeping shots of the majestic Colorado Springs landscape and even the scrolling credits at the end were rendered with a degree of exquisite smoothness that I have never seen on other television brands when fed with a non-24Hz source.

Standard Definition (Freeview Digital TV)

For such a large television, the Pioneer PDP508XD dealt with Freeview standard-definition content (via internal tuner) remarkably well. Armed with some of the best deinterlacing and scaling available on a flat panel display, from 12 feet away the PDP508XD painted a picture clean enough to prevent the faultfinder in me from complaining all the time.

Big Brother

Some channels/ programmes manifested more pixelation and mosquito noise because of heavy MPEG compression and/ or low bit-rate transmission. However tempting it may be, I would advise against using any of the [Noise Reduction] features to correct this: on Match Of The Day (hurray! football season's back) the default settings pruned so much detail that the players looked as if they were skating on green ice.

James Bond

At the other end of the spectrum, high bit-rate programmes (such as US dramas on Five, and even Die Another Day on ITV) were escalated to DVD-esque level (assuming a viewing distance of 12 feet). While the colours in standard definition were never going to come close to the full glory afforded by HD material (REC 601 vs 709 and all), the mesmerising blacks and balanced greyscale gave me plenty to smile about.

One thing though... the Pioneer PDP508XD lacks the ability to distinguish between video and film content, and so cannot apply the requisite deinterlacing process automatically. You'll need to learn when to engage the correct mode for different programmes manually, or else you'll start seeing combing (if you enable film deinterlacing for video material or vice versa), or judder (if you use the wrong [Drive Mode]).

PS3 Console Gaming


I used to think that plasma televisions are not suitable for console gaming because of the residual possibility of screenburn and their lower inherent brightness (relative to LCDs), but the Pioneer PDP508XD proved to be a welcome exception: image retention was virtually non-existent, and brightness could be cranked up to challenge and perhaps even exceed that on LCDs (not that I'd want to do that anyway).

Once again the superb black level on the Pioneer PDP508XD clinched it for me, bestowing onto the in-game graphics a measure of depth and dimensionality that many LCDs will find difficult to match. Fast motion handling was more than acceptable for me, but some people whose eyes are more sensitive to the temporal fluctuations of plasma cells might notice phosphor trails in high-contrast scenes. If you see these green/ yellow flashes all the time on other plasma televisions, it's very likely that you'll see it on the Pioneer PDP508XD too, though to a much lesser extent... I'm fortunate in the sense that I've never been susceptible to this problem.

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