So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
- Incredible design, Excellent image quality, good speakers.
- Uses an AV breakout box, some minor image aberrations.
If you love plasma television, you need to own the PDP-506HD.
Price$ 6,999.00 (AUD)
The Pioneer 50 inch PDP-506HD oozes style while performing well, thereby securing its position as one of the best plasmas currently available. Our testing indicated it had the performance to back this up, although there were minor flaws.
Design and Speakers
The matte aluminium stand contrasts with the thin piano black bezel. Straight lines and hard edges adorn the facade interrupted only by a remote sensor and operational light in the bottom left corner. Just like the Sharp LC65G5XSYS, this unit has no AV inputs at the rear but instead employs the use of a dedicated AV breakout box. There are three composite/S-Video connections, two component, a HDMI input and a 15 pin D-Sub connection as well as an analogue tuner and connections for headphones. The speakers affix to the sides of the panel and suit the style perfectly. They performed well but there was a lack of definition in the mid-tones and the bass was a little over-pronounced.
The breakout box continues the strong visual aesthetic but isn't quite as attractive as the panel. Breakout boxes, which include components specific to the signal formats and standards of each region, are being used by a number of manufacturers. They provide the manufacturer with the cost benefit of building a panel unit which can be shipped anywhere in the world with the appropriate breakout box attached. While we understand this, it is a shame they need to as they destroy the sleek nature of a panel and take up valuable space in your entertainment centre.
We performed our tests on the Pioneer plasma to probe for any issues it may experience. For the first test we ran the Philips CE 2006 Demo DVD and the display performed quite strongly. The colour test was handled well although we did notice a small degree of over-saturation at times, resulting in a moderate lack of definition. The colours themselves were rendered accurately, but were not as subtle as they were meant to be. Our motion jitter tests showed quite substantial jitter during motion against vertical lines but the soccer demonstration video moved fluidly without any problems. There were some periods of pixelisation during this video but this is to be expected in a television of this size running standard definition content.
This unit excelled in the skin tone tests. We witnessed no colour stepping and only a very minor loss of detail in some of the finer areas. For a plasma television, this result is exemplary and was only equalled by our sharpness tests which were crisp with minimal colour bleeding.
We also ran the lobby scene from The Matrix to uncover any problems in a more traditional viewing situation. This scene is brilliant for finding these problems as it is a challenge for most flat panel televisions to display properly. For the most part, the scaling was handled quite well and the unit did a good job of playing back DVDs. However, the over-sharpening witnessed in our Philips test was also prevalent in this test too, especially in the edges between light and dark areas. Apart from that, the colours were drawn accurately with no discolouration where other televisions have failed and the myriad debris in the scene was rendered with fine detail.
Our last Standard Definition test is the Digital Video Essentials DVD. This is a rigorous series of still image tests that push a panel to its limits. For the Pioneer, it was one of the few trials that highlighted its weaknesses. We noticed a pixel fluctuation in low grey and magenta at about 40% amplitude and some noise in green colour bars during the SMPTE and greyscale tests. Thankfully, there was no discolouration in the greys and the black on white edge definition test results were top notch. The various signal noises detected lessened a little when the same tests were performed with a HDMI connection but they were still there nonetheless. These problems are not terribly noticeable from a viewing distance of around 2.5 metres but it is the fine details that often differentiate the models, so it is important to note.
We connected the panel to two high definition sources, the Xbox 360 console and a HD set top box. The TV looked quite impressive with no noticeable noise and much better colour saturation than we witness in standard definition. There was a slight pixel flutter in the middle of the screen but this wasn't a problem worth worrying about as it was barely noticeable at recommended viewing distance.
The included analogue tuner is insufficient for a HD panel like this one. As we expected, the image quality was fairly poor and had serious artefacts and noise. This is typical of analogue signals attempting to scale to a higher resolution. If you plan to watch television on the Pioneer, we recommend you get your hands on a HDTV set top box. Even standard definition television doesn't do this panel justice, so if you are able, stick to HDTV. The Xbox 360 console delivered excellent colour and sharp images as well, although we did find text to be a little too sharp at times resulting in some over-sharpening artefacts.
This is quite a remarkable television in many ways. It has some minor problems, most of which won't be noticed by many viewers. The factor that really blew us away was the incredibly tiny dot pitch. Dot pitch is the space between each pixel in a panel and plasmas are notorious for having large black lines between each pixel making the image look like it is being viewed through a fine fly screen. Even though the native resolution of the PDP-506HD is only 1280 x 768, it still manages to look better than any plasma we have reviewed thus far. We can happily recommend this plasma television to anyone.
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