Pioneer launches its 8th generation (8G) plasma range on May 8th in Rome. "This revolutionary new technology,"says Pioneer, "will change the competitive market place for flat panel TV."

Speaking at CES earlier this year, Pioneer revealed that it has reinvented its plasma TVs. Its 7G plasma line-up (including the PDP-427XD and the PDP-507XD models) was based on established 6G technology. Although impressive, these 7G screens didn't provide a big leap in performance. At least not when you compare Pioneer's 6G TVs to their 5G predecessors.

In contrast, Pioneer's 8G models have been redeveloped from the ground up. The result, claims Pioneer, is that they deliver the best flat panel picture quality in the world. Better than LCD; better than other plasmas; better even than SED.

"We are making a quantum leap in all areas that impact the viewer experience," says Ken Shioda, general manager of product planning for displays. It's a bold claim - a case of product 'revolotion' rather than careful 'evolution'. Pioneer doesn't want to be a company that revels in its former glories.

Chasing a better black

What made Pioneer's 8G prototype stand out at CES was the Colombian coffee richness of its blacks. Pioneer claims that black levels in its forthcoming displays far exceed those in its previous plasmas. This has been accomplished by reducing the luminance levels by a massive 80 per cent.

Pioneer has apparently achieved this by discharging the screen's electrically-charged cells when pixels are in an 'off' state. In combination with a new anti-glare filter, Pioneer's new TVs can retain rich, deep blacks in any lighting conditions. Their contrast ratios, as yet unspecified, should be impressive.

The new 8G plasma line will also include a brand new ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) video processor. This, says Pioneer, will dramatically improve noise reduction and video scaling. Expect three HDMI connections and an integrated digital tuner to come as standard too.

Pioneer has told tech.co.uk that its 8G displays are the result of a year's work and 12 years of R&D into flat panel technology. For now, it's keeping the technical details under wraps until the official launch. But we're expecting new 42-inch, 50-inch and 60-inch 1080p plasma TVs to be unveiled next week.