Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pioneer PDP-4280XD Review

42in Plasma
Offers the best combination of standard and high definition performance of any flat panel.
HD Ready: yes
Resolution: 1,024 x 768
Rating: 96%


Alongside the Pioneer PDP-4280XD sits its identical (almost) sibling, the PDP-428XD. You will find both units retailing for around the same amount with the 4280XD having the advantage of a swivel stand included in the package, and the 428XD sporting a number of extra features.

These features include a USB port, picture-in-picture (Pip) functionality, sub-woofer output, ISF C3 (Custom Calibration Configuration) compatibility and Intelligent Brightness Control.


Pioneer plasmas are priced at a premium compared to their flat screen competitors, and this premium gets you more than just their legendary electronic wizardry. Some of the extra outlay has obviously been directed towards top notch materials, with the screen just oozing quality and style from every pour. The glossy black slim-framed PDP-4280XD will almost certainly bring out a green tinge to your friends and neighbours complexions.


By dubbing their 8th generation plasma screens Kuro ('Kuro' meaning 'black' in Japanese), Pioneer have firmly indicated in which direction their new range has been designed to excel.

Screen: 42in 16:9
Sound System: Nicam
Resolution: 1,024 x 768
Contrast Ratio: 16,000:1
Other Features: PURE Drive 2HD, Digital Noise Reduction (DNR), Direct Colour Filter III, MPEG NR (Noise Reduction). .
Sockets: 3 HDMI, 3 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, S-Video, PC input.

Even with a whole host of new technological innovations, this new generation of screens will not be found wanting connectivity wise. The PDP-4280XD features 3 HDMI inputs, 3 scarts, Component Video, Composite Video and S-Video. Additionally, there is a CI slot and USB port.

Picture processing technology on the PDP-4280XD comes in the shape of Pioneer's PURE DRIVE 2HD which has been designed to eliminate video noise by minimising intermediate analogue-to-digital and digital-to-analogue conversions. Image processing has been optimised for Plasma screens, and to work with Pioneer's latest 8th generation screen.

PURE DRIVE 2HD is complemented by i-CLEAR Drive which employs multi bit digital video processors to increase the range of gradation levels, producing more subtle colour differences.

To ensure that picture quality on the PDP-4280XD remains consistent from the centre of the screen to its edges, Pioneer have once again deployed their 'Deep Waffle Rib' structure which has also been designed to reduce cross-pixel light and colour contamination.

The PDP-4280XD sports two built-in 17W speakers in a strip along the bottom edge of the screen with the benefit of Pioneer's SRS Surround Sound. SRS has been designed to synthesize "surround sound" from two channel (i.e. two speaker) systems.


Pioneer have rightly staked the reputation of their 8th generation plasma screens on black level performance. Without exception, the PDP-4280XD is head and shoulders above any other manufacturer in this area. What a good black level performance does for a plasma is to create a blank canvas upon which colours perform, and with the PDP-4280XD this canvas is almost flawless.

With an unrivalled black level performance, we expected colours on the PDP-4280XD to look good. In fact, colour saturation is class leading, with an unparalleled vibrancy which produced the most realistic skin tones we have seen on any flat panel. The depth and ranger of the colour palette on the PDP-4280XD in simply breathtaking.

High Definition (HD) viewing from Blu-ray or HD DVD is stunning, with a sharpness and level of detail that is at least as good as the best from other manufacturers.

Traditional plasma strengths, in particular their ability to handle motion fluidly produce one of the most accomplished Standard Definition (SD) performances we have seen on a 40in plus panel. This performance is most impressive with its ability to handle low quality Freeview sources, and while not flawless, the picture is easily as good as it gets this side of CRT in this respect.

The only negative aspect of the PDP-4280XD's performance concerns its ability to reproduce shadow detail. It is only because this unit is so competent in other areas (especially the black level performance) that this aspect of its operation was a little disappointing. Shadow detailing compares well with other plasma screens, but just doesn't live up to the incredible black levels present on this screen.

Sonically, the PDP-4280XD performs well, and the twin 17W speakers can handle even the most demanding of sound tracks without too much distortion. SRS creates different reactions from those who experience it, and in our opinion it doesn't add anything to the acoustics of the PDP-4280XD.


If you want to pull this Pioneer straight out of the box and have little or no interest in 'tinkering' with its performance then the PDP-4280XD will make an ideal high end choice.

The extra features offered by the PDP-428XD will appeal to the TV enthusiasts out there, not necessarily those of you who enjoyed poking a screwdriver into the back of your old CRT, but those of you interested in the technicalities of getting the very best picture from your plasma.

The Pioneer PDP-4280XD has given us all at HDTVorg the feeling that the days of CRT outperforming plasma with SD sources are numbered. The PDP-428XD is not quite there yet, but the difference is negligible, and with HD sources the PDP-4280XD in our opinion brings you the ultimate home viewing experience

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