When I joined AVS Forums in 2006, I had just purchased a Panasonic TH-42PX60U through a friend who works there. While it was a nice set, I read all the AVS discussions regarding the Pioneer Kuro...
Best-in-class black level; lots of advanced picture settings and adjustments (including calibration port); decent speaker quality
Pre-dates 3D, Wi-fi, Internet access/streaming, and smart functions; has a dated thick bezel; is a power guzzler
When I joined AVS Forums in 2006, I had just purchased a Panasonic TH-42PX60U through a friend who works there. While it was a nice set, I read all the AVS discussions regarding the Pioneer Kuro PDPs, and I was dejected that Pioneer's superior product was out of my financial reach.
Several years later, in 2009, came Pioneer's decision to exit the plasma TV business, followed by a steep discount (up to 50% off) for unsold units at various retailers. I immediately decided to purchase one of their last 50" plasma units, the Kuro Elite, Model PRO-111FD. Believe me, I have never parted with $2500 so easily in my life
And since I brought it home, I have been in Kuro heaven ever since. Here are the main points for this review of the Pioneer 50" Kuro Elite PDP (PRO-111FD):
1) Features: — Does the TV have online-streaming capabilities? No. — 3D? No. — Which features are useful and which are not? The BEST feature of the Kuro is its outstanding picture quality, and the high amount of picture controls and adjustments are very useful for tweaking your way to PQ perfection. The least useful feature (for me) is the Kuro's limited media access capability via either its USB port or its 10/100 LAN port. I chose instead to access content (including Internet) via a HTPC/DVR I built, which I connected to one of the Kuro's HDMI inputs.
2) Setup: — How easy was the setup process? It was quite easy, although raising the unit onto the stand requires two people. The Kuro has an ATSC tuner, so I connected my roof antenna to the tuner's RF input port and was able to do a channel scan for all the local TV stations. All local stations were detected and have come in perfectly ever since. — Does the TV provide a setup wizard? No setup wizard, but all configurable features are accessible with the remote. There are a number of settings available, and you will need to consult with the user manual to decide which items to configure and which to leave at default. — How did you set the user controls (picture mode, contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness)? In my case, I opted for a special picture setting called OPTIMUM, which utilizes a "room light sensor" which provides feedback to the Kuro about the viewing environment, and the Kuro will automatically adjust the picture to optimize for the current room lighting conditions as read by the sensor.
3) User Interface: — Are the remote and menu system well designed? Are they easy or difficult to use? The remote is not very well-designed, as it has tiny buttons and a non-intuitive layout (to me at least). The on-screen menu system is reasonable, but the available options are as numerous as they are advanced, so it is necessary (in my opinion) to keep the user manual available should any adjustments need to be made.
4) Performance: — How sharp is the picture? How natural are the colors? How deep are the blacks? How much shadow detail can you see? Cite examples from content you've watched. It's hard to quantify these items. Colors seem quite natural, and the black level is excellent. Some examples of content I've seen which look amazing on the Kuro include "Planet Earth" (Blu-ray), "Sin City" (Blu-ray), "Marvel's The Avengers" (Blu-ray), and pretty much every Disney/Pixar movie released on Blu-ray. To really get an idea of how excellent the Pioneer 9G Kuro PDPs perform, check out the following "pictures" thread in the Plasma Panel subforum here on AVS: http://www.avsforum.com/t/920011/official-pioneer-kuro-pictures-thread