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Pioneer PDP-42MXE10 42" Plasma TV

Part I

September, 2006

Ofer LaOr

 

Specifications:

  • Diagonal Screen Size: 42"

  • Resolution: 1024 x 768

  • Brightness: 1400 cd/m

  • Contrast Ratio: 3000:1

  • Inputs: DVI, Component, S-Video, PC

  • Viewing Angle: 1600

  • Dimensions: 24" H x 40.5" H x 4" D

  • Weight 67 Pounds

  • MSRP: $3,299 USA

Pioneer Electronics

www.pioneer.eu

Introduction

As many people know, Pioneer purchased NEC's plasma manufacturing facilities last year, resulting in an interesting fusion in technology between the two companies.

A while back, Pioneer had two lines of plasmas, Elite units for high end prosumer use, and the regular PDPs that were purchasable for a lower cost and could be installed by the owner himself. In the last couple of years, Pioneer had moved towards unifying the two product ranges, resulting the 435 and 436 line, which physically looked like the Elite units (black piano URUSHI finish) and were functionally a consumer unit.

The PDP-42MXE10 is a deviation from this roadmap, which is clearly intended for custom installers and prosumers. The unit is physically very conservative in appearance. Internally, however, this is a very interesting product that may appeal to many prosumers and installers who read Secrets on a regular basis.

One of the many highlights of CES 2006 for me was Pioneer's FHD1, arguably the best plasma on the show floor (but undoubtedly, one of the only two full HD 50" plasmas that were displayed at the show). Its feature list was the first time that a plasma officially announced proper support for 50 Hz, 60 Hz, 48 Hz, 72 Hz, and 75 Hz. For those of you who don't know this, plasmas usually pick a display rate and just stick with it to avoid the heavy calculations necessary to ensure that gamma levels, calibration, and the number of colors are retained at each of the different vertical refresh rates. The most popular vertical refresh rate is, of course, 59.94 Hz, which works quite nicely for the US, but presents quite a conundrum for us European users. In addition, the recent introduction of 24fps content (1080sf24 and the like) makes us prosumers look more carefully at iteration of 24 Hz in our displays. That means that 48 Hz, 72 Hz (and their European counterparts, 50 Hz and 75 Hz) are looking very appealing right about now. Pioneer recognized this and added this feature to the FHD1.

The remote control is adequate at best, having no discrete on-off buttons, and is not built very well. It's a far cry from high end remotes that Pioneer certainly knows how to make. I suspect that, like many remotes these days, it's a token unit to be used to teach a universal or programmable remote and not be a primary control for the TV.

The 42MXE10 does not "officially" support these. Unofficially, using the service menu (available to custom installers through hard pressing DISPLAY and then pressing the MENU button) offers the ability to remove the judder that typically gets introduced in the FRC (Frame Rate Conversion) portion of most plasmas for any rate other than 60/59.94 Hz. This allows the MXE10 to support proper judderless 50 Hz, and is in fact the first plasma I have ever tested capable of doing this with no visible banding at the display's native rate!

Bundling this plasma with an outboard video processor or HTPC is a dramatic improvement for European users who were, up until now, forced to compromise on either judder or banding.

The cost of this is a slight flicker which is probably caused by the plasma shutting off for around 3ms for each vertical refresh in order to avoid having to do those complex calculations that could detract from either the picture quality or number of colors. This flicker, which is familiar to 50 Hz users, is only apparent at very high frequencies and disappears at around 6 feet viewing distance.

Out of the box, the display comes quite hot (RGB histogram shown below), with blue too high and red too low. This gives the display the appearance of being brighter than it really is.

Pre Calibration Histogram

After calibration, RGB is flat between 100 IRE and 40 IRE, as shown below. The display gives one of the most stable D65 calibrations that I was able to do on a plasma without the assistance of an outboard scaler. Below 40 IRE, the image will appear blueish.

Post Calibration Histogram

Post Calibration Grey-Scale

The CIE chart, shown below, is quite good. If you look at the secondaries, they are nearly ideal. As always, green is too saturated, and the display lacks in blue (common problem for plasmas). Red is a surprise. It it not saturated enough (although it's quite close). Plasma manufacturers need to try harder to improve blues. (The dark triangle is the ideal, and the white triangle is the 42MXE10 results. Resulting data points inside the dark triangle mean not enough of that color, and data points outside the dark triangle mean too much of that color.)

CIE Chart

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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