Sugg. Retail: $21,999 (CAN)
Distributor: Pioneer Electronics of Canada,
300 Allstate Parkway, Markham,
Ontario, Canada, L3R 0P2
(905) 479-4411 FAX 946-7427
Reprinted From the Fall 2002 Issue
The Elite PRO-1000HD is either the third or fourth generation plasma model from Pioneer, and incorporates all the improvements they’ve made to this technology. Most of these are in the areas of resolution and motion artifacts, both serious considerations with fixed pixel displays. In the past, plasma sets have tended to work best when a scaler or line doubler is between the video source and the display to provide compensation for artifacts, and provide the exact resolution that works best with the particular display.
This plasma display may be one of the first to not need such help, at least with component video input, especially progressive scan pictures. This was brought home to me when I first hooked the display up, connecting both component and S cables. However, the set was configured for RGB input rather than component video, so, initially I could watch only the S picture from the Elite DV-47A player until I’d carefully read the manual with respect to proper component setup. So, for the first few days I watched the S-video picture exclusively.
During this period a few visitors shared my disappointment, the jigglies, jaggies, and twinklies that I wasn’t used to on my PRO-710HD very distracting on the bright plasma screen. Finally, I managed to readjust the BNC inputs for component video, and saw all the artifacts disappear, along with scan lines, for a much more satisfying picture.
And this leads me to the features of the PRO-1000HD, starting with inputs, of which there are 4. That might seem enough, but there’s more to it: input 1 is a D-sub 15-pin computer connector that can also handle component or RGB, 2 is also RGB/component through 5 BNC inputs, 3 offers S-video, and 4 composite RCA. By comparison, the PRO-710HD has a pair of component inputs, with S and composite on all 4 inputs, so that a total of 10 video sources can be connected (2 component, 4 S, and 4 composite). Here the user is restricted to 4 video devices or 3 and a computer, and after looking at the S picture, I would say it’s got to be either RGB or component video for acceptable quality. I didn’t bother to try the lower resolution composite input. It’s likely that most owners of this plasma set will want some high quality video switching (and possibly processing) to precede the PRO-1000HD inputs of choice. I guess if you can afford the set, you can also afford some sophisticated accompanying electronics.
The set also has audio inputs to a 5-watt stereo amplifier, which can be used to drive matching speakers, which were not provided for review. I would expect few owners to use this capability.
The remote control for the PRO-1000HD is quite simple, allowing input selection, screen size adjustment, Standby/On, and various menu operations for setup and adjustment of picture quality. It also mutes or adjusts the volume of the internal audio amplifier.
Setup is pretty straightforward, though with a few quirks. Some of the menus for setting video characteristics cannot be accessed until a source device, here the DV-47A, is connected, with a DVD disc in it to supply the necessary output signal. That was one of the reasons it took so long to figure out how to set it up for component video. The other was a small slide switch on the rear input panel (which faces downward, by the way, requiring me to lay the display on its face in order to see what I was doing in making connections; be very careful to avoid damage to the display’s screen doing so!), the “Synchronizing signal impedance selector switch”, which has to be set to 75 ohms for component signals. The manual could definitely be clearer about these things.
But once all the setup was accomplished, the rewards were considerable, starting with the best plasma picture I’ve ever seen, and not by a small increment, either. The PRO-1000 pretty much blows the doors off any plasma set that’s ever been in my home in terms of picture quality. Not only do motion artifacts mostly disappear, but the picture gains clarity and depth. My wife liked it better than the RPTV, but, then, she’s used to watching the bright 27″ Panasonic GAOO upstairs, and the plasma picture does tend to look more like a tube set than a projection type, especially in its bright, saturated colours. I prefer to back off the contrast and colour on the 710HD for a more natural look, akin to looking out a window. Our country vistas, certainly very green, do not have super-saturated colour, and no reds that leap out at you like they do from the PRO-1000 screen.
I don’t know whether it’s a serendipitous match between the DV-47A player (review nearby) and the PRO-1000, but the resulting picture was of very high resolution, looking almost like HDTV on the best DVDs. These were usually anamorphic films, sent in progressive mode to the set. But non-anamorphic films looked very good, too, attesting to the quality of the scaler in the PRO-1000HD. However, one could see a few motion artifacts, and the resolution was noticeably softer on some because of pixel starvation as the picture was viewed in Zoom mode. IMAX films looked very good in Zoom mode, the loss of some top and bottom better than the smaller image with silver bars on either side. Certainly, component non-progressive pictures looked much better than those seen through the S input.
