There are few things in life that really, honestly wow you; things that inspire a true sense of awe. The birth of your child. The light cascading down Ayr's Rock as the sun sets. A sober appearance from Amy Winehouse.
Alongside these, it would seem preposterous that anything in the world of electronics or home entertainment could compare.
I guess it depends on how easily pleased you are. Personally, I'm inclined to run around like a kid at a wedding at the mere sight of a new Grand Theft Auto game. I giggle and fuss every time I pin a shiny, new Blu-ray platter, and I still think my iPod Touch is cool.
So it's easy for me to be impressed by Pioneer's two latest Kuro screens. However, 'impressed' doesn't even cut it... Quite simply, the range-topping PDP-LX6090 is the best TV in the world bar none.
The 60incher's smaller sibling, the LX5090, runs it a close second and is, in itself, a standard-setting TV. But size, in this case, is everything.
At present, I'd argue that there is no better way of viewing hi-def movies or games than on Pioneer's king of screens, unless you require a much larger picture and therefore a projector. But I'd even suggest that the image quality of the LX6090 is so good that it represents a viable alternative to a projection-based home cinema installation.
Such is the power of Kuro. For those unfamiliar with Pioneer's flat panel branding, 'Kuro' (the Japanese word for black) has been adopted because the set's black performance is key to why this latest iteration of its TV technology is so astoundingly good.
The black level response on both the LX6090 and the LX5090 is so intense that while the screen is on but not displaying an image, you can't see a thing in a darkened room. Nothing. Nada.
It's coal miner time. 'Oh yeah, we've seen it before,' 8th-gen Kuro owners might cry. But not like this. Not this deep. Not this scary.
The tech talk
For its G9 panels, Pioneer has nigh-on eliminated light bleed from individual cells and, therefore, can directly control the luminance of each separate pixel of the 1920 x 1080 resolution without any 'muddying' of colours or, indeed, black itself.
This has a secondary benefit; while blacks retain their integrity, brightness (white) is also represented with pinpoint accuracy.
Add in excellent colour fidelity and you get an astonishing picture. A simple example is illustrated with many disclaimer scenes at the front of DVDs or Blu-ray discs, which are generally white text on a black background.
Most, if not all, TVs will show glowing or ghosting around the edges of the words, not so here.
On both of these Kuro screens, they are as solid as if they'd been printed. And the white is, well... completely white. Not yellow or grey, but Duluxstyle white. Oh, and there's the small matter of the fact that, even in our own Tech Labs, we tested the contrast ratio of the LX6090, in real world circumstances, at almost 47,869:1 - not claimed, tested...
The 50in Kuro did even better, clocking a contrast fi gure of 50,615:1.
No other screens tested have ever come anywhere close.
From the box, the preset settings are very watchable, although it's worth experimenting with the controls to optimise the picture or, better still, employ a trained engineer to calibrate it for you.
Both panels, like their G8 counterparts, feature ISF-calibration options so they can be tweaked to get images spot-on.
Curiously, you won't find anything in the manual about them but ISF Day and ISF Night modes are available. But even without intricate tweaking, I was able to get the colour temperature to a perfect 65K without compromise and therefore spin the Blu-ray edition of Men in Black safe in the knowledge that I was seeing it as the director intended - at 24 frames per second, with a wholly accurate colour field.
I'm used to seeing stunning hi-def pictures, it comes with the job, but I don't have the words to describe how bowled over I was at the visual luxury on offer.
The shadow detail on these sets is simply amazing, giving images an almost 3D appeal.
Connectivity-wise, I still rather lament the loss of the separate media box which came with earlier Pioneer plasmas. They seriously reduced the amount of cable spaghetti on display.
That said, you're spoiled here with the wealth of sockets on the rear and side of the TV. Three HDMI v1.3 inputs are present, matched by an equal amount of Scarts.
Two of the latter can also output video, feeding a DVD recorder, for example, from the internal Freeview tuner, but, interestingly, one of them can only be utilised if the third HDMI jack isn't.
Almost all other flavours of feeds are catered for, except, somewhat oddly, S-video. Oh well.
There's also a side-mounted USB 2.0 port. If you have JPEG images stored on an USB memory stick, digital camera or flash card (via a memory card reader) they can be displayed in full using the natty on-screen menus. Unfortunately, only JPEG files can be read; it would've been great if there were video codec encoders inside the panel to play DivX or XviD, but as they're generally rendered at low bitrates and resolutions, maybe a 60in Full HD TV isn't the best way to view them...
That said, the Freeview pictures from the in-built tuner are exceptional, almost regardless of their resolution. There's some artefacting that becomes overtly visible with the shoddier channels, but this is a caveat of our standard definition digital TV service and is apparent on any fl atpanel over 32ins.
If I were to have any bones with the LX6090 (or the LX5090, come to that) it would be that everything, speakers, desktop stand or wallmount, comes as an optional extra and bumps up the price. But, to be honest, I still think that the starting point of £4,300 isn't too unreasonable for a prestige 60in TV, let alone the fact that it's currently the best TV on the planet.
The same goes for its smaller sibling, which, at £2,500, may be twice as expensive as nearby peers. But if you consider both of these models as pinnacles of HDTV design and technical innovation, like I do, their clarity comes cheap for the price.
Too good to resist
As has been widely reported, these will be the last Kuros to feature Pioneer-made glass. From 2009, the company will source its substrates from rival Panasonic. It remains to be seen how they'll compare to these beauties. TV connoisseurs should care less, though; resisting these screens is futile. My advice is buy now and enjoy.