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Pioneer PRO-151FD KURO Plasma

September 9, 2008 By Geoffrey Morrison



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Pioneer PRO-151FD
Pioneer PRO-151FD back

KURO MkII

How do you follow up on a winner? Last year's, first generation KURO plasmas were, quite simply, the best looking flat-panels available. Their black level and contrast ratio simply couldn't be approached by anything else on the market.

Here we are, a year later, and the second generation of KURO has hit the streets. So the question you have to ask yourself is, if you were Pioneer, and you were leading the industry in picture quality, even a year after your initial release, what would you do?

Still Black

Aesthetically, the PRO-151FD differs from the PRO-150FD we reviewed in no way that is readily apparent. There is now a tiny Pioneer logo at the bottom left, but that's about it. It is still a stylishly minimalist black cabinet.

The menus now have a decidedly KURO theme to them. The remote, too, has had a bit of a makeover, and now looks more like something that should come with a $7,500 product. It's backlit and has direct input access, for those that don't have a universal remote or Crestron type product. Setup is easy, and there are plenty of menu adjustments to keep you or your ISF Calibrator happy.
    
Still De-Interlacing

As with previous Pioneer products, the PRO-151FD is a processing champ. It sails through all the standard de-interlacing tests with nary a hiccup, with both 480i and 1080i content.    

Scaling is also quite good, though not perfect. Lets say a 98 out of 100. With DVD sources, a lot of detail is pulled out, but as is the case with any large screen, DVD just doesn't have the pop that it does on smaller screen sizes (which is why we have HD).

The PRO-151FD is able to reproduce a single pixel pattern, so all the information in that shiny not-really-blue Blu-ray will be up there on screen.

Pioneer PRO-151FD

My standard operating procedure when reviewing a TV is to turn off all of the picture enhancement features, check how the TV looks, and then see what each "feature" actually does. Most of the time these features do things that most enthusiasts don't want, such as floating the black level, or changing the picture settings depending on content (ok, maybe you want that one. I'm not a big fan).

The PRO-151FD has a few features that actually help out quite a bit. DRE Picture tweaks the gamma a bit, so that the brighter areas of the image are a little brighter. This works well, adding a little extra punch to the image without adding any undue artifacts. Also, 3DNR is one of the better noise reduction processes from a major manufacturer. It is able to remove a lot of the noise in an image, without unduly softening it (the usual side effect). There is still some noise in the image, but it's not objectionable, and at a normal viewing distance, not visible.

I found that putting this TV in the Pure mode, with these two features enabled, offered the best picture quality.

Still Colorful

In the Pure mode, the color points are pretty much spot on accurate. In the other modes, your mileage will vary. What this means is that the colors of objects in movies and TV will appear lifelike, not cartoon like, in the Pure mode. In fact, it may take a little getting used to accurate color points, as we are so accustomed to oversaturated color. Seeing grass that looks like grass is reason enough to get a TV with accurate color.    

One of my favorite features of this TV, like other Pioneer plasmas before it, is the ability to switch its refresh to 72Hz. When you send it a 24p signal, the TV will do a simple 3:3 pulldown. What this means is that the inherent jerkiness of movies when put on DVD/BD is removed. The image is smoother, more realistic. More and more displays are coming out with some version of this.

Much like the accurate color, once you get used to watching a movie with 3:3 pulldown, the stutter you get with a normal 3:2 sequence on regular TVs will totally bug you. Don't say I didn't warn you. The mode you want is called Advance and it's in the Film Mode sub-menu.

Still Black

The selling point of KURO is black, after all, that's what the name means in Japanese (so they tell me, it could mean "shoe" for all I know). And with the exception of the 81-series local dimming LED LCD from Samsung, no other flat panel comes close to matching the black level of a KURO. And indeed, the PRO-151FD has an excellent black level.

But it doesn’t appear to be any better than the PRO-150FD. The contrast ratio and light output follow the same lines. They're excellent, and better than probably every other display on the market, but they don’t seem to be any better than the first generation KURO. There’s nothing wrong with that—I guess I was just hoping for a bit more.         

The PRO-151FD is a flat-out excellent television, one of the best you can buy. It isn't, however, much of an improvement over its admittedly superb predecessor. With future Pioneer plasmas being made with someone else's glass, I hope this second generation KURO isn't their swan song. We shall see.

DESCRIPTION: 60” (diagonal) 1080p plasma television; built in base and detachable speakers.

RESOLUTION: 1,920 by 1,080 pixels

CONNECTIONS: Three HDMI inputs, one RGB-PC, one component, one s-video shared with a composite input, one RF/antenna input, Ethernet, Optical out.

DIMENSIONS: 17.53 x 66.03 x 16.94 inches (HxWxD) (including stand)

PRICE: $7,500.00

CONTACT: 800.421.1404, pioneerelectronics.com

Pioneer PRO-151FD back

Comments

I have the PRO-111, and will offer that it's hard to see any difference in black levels between it and the previous 110, unless you have an image with a large area of solid black. Side-by-side, this was obvious to me, but there's no way I'd tell otherwise.

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