Don't Know Which HDTV To Buy? Try Our HDTV Selector Tool

LCD vs Plasma: Picture Quality

by Colin Tang
20 March 2007

Dynamic Contrast Ratio

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Sony KDL40W2000 2
2 Pioneer PDP4270XD 1

Defined as the ratio of intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black which lends dynamic range to images, contrast ratio is probably the most important element of picture quality that determines the appeal of any display device. While shortfalls in colour accuracy and decoding require a discerning eye to spot, most people can readily tell the difference between a HDTV that's "bright" (high contrast ratio) and one that's "dull" (poor contrast ratio).

There is no standardised way of measuring dynamic contrast ratio and while manufacturer's tend to give ratios in the thousands (they get better with every model), they are seldom reflective of real world performance.

Our dynamic contrast ratio is measured by dividing the luminance of the peak white signal to the reference black level AFTER calibration. Using our in-house instruments, the Sony KDL40W2000 clocked in at 931:1 while the Pioneer only managed 469:1. The poor result was due to lowering the contrast control to achieve a smooth greyscale (it kept clipping at higher APL) and possibly, the below average black level.

Black Level & Shadow Detail

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Sony KDL40W2000 2
2 Pioneer PDP4270XD 1

This is very surprising but when comparing side-by-side after calibrating the black level, the Sony LCD had the better subjective black level in dim viewing conditions, probably due to the advanced S-PVA LCD panel. The Pioneer PDP4270XD black was greyish, causing its performance to suffer in many dark scenes. On a side note, our commercial Panasonic Plasma gave the most satisfying blacks, true to its reputation. There was no night or day difference in shadow detail between the two HDTVs.

Colour Saturation & Accuracy

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Pioneer PDP4270XD 2
2 Sony KDL40W2000 1

The Pioneer was untouchable on this aspect. Colour balance and fidelity was produced with such precision and detail that all images (specially nature shows) became natural and alive. The Sony wasn't bad in this regard, it's just not as accurate as the Pioneer, especially in green foliage, which tended to take on a little too much blue.

Detail & Sharpness

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Sony KDL40W2000 2
2 Pioneer PDP4270XD 1

Both units had defeatable edge enhancement with no significant baseline sharpening applied. The Sony is a 1080p display with 1:1 pixel mapping enabled on HDMI, giving you every last drop of detail from a 1080 material. You can extend this usability to HTPC making this set quite attractive to the PC crowd. The Pioneer, with its 1024x768 resolution naturally falls a little short, with a very slight hint of softness on 1080 programmes. However, it is brilliant with lower resolution material and is probably my choice if I watch a lot of SD broadcast.

Motion Handling

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Pioneer PDP4270XD 2
2 Sony KDL40W2000 1

Pioneer scoops the top spot again by a very small margin. The motion blurring effect seen by users can be caused by many reasons, most notably response time, 'sample-and-hold' effect and the video capture process. The W2000 does not too bad with a response time of 8ms but we preferred to watch football on the plasma screen. Watch out for future LCD panels cracking the motion smearing problem with new frame interpolation processing.

Viewing Angle

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Pioneer PDP4270XD 2
2 Sony KDL40W2000 1

I can't find a reason to sit at an angle to watch a television, but if you like it that way, or you've got a big family, the Pioneer PDP-4270XD is the easy choice. Even with the S-PVA panel, the Sony can't come close to the plasma screen.

Video Processing

Rank LCD TV Points
1 Pioneer PDP4270XD 2
2 Sony KDL40W2000 1

To be honest, I never expected to find any decent film or video mode deinterlacing in any consumer range displays, until now. The Pioneer again pulls far ahead of the Sony in this respect and I might have given it 3 or 4 points on this alone. This performance translates to smooth and silky images on the plasma screen.

Screen Uniformity

Rank LCD TV Points
- Pioneer PDP4270XD 1
- Sony KDL40W2000 1

Both our models have some issues with screen uniformity, although personally I was slightly more annoyed by Sony's `clouding'. The Pioneer had a 'dirty screen' look on uniform colour background panning shots. Just to remind you that the defects may be peculiar to our review models.

Best Price > Sony KDL40W2000 & Pioneer PDP4270XD
Model
Merchant
Total
Pioneer PDP4270XD
Sony KDL40W2000
Use JUNE50G code at basket page for £50 discount

Back To: LCD vs Plasma Shootout