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Pioneer PDP-427XDA review: Pioneer PDP-427XDA

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The Good Classy design. Striking picture quality. Built-in HD tuner. Designed to accommodate professional-grade calibration.

The Bad Tuning options may overwhelm the timid. No memory card slots. High-end of the price scale.

The Bottom Line The Pioneer PDP-427XDA scores with a stylish design, a built-in HD tuner and impressive picture quality, particularly if the set's been professionally calibrated.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

9.0 Overall

Review Sections

Design
The design of the PDP-427XDA follows the black body/silver base theme that's been adopted by so many TV manufacturers, but somehow Pioneer seems to make it classier than most. The piano black cabinet frames the screen to enhance the picture presentation and also conceals the below-screen speakers through a perforated grille.

You can get the PDP-427XDA with either the table top stand or a wall-mounting kit. If we wanted to get picky, we could grumble that the stand is fixed and doesn't swivel, as many others on the market do.

There are ample video input ports including two HDMI slots for hooking up multiple high-definition sources and DVI for PC sources. For ad-hoc connections of other AV devices, there are S-video, composite and headphone jacks on the left side of the unit.

For some strange reason, one of the HDMI slots (Input 4) is enabled, but the other (Input 3) is disabled in the default setting. It's not difficult to enable once you dive into the manual, but it did give us pause when we first set up this TV. This shouldn't be an issue for most punters though, as Pioneer includes free home installation in the purchase price of all its plasma models.

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The remote is plain, but easy to use. Click here for a larger image.

The remote, while not flashy to look at, is very functional. Its well-spaced but smallish buttons let you easily toggle between its five dedicated Input selection keys and a PC key, so video switching between multiple AV boxes is a simple task. Other shortcut and information buttons are easy to get the hang of.

Features
The biggest news on the feature front with this seventh-generation plasma from Pioneer is the inclusion of a built-in HD tuner, negating the need to hook-up an external set-top box to view HD broadcasts. This is a long awaited for convenience as it makes set-up less complicated, plus it leaves ports free for other AV devices. The Auto Install function scanned and detected all Sydney digital channels with ease, and the available Program List is then easily accessible through the Enter button.

Another stunning feature of this TV is its capacity for professional grade for calibration. This may not at first seem terribly compelling; you may think the AV default settings -- Standard, Dynamic, Movie, Game and Sport -- are just fine. But once CNET.com.au got in professional calibrator Aaron Rigg of Avical Australia, we became calibration converts.


The Pioneer PDP-427XDA before calibration. Put your mouse cursor over the image to compare the difference after calibration.

The above pictures show before and after calibration screen shots. While indicative of the results, they do not do justice to seeing the change directly on the screen of the PDP-427XDA. Post calibration, the male diner's jacket turned from black to dark brown, skin tones appeared far more natural, and there was greater crispness and three-dimensionality across the colour range.

The reason calibration makes such an impact is that the TV is adjusted for the specific conditions of its particular setting -- environmental factors such as a brightly coloured background wall or reflections from sliding glass doors in a room can have a big impact on the image you get from the screen.  

The PDP-427XDA enables such adjustments with a variety of menu settings for contrast, brightness, colour temp, sharpness and tint. Adjustments can be made to both the light and dark areas of an image. Each input source has different characteristics and will need to be calibrated separately. You can access and tinker with all these settings yourself, but without the software and tools of a professional calibrator, it would be unlikely that you'd get the same optimum results.

Be aware that while we're fans of having your television professionally calibrated -- whether it be this Pioneer or any other model -- it will come at an additional expense; probably in the AU$250-$500 range. (Note that with Pioneer televisions, installation is free, but calibration services are not.)

There are other image enhancement settings such as PureCinema and Intelligent Colour, which are pretty well explained in both the onscreen help menu and in Pioneer's printed manual.

As far as other features go on the PDP-427XDA, it's pretty standard stuff: picture-in-picture options, child lock, power save, etc. Notably missing are any type of memory card slots to directly view photos from your digital camera or play audio files, which is becoming an increasingly common addition to many TVs nowadays.

Performance
The image quality improvements that we mentioned in our First Take of the PDP-427XDA's 50-inch sibling, the Pioneer PDP-507XDA, do bear fruit in viewing the panel under various testing conditions. The Direct Colour Filter succeeds in reducing reflections in brightly lit rooms, making its 3000:1 contrast ratio seem more than adequate for reproduction of accurate colour.

HD broadcasts, particularly in our professionally calibrated User setting, displayed sharp details, realistically vivid colours and deep, true backs. When we tested the set with our trusty King Kong DVD, the dark, slimy scenes of the Insect Pit showed the blue-blacks, greys and muddy browns of the cave to have very distinctive textures. In other scenes where the fair-haired Ann Darrow is chased through the jungle by various nasty dinosaurs, the PDP-427XDA displayed a detailed colour range of jungle greens and subtle definition in both the light and dark areas of the image. The fast motion of the action scenes was smooth throughout.

The integrated speakers provide a more theatrical sound when switched to its SRS TruBass setting. There is also a FOCUS audio setting that directs dialog from the centre channel. While adequate, the audio performance from its slim speaker array cannot quite stand up to its picture prowess, so you still might want to consider adding external speakers to this system.

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