This advanced internal processing allows the screen's comparatively low XGA resolution (1,024x768 pixels) to display all high-definition formats including the latest 1080p signals -- although both 1080i and 1080p signals are downscaled to fit. Pioneer maintains it's the processing not the number of pixels that influence image quality and picture performance supports this argument.
Integrated analogue and digital TV tuners offer flexible convenience for terrestrial viewing and there's a CI card slot at the rear, which allows you to receive some subscription-based channels from TopUp TV services. Digital broadcasts are accompanied by a decent seven-day electronic programme guide that doesn't appear overcrowded and lets you easily search for listings by date or genre.
The menu system is colourfully presented using detailed graphics secluded at the side of the screen. As the technology suggests there's a seemingly endless amount of adjustments. Lethargic users can choose between various presets including specific modes for watching films, games and sport. It pays, however, to persevere with the advanced adjustments featured in the manual and Pro Adjust menus.
You can fine-tune images by applying a variety of systems including advanced colour management, noise reduction and specific adjustments for controlling elements such as dynamic contrast, black enhancement and gamma levels.
Average users may find this all too confusing and there's an option to have the screen custom calibrated using ISF 3. At a cost, a professional engineer will visit your home and precisely adjust your settings according to your ambient environment. Settings can be calibrated for day and night uses and then stored and locked separately from the main menu, which can still be used.
Typical sound settings are supplemented by various SRS WOW audio enhancement technologies. These include a pseudo-surround function, Focus and TruBass control, which can be further enhanced by connecting the screen to an external subwoofer using a dedicated output at the rear.
Picture performance impresses whether you're watching TV, standard-definition DVDs or high-definition sources. The integrated digital tuner is the finest we've seen from a plasma display, with off-air broadcasts that are beautifully controlled and detailed with well-balanced colours.
You may not get the same meticulous detail that LCD offers, but outstanding black levels create dense definition and superb contrast, while colours appear more natural -- especially with subtle gradations between shades. Even with analogue connected sources using progressive scan you'll struggle to see any picture noise or disturbing digital artefacts.
High-definition sources are equally impressive with sumptuous colours, cohesive movement and even more detail. We did, however, notice that 1080p sources did appear more precise using a 'Full HD' resolution LCD like Samsung's LE46F71BX -- so Blu-ray devotees have something to think about.
Nonetheless, this screen's outstanding all-round ability (including excellent sound performance) means Pioneer retains its title as the class-leading plasma in our reviews.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield