When the Kuro range arrived last year, TV reviewers and techies alike made some rather impressed noises. Everyone who saw the remarkable blacks couldn't help but be amazed by how much Pioneer had done to improve plasma technology. It was also around the time that 1080p plasmas screens arrived and we saw a massive reduction in picture artefacts.
All of these improvements have enhanced plasma televisions, proved that LCDs have a credible competitor and shown there's plenty of choice out there for people with specific TV-related needs. So what does the £2,280 Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090 have to offer?
When we reviewed the LX6090 a few months ago we were sent the side-mounted speaker configuration. The LX5090 was sent to us with the under-screen mounted version, which in turn comes with a slightly different table stand that raises the TV slightly higher to accommodate the speaker bar. We like this configuration more because it takes up less space and will mean good things for people with limited space.
The TV itself is the same basic design as the other Kuro TVs. Black is a theme here, clearly designed to remind you at every moment that this TV is all about the absence of light. When you get it on a stand in the corner of your room you'll almost certainly spend at least an hour looking at it before you even turn it on. That's partially because it looks great turned off, but mostly because the master power switch is a pain to find -- it's on the back of the TV, at the bottom and expertly concealed.
At the back of the TV are the usual three HDMI sockets. These are complemented by three Scart inputs, a component RCA socket and a VGA connector. You'll also find RCA audio inputs, a subwoofer output and optical and coaxial digital outputs.
On the side there's a composite input, headphone output and a USB socket from which you can view photos at the touch of a button, handy if you want a £2,000-plus photo frame.
The remote control is also a construction of beauty. Fashioned out of sturdy materials like metal and decent quality plastic you can't help but wield it like a sword -- some sort of magical TV-channel-changing sword. It also has all the buttons where you would expect them, and they're easily activated. We would point out that for some reason, the IR sensor is on the other side of the power light, which means that sometimes the TV won't respond to your button-mashing. If that happens, point it to the right of the screen, and we'll wager all will work again.
Pioneer has an unusual approach to inputs on its TVs. The remote controller that comes with the 5090 has a series of buttons at the top, labelled 1-5 and PC. By default, the TV doesn't map each of its Scart, component, composite or even HDMI sockets to specific input -- instead you have to select what you want to be assigned to each of the numbered buttons. This works well once you figure it out, and means you are in control of what inputs you actually use. It also means that if you want to use all the sockets, you'll be in the menu system swapping things around from time to time.
The LX5090 is a 1080/24p TV, so it can accept Blu-ray movies in their native format. The TV displays these in such a way as to reduce motion judder, which some people find quite upsetting on movies.
The Pioneer has a few extra tricks that it can produce when required. Picture-in-picture mode is present and correct, and is actually quite useful on a screen this large. We were able to watch TV in the main window, while configuring our Popcorn Hour media streamer in a little PiP window. If you need it, there is also picture-by-picture, which provides two similar video windows next to one another, handy for keeping an eye on news and sport.