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Pioneer PRO-FHD1 review: Pioneer PRO-FHD1

Once we had the image to our liking, we sat back to compare the Pioneer against a few other displays we had in-house: the significantly larger Mitsubishi WD-65831 rear-projection set as well as a pair of other 50-inch plasmas, namely the 1080p Panasonic TH-50PF9UK and the 1366x768-resolution Panasonic TH-50PH9UK. We slipped the incredible-looking Aeon Flux into our resident Blu-ray player, the Sony PlayStation 3, and kicked back to enjoy.

The first thing we appreciated was the Pioneer's accurate color. Aeon's skin was pristine; the green of the greenhouse plants was rich and not nearly as yellow as with the other three sets; the red blood of her hands on the shard of glass was darker and not crimson. Color balance according to test patterns was nearly perfect, so we were able to increase the color control to really saturate the image without sacrificing any realism. Primary color accuracy was very good before we adjusted the Color Management settings and superb afterward.

We also noticed that the Pioneer exhibited less false contouring than the other sets, especially the TH-50PH9UK. In the scene before Aeon is captured and wakes up in a cell, her hazy silhouette fades into the light, and the difficult transition from light to dark was smoother on the Pioneer. In the cell, we also noticed a few bands on the transition from the floor to the white light under the bench while watching the Panasonics, which weren't evident on the Pioneer or the Mitsubishi.

Compared to the two Panasonics, the Pioneer did evince a slightly lighter color of black. We noticed during the scene where Aeon stalks Trevon Goodchild in the theater; the shadowy recesses and letterbox bars appeared slightly lighter on the Pioneer; about the same as on the Mitsubishi. We doubt this difference would be noticeable outside of side-by-side comparisons, but it is worth noting.

You may ask whether 1080p makes a big difference on this panel, and as usual, the answer is no. We compared the PRO-FHD1 directly to the lower-resolution Panasonic TH-50PH9UK, and in scene after scene of this very sharp disc, the differences were extremely difficult to detect. Only on a couple of scenes did we feel the 1080p Pioneer had any kind of advantage in sharpness. In Chapter 9, for example (52:07 into the film), the horizontal lines hanging behind the projected face looked more distinct on the Pioneer; later in the film, the same line again appeared sharper. From our 7-foot seating distance (Update: This originally said "8-foot," but it is actually 7), it was nearly impossible to see other differences, whether we looked at characters' hair or the texture of the walls or the tiny creases in skin and lips during the film's numerous close-ups. Anyone sitting farther than 7 feet away would likely appreciate no benefit at all from the FHD1's resolution.

Along with other Pioneer plasmas, the PRO-FHD1 is one of the only displays available to support the 72Hz refresh rate. An item labeled PureCinema in the menu system actually controls this function; when set to Standard, the set refreshed at the standard 60Hz rate, while choosing Advanced puts it into 72Hz mode. The supposed advantage of 72Hz mode is that you get a smoother picture with fewer artifacts when you're watching 24-frame sources, such as the 1080p/24 output of the Pioneer and Sony Blu-ray players. On the flip side, when we watched the 1080i/60 output of the PlayStation 3 in 72Hz mode, we saw some additional artifacts, such as judder and crawl along vertical lines. In general, we recommend using Advanced only if you have a 1080p/24 source. Unfortunately we weren't able to test this feature properly because we didn't have such a source on hand.

On another note, we did hear a very quiet, high-pitched hum coming from the Pioneer; the Panasonic plasmas, for example, were silent. The Pioneer was quieter than the sound of the fan on our PlayStation 3, but we could still hear it.

Next, we put the Pioneer PRO-FHD1 through a battery of standard-definition processing tests, watching patterns and material from the HQV disc at 480i over component video. The TV turned in a mostly solid performance, resolving all of the details of the disc and smoothing out jagged diagonal lines, such as those visible on a waving American flag, particularly well. Details on the stone bridge did look a bit soft until we increased sharpness to 0, which did introduce some edge enhancement. Both the Digital NR and the MPEG NR modes, each with four settings (Off, Low, Med, High) did a great job of squelching moving motes of video noise and "snow" in the low-quality shots of sky and sunsets, as well the scenes of the moving roller coaster. The High mode in particular seemed to choke off almost all noise in many shots, although it did make the image appear softer, especially the MPEG NR's High setting. The Pioneer did a fine job of detecting 2:3 pull-down in both Standard and Advanced PureCinema modes, but the image evinced more judder in Advanced.

One other important note: we recommend avoiding feeding the Pioneer any kind of 480p signal. Via both HDMI and component-video, we observed significant softness in the television's horizontal resolution on grayscale patterns (such as the first color bar pattern from HQV or the staircase from the Sencore VP403 generator), which appeared downright blurry. This issue does not affect 480i, 720p, or either of the 1080 resolution sources; just 480p. If you're connecting this set to a progressive-scan DVD player, you should set it to interlaced mode, or use a player that upconverts to 1080i or 1080p resolution.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,036/6,191K Good
After color temp 6,305/6,447K Average
Before grayscale variation +/- 327 K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 61K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.642/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.284/0.615 Average
Color of blue 0.149/0.066 Good
Overscan 0 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Yes Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good

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