Pioneer's publicity for its Kuro plasmas has always veered towards Spinal Tap 'none more black' territory. You see, “Kuro” is Japanese for black, and unsurprisingly Pioneer has always made much of its TVs’ ability to deliver the deepest, darkest blacks around – and with good reason, based on previous models.
And so this ninth-generation Kuro plasma claims a contrast level five times greater than its predecessor, although Pioneer doesn't deem it necessary to list a numerical contrast ratio, simply labelling this spec “extreme”; like the amp that goes up to eleven.
Still, in the past Pioneer has more than justified its own hype, so we can only hope it’s the same here.
Built to thrill
Out of the box the Pioneer strikes us as fairly familiar in terms of style and design, still looking every inch the premium product.
Our speakers are integrated on the side of the screen but you can also choose to have them sat underneath the panel. The standard video inputs are present and correct, with three of the crucial HDMI inputs, and the screen is, of course, a 1920x1080, Full HD.
Spectrum of choice
We start by feeding some HD content from the Cars Blu-ray disc, and are bowled over by the lusciously rich and vibrant colours, packed with juice yet at the same time still capable of demonstrating subtlety and insight.
There are a panic-inducing number of adjustments at your disposal, but if you at least investigate 'Film Mode' you’ll turn on some seriously smooth motion, without which we did find the Pioneer displayed a touch of judder at times.
Switch to something at least a little more real, and standard-def and the Pioneer dishes out just the right amount of colour to deliver healthy, realistic skin tones. It goes almost without saying that black detail is excellent, going deeper and darker than any set before, while still uncovering the necessary detail. “Extreme” you might say.
We know it isn't easy to deliver an off-air picture this size, but the 'LX5090 makes a solid stab, being largely free of noise and capable of colourful, detailed pictures. Those speakers shine too; having demonstrated organisation and body with films, they sound clear and balanced with TV broadcasts.
We'd find it hard to swallow that Pioneer could come up with a new TV that displays a staggering gap over its last range, and, well, it hasn't. But there is an improvement – and the last range of TVs were probably the best we'd ever seen.
Yes, you pay a premium for this product compared to other screens this size, but if you can take the extra hit, you'll be more than rewarded.