Pioneer 1080p Plasma: Is It Worth It?

Reviewer: Phil Conner

In August of this year, Pioneer's new ELITE plasma TV model, the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, will make its debut, featuring full 1080p HDTV resolution in a 50" plasma TV screen. While it sounds like a dream come true for home theater buffs, the jury's still out for us at Plasma TV Buying Guide. Remembering some of Pioneer's early plasma models, and their dubious skill in scaling standard 480i viewing material to fit a 1366 x 768 HDTV plasma screen, we have to wonder if the new Pioneer 1080p plasma will be any better.

We're certain the Pioneer ELITE PRO-FHD1, the "FHD" meaning "Full High Definition," will look brilliant with true 1080p sources, but where will you find one? True 1080p over-the-air or satellite broadcasts are still a rare breed on TV, and only the latest (and most expensive) HD-DVD players and Blu-Ray Disc machines with the latest HDMI spec. have any sort of 1080p output. Unless your home theater also is equipped with a time machine, the vast majority of your viewing in the immediate future will still be 480p DVD sources, with a substantial amount of 480i cable or satellite TV thrown in to boot. Can the new 1080p Pioneer handle these signals? We're skeptical, to say the least.

Given the $10,000 MSRP on the new Pioneer ELITE, and all the trials and tribulations of such a vast step in technology—not to mention the relative scarcity of true 1080p video sources, maybe we're better off sticking with the current crop of 50" HDTV plasma screens, which feature lower prices than ever and even better picture improvements. Once Panasonic, Toshiba and the other big players get involved in the 1080p Plasma race, we're betting prices will drop, the bugs will be worked out, and we'll have several top choices to pick from.

Here's what Pioneer Plasma has to say:

Proprietary Technologies and Breakthrough Engineering Add Depth to HD Experience

Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. will begin shipping the world's first 50" 1080p plasma display today. The new Pioneer Elite® PureVision™ PRO-FHD1 is a technological milestone with images that burst off the display for a near 3-D effect. Built by and for those who demand the very best high definition experience, the new plasma features double the pixel density of previous plasma displays with a 1920 X 1080 native resolution. It produces fine detail and vibrant color for the entire range of high definition signals including 720p, 1080i and 1080p.

The challenge in creating a 50-inch plasma display with a 1080p signal was to reduce the pixel size by half in order to fit more than 2 million pixels in the screen. Pioneer used its 15 years experience developing plasma technology to manufacture the world's smallest pixels measuring .576 millimeters which results in a stunning on-screen picture. The depth of picture, particularly when viewing original content in 1080p/24Hz, such as a movie on Blu-ray Disc, gives a truly 3-D effect. Viewers can see tiny beads of sweat on an athlete's face as well as the stitches on the football as it flies through the air. Some say it makes it easier to tell when the lead actor takes a break and lets the stunt double take over.

A high precision video scaler is used to up-convert 480i, 720p, 720i and 1080i signals to 1080p, increasing the resolution and virtually eliminating the interlacing motion artifacts seen in some other displays. The display also relies on Pioneer's many proprietary technologies including deep encased cell structure, crystal emissive layer and improved phosphors to create the sharpest, brightest images with excellent color accuracy.

The Pioneer Elite® PureVision PRO-FHD1 is now available at specialty retailers for a suggested price of $10,000.

Pioneer's Home Entertainment and Business Solutions Group is a leading manufacturer of plasma televisions and monitors, Blu-ray Disc® and DVD products, A/V receivers, speakers and other audio and video accessories. Its focus is on the development of new digital technologies including Digital Network Entertainment™. The company markets its products under the Pioneer and Pioneer Elite® brand names. When purchased from an authorized dealer, consumers receive a limited warranty for one year with Pioneer products and two years with Pioneer Elite products.

Source: Pioneer Electronics, USA

See the Current Pioneer Plasma TV Models