Pioneer Electronics engineers believe that by integrating their plasma Kuro display engine into a new generation of LCD panels built by Sharp that they will be able to deliver the worlds best LCD TV’s. The new LCD models which are set to be rolled out later this year according to Company insiders will be significantly “superior” to LCD TV offerings from the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG they say.
“We are confident that the superior Kuro technology we have built into our plasma range can be reengineered into our LCD TV offering” said a senior Pioneer executive. The Company who recently announced a major restructure is also set to roll out a new generation “Elite” plasma range later this year via selected specialist dealers. They will also introduce a brand new Kuro 1080p D-ILA front projector as well as new Blu ray disc players.
Pioneer executives said the second-generation Kuro models feature a five-times deeper black-level and better performance than last year’s line up which despite been labelled the best plasma TV in the world by media organisations failed to snare market share via mass retailers in Australia.
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“During the past few months we have worked with both Panasonic for plasma and Sharp for LCD TV production to develop a new generation of thin TV’s. We are confident that they will be the best TV’s in the market and significantly superior because of our new Kuro display technology which has been improved even further during the past 12 months” said a Pioneer executive.
The second-generation 1080p Pioneer Kuro plasma TV’s are due to be launched in Australia in the last quarter of 2008 some two months after a multimillion dollar marketing campaign by arch rivals Panasonic, LG and Samsung for their plasma models.
Pioneer Australia is stressing that their future hinges on the Company delivering superior products with the highest possible performance rather than TV’s that compete aggressively in mass channels on volume and price.
Pioneer will introduce its first LCD TVs in Europe later this year and may introduce the first LCD TVs for Australia in mid 2009, however local Pioneer executives are still confident that because of the size of the Australian market they may get LCD TV allocation in the later part of this year.
Pioneer say that the new plasma models are ideally suited for the specialist channel with more installation options for integrated home theatre systems. The screens are thinner than the current plasma TV models and allow dealers to easily integrate external tuning sources and home networking systems.
According to TWICE in the USA All new Kuro plasma TVs incorporate an automatic adjustment feature called Optimum Mode that simultaneously monitors video and room light conditions. The Kuro display then adjusts the picture and sound settings to provide an image tailored for the room.
Plasma TV models in both lines measure 9.7 centimetres thick, which is said to be a 20 percent reduction from last year. The Signature monitors are said to represent a 50 percent thickness reduction from last year’s Kuro plasma TVs.
Other additions include a redesigned remote control and high-definition graphic user interface for ease of use and integration; a networked home media gallery for playback of digital files such as HD movies, music and photos from a PC or via a USB connection; and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) and Windows PlaysForSure networking compatibility.
In plasma TVs with integrated tuners, both the 50-inch and 60-inch Pioneer models will ship in October 2008 and offer one-year warranties.
The Elite Signature Series HD plasma monitors will be available in October for the 50-inch model and August for the 60-inch model at prices to be announced later. Both feature two-year warranties. Signature Series models also ship with certificates verifying by serial number that the product was hand assembled from hand-select component parts.
They also offer an IP connectivity function that will let dealers connect to a display over the Internet to check on product performance issues. Often adjustments will be possible over the internet without requiring a truck roll, Johnston said.
Pioneer’s three-chip Kuro D-ILA 1080p front projector was designed for dedicated home cinema rooms, he added. The LCoS-based technology is said to “produce one of the highest native contrast ratios,” measuring up to Kuro black-level standards. It also adds a rich colour gamut, a wide lens shift capacity, dual HDMI 1.3 support, and a wide range of image adjustments and calibration settings.
There is a growing demand and need for products in the home cinema space with screen sizes over 70 inches Pioneer said. “This is our first step outside of the plasma category to address not just the home theatre market but the home cinema space.” said Pioneer executive Russ Johnson.
The Elite Kuro projector if launched in Australia will retail for over $11,000 and will only be available via Pioneers specialist dealer channel. Johnston said Pioneer realised that the installation businesses of almost every one of its dealers had expanded significantly, which presented an opportunity to add front projection and monitors.
Pioneer executives said the pricing for picture performance for D-ILA technology had dropped significantly, giving the company a chance to be a stronger contender in this market.
Pioneer’s new Blu-ray Disc players have also been redesigned to stress audio performance from music CDs and DVDs, as well as high-def Blu-ray Discs, in addition to high-quality video. The models offer BonusView capability (a.k.a. BD profile 1.1 specs), which allows playback of picture-in-picture running commentaries, but neither is BD Live capable. The first BD Live capable model for the company is expected this fall.
“When we did our focus-group studies, BD Live did not come up as a priority for most people,” said Pioneer marketing manager Chris Walker. “We are not saying that BD Live is not important, but right now there are only four titles, and the customer we are going after with these is really a more performance-oriented customer.
Both models include a new exclusive BD chipset, which places greater emphasis on both video and audio playback performance, from a new unnamed component source. The models will play all mandatory and optional surround sound formats from the BD specifications. In addition, music CD playback has been enhanced with a new system that eliminates jitter through an HDMI-CEC connection to one of Pioneer’s new generation A/V receivers.
Pioneer said it selected professional-quality Wolfson digital audio converters in the new players to further enhance the audio performance.
Walker said the players also support Deep Colour capability in a different way. Deep Colour offers up to a 36-bit colour pallet from the player to the TV, but the Blu-ray spec provides for only an 8-bit colour pallet.
The new players were designed to upscale the colour pallet from 8 bits on the disc to 12 bits.
“If you look at the actual available colours, we go from a 24-bit depth to a 36-bit depth,” Walker said. “We interpolate what the colour information should be on a pixel-by-pixel basis.”
Turn-on time for the new players has been improved to 14 seconds from power on to ready to play mode. Also added are HDMI 1.3a ports with HDMI-CEC component interoperability capability. Both models support 1080p/24 frames per second video output and feature reduced image judder.