When we looked at Pioneer's 50in PDP-508XD plasma recently, we didn't just find it good: we found it positively revolutionary. So our expectations for the 42in version of the TV are understandably sky high.
The design is as classy as ever, with the high-gloss black chassis and ultra-robust build quality both being a cut above the norm. Connectivity is similarly superior, with three HDMIs dominating proceedings.
More than ample support comes from a USB 2 jack that can handle digital photos from USB storage devices, a PC port, an RS-232 socket (that an engineer from the Imaging Science Foundation could use to calibrate the TV's pictures to perfectly suit your living environment), and plenty of all the more common AV options.
Are you receiving, over?
All three HDMIs can, we're delighted to say, receive the 1080p/24fps format reckoned to deliver the purest pictures from Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. Even better, the PDP-428XD carries a special 72Hz playback mode designed to minimise noise and judder from 24fps sources (on account of it only needing a simple 3:3 pull-down equation).
As with the PDP-508XD, the PDP-428XD's feature count is prodigious. But one thing stands out above all else: a world-beating claimed contrast ratio of 16000:1 - a figure which should equate to amazingly deep black levels.
The technology that makes this class-leading black level response possible comprises numerous sections, including unusually deep-set plasma cells to reduce interpixel light and colour bleed, and a proprietary Ultra Black Crystal Emissive layer which increases the plasma cell discharge efficiency.
The PDP-428XD's performance is every bit as marvellous as that of the PDP-508XD. Those all-important black levels really are astonishing, reproducing dark scenes on the Pirates of the Caribbean Blu-ray disc with a naturalism that we've never seen before on a 42in TV.
When we talk about cinematic range, we're not just talking about the TV's ability to portray deep blacks, either. We're also talking about its colour range, which simply stretches further than that of any flat TV before, especially where rich reds (like the coats of the Port Royal soldiers) and blues are concerned.
Every ripple on every wave is reproduced perfectly from the immaculate Blu-ray transfer too, even though the screen's native resolution is 'only' 1024 x 768, and the terrific crispness of the image is scarcely spoiled at all by any motion blur or judder - especially watching the film in 1080p/24 with the TV's 72Hz mode engaged.
With the PDP-428XD's excellently clear and dynamic speakers proving that Pioneer takes sound as seriously as vision, really the only downpoint about the TV is its premium price. But then if you want the best, you usually have to pay for it.