When Pioneer announced that it was producing a Kuro LCD TV, a number of people reacted strongly, and not in a good way. They complained that LCDs don't produce good blacks, and they aren't far off -- indeed, it's fair to say that there's no real way for LCDs to achieve the brilliant black levels of plasma TVs at the moment. But with Sharp taking a financial interest in Pioneer, it was almost inevitable that a high-end LCD would arrive sooner or later.
And so it has. Pioneer has used the same panels found in Sharp's LCD range and combined that with its own fantastic picture-processing expertise to create the Pioneer Kuro KRL-32V, along with 37-inch and 42-inch models. We have high hopes for this LCD, which is available now for around £1,300.
While Pioneer's plasma TVs have a specific style to them, the company appears to have gone in a different direction with its LCD range. Firstly, it has dispensed with piano black and opted for a gunmetal grey style, with a full-width but subtle speaker grille at the bottom of the screen. Overall, it's not as classy looking as the plasma range, but it's not ugly by any stretch of the imagination.
Even though the TV doesn't look like its big brothers, there is a familial resemblance in the remote control and we like it. The controller that comes with this TV isn't quite as weighty as those that ship with the plasmas, but it still has that classy Pioneer feel that we've grown to love over the past years.
Connection-wise, everything of any importance is located at the back of the TV, with a basic side panel hosting only S-Video and composite inputs. There's a USB socket too, but this is only for service updates, so don't get too excited.
You get three HDMI inputs, all 1.3a capable, for the best possible digital picture and sound quality. You also get component and VGA for high definition analogue sources -- Xbox 360s and the like -- and you'll also find a pair of Scart inputs for older hardware too.
It's fair to say this TV isn't exactly bursting with special features. Pioneer's goal is to create a high-quality LCD for people who want the best possible picture quality, but either can't manage the cost of a plasma or don't have the room for a 50 or 60-inch TV. Of course, this also has a lot to do with the company's decision to cease production of 42-inch HD-Ready PDPs (plasma display panels).
While it might not be brimming over with funky toys like a Samsung would be, it is still capable of all the most modern picture processing and handling. For example, 1080p at 24hz is no problem -- the TV will automatically convert such signals and process the picture so it looks as smooth as possible.
The TV will also adjust itself to take advantage of the viewing conditions of your room. It does this by monitoring the ambient light levels and reducing the TV's backlight when the lights are dimmed. This is good for two reasons: firstly, it makes blacks look better and secondly, it will save electricity.
The inclusion of a 1080p panel on a 32-inch TV does pay some dividends. Although the TV is quite expensive, the sharpness and detail of the picture is exceptional. So too is the colour reproduction on Blu-ray movies. Firing up Vantage Point, we noticed that the Sony Pictures logo at the start of the film had a wonderful quality to it, which left us wanting more.