We previously looked at and swiftly fell in love with Pioneer's new 6th generation 50in flagship plasma, the PDP-506XDE. The 506FDE version uses exactly the same panel, but is typically £300 cheaper. So what's the difference?
There's no doubting this Pioneer looks decidedly upmarket. The highgloss black frame and detachable speakers combine to handsome effect.
Connectivity comes via the stripped down media box. There's a single HDMI card and three Scarts, but unlike its more expensive compatriot, there's no PC card slot for viewing digital photography and no Top Up TV conditional access slot - because unlike the XDE, the 506FDE doesn't have a built-in digital tuner.
Also absent from the 506FDE is the XDE's VGA PC input, headphone and subwoofer output. The removal of the PC input also confirms that this screen lacks the dedicated ISF (imaging science foundation) screen calibration modes of the XDE.
The FDE remains fully HD Ready, despite the second division media box.
Thanks to the 6th generation panel, the screen benefits from the brand's proprietary Deep Waffle Rib structure for less light and colour seepage between pixels, and the latest PureDrive III picture processing.
Other tricks of note include a Cinema progressive mode, substantial colour fine tuning, standard and MPEG noise reduction, various contrast boosters and adjustments, TruBass front surround audio processing, and 75Hz/100Hz drive modes.
This PDP is currently the one to beat when it comes to absolute picture performance. Once calibrated, images excel in every way. Darker areas, for instance, enjoy black levels that are both profound and rich in subtle shadow details that give pictures scale and believability.
Colour fidelity is strikingly intense, free from solarisation and impressively natural in tone.
During HD viewing the 506FDE enjoys stunning fine detail levels, too, which combine with the effortless black levels to deliver arguably the most three-dimensional image yet seen on a non-1080p screen. Standarddefinition material also scales up to the panel's native resolution without becoming soft or noisy.
Noise is generally extremely well suppressed, leaving motion free of plasma's common dot crawl, dark areas free of plasma's common grey pixel noise, and edges free of ghosting or haloes.
You'll be so hard gaping at the 506FDE's pictures that you might not notice its sound. But you should, for those skinny speakers prove to be robust and entertaining with their presentation of music and movies alike.
While the 506FDE's panel performance is every bit as good as that of its costlier sibling, the extra connectivity of that step-up model should still tempt you to spend the extra £300 more. The days of opting for an analogue TV tuner model are also drawing to a close.