The TV tuners worked well, but the brilliance of this TV resides mostly in its plasma panel, and the electronics that drive it. As mentioned, Pioneer doesn’t specify the TV’s contrast ratio. In fact, it delivered black levels that result from a true absence of light, rather than a mere diminution. Even when there were bright elements on the screen, the parts of the picture that were supposed to be black remained so. This was particularly easy to spot, seeing as how the picture was so damned large! It was almost like having a front projector, but without its disadvantages.
The picture was plenty bright enough, and the colours were extraordinarily natural in their appearance.
One of the reasons for the great picture was the superb processing of video provided by the electronics. This did brilliantly on deinterlacing both 1080i and 576i video, whether delivered from a disc player, or by the unit’s own built-in digital TV tuner. TV has never looked as good as it did with this unit… even with SDTV!
The BDP-LX71 Blu-ray player also performed flawlessly. I have one complaint: while noticeably faster than previous Pioneer models, it remains one of the slowest of those released over the past few months. Part of this is just silly design: why should it take 30 seconds to open the disc draw from switch on? This ought to happen as soon as power is applied (if you start it up by touching the ‘open’ spot on the front panel). The machine initialisation process should continue while this is happening.
That said, this unit has a number of unique virtues (especially now that Sony is no longer using Pioneer players as the guts of its). The main one is the on-the-fly resolution control function provided on the remote control. Other BD players we’ve seen force you to stop play in order to alter the resolution settings, or to go into the setup menu. Pioneer just does the whole thing with a couple of remote control keys. This offers no real advantages in practice, as with the output resolution set to ‘Auto’, the unit does a fine job (1080p24 during Blu-ray movie playback, and 1080p50 or 60 for everything else). Still, I think it’s cool.
The picture quality was immaculate, and not just with Blu-ray discs; the unit did a respectable job with PAL DVDs. You can adjust the video display parameters (and apply a number of various noise reduction processes) using a dedicated key on the remote control. There are a number of video presets and three user memory settings that are very convenient. But if you purchase these two units as a package, you should choose the ‘Pioneer PDP’ setting, which of course optimises the player for top performance with this Pioneer TV.
One little extra offered by this player that puts it ahead of most of the others: transport controls. Want to do an A-B loop? This unit supports it for Blu-ray in addition to DVDs. If you pause a Blu-ray (or DVD, of course), you can frame step both forwards and backwards. That makes finding the specific frame you want easy. You can even do an A-B repeat loop on a Blu-ray.
The Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX609A TV is, truth be told, about as good as you can get today. Indeed, it’s hard to see how it could get any better. The BDP-LX71 is an excellent Blu-ray player in all respects… except for its failure to support BD-Live functions. But if that isn’t something you’re dying for, then you will be pleased with this player.