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It's been a rocky ride for Pioneer in the past few months, what with announcing that it's killing plasmas and everything. But it doesn't mean you should dismiss these televisions. We've been impressed by almost every single Pioneer plasma, and the ninth generation doesn't disappoint in the slightest.
In design terms, Pioneer hasn't deviated from the Kuro formula much — piano-black bezel, wide stand and wing-nut speakers. However, we were actually a little disappointed with some of the inevitable cost cutting that's gone into this TV. For example, where previous models have featured solid metal stands, the PDP-LX609A has a plastic stand, and while this doesn't seem to affect the stability in any way it's not what you'd expect from a premium set.
Previous Pioneer remotes have tended toward the spartan, and preferred to let the menu system do the work, but the latest Kuro remote is once again filled with buttons. However, the glamour fit and finish is still there, and you can ignore the many Picture-In-Picture-type buttons at the bottom if you choose.
This new Kuro is seriously tricked out with gizmos, but there is a refreshing lack of frippery. Every gadget is actually useful.
One of the features that Pioneer took great pains to highlight when we previewed the Kuro last year was the television's "Optimum" mode, which not only monitors light levels but also the content — whether its Blu-ray, DVD or even a sports program on TV — and adjusts the picture on the fly. And speaking of picture, as this is a "Kuro" (Japanese: "black") the television has prodigious amounts of it with its new KURO2 engine. While Pioneer is coy about the actual figures, the company does say it's five times more contrast-y than last years. A good reason to upgrade, perhaps?
Like many new flagship televisions, the Kuro enables streaming media features. The TV comes with an Ethernet port which enables users to stream content from a NAS or networked PC. While the "Home Media Gallery" supports most music and photo files, it only supports MPEG-1/2/4 and WMV 9 video — AVI and certain flavours of DivX are not supported. While the Pioneer lacks the latest Yahoo widgets, some have pointed out that these would only be distracting for times when there is more than one viewer. And with a TV as big as this, it's quite likely there'll be more than one person watching it at once.