Science & Technology vs. Ratings & Performance - why is Pioneer the top performer?

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feather

Guest
Dear Plasma TV Gurus...

I'm in a purchasing (and marketing) quandry due to a possible sceince & technology vs. performance & perception conflict.

I'm an engineer by background, but with an avid interest in marketing, and I'm on the verge of a 50" plasma purchase.

From little research it seems clear that the Pioneer range consistently receive accolades and rave reviews from the "media", and this is supported by plenty of credible and differentiating techno-speak at the Poineer home page, (Pure Drive, deep-set phosphor etc) i.e. there does seem to be significant science and technology behind the reported performance of Pioneer plasma products. Pioneer also sell at the highest price point, and this is also consistent with the market leading product.

However, upon closer inspection, there seems to be some apparent shortcomings in the specification of Pioneer plasma's, that don't fully support their market-leader/top-performer position, and I wondered if anybody out there could explain whether the parameters in question actually make a difference to picture quality.

I'm talking about contrast and luminosity.

I'm looking at the PDP507XD and the specs quote:
contrast 4000:1
luminosity: 1100 cd/m2

This is arguably the top performing 50" on the market(?), and (apart from the fullHD version), is possibly the most expensive, at 4500 euros (in France)

And yet, the following brands offer higher 50" specs at a much lower price:

Philips
contrast: 10,000:1
luminosity: 1500 cd/m2
price: 3400 euros

LG
contrast 10,000:1
luminosity: 1000 cd/m2
price: 3000 euros

Samsung
contrast 10,000:1
luminosity: 1300 cd/m2
price: 2700 euros


I'm open to the possibility that contrast and luminosity are either not the primary drivers behind picture quality, and/or other factors are just as important (such as resolution), but all of the FAQ-type guides, plus a bit of common sense tells me that these two parameters are key technology enablers behind picture performance.

Can anyone please explain this apparent discrepancy between technology specs and perceived performance i.e. cheaper, less popular models appear to have vastly superior specifications (for contrast and luminosity at least).

Is this good marketing on the part of Pioneer and their media partners (if so, I'm ok with that), or am I missing something technical (which is also a distinct possibility)?

Many Thanks,

Ken.
 

MAW

Banned
You are forgetting the element of truthfulness. The Bullsh.... factor with the Koreans has to be measured to be believed. Achieving the contrast and Luminosity figures at the same time is something they don't do, ie max contrast is only achievable with reduced light output. And BTW, Pioneer are not immune to porkies either, they are only self proclaimed technical leader, those of us in the field would mostly beg to differ. Media opinion, well, do you believe everything you read in the super soaraway Sun? The jounos/hacks who write for the mags in general have absolutely no technical qualifications, and are just boys playing with toys in a large number of cases. You need a degree in English to be a journalist, not physics, electronics, or anything relevant to AV.
 

Martin J.

Novice Member
Most A/V journalist don't even have an English degree. But... what you read on message boards is no more credible.
 

dbwinter

Well-known Member
We have just been comparing the Samsung PS50Q7HD to the Pioneer PDP-507XD amongst others, such as Pansonic PH50PX60 and Sharp LC-46XD1E/ LC-52XD1E.
We viewed Freeview and 720P footage on all and the result (except for 1st place) was actually quite surprising:-

1st (10/10) = Pioneer PDP-507XD : Fanstastic at everything, but slightly pricey at £2099.
2nd (8.5/10) = Samsung PS50Q7HD : Compares well up against the Pioneer and trounces everything else. Blacks are very impressive. Outstanding value at £1399.
3rd (7.5/10) = Pansonic PH50PX60 : Frame looks absolutely awful in comparison with just about anything and the image looked washed out - tried playing with the settings but no luck. This was a big surprise; saw this in 2 stores and just did not compare to the Pioneer or Samsung. Okay value at £1499.
4th (5/10) = Sharp LC-46XD1E/ LC-52XD1E. Looks very good with 720P footage but really bad with Freeview.This pretty much shows that LCD TVs are simply not as good as Plasmas and was the SD footage was problematic with all LCDs in the store. Poor value, unless you watch 720P and above at £2199.
 

MAW

Banned
But... what you read on message boards is no more credible.
LOL, very true, even here on the hallowed AV Forums boards. All subjective, and I'd say now a majority can't write the Queen's English to any credible degree either. This is a change, only a few yrs ago it was all highly erudite.
 
F

feather

Guest
Thanks for the replies so far.

Basic question:
what are the most important technical parameters that drive picture "quality"?

(Is it contrast, luminosity, resolution, others, all of the above? Is one more important than the other?)

Regarding the posts:
I'm a bit wiser. On the technical side, it seems that achieving max constrast and luminosity at the same time could be a challenge for plasma technology, and the implication from one post is that some manufacturers don't qualify the realistic/in-normal-use specs, rather, they may publish idealistic specs that can be achieved in lab conditions, but not necessarily in the living room. there is also some doubt that the specs are honest. I gather it's important to have good contrast/luminosity in tandem - that makes sense.

