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Pioneer PDP-LX609A review: Pioneer PDP-LX609A

Pioneer leaves the market with a shining example of what plasma is truly capable of with the PDP-LX609A — a TV which will remain the one to beat.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury

It's been a rocky ride for Pioneer in the past few months, what with announcing that it's killing plasmas <="" a="" rel="noopener nofollow" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank"> and everything. But it doesn't mean you should dismiss these televisions. We've been impressed by almost every single Pioneer plasma, and the ninth generation doesn't disappoint in the slightest.


Pioneer PDP-LX609A

The Good

Blacker-than-black blacks. Excellent picture quality. Five year warranty. Network capable.

The Bad

Twice as expensive as the 50-inch. Only one component input. 'Optimum' mode not always the best.

The Bottom Line

Pioneer leaves the market with a shining example of what plasma is truly capable of with the PDP-LX609A &mdash; a TV which will remain the one to beat.

In design terms, Pioneer hasn't deviated from the Kuro formula much — piano-black bezel, wide stand and wing-nut speakers. However, we were actually a little disappointed with some of the inevitable cost cutting that's gone into this TV. For example, where previous models have featured solid metal stands, the PDP-LX609A has a plastic stand, and while this doesn't seem to affect the stability in any way it's not what you'd expect from a premium set.

Previous Pioneer remotes have tended toward the spartan, and preferred to let the menu system do the work, but the latest Kuro remote is once again filled with buttons. However, the glamour fit and finish is still there, and you can ignore the many Picture-In-Picture-type buttons at the bottom if you choose.

This new Kuro is seriously tricked out with gizmos, but there is a refreshing lack of frippery. Every gadget is actually useful.

One of the features that Pioneer took great pains to highlight when we previewed the Kuro last year was the television's "Optimum" mode, which not only monitors light levels but also the content — whether its Blu-ray, DVD or even a sports program on TV — and adjusts the picture on the fly. And speaking of picture, as this is a "Kuro" (Japanese: "black") the television has prodigious amounts of it with its new KURO2 engine. While Pioneer is coy about the actual figures, the company does say it's five times more contrast-y than last years. A good reason to upgrade, perhaps?

Like many new flagship televisions, the Kuro enables streaming media features. The TV comes with an Ethernet port which enables users to stream content from a NAS or networked PC. While the "Home Media Gallery" supports most music and photo files, it only supports MPEG-1/2/4 and WMV 9 video — AVI and certain flavours of DivX are not supported. While the Pioneer lacks the latest Yahoo widgets, some have pointed out that these would only be distracting for times when there is more than one viewer. And with a TV as big as this, it's quite likely there'll be more than one person watching it at once.

Given this is a modern television we don't really need to mention it has a 1920x1080 resolution, but we will anyway, and it also comes with three HDMI ports. You also get a single component input — for shame! — an S-Video port, a VGA input and two composites. For viewing pictures on cameras or thumb drives the TV also features a USB port on the side. Pity it didn't put an extra HDMI port there as well.

The on-screen GUI has also had an update, with a brushed aluminium look and slick menu options. We only had two problems with it in use, though: firstly, the PG is painfully slow to navigate, and secondly, there is no acceleration of the Home Media Gallery, making long lists of artists tedious to wade through.

While there is also a version of this screen without most of the features, the Pioneer KRP-600M, it's only really intended for professional installers, and is also the same price. Get the PDP-LX609A instead.

As we've established, Kuro means black, and from watching the latest television from Pioneer you'll certainly believe that the company has finally nailed it. This screen has the highest contrast we've ever seen on a television &mdash inky blacks, punchy whites. But the plasma's capabilities stretch further than that &mdash it's able to resolve subtle gradations between colours and areas of shadow better than any plasma we've seen previously. While the picture may not be as analytical as the latest LCDs from Samsung or Sony, it retains the cinematic feel of the best displays, while still enormously capable of resolving over-the-air content.

In fact, given the massive screen real estate, we were surprised how well the Pioneer coped with poor quality sources like web video (via the Home Media Gallery) and SBS News' "wobble-cam" footage. Even marginally better-quality shows &mdash and we're talking strictly "picture" quality, here &mdash like Everybody Loves Raymond were full of detail and lacking in picture judder.

If you've been interested in Pioneer plasmas before, you would have been delighted in the company's razor-sharp picture processing, and we can say that here it's as good as ever. Noise is kept to a minimum &mdash even with all the noise settings turned off &mdash and the telly aced the difficult HQV test disc. This is something we've only seen happen a couple of times before, most recently with the Samsung LA52A750 we saw last week.

Some of the picture modes are more successful than others. Being the hibernating, night-dwelling types that we are, we left the calibrated "Movie" mode on most of the time and this served quite well. On Blu-ray, activating Standard Cinema mode (for native 24p support) worked in tandem with the Movie setting seamlessly, and provided a smooth, detailed and punchy picture. However, while the optimum mode worked well in most instances, it wasn't always the best judge of settings for each source type and lighting conditions. For example, we found it blew out the contrast on the King Kong DVD too much and made it look too lurid and unnatural. On normal settings, it looked great.

Yes, the Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX609A is probably the most expensive plasma you'll ever see outside of a Bang & Olufsen showroom, but the television actually does its damnedest to make sure you get your money's worth. While we're not saying the screen is future-proof, nothing ever is, it has all of the features you could want if you're looking to buy a telly today. And did we mention it's got a beautiful picture?

If you've been thinking of getting a Kuro, this is definitely the time to do it. While they are no longer being made, the company has enough stock to last till the end of the year, and will of course support the full term of the unheard-of five-year warranty. Go on, you know you want to.