Every year, there's a home entertainment product at CES which sends ripples across the show. Last year it was Pioneer's 8G Kuro plasmas. And this year Pioneer has stolen the show once again, by unveiling two exciting new prototype tellies that are causing a lot of buzz all around CES.
Journalists were stunned to silence when Pioneer released details of its new super-black and super-thin prototype televisions on Sunday. Not only had the Japanese company managed to produce a 52-inch plasma display that's just 9mm thick, but it's also unveiled what is unquestionably the greatest television anyone has ever built. Period.
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First look: Pioneer prototypes
We were taken into a small enclosed booth at the Pioneer stand. The lights went off, pitch darkness swallowed everyone in the room, and slowly the curtains were drawn back.
In front of us we could see the screens of three televisions. These were the 8G Pioneer Kuro plasmas that impressed everyone so much last year. The bezels on the TVs were impossible to see, it was far too dark, but we could see the screens because the luminance made the black screens seem more grey than anything else.
They are extremely black in comparison to most TVs, remember, but under these test conditions, even the blacks on the screen look more like deep-water greys.
Two TVs were sitting next to each other, and to the right of these was a large gap, and then to the right of the gap was another TV. The gap contained the concept panel but, as Johnston had promised, it was completely invisible, despite being switched on throughout the demo. The three visible TVs started displaying video. Arty swirls on a black background. And then suddenly, the concept panel came to life.
Instead of a glowing grey screen with arty swirls displayed on it, it seemed as though the arty swirls were suspended in mid air. The black areas of the screen really were pitch black. No luminance could be detected whatsoever. The TV was invisible apart from the colours being displayed on it.
There are hundreds of TVs here at CES. But this Pioneer concept television is truly unbelievable. Sitting firmly in the 'you've got to see it to believe it' category, it shows the kind of technology we'll all be watching two, three or maybe four years down the line. It's just utterly mind-boggling.
Sadly though, this technology is a very long way from coming to market. Pioneer won't even give us a ballpark date. But you can bet that these super-black panels will not be produced on a large scale for at least three to four years.
The holy grail for Pioneer is to put the super-black technology in a panel the size of its 9mm prototype. That's the future, but no one knows quite how far away it is.