Pioneer stuns with new Kuro plasmas and LCD TVs

Pioneer has confirmed its position as the UK’s premier plasma TV maker with a range of Kuro displays unveiled at a London launch today.

The biggest news however is that Pioneer is now touting its own LCD TVs, with panels supplied by TV maker Sharp. Pioneer also took the wraps off a new high-end D-ILA projector.

Pioneer’s expansion into LCD TV territory shouldn’t come as a surprise - it’s been hinting that it would make the move since CES 2008 in January.

Pioneer's strategy shift

Pioneer’s hand has also been forced by continuing losses in its plasma business. This resulted in its decision in March to hand over plasma panel manufacture to Panasonic.

The company also launched a range of home cinema systems today, dubbed the LX range. These have been designed to work seamlessly with the Kuro and follow on from the existing LX01.

Seamless integration

One unique feature of the G9 Kuro TVs is the level of integration they offer when used with other Pioneer products.

The integration goes far beyond simply enabling you control one device using the remote control from a second.

Instead it reaches right down to component level, ensuring that devices complement each other technically, to give you a better viewing and listening experience.

Pioneer’s UK product manager Jim Catcheside puts it like this: “We don’t make our plasmas to work with Panasonic Blu-ray players. We make them to work with our Blu-ray players.”

Pioneer Kuro in display shoot-out

Catcheside then showed off the Pioneer Kuro’s superiority in display technology, comparing it to a Panasonic Viera plasma display with 30,000:1 contrast ratio, and a Samsung LCD TV with a claimed contract of 500,000:1.

Pioneer, of course, no longer quotes contrast levels - Catcheside says its G9 TVs have such deep black levels that quoting a contrast level is meaningless.

Even last year’s breath-taking G8 pales significantly by comparison.

Much of Pioneer’s emphasis during its presentation was on how black levels enhanced the movie viewing experience for home cinema aficionados - i.e. the kind of people who sit in a very dark room to watch a movie - and it’s proud to be a niche player in this respect.

Discerning entertainment junkies

Its obsession with black levels won’t matter a jot to your average TV buyer though - especially those who’re likely to buy a LCD TV because they are significantly cheaper.

That doesn’t matter to Pioneer. Spokeswoman Heidi Johnson-Cash said Pioneer was only really interested in what it called ‘discerning entertainment junkies’ - people who can afford to pay the premium prices that Pioneer’s display products command.

We have to say though Pioneer’s Kuro plasmas do display absolutely stunning pictures, which are matched by the sound emanating from its new home cinema receiver range.

Pioneer’s 2008 product line-up.

Pioneer announced two new G9 plasma panels today - the 50-inch PDP-LX5090 (£2,400) and 60-inch PDP-LX6090 (£4,200), both of which will be available in June.

Pioneer has been able to improve the black level of these new sets by over five times when compared to 2007’s Kuro G8 plasma TVs.

The Kuro G9 plasmas also include new filters to include colour performance, particularly with red hues in an image, three HDMI ports and intelligent brightness control.

Pioneer LCD TVs

Pioneer also announced three Kuro-branded LCD TVs - the 32-inch KRL-32V, 37-inch KRL-37V and 46-inch KRL-42V. All three come with an anti-reflective filter, three HDMI 1.3 ports and a 100Hz frame mode to offer ‘an unmatched fast moving picture performance’.

The Pioneer LCD TVs also feature glossy titanium bezels to distinguish them from the all-back surrounds of the Kuro plasmas.

The 32-inch KRL-32V and 37-inch KRL-37V LCD TVs go on sale in August, priced at £1,300 and £1,450 respectively. Availability and pricing for the 46-inch version has yet to be confirmed.

Pioneer D-ILA projector

Finally Pioneer branched into previously uncharted territory with the launch of its first D-ILA projector, the KRF-9000FD.

The Pioneer KRF-9000FD is capable of displaying images from 60-inches to 200-inches in size and includes LCOS 1080p technology, plus three 0.7-inch D-ILA processors.

It's based on an existing JVC D-ILA design, with tweaks limited to firmware and tuning changes to further enhance picture quality.

Pioneer's Jim Catcheside says the improvement have been enough to distinquish the Pioneer KR-F9000FD from its JVC D-ILA and Meridian stablemates 'out of the box'.

The Pioneer KRF-9000D projector also has a wide variable lens shift, twin HDMI 1.3 ports and boasts 1920 x 1080p resolution at 50Hz. It's available now.