I could stretch the logic and assume that since the published Pioneer contrast and luminosity specs are significantly lower than rivals (e.g. 4000:1 vs. 10000:1 contrast), then they are perhaps more realistic (humble=credible)? That could be a risky assumption though.

Bottom line, at some point, the performance of technology like this has to be based on scientific performance metrics and not just subjectivity. The latter is important, since at the end of the line images on the screen are detected by human eyes/retina and the resulting signals processed in the brain to deliver a perceived picture experience - which by definition is subjective. Despite this, one would expect that good "screen technology specifications" would have a material impact on the viewers experience. Market hype (otherwise known as Brand power) can also drive perceived performance (we see what we expect to see), but unless the hype is supported by physical evidence, the market leader would surely topple.

Has anyone tested the claimed specs with proper (lab) instruments i.e. other than human eyes? There is a retailer in France called FNAC who conducts lab tests on all such appliances, using their own labs, equipment and test engineers. They summarise a grup of parameters that they feel are relevant to overall performance. Here are lab scores for each (with measuremed numbers ironically replaced by subjective descriptors)


B=Blackness
C=Colour richness
P=Progressivity
R=Reflectance

50" sets
Pioneer Panasonic Samsung LG
B: VGood Excellent Good VGood
C: Excellent Good Excellent VGood
P: Excellent Excellent VGood VGood
R: Excellent Excellent VGood VGood
 

[email protected]

Novice Member
There is also a lot of brand snobbery in this market. Pioneer is percieved to be ahead of the game so there is a lot of pressure (on here included) to buy a pioneer. I researched what was best for me and bought an LG and I havent regreted it for a second. When I post on here I'm spoken down too like a second class citizen because obviously I must have bought the LG because I couldnt afford a Pioneer mustn't I??

In my case the LG gave the best picture quality (best in my eyes) and had more features and better spec than the equivalent pioneer or pannasonic so the lower price was just a bonus. I couldnt give a monkeys what people think of me personally. If they are narrow minded enough to judge me on my screen then who needs them?

English mentallity has people thinking 'it's more expensive so it must be better' and in a lot of areas you do get what you pay for. After years of being screwed left right and centre we cant possibly imagine that there may actually be a bargain out there.

My advise is to do as you are i.e. research thouroughly, have a read on here which models have the most faults and problems, but the deciding factor has to be the image quality in YOUR eyes and features etc. If the best screen for YOU is not a pioneer then so what? Rate then based on your opinion and then buy the one highest up the list with the price tag that you are comfortable with.
 

robin78

Novice Member
3rd (7.5/10) = Pansonic PH50PX60 : Frame looks absolutely awful in comparison with just about anything
That´s up to personal taste, I happen to prefer the frame of the px60 over the all black designs of pioneer and the looks of the frame should not be any mayor consideration in evaluation plasmas, it's the PQ that has to count. Regarding that I also have seen the 50px60 being wasted out however the 50px600 is spot on
 

Leigh_1973

Novice Member
Surely this is all theoretical at the end of the day? What may look good on paper may not look good to the eye, and surely that is the most important factor. I think this has been shown in several threads and from my own experience.

Ive just ordered a 427XD and had narrowed it down to that, the panny 600 and the Sony W LCD. Neither of the other 2 came close to the pioneer in terms of colour reproduction and motion handling in my opinion. I couldnt really care less of the Panny has a better contrast ratio, if it doesnt look good to MY eyes then its not getting in my living room. It all depends on whats important to you.
 

MAW

Banned
There's a few other things in the PQ mix too, most particularly deinterlacing, now that HDTV in the UK has run with 1080i. Many sets do not correctly deinterlace 1080i, and display it as 2 x 540 fields. Non Japanese, plus Hitachi and Sony guilty as charged. It's not just brand snobbery you know, I look down at many Sony products, and look up in awestruck amazement at them when they get it right. Finer points, 3:2 pulldown, ie trying to display 24fps stuff from a 60Hz 1080i signal is a big problem, and the results are truly shocking/amazing and OBVIOUS when it's wrong. This is a biggie for HD-DVD and Blu-ray, those who don't get this right may live to regret their choice. Once again the lines are clear, and this time only the real premium brands do it right. The results of getting it wrong is the most startling stuttering picture you are likely to ever see. Once pointed out, it's unwatchable.
 

dbwinter

Well-known Member
There's a few other things in the PQ mix too, most particularly deinterlacing, now that HDTV in the UK has run with 1080i. Many sets do not correctly deinterlace 1080i, and display it as 2 x 540 fields. Non Japanese, plus Hitachi and Sony guilty as charged. It's not just brand snobbery you know, I look down at many Sony products, and look up in awestruck amazement at them when they get it right. Finer points, 3:2 pulldown, ie trying to display 24fps stuff from a 60Hz 1080i signal is a big problem, and the results are truly shocking/amazing and OBVIOUS when it's wrong. This is a biggie for HD-DVD and Blu-ray, those who don't get this right may live to regret their choice. Once again the lines are clear, and this time only the real premium brands do it right. The results of getting it wrong is the most startling stuttering picture you are likely to ever see. Once pointed out, it's unwatchable
The Pioneer PDP-507XD copes with all of these issues I believe but what about the Samsung PS50Q7HD, which I was just about to purchase?
 

