Q: I've had a Pioneer Kuro KRP-500M plasma TV since January 2010, and it is still doing the job daily. But recent TVs like the Sony Z9D and LG OLED look stunning in a shop. Are they much better than my 500M in all respects? Should I upgrade? BTW, I am using an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player to watch videos.

- Albert Chan (mednext)

A: The Pioneer Kuro plasma TV was the best flat panel of its day, by far; in fact, I still have mine! But technology has moved on in the last seven years, so I think it's time for you to upgrade.

To answer your specific question, TVs like the Sony Z9D and LG OLEDs are much better than your Pioneer Kuro plasma in just about all respects. First, they have four times the pixel resolution of the Pioneer (3840x2160 versus 1920x1080). Also, OLEDs exhibit even deeper black levels than the plasma, and the Z9D is probably comparable to the plasma in that regard, though I haven't measured one. And most modern TVs require less power than the Pioneer plasma—though again, I'm not sure that's true of the Z9D with its Master Backlight Drive.

Most importantly, the Z9D and 2017 LG OLEDs can display high dynamic range (HDR) content in three major formats, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG, some of which will be added in a firmware update this year. The 2017 LG OLEDs will also support Technicolor Advanced HDR after a firmware update. As a result, they can achieve much higher peak brightness than the Pioneer plasma, especially the Z9D. (HDR-capable OLEDs can get brighter than plasmas, but not by as much as the Z9D.)

In my opinion, content graded in HDR (currently available on UHD Blu-ray and some streaming services) played on an HDR-capable display generally looks way better than SDR content (Blu-ray, DVD, broadcast television, and most streaming content) played on an SDR display. Granted, relatively little HDR content is available compared with SDR, but the studios are working hard to release more HDR content as more HDR-capable displays appear in the market.

One of the only things that the Pioneer plasma does better than just about any modern flat panel is off-axis performance. All LCD TVs suffer from reduced contrast and desaturated colors to one degree or another when viewed from off axis, and OLEDs tend to exhibit color shifts. But this is only a problem if people routinely watch the TV from far off axis.

Also, plasma is inherently better at motion detail than either LCD or OLED. Both of the current technologies use tricks like frame interpolation and black-frame insertion (BFI) to sharpen motion detail. But plasma works differently and exhibits naturally better motion detail without having to employ these tricks. This could be why some people prefer the "look" of plasma over LCD or even OLED.

Let me caution you about judging the picture quality of any TV in a retail showroom. In that well-lit environment, virtually all TVs are adjusted to look as bright and blue as possible. The room in which you use the TV is probably nothing like a retail showroom, and the display will look very different, especially if you optimize/calibrate it for that room. In general, it's much better to determine your specific needs and rely on trusted reviews to make the best choice for you.

Once you decide to upgrade, the next question is OLED or LCD? I address that question in this Ask the Editors , and many AVS Forum members weigh in with their thoughts on the subject in the comments.

You can certainly continue to use the Oppo Blu-ray player with any 4K/UHD TV, which will upscale the 1080p content to 2160p and, in many cases, synthetically expand the dynamic range from standard (SDR) to HDR. But to get the most out of the new set, I'd upgrade your player as well. The new Oppo UDP-203 is an excellent choice, because it supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR and offers two HDMI outputs—one that goes directly to the TV and one that sends the audio to an AV receiver or preamp/processor, which might not be able to pass HDR from the player to the display. The LG UP970 and Philips BDP7502 also offer support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision with two HDMI outputs, and they are less expensive than the Oppo. But they are not available yet, and some of their functionality will be added in a future firmware update.

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