Pioneer plasmas are always strong when it comes to picture quality, but this screen really moves things up a notch from previous efforts. Serenity on Sky HD looks absolutely stunning here: the black levels are in a different league to those seen on most plasmas, and about four leagues up from the average LCD TV, which gives everything a far more realistic, almost CRT TV-like quality. Black areas remain a deep, rich black even when you're watching in an almost totally unlit room.
Noise is dealt with well by the on-board processing, too, and detail is sharp despite this only being a 1,365x768-pixel panel (a full 1080p version is coming in September). Colours are also bright and rich when required, with reds and greens blazing out beautifully.
Things are even better with HD DVD movies. King Kong, running at 24fps, moves beautifully smoothly on the screen, with none of the juddering effect one often sees on flat panels. Movement is clean and crisp in all formats, in fact, so gamers can get stuck into the really fast-paced titles without having to worry about smearing and ghosting.
The excellent black levels, colour reproduction and noise reduction mean that even standard-definition content looks good on the 50-inch screen, whether it's from the built-in digital tuner or a connected Sky box or DVD player. The picture is a little softer and the colours aren't as clean and vibrant, but this has far more to do with the quality of the source than it does with any shortcomings on the television's part.
We can't really find anything bad to say about the picture here. Full pixel-by-pixel 1080p support would be handy -- if you want this, wait for the 50- and 60-inch models due later this year. The only thing that this TV could possibly improve upon is its performance in a room containing lots of ambient light -- the screen is quite reflective, so you don't get as clear an image as you might.
Sound quality is similarly impressive (which is quite surprising given that the speakers are only optional), with movie dialogue coming out crisply and plenty of grunt on tap when the likes of explosions and gunshots are required.
In terms of picture quality, design and features, this is one of the best televisions we've ever reviewed. The picture in particular is of a totally different class to most flat-screen televisions, and has us looking forward to the September launch of Pioneer's "premium" 'Full HD' screens -- with even higher contrast ratios, according to the manufacturer.
As it stands, this 50-inch screen is a fantastic performer that makes hi-def movies and games look utterly spectacular -- if you're in the market for a high-end screen and are serious about picture quality, this should be right at the top of your shopping list.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield