Pioneer PDP-506HD review: Pioneer PDP-506HD

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The connectivity on the Pioneer PDP-506HD's media receiver is comprehensive, but unfortunately, many of the input slots give you a choice between two input types, rendering the one you don't choose inoperative. Inputs slots 1 and 3, for example, give you the choice of either component video or HDMI. Granted, you can have both connection types associated with one slot, but you have to delve into the menu and disable HDMI to allow component video to function -- an inconvenient solution at best. We suspect most installations will choose either component or HDMI for these inputs.

Input slot 2 offers either S-Video or composite-video, while slot 4 refers to the front panel of the A/V controller, offering a choice of component, S-Video, composite or a 15-pin VGA input for a PC. There are also two RF antenna inputs, as well as two FireWire ports. A set of monitor A/V outputs with composite video round out the connection options. As we mentioned above, a proprietary umbilical cable connects the media receiver to the panel.

The Pioneer PDP-506HD is an excellent performer in just about every regard. Specifically, Pioneer has dramatically improved the black-level performance over last year's models, such as the PDP-505HD. Now blacks are deep, rich, and inky instead of muddy grey. Shadow detail was exceptional, and the blacks are also blissfully free of most false-contouring artifacts and low-level noise. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revenge of the Sith have myriad space shots and dark material and the Pioneer revealed clean, deep, rich-looking blacks in these sections.

Colour was fairly accurate on the Pioneer PDP-506HD . The primary colours of red and blue are much more accurate than most plasma panels on the market, but green is way off, which is typical of most panels. The Pioneer does exhibit a slight red push, which means you have to back the colour down somewhat and sacrifice a little saturation. Colour temperature was very good both before and after calibration.

Turning back to DVD, chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the superb Superbit version of The Fifth Element DVD looked spectacular, exhibiting great detail, solid overall colour saturation, and natural-looking skin tones. There was a tiny bit of visible low-level noise in some scenes, but it was not enough to be objectionable.

HD content looked exceptional. The PDP-506HD did pass all the resolution in a 720p multiburst pattern at the HDMI input but cut off a small amount of the horizontal resolution on the component input.

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