Pioneer's latest range of high-end plasma TVs maintain the company's impressive record of innovation and features, and the PDP-435FDE shaves almost a grand off the usual Pioneer prices. But has the stripping down gone too far?
Although not exactly unique these days, there's an extra bit of polish to the PDP-435FDE's combination of a glossy black screen surround and silver trims that makes it a gorgeous presence in your living room. There's some design flexibility on hand too, with the speakers positionable either flush to the screen or free-floating for a more designer impact.
While the PDP-435FDE thankfully keeps the HDMI input of Pioneer's more expensive XDE models (making it fully compatible with Sky's forthcoming high-definition TV service), it sadly doesn't share its sibling's subwoofer line output, digital TV connections (for the simple reason that it doesn't have a digital tuner!), PCMCIA card slot for digital picture viewing, or, perhaps worst of all, any sort of PC input...
The PDP-435FDE's radical Direct Colour Filter screen technology does a striking job of almost entirely eliminating onscreen reflections by replacing the customary glass front panel with a plastic one. This also helps the set weigh less than normal plasmas - a boon for would-be wall-hangers.
Also worthy of note are PureCinema processing for enhanced prog scanning, a contrast booster, colour transient improvement, and above-par high-def facilities in the form of a native 1,024 x 768 resolution screen and HD-friendly digital scaling
There are many good things about the PDP-435FDE's pictures, but absolute contrast isn't one of them. Picture areas that should be black, once correctly calibrated, exhibit that tell-tale greyness in shadows - even with the contrast expander activated.
To be fair to the PDP-435FDE, its amazing freedom from screen reflections regains some of the ground lost by the contrast, as does an impressively subtle touch with colour gradations and greyscales. Other factors making a positive contribution are exceptional brightness levels, vibrant and natural colour tones, and exceptional fine detail levels - particularly with high-definition or prog scan sources.
That said, while not troubled with 'easy' sources like HDTV or prog scan, with analogue tuner programming issues of dot crawl are evident.
The PDP-43FDE's audio benefits from a strikingly rich soundstage created by a lovingly crafted balance between wellrounded trebles, smooth but full bass, and an open mid-range.
The combination of price and excellent high-definition capabilities makes the PDP-435FDE the most desirable screen of Pioneer's latest range. Picture clarity is exceptional. In all, an excellent panel.