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Pioneer Kuro KRP-500A review: Pioneer Kuro KRP-500A

In spite of the embarassing acronym, the Pioneer Kuro KRP-500A is a very high-end TV, aimed squarely at the home cinema enthusiast, and particularly those who want a professional install. Pioneer is aiming this at wall-mount installations too, because the tiny depth of the TV makes it ideal for such placement. It's so thin because all the inputs and media gubbins are in a separate box.

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8.8

Pioneer Kuro KRP-500A

The Good

Picture quality; updated menus; massive control over picture settings; design; fantastic connectivity options.

The Bad

For the money, we think Pioneer could chuck in some speakers; it's expensive.

The Bottom Line

This is the ultimate TV for home-cinema buffs. With its separate media receiver, this screen is perfect for wall-mounting or professional installs. The flexibility offered by the numerous inputs and DVB-T, DVB-S2 and DLNA mean it's got more functionality than its Kuro siblings too. It won't appeal to everyone, but it's one hell of a TV all the same

The KRP-500 is only available at select Pioneer retailers, but to be fair, there are quite a few of these, and the TV is available online through a number of reputable stores. A little hunt around led us to prices around the £2,300 mark, around £300 or so more than the same retailers sell the LX-5090 for.

Design
The most unusual thing about this TV is that it consists of two boxes. The TV itself looks virtually identical to the magnificent Kuro LX-5090. The only way you would know this wasn't a 5090 is if you looked at the back of the TV, where you would find virtually no inputs.

All that you'll see on the rear of the set is a power connection, a small proprietary socket for the TV's colour sensor and a set of speaker connections. You'll also notice a display port-style connector, which is designed to connect the TV to the media receiver.

The media receiver is a very stylish-looking box. Aside from a small status LED that glows red when it's in standby and blue when it's active -- mirroring the TV's LED -- the front is totally bare. Finished in a mix of gloss black on the front, with hints of brushed metal on the top, this is a smart-looking piece of kit.

Although the front is devoid of any controls, behind this featureless façade is a wealth of buttons, inputs and other sockets. Firstly, there are volume and channel controls as well as buttons to select one of the various inputs. You will also notice composite, HDMI and S-Video connectors, along with a headphone output along here. The idea is that games consoles and camcorders can be connected without messing around behind the unit.

At the back of the media receiver you'll find even more connectivity, including three more HDMI sockets. You'll also find a surprisingly generous trio of Scart sockets as well as component video in. The customised video output to connect the screen to the receiver is here too. Based on Display Port, it's a chunky but well-made connector that fits into its socket with a click. Good news for people who have been frustrated by HDMI cables popping out of their AV equipment. Audio outputs include both analogue and digital (optical) sockets, but there's no analogue 5.1 facility.

Also provided is an Ethernet socket, which you can use to connect the TV to a DLNA-capable device.

Features
The KRP-500A has a number of nifty extras. Firstly, the colour sensor deserves a mention. This little magnetic 'eye' is supposed to monitor the ambient light conditions -- not brightness, that's handled by a separate light sensor -- for any changes. The idea is if you switch from, say, halogen lights to softer up-lighters, the TV will compensate for the resulting colour temperature change.

We also like the idea of having a built-in satellite tuner in the media receiver. Sadly, in the UK, Sky refuses to allow the production of a conditional access module to make receiving its services on non-Sky branded boxes possible. If the company allowed such a thing, you could discard the Sky box and just use this to watch both SD and HD programmes.

The satellite tuner is also not freesat-certified. That means, although you will be able to tune in the channels, you won't have access to the interactive features, or the electronic programme guide. That's not a massive problem in all honesty, and if you have a satellite dish you aren't using, you'll be able to pick up BBC HD and enjoy the wonderful picture it offers.

The media receiver is also DLNA-compliant, which means if you have a certified DLNA PC or storage array you'll be able to stream media directly to your TV. This is a handy feature, and certainly one that some people will enjoy. Ripping your own DVD collection, storing it on a PC and streaming to the Pioneer is every home-cinema geek's dream.

As you'd expect, there are the usual picture-by-picture and picture-in-picture options on this TV. Those can be handy for keeping an eye on the news while you watch a football match, or you can watch X-Factor while running over prostitutes in GTA IV, a marvellous counterpoint to the sickly sweetness of singing children.


Performance
As you would expect, the performance of the KRP-500A is every bit as good as that of the LX-series TVs. Black is still deep and rich on this screen and colour seems both strong and accurate.

One of the things we most loved about the LX-5090 was its ability to cope with the mess that is Freeview. It's perfectly fair to say that digital TV in the UK isn't broadcast at a very good data rate, which leads to lamentable picture quality at times. Fortunately the KRP-500A manages to rescue as much of the detail as possible. The acid test for such things is to look at hair: if you can see individual strands on the heads of the Loose Women, the TV is managing its picture processing well. The Pioneer, we're pleased to say, passes our informal exam with flying colours.

HD material from Blu-ray is a delight too. We've watched The Dark Knight on ours, and we have to say it's one of the best movie experiences ever. Couple this TV with a good home cinema system, and you're in for a treat of epic proportions.

You could accuse plasma of having a slightly less crisp and sharp image than LCD. Certainly, as much as we've liked some of Samsung's excellent plasma displays, the picture is slightly softer on those televisions, which might suit certain tastes. This isn't the case with Pioneer plasmas -- the picture is very sharp indeed, and the level of detail in good-quality video is truly jaw-dropping.

We're impressed by the new menu system on these TVs. It's a little slicker than the one on the LX range. Although there's nothing wrong with the older menus -- they were perfectly useable -- now they look slightly sleeker and match those found on Pioneer's other AV products, such as its excellent Blu-ray player.

Our review sample didn't include speakers, which is fine, because we expect most people buying this set won't bother with them. The optional speakers for the LX range are capable enough though, and for regular TV watching, are more than useable.

Like other high-end plasma TVs, there are no problems with image retention or burn on. Certainly, if you tried hard enough, you could get the TV to retain an image for a while, but burning permanently would require both epic stupidity and a desire to waste money. If you're a gamer, you'll be pleased to hear this.

Conclusion
The multi-box system won't appeal to everyone, but the fact is, this is aimed at home-cinema enthusiasts who want a more flexible solution than a traditional TV offers. The media box means that wall mounting becomes much more practical and it offers a number of extras you wouldn't get on a regular TV, such as the satellite receiver and copious inputs.

The price difference between the KRP-500A and the LX-5090 isn't massive, so the only real decision you'll need to make is if you're happy to have the extra media receiver. We loved the picture quality of this TV and, ignoring the price for a moment, we consider this to be among our favourite TVs of the year.

Edited by Nick Hide