Monday, January 28, 2008

Pioneer PDP-5080XD Review

50in Plasma
The best HD or SD picture bar none, at a price.
HD Ready: yes
Resolution: 1,365 x 768
Rating: 95%


Alongside the Pioneer PDP-5080XD sits its identical (almost) sibling, the PDP-508XD. You will find both units retailing for around the same amount with the 5080XD having the advantage of a pedestal stand included in the package, and the 508XD endowed with some 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.


You pay a little bit more for a Pioneer, but some of this premium has obviously been directed towards quality materials with the screen just oozing quality from every pour. The glossy black slim-framed PDP-5080XD will bring envious glances from friends and neighbours alike.


With an all new 8th generation screen (dubbed 'Kuro'), the Pioneer PDP-5080XD promises Black Levels to match and better anything seen to date from other Plasma and LCD TV manufacturers.

Screen: 50in 16:9
Sound System: Nicam
Resolution: 1,365 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-5080XD 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-5080XD 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.

The PDP-508XD retains all of the technological wizardry of its predecessors. Pioneer has once again deployed its 'Deep Waffle Rib' structure designed to reduce cross-pixel light and colour contamination.

Speakers are optional on the PDP-5080XD, Pioneer assuming that the screen will more often than not form the centre piece of a home cinema system.


The Black Level performance of the PDP-5080XD is a revelation, with a purity that stands head and shoulders above offerings from any other Plasma or LCD manufacturer out there. The subtlety of graduation across dark scenes is nothing short of spectacular.

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.

Colours on the PDP-5080XD are exceptionally vibrant and display an almost complete absence of some of the faults and niggles displayed by lesser Plasma screens. Colour saturation is class leading, and the realism of skin tones for example, illustrates just how accomplished this screen is.

Standard Definition (SD) pictures are not the best we have seen but they are close, which is saying something for a 50in screen. SD pictures are easily the best we have seen on a large (50in +) Plasma or LCD even with low quality Freeview sources.

Now we come to the negative, although for a number of enthusiasts out there it won't be seen as such. To get the most out of the PDP-508XD takes a great deal of tweaking of the various picture processing settings. Without this tweaking, the PDP-5080XD has some noticeable shortcomings. In fact, 'out of the box' the PDP-5080XD is quite ordinary in some respects - in particular, fast action scenes suffer from a certain amount of juddering.

By tweaking the PDP5080XD's Drive Mode settings we were able to eradicate the motion problems, and the important point is that all aspects of the PDP-508XD can be improved. However, unlike Panasonic Plasma's for example, the PDP-5080XD has a 'specialist' feel about it, and this won't suit some.

This should take nothing away from the PDP-5080XD, which is in our opinion the best performing flat panel out there - it just requires a little tender loving care (we will be producing a more comprehensive 'tweaking' guide for the PDP-508XD soon).


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-5080XD will make an ideal high end choice.

The extra features offered by the PDP-508XD 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-5080XD has given us all at HDTVorg the feeling that the days of CRT outperforming plasma with SD sources are numbered. The PDP-5080XD is not quite there yet, but the difference is negligible, and with HD sources the PDP-5080XD in our opinion brings you the ultimate home viewing experience.

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