on February 10, 2009
First off, I have to give Amazon (and CEVA, the shipper) kudos for their white glove delivery service. They gently carried the tv up my icy driveway, brought it in, un-packed it, made sure it worked, and offered to take the packaging away (I declined). And they arrived in the first hour of the 3 hour window, which is always a bonus. Definitely place your order through amazon, not one of their associated merchants. It was worth the extra $50-$100 (at the time I made the purchase).
First off, I want to mention that plasma technology has come a long way recently in reducing the weight, and profile of the panels. This 60 inch display only weighs about 10 lbs more (without speaker or stand) than my Samsung FT-P5084 50 inch display, despite being 20% larger. I was able to life the TV from the stand, to a wall mount with my wife's help! Didn't even have to call a male friend! The display also has handles on the lower back side, to save your hands from sharp edges. The holes for the bolts on the back of the display are 34 inches apart, which is wider than my old wall mount (and most of the universal wall mounts out there). So, even if a universal mount claims to be capable of holding a high enough weight/panel size for this display, make sure the wall bracket is at least 36 inches wide, or it will not be able to accommodate this display!
The stand is cheap, and relatively crappy for the price of the display. This doesn't bother me, obviously, because I've mounted it on my wall, but it's an obvious bit of cost-cutting that's a little disappointing. Also, if the speaker bar is not attached, the display is supported by two skinny little bars, that are rather unsightly. If you are going to use the stand, make sure the speaker is attached, even if you aren't planning on using the TV's audio. Because I haven't attached the speaker, I can't comment on audio quality. All the reviews I have read said that for a TV, it's pretty fantastic. But I've got at least $3 grand into my surround sound system, so I didn't even bother taking the speaker out of the box.
The TV itself has a high-quality, black gloss finish around the glass that looks like it belongs on a TV this expensive. The remote is ok, not great, but not bad. Lots of small, same-size buttons. The black, brushed-aluminum-type finish is nice, though. I use a Harmony One universal remote anyway, so I'm not worried about the TV remote. The TV's menu system is fairly logically laid out, although some settings that you might think you'd find in the picture sub-menu are actually in other sub-menus. It took me a little while to find my way around, and play with all the various settings, but there is nothing too confusing about the setup. The menu screen sets the current video feed into a little box on the right side of the screen, with a border around the whole screen, and the menu items on the left side. Selecting the picture-related sub-menus brings the video to full-screen and overlays the sub-menu on top of it. It's a little different than other displays I've used in the past, but it works.
The menu you'll spend the most time in is the picture menu, under setup on the main menu. There are a bunch of color/picture modes available, but the only three are actually watchable for any period of time: Standard, Optimum and Movie. Standard and Optimum have similar default settings, the main difference being you can tweak the settings in Standard mode, but not Optimum. Both have reasonably accurate color settings, and high contract ratios that really make an image "pop" off the screen. Standard lets you adjust contract, brightness, tint, color and sharpness manually, while optimum makes adjustments for you based on lighting conditions. For showing off what the display can do, Optimum seems to be the best setting. The whites are bright, the blacks deep (more on this later), and the colors are quite vibrant. The only problem is that, in a darker, more ideal setting, Optimum and Standard modes are a bit fatiguing on the eyes after a while. It's just too much contrast for your eyes to handle comfortably. The definition, accuracy and video processing are top rate, meaning good video feeds look fantastic. Poorer feeds, however, can look a little less than spectacular, however, in these high contract, high detail modes, because they accurately reproduce the images, flaws and all. Even with the sharpness turned all the way down in Standard mode, this is still the case. Letters can appear pixelated, not smooth, and standard def TV feeds just don't look good. So, my TV is currently in Movie mode, which I feel (and there are several professional reviews to back this opinion up) is the best overall viewing mode for the TV. The colors are more muted, but closer to accurate, the contrast is excellent, but not fatiguing, and the mode smooths out the lousier feeds, while still showing the details of the good feeds in nearly all of their glory. A word about the color: at first, everything looked a little greenish, compared to my Samsung, which was calibrated to be as close to accurate as possible, but any adjustment in the tint toward red made the picture appear pinkish. I was unable to make any adjustments that seemed to get to a color that was 100% accurate, and that seems to be the only downside to this TV, versus the Elite models. However, after watching the display for a week, my eyes/brain have adjusted, and I no longer see the greenish tint, and the colors appear completely accurate to me. I'm not saying this is the best solution, but it works better for me than spending the extra $1,500 to $2,000 on the Elite model. A professional calibration would probably help as well. Regardless, I'm quite happy with the color at this stage, and I'm picky when it comes to my displays.
And now the most important part, the black levels. I think this is the best way to describe it: you can't tell the difference between when the display is turned off, and when there is a completely black screen being fed into the display. It makes anything else I've ever seen look gray in comparison. If you are new to TV/video-mania, you should know that there is no substitute for deep black levels. All images displayed on a screen are simply different color and intensity lights arranged in shapes that we perceive as whole images. Those lights stand out in contrast to the relative absence of light (ie, black) displayed elsewhere on the screen. If your screen's absence of light is just a medium gray, the screen has to output more color and more light to equal the contrast produced by a screen such as the kuro. And there are limits to the technology (and to human sight) that don't necessarily allow that to happen. So having the deepest, darkest basis to contrast with is extremely important if you truly want the best image possible. And, in normal viewing, this display, and the other kuro displays, simply have the best black levels available in a flat panel today. Samsung and Sony have LED-backlit LCDs that score better on contract ratio and black level tests, but in normal viewing situations, they simply can't match the Kuro line.
I don't think the question is whether you want to buy this display or not. It's entirely a matter of the cost/benefit analysis. If you are nuts about your home theater, and the thought of spending 4 grand on a TV doesn't scare you, you will not be disappointed. On the other hand, Panasonic and Samsung make some excellent 58 inch plasma displays, for significantly less money. As long as you never saw the black levels on this Pioneer, you wouldn't even know what you were missing, and would probably be perfectly happy. But, with the exception of the Kuro Elite models, the PDP-6020FD and the PDP-5020FD are probably the best displays money can buy today. I don't regret my purchase one bit.