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50-inch Pioneer plasma provides 1080p

50-inch Pioneer plasma provides 1080p

1080p native resolution promises to deliver every detail of 1080i, the highest-resolution HDTV format, but until now it was available in only DLP and LCoS rear-projection HDTVs and flat-panel LCD HDTVs. Now 1080p is coming to plasma. Pioneer will be among the first to put the pixel-rich panels in stores, and its first 1080p plasma is also the smallest announced at CES. (Panasonic also announced a 65-incher, and larger concept pieces were on display from Samsung and LG.)

The 50-inch Pioneer Elite Pro-FHD1 has more than double the number of pixels--1,920x1,080--found on previous 50-inch plasmas, which offer either 1,280x768 or 1,366x768 resolution. Pioneer mentioned a number of enhancements, but the most important is simply smaller pixels: the panel's pixels are 35 percent smaller than those of its predecessors.

Uniquely, the Pro-FHD1 will not be equipped with any sort of tuning capability--it's simply a monitor and doesn't have the external media center found on current models. Pioneer's rep explained that tuners were omitted from the first-generation version as a cost-cutting measure and also to reduce interference that may result from having RF circuitry inside the panel itself. Like most of the 1080p-capable displays we saw at the show and unlike most on the market now, the Pro-FHD1 will be able to accept 1080p formats via its HDMI inputs.

We saw a demo of the Pro-FHD1 in Pioneer's booth, where the panel was connected via HDMI to the company's Blu-ray player running a mixture of 1080p and 1080i native demo material. The 1080p images of Chicken Little looked stunningly detailed from a viewing distance of about three feet, and it certainly seemed to deliver on the promise of the higher resolution. We'll have an opportunity to evaluate the panel in-depth once Pioneer ships a working sample. The Pro-FHD1 will be available in June for $8,000, roughly twice as much as the company's current-generation 50-inch plasma.