Pioneer PRO-1150 HD 50" Plasma HDTV
Dick De Jong
November 20, 2007
Pioneer has totally re-engineered its plasma HDTV line and christened it KURO, which is the Japanese word for "black." And indeed, by reducing the TV's idle luminance by 80%, the PRO-1150HD, which is part of Pioneer's Elite KURO line, produced the deepest blacks that I have seen.
You may ask, "What's the big deal about deep blacks?" I have found that if a TV begins with a foundation of deep black, then all the colors seem richer and the contrast is more defined. In fact, with this Pioneer, the colors were almost too rich for me and I often turned down the saturation. But I prefer having this full range of color that I can adjust to my eye.
And let me be crystal clear, the Pioneer pumps out a beautiful image and there were moments when the picture was transcendentally gorgeous.
The PRO-1150HD is a 50" HDTV with a native resolution of 1365 x 768, which translates to 720p. It accepts 1080p signals, even the 24 Hz variety that is common with DVD movies. Instead of performing a 3:2 pulldown to convert to 60 Hz playback, the TV smooths out motion judder by applying a 3:3 conversion for 72 Hz playback.
I notice judder, but it's not a major factor for me. And the 24 Hz feature is not what excited me about the PRO-1150HD. I was much more interested in the TV's ability to be integrated into my computer network.
With Pioneer's Home Media Gallery feature, I was able to connect to my computer and play back audio, video and photo files stored on the computer.
As consumers begin to download more and more content and store it on their media servers, this interconnectivity with your TV will become essential.
(Editor's Note: We have posted a video review of this Pioneer plasma. You can see it here.)
Out of the Box
The four and a half inch wide HDTV lifts out of the box with its non-swivel stand attached. Also packed separately in the box are a pair of 17W two way stereo speakers, which screw on to either side of the TV. When assembled, the whole kit weighs a shade under 89 pounds.
Bucking the thin bezel trend, this plasma sports an almost two inch bezel at the top and bottom of the screen and an even wider one on the sides. When the speakers are attached, the profile becomes elongated, which makes it more distinctive.
Historically, plasmas have been slighted because they reflected ambient light much more than LCDs. I've never considered this a major problem since I always found the reflections to be more obvious when the TV was turned off. But if you are sensitive to this phenomenon, Pioneer has minimized the situation substantially where I hardly see a reflection even when the TV is turned off.
The connection panel on the back provides four HDMI 1.3 compatible inputs, (two have matching stereo Audio Ins), one Component (YPbPr) with matching stereo Audio Ins, one Composite (with Audio), one VGA (15 pin D-Sub for PC input) with a stereo Audio In mini-plug, an S-Video, an RS-232C Service port, an IR Repeater Out, and the Ethernet cable port.
In addition, an SPDIF (optical) digital Audio Out is provided alongside a Subwoofer Out and the terminals to connect wires from the stereo speakers.
|Continuation of Back Connection Panel (not actual orientation)|
Also back there is a CableCARD slot and two RF connectors. One can take either an antenna or a cable signal. The other is specifically for an antenna. Both link to the internal NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuners. Since the tuner system is Clear QAM compatible, you can attach your cable TV signal directly into the RF connector and tune in unscrambled cable stations.
With the PRO-1150HD's two tuners, you can view two over-the-air broadcast channels side by side. Or you can combine one of the internal tuner sources with an external signal coming in through the video inputs on the back.
|Door opened and closed.|
As I have said before, with a 50" screen, each PIP image would be the size of an old 25" TV. With overlapping college football bowl games coming up, a pigskin fan can wallow in multi-screened hog heaven.
Easily accessible on the left edge of the TV is another smaller panel with a USB port, a headphone jack and an additional set of Component and Composite Inputs.
The remote is a big, boxy handful that lights up an eerie red when you hit any of the controls. Aesthetics aside, I like this remote for its large buttons and easy to read labels. The dedicated buttons for different Inputs (for example, HDMI, Ant., and PC) make jumping from one to another a breeze.
I also appreciate that the designers hid the less used controls under a flip out door. Of course, if you are a PIP guy or like to run your DVD with your TV remote, then you might want to permanently remove the door to reveal those buttons.
Our basic setup procedure remains the same. We're using the Oppo DV981HD DVD player and the Digital Video Essentials DVD, (the SD version), to calibrate the monitor. We attached the Oppo's HDMI out to the HDMI input on the Pioneer and used test patterns to adjust black level, white level, and color bias.
The DV981HD can upconvert a standard definition DVD to 1080p, which the PRO-1150HD will accept. But since the TV's native resolution is 720p, that is what we set the OPPO to output.
To begin, the Picture Menu on the Pioneer provides seven Picture presets that are under the AV Selection heading: Optimum, Standard, Dynamic, Movie, Pure, Game and User. As you can see from this initial category, the Picture Menu is full of a wide range of tools and options that can make the timid hesitant to venture in too deep.