MAW

Banned
Samsung, negative on 1080i, negative on 3:2 pulldown. You need Pioneer or Fujistu for 'perfection', surprisingly, Pnasonic screens recently failed the 3:2 pulldown, though excellent for all else. Don't confuse vibrant colours with accurate reproduction BTW, I look out of my window now and see little in vibrant colour. Behind me, Viva Pinata looks pretty vivid on a Fujitsu though.
 
D

Douglas333

Guest
Samsung, negative on 1080i, negative on 3:2 pulldown. You need Pioneer or Fujistu for 'perfection', surprisingly, Pnasonic screens recently failed the 3:2 pulldown, though excellent for all else. Don't confuse vibrant colours with accurate reproduction BTW, I look out of my window now and see little in vibrant colour. Behind me, Viva Pinata looks pretty vivid on a Fujitsu though.
What the hell is 3:2 pulldown and how will it affect me? :)

I was thinking of getting a 42PX600 but have been reading so many negative things on here (despite the fact it seems to receive consistently amazing reviews in the press) that I may investigate further. After going to 'currys' and seeing the TV's running side by side all displaying the same source I was shocked to see that out of all the pictures I saw the new 37" LG seemed to have the best picture quality!!!
 

MAW

Banned
Films are 24fps, I'm sure you know. Currently, we have them speeded up to 25fps, sound is higher, film runs for less time. In HD formats, it will be on the disc as 1080/24fps. This is currently output at 1080i/60Hz, with the same frame displayed 3 times, then the next one twice, someone correct me if I'm taqlking out of my ass, I've started drinking early! This little mix up has to be detected by the display, and core4ctly interpreted, or the film stutters like the actors are wired to the mains via an ACME superconducting cable. LG do pretty well on SD processing, but certainly can't perform this cunning stunt, nor do they deinterlace 1080i.
 

General Skanky

Well-known Member
Would it be safe to say people would end up with external scalers or simply use 720p instead of the 1080i if it's as bad as you say?
 

choddo2006

Novice Member
I ended up with an external scaler. We can't just use 720p because no UK content is produced in that format (except games I suppose)
 

DeadLake

Novice Member
I don't think this is anything to do with resolution 720 or 1080, but frame rate, in this case 24 fps...

1080p/24 was one of the reason I bought the 427xd. Shame that the Pany phd9 does not support 24 fps over hdmi (only composite) or I could of gone for that to.

Back to the original question, it's a shame that reviewers do not test just the contrast of a panel but also colour gamut that has been produced. I'm sure that would high light differences in screen technology. Plasma has greater colour range then LCD for example.

In addition how well a test card is reproduced, this could show up scaler issues. For example a test signal at 576i, would be a circle on a HD def screen and an oval if feed from an upscaling dvd player at 1080p. I've seen some reviews (What Hi-Fi) that feed a dvd upscaled feed into a screen and then carry out the review, this could/will introduce other artifacts. Double scaling etc.

As far as motion handling goes, I believe thats harder to quantify. Maybe some clever software out there to compare an original and camera recorded film with each other?

But the main point is that the current review system is not quantitative, but relies on the reviewer's memory. So hard facts are hard to come by.

PS: How close do you thing these guys get to ISF screen calibration???

http://www.plasmatvbuyingguide.com/plasmatv/reviews.html

For example:

http://www.plasmatvbuyingguide.com/plasmatvreviews/pioneer-pdp4270hd-plasma-review.html
 

DeadLake

Novice Member
I'm in the market for a new dvd player, the link to this thread is it for a pioneer 427xd.

Choddo, when I go eyeball the dvd and plasma working together for myself what sort of sd test dvd should I take?
 

choddo2006

Novice Member
Something like Aria or DVE will show you what it's like with colour and gradients.

If you can find the HDQ or DVDO DVDs, they have some excellent motion & 3:2 pulldown (as well as other strange cadences) deinterlacing tests. Look out for judder, jaggies & fine line shimmer on those.

If you're an anime fan you might want to take one of those too as they apparently have really weird cadences that can completely throw just about everything (so that one might just be depressing/annoying ;) )
 
A

AngryofMayfair

Guest
IMHO quoted figures for contrast and luminance are nothing like accurate and nowhere near as important as colour pallet depth and grey scale reproduction. Just look at the Panasonic 600 'purple snakes' thread - a lot of unhappy owners didn't see the fine print that shows the pana clearly inferior to the Pioneer in this regard with only half (4000+) the grey scale processing capabilty of the Pioneers with over 9000 levels...

This IMHO is one big reason for paying extra for the superior processing of the Pioneer (it's not just a better looking set because of it's black surround!) - again IMHO you get what you pay for
 

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