Speaking of Zoom, I should also outline the other screen modes, which will come as no surprise to any owners of recent Pioneer HD-ready sets. 4:3 is for standard TV pictures, with silver vertical bars on either side, Wide stretches the picture to fill the screen, with distortion more near the sides than at centre, Zoom fills the screen without horizontal distortion by cropping top and bottom, and Full does an accurate anamorphic stretch laterally. In previous generation Pioneer and Elite models Full was automatically (and undefeatably) engaged when an anamorphic source was sensed, which caused compatibility problems with some DVD players. Here the company’s engineers have disabled this feature, so you can set up your own aspect ratios; if you like your onscreen people short and wide, or tall and thin, go for it! In other words, you can have Mutt and you can have Jeff, but not at the same time.
Perhaps the biggest advance in this plasma set’s picture is the very distinct improvement in blacks, and greyscales were also a lot better, making for a vivid and natural picture. Depending on source material and adjustments, it can, as noted above, tend a little towards the super-natural. I found that to maintain good blacks I had to keep the contrast quite high, but did back off the colour a bit. The PRO-1000 has relatively few picture adjustments, and certainly not the versatility of the DV- 47A or the PRO-710.
DVDs watched included all or parts of Apollo 13 (all, fascinated by the vivid picture), The Messenger (parts, struck by the beautiful cinematography and idiotic script), Empire Records, Showgirls, and the usual suspects, The Fifth Element, The Thomas Crown Affair, High Fidelity, and The Arrival, which I use to judge picture quality in anamorphic and letterboxed movies. I also screened some recent IMAX movies, including Cosmic Voyage, Destiny In Space, and Mission To Mir. Picture quality was never less than impressive, though some darker scenes, such as exteriors in night-time Chicago in High Fidelity showed greyscale limitations.
The bright colours and detail of the picture were only occasionally accompanied by motion artifacts with a progressive picture, but non-anamorphic images were not so lucky, with more twinklies and the like on pans and other motion. Much of this disappeared when I switched from watching DVDs to off-air HDTV from Bell ExpressVu. I guess the resolution of the program source has quite an effect on how much of these artifacts one sees, as does whether one watches through component or S inputs. Certain combinations are more or less optimum, for example, DVD/S-video/DV-47A caused distracting artifacts, while a small portable DVD player from Nextbase on the same disc, Apollo 13, looked entirely acceptable through the S input, though lower in resolution. It appears that with this fixed pixel display there can be definite aliasing effects, depending on how the source interacts with the plasma display’s native resolution of 1280 by 720pixels. I should also note that the ExpressVu signal did lock the display into Full mode, even if progessive signals from the DV-47A didn’t.
In summary, I guess I’d have to conclude that this plasma set is something of a contradiction in its video performance. Because the ExpressVu 6000 box allows switching between S and component inputs, I could do fairly quick A/B comparisons between the two sets. First, I went into the component inputs of the 1000 and the S input of the 710 with an HD picture. Of course, what came out of the S output was not HD, and scan lines were clearly visible on the bigger set. There was no question which set you’d choose in a showroom with this comparison.
Then I reversed the field, so to speak, and went component into the 710 and S into the 1000. At the time the HD channel was showing a flyover of southern Italy from PBS, mostly slow helicopter pans, and all the motion artifacts and more went from the RPTV to the plasma. Yes, it was the S source, but it was also the interaction of it with the fixed pixel display, once again underlining and highlighting (quite literally) how sensitive such video screens are to what they’re fed.
And all this brings us to a Jekyll and Hyde conclusion: the Pioneer Elite PRO-1000HD is an enormously impressive set at its best, especially when viewing DVD or HD sources through its component inputs, but with lesser sources through more common inputs such as composite or S, can be annoyingly rife with motion artifacts. If you must have a plasma display, as I said earlier, you will need a line doubler or other scaler to watch any lesser sources with satisfaction. But when showing the best DVDs and any HD source, you will simply be captivated and mesmerized by the picture you see.