Luckily, Pioneer offers a Before and After feature. When you are tweaking an adjustment, you can press the Blue button on the remote and the display will revert to the previous setting. Press it once again and you return to the new adjustment.
Of course, if you really do not wish to get your hands greasy fiddling around under the hood, I would suggest that you have the PRO-1150HD professionally installed and calibrated. I usually don't say that. And it's really no reflection on the difficulty of setting this TV up. I found it no harder than others. But if you are willing to spend the extra dollars for this TV, I think you might find an ISF Calibration worthwhile.
For the DIYers out there, Pioneer supplies every wrench you will need to tune up this roadster to your eye's delight. And the manual does a fairly decent job of describing the controls.
First and fundamentally, black. I sometimes had a difficult time seeing where the screen ended and the black bezel began. I love a deep black base to my picture and the PRO-1150HD honored its KURO surname.
As I mentioned colors occasionally were too rich for my taste. But when the picture turned toward the Technicolor, I reached for the remote and dialed down the saturation to satisfy my more muted sensibilities. As you may know, I'm particularly skittish about skin tones. And occasionally a wan waif's complexion looked like a a rosy cheeked English schoolboy's.
With that said, I could spend paragraphs extolling the beauty of this plasma's image. Often I was thrilled by the KURO's rendering of jaw dropping images. And the common everyday experience was that I would see a scene and I would think, "That's the way high definition TV should look."
In case you were pondering producing a personal Film Noir Festival, I watched one of the Zatoichi movies last night being broadcast on the Kung Fu channel in HD and in B&W. As the blind samurai/masseur walked through the forest at night, the monochromatic image was sublimely atmospheric.
To add to my viewing pleasure, standard definition programs fared better on this HDTV than on many others I have seen. Pioneer seems to have made an extra effort to produce the best looking picture possible from SD content. Don't get too excited, SD material will never look as good as HD programs.
I realize that the PRO-1150HD is not a 1080p model. But I believe for most people, especially sitting over seven feet away, they will never be able to tell the difference. Therefore, I think it would be a splendid choice for a home theater. (If you can't live without 1080p, Pioneer does offer the 50" PRO-110FD for about $1500 more.)
Actually, with its networking capabilities, the PRO-1150HD also could act as the display hub of a modern home entertainment system. All you need to do is plug it into your network through its Ethernet port. The integrated Home Media Gallery software will search for the available networks and through the on-screen menu, you can pick one to attach to.
If you have media server software set up on your computer system, you can access audio, video, and photo files directly from the TV's menu using your remote. Now, in the manual, Pioneer talks about compatibility with Windows networks, which is what I have with Vista. For me, access and playback worked flawlessly. I did not have a chance to try it on a Mac or Linux based network.
Of course, if you don't wish to futz with a network, you can still plug a USB storage device into the port on the panel on the side. The Home Media Gallery will find the files and you can customize slideshows and even include music in the background.
One added feature is that the program is not limited to reading just JPEG image files. It also supports TIF, PNG, BMP, and GIF formats. On the audio side, support includes LPCM, MP3, WMA, WMA9 PRO, AC3, AAC, and WAV. Video formats are WMV9, MPEG1, MPEG2-PS, MPEG2-TS, and MPEG-ASP
Finally, the pair of stereo speakers does command a little more respect than the average built-in speakers that you find in most HDTVs. And the SRS WOW / FOCUS / TruBass Surround Sound Audio technology does an admirable job. But if you are making this plasma the cornerstone of your home theater, then honor the quality of the image with a suitably matched high end audio system.
With a deep black base as a canvas, the PRO-1150HD paints a rich, colorful image that impressively represents Pioneer's KURO series of HDTVs. This black beauty delivers the features and the quality that you would expect in an HDTV in this price range. I would be delighted to find a home for this plasma in my home theater.
First, realize, that ratings are relative to when the review was written. The obvious example is Value, what you could purchase for $2000 two years ago or even two months ago would seem like a bad value for that price now.
Second, we have given only a precious few 5 Star ratings, which we reserve for truly outstanding accomplishment.
Every time I think I should be cautious and hand out a 4.5, I turn the PRO-1150HD back on and appreciate the simple pleasure of watching a program like Torchwood on HDNet.
The unit provides all the features that you would expect, like four HDMI inputs, a full tool chest of picture adjustments, dual tuners and PIP options. The Home Media Gallery elevates it to a 5.
Ease of Use: 4.5
For all the features, the TV is still easy to use. Though if you don't feel comfortable navigating through the extended set of picture setup adjustments, I might suggest that you hire someone to tune-up this hotrod.
I realize that this plasma is more expensive than other 50" models, but its superior quality will pay dividends for those able to make the investment.