We’ve seen so many fine Pioneer plasmas in the last few years it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new superlatives. But amazingly, the Japanese company’s newest (and last) model, the KRP-500A, eclipses even its illustrious forebears. Behold, the best TV you can buy.
The KRP-500A’s configuration returns to the two-box design approach of older Pioneer sets. The main display panel is just that – a panel, with no TV tuner and a strictly limited array of inputs.
Even speakers are optional, Pioneer reasoning that most potential buyers will already own an external audio system. Everything else is taken care of in an external ‘media receiver’, itself a sultry slab of glossiness featuring a neat fold-down fascia panel that hides certain key inputs, plus a pair of card-reader slots.
Unusually, it also includes a digital satellite TV receiver, although this doesn’t meet the Freesat specification: it’ll receive free-to-view (unencrypted) satellite signals, but without the electronic programme guide (EPG) of Freesat. The remaining input sockets, including a DLNA-friendly Ethernet input, are located on the unit’s rear panel.
Why adopt this approach having dispensed with it previously? Partially, because it makes wall-mounting neater and easier – and is thus very popular with custom installers – but it also has the benefit of cutting down on the depth and weight of the panel itself: at just 64mm thin, it’s one of the slimmest 50in TVs around.
The KRP-500A’s real appeal lies in its performance. It boasts two new picture modes: the first is an enhanced version of the automatic picture-adjusting ‘Optimum’ system found in older Pioneer sets, modified here with an external colour sensor probe that clips magnetically to the side of the set.
We felt the end results were overcooked for our tastes, but you might like it, and the onscreen graphics (designed to illustrate what the mode is doing to the picture in real-time) are certainly a flashy touch.
But we were far more interested in the other new mode, called ‘Pure’. Essentially, this is like a Direct mode on an AV amp: it cuts out all the picture processing you don’t need, and sets the Pioneer to an almost uncannily accurate ‘out-of-the-box’ picture set-up that – unless you’re prepared to get a specialist picture calibration done – is pretty much as good as it gets in a mainstream TV.
Movement, colour depth, black level and detail are all simply fabulous. And even if you switch to lower-quality content, from off-air TV to satellite content, the good news continues, with the obvious caveat that not even the best off-air signals look quite as clean as Blu-ray.