When it was first introduced, Pioneer's Elite PRO-1000HD carried a list price of $17,000. Today, this attractively styled, 50-inch plasma costs around half that online, making it comparable to other panels in its size class. The 1000HD is also a reasonably good performer, though it falls short of displaying the kind of inky blacks that we've seen from some other plasmas.
Editor's note: Pioneer Electronics won't honor the warranty on products purchased from unauthorized dealers or if the original factory serial number has been removed, defaced, or replaced in any way. You can find a list of authorized resellers here. The 1000HD's flat, glass screen sits inside a relatively wide border of high-gloss, black plastic, for a distinctive look that sets it apart from other plasmas. No buttons interrupt the smooth frame around the screen. Instead, you'll find keys for power, menu access, input select, and other commands in a small niche on the side of the panel.
Like all plasmas, the 1000HD is thin enough to mount on a wall, measuring just 4.13 inches deep. An optional glossy-black stand costs about $400.
The menu system consists of no-nonsense text-based screens. The remote is certainly nothing to write home about--it's small and nonbacklit. Despite those issues, we found the remote to be fairly intuitive to use, and it does feature a direct-access button for each input. Since this set has a native resolution of 1,280x768 pixels, it technically qualifies as an HDTV-ready plasma because it can display all pixels found in 720p high-definition TV. The 1080i HDTV format must be scaled down to fit the pixels, a task that the 1000HD accomplishes with its own internal processing. In case you're wondering, there are no plasmas that have the 1,920x1,080 resolution required by 1080i. All other incoming signals--such as DVD and cable or satellite TV--are scaled to fit the panel's resolution.
The 1000HD is really a monitor with no TV tuner, and it offers little in terms of consumer convenience features; there's no picture-in-picture mode, and you don't even get built-in speakers. Several picture-enhancing features are worth mentioning, however. Digital noise reduction comes in three flavors: Off, Low, and High. As usual, we found that the Off setting produced cleaner and smoother results. This Pioneer has five selectable color-temperature settings: Low, Mid-Low, Middle, Mid-High, and High. Low was on the reddish side, and Mid-Low was in the ballpark of the NTSC standard of 6,500 degrees Kelvin. Not surprisingly, the other settings create a bluer color temperature.
Pioneer's Pure Cinema feature is an important 3:2 pull-down circuit that compensates for the difference between film and video frame rates, eliminating unwanted motion artifacts and jaggies. Pure Cinema can be set to Off, Standard, or HQ (see the Performance tab for more details).
The 1000HD's connectivity options are acceptable with one notable exception: It has only one component-video input. Users who want to connect both a DVD player and an HDTV set-top box via component video will have to use a video switcher or a receiver with component switching.
The single component-video jack doubles as an RGBHV input, making the panel compatible with a wider range of set-top decoders and video processors. The jack uses BNC-type connectors, so you'll need inexpensive adapters to hook up the more common RCA-type cables. You'll also find a 15-pin, VGA-style RGB input and a matching output; one S-Video input; one composite-video input; one composite-video output with both BNC-type jacks; two stereo audio inputs; an RS-232 control port for use with touch-panel remote systems such as Crestron and AMX; and one set of left- and right-speaker outputs. Unlike some newer panels, the 1000HD lacks a DVI connector for use with next-generation HDTV receivers and DVD players. The 1000HD is a decent performer as far as 50-inch plasmas go. Its video processing, which incorporates Pure Cinema 3:2 pull-down for film-based video sources, is quite good. We put the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection into an A/B repeat on a Panasonic DVD-RP62S player set to interlaced mode and looked at all three Pure Cinema settings. We found that HQ produced the cleanest, most artifact-free picture. When we switched the player to progressive output, it did give us a slightly sharper picture than it did in interlaced mode. Therefore, we'd recommend using the 1000HD with a progressive-scan DVD player.
The color decoding on the 1000HD is also good but exhibits a little red push, which necessitated backing the color down slightly. The weakest link in the 1000HD's performance repertoire is its inability to reproduce true blacks. This set's blacks are really a dark gray and aren't nearly as good as those produced by our reference panel, the Panasonic PT-42PD3-P, or its bigger cousin, the PT-50PD3-P.
After calibrating the 1000HD, we achieved a nearly perfect grayscale in the Mid-Low color-temperature setting. Chapter 31 of Charlotte Gray, one of our more recent reference-quality DVD transfers, looked really good after calibration. Color saturation was accurate, thanks to the set's competent--although not perfect--color decoder. The lavender fields in this scene were rendered beautifully; at the same time, skin tones looked exceptionally natural.
We used the JVC HM-DH3000U D-Theater D-VHS deck to evaluate the 1000HD's HDTV picture quality. The opening scene of X-Men, a dark look at Magneto's childhood in a prison camp, proved to be a good torture test for the set's black-level performance. This scene showed the same dark-gray blacks, but it also revealed very few of the false-contouring artifacts found on many plasmas when displaying anything at or near black. Another upside: Brighter scenes in this movie looked outstanding.