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Pioneer Plasma TV Review
Model: Panasonic Elite PRO-1110HD Plasma TelevisionReviewer: William Becker
Description: 50-inch HDTV Plasma Display, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 1280 x 768 (WXGA)
Includes: Removable 13W x 2 3-way speakers, plasma TV tabletop stand, separate media receiver with dual ATSC TV tuners, and universal remote control
Color: High-gloss black lacquer bezel with matching set-top box
Date: August 2004
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The Pioneer Elite series is synonymous with high-end A/V display products, and Pioneer's second-generation Elite model, the PRO-1110HD, is no exception. The PRO-1110HD replaces the PRO-1000HD, though retains its forerunner's styling, i.e., hi-gloss black on black. A few things have changed with the new Pioneer 50-inch plasma model, though. It is a quarter-inch slimmer than its predecessor, and the new Elite 50-inch model comes with 3-way detachable speakers. The PRO-1110HD includes a dual ATSC tuner, an outboard media receiver, and an HDMI input and two FireWire-type inputs called i.Link (none of which were present on the PRO-1000HD). Finally, the PRO-1110HD features an enhanced plasma glass panel, which, according to the manufacturer, "acts as a color filter that increases the spectrum of light emitted by the plasma … and increases the contrast by limiting ambient light reflections."
This Pioneer Plasma TV has one of the best pictures of any 50" plasma display.
Simply put, the Pioneer Elite PRO-1110HD has one of the best-looking pictures of any 50-inch plasma display—or any plasma display, period. Out of the box, the Pioneer plasma TV's coloration looked nearly flawless and exceptionally natural. We used our Video Essentials test disc to calibrate the PRO-1110HD's brightness, contrast, color, and tint—though, as expected, we found very little needing adjustment. The plasma display comes preset right down the middle: CONTRAST at 30 (on a 0 to 60 scale), and BRIGHTNESS, COLOR, and TINT set at 0 (on a -30 to 30 scale). The only adjustments we made were to boost the CONTRAST setting slightly, up to 45, and to boost the BRIGHTNESS to 5.
We found it impossible to make the whites on this Pioneer Plasma TV "bloom", which suggests that the unit has some sort of built-in white-level delimiter, despite the fact that it measured a staggering 86fL when we tested it with our Sencore CP-5000. This plasma TV can get quite bright, in other words, without any evidence of distortion. And, given the depth of the PRO-1110HD's black levels, the unit demonstrated an impressive overall contrast ratio of about 700:1, not far from Pioneer's stated figure of 900:1.
With 1.07 Billion colors, The ELITE Pro1110HD produces brilliant, saturated color.
All of the Pioneer Elite PRO-1110HD's stellar picture elements—its brightness levels, contrast ratios, and near spot-on coloration—were evident from the first scenes of Gothika, which we watched on our progressive-scan Sony DVD player. Gothika is an incredibly dark film, and Pioneer's 50-inch plasma display handled that dark material with aplomb. Dark material detailing was superb from this plasma screen. Pioneer has made much of its improved plasma glass panel, which they claim increases the spectrum of light capable of passing through the screen while decreasing contrast-dulling ambient light reflections. The PRO-1110HD's handling of dark material detailing surely benefits from its advanced plasma glass panel.
Also impressive was the scaler in the Pioneer PRO-RO4U media receiver, which converts all resolutions (480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i) to its native resolution, i.e., 768p. As expected, the PRO-1110HD did an excellent job upconverting a 480p DVD signal to 768p. It performed even more spectacularly (as would be expected given this superior signal) with a 1080i HD signal of the Summer Olympics. The Gymnastic competition broadcast came through with striking brilliance, even with the 1080i HD signal rescaled to 768p. The depth was incredible! The real test of Pioneer's scaling/conversion circuitry came with the PRO-1110HD's display of regular, 480i NTSC broadcasts. Standard definition signals looked surprising good, better than we expected they would at 768p. The PRO-1110HD's first-rate scaling circuitry will no doubt prove useful to those who watch TV regularly, given that only about 10 to 15% of all TV these days is broadcast in high definition.
The ELITE media recevier has the same sleek, gloss black finish as the Plasma monitor.
Another plus is the PRO-1110HD's ability to display all film-based content at 72Hz, rather than the usual 60Hz. One advantage of Pioneer's exclusive 3:3 pulldown is that it all but eliminates jerkiness in film-to-video transitions, especially with panning and horizontal-type motion on the screen. Strangely, this 3:3 pulldown feature is not automatic like most 3:2 pulldown features, but rather must be activated by the user. Do this by selecting PICTURE from the on-screen menu options, then going down and choosing PRO ADJUST, then PURE CINEMA, and finally choosing the ADVANCED setting for PURE CINEMA.
The Pioneer Plasma TV Elite PRO-1110HD has the usual screen/picture format options: 4:3, Zoom, Stretch, and Full. There are four picture modes—Standard, Dynamic, Movie, Game—plus one user-defined mode. The PRO-1110HD has a five-step color temperature adjustment guide, though the lowest color temperature was closest to the 6500K standard.
Other Considerations: 94.5/100
Everything about the Pioneer Elite PRO-1110HD plasma TV exudes quality and careful design. Even the fully backlit remote control has indentations on the back to accommodate one's fingers comfortably. And, the remote has nice, high-gloss facing that matches the bezel of the plasma display panel as well as the media receiver. The overall package is quite impressive—and nearly invisible in the dark.
Pioneer's on-screen menu proved colorful, highly functional, and more or less intuitive.
The speakers on this Pioneer unit produce 13 watts per channel, which is not overwhelming, but enough to get the job done. What is impressive about these speakers is that they are the 3-way type, comprised of separate treble, mid-range, and bass components. The quality of the audio produced by Pioneer's speakers far outweighs their lack of sheer volume. Pioneer includes two different attachments, allowing them to be either flush with the unit or set slightly back from the front of the screen, thus hiding a wall-mount application.
The media receiver included with the Elite PRO-1110HD plasma display panel is more than adequate, connectivity-wise. All inputs are gold-plated, and include: 4 composite video inputs, 3 s-video inputs, 3 component video inputs, 1 VGA input, 1 HDMI interface, and a 19-pin mini d-Sub serial interface. And, despite having a constantly running fan to cool it, the media receiver is quiet, though far from silent. The plasma display panel, on the other hand, is fan-less and noiseless.
The ELITE media receiver features all gold-plated connection terminals.
Pioneer is certainly on the high end in terms of price per square inch of plasma screen. What one receives with the Pioneer Elite PRO-1110HD is an exceptional picture driven by above-average scaling and processing circuitry. But all this comes with a rather hefty price tag. Selling for around $10,000, the Pioneer Elite 50-inch plasma display is rather pricey, especially given the fact that one can buy a comparable display, the Panasonic TH-50PX25U/P or even the Pioneer PDP 5040HD, for around $6000. The Panasonic PRO-1110HD is an excellent performer, but, with the Elite series, one pays for more than good performance. One pays for that "Elite" image, too.
Overall Score (with Picture double-weighted): 92.4/100
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