PRO-610HD HDTV-ready RPTV
Electronics is not generally known for making mass market televisions. The
company does however have a reputation for providing state-of-the-art technology
in the rear screen projection television (RPTV) market. The new Pioneer
Elite PRO-610HD is no exception and offers some of the best picture attributes
of any set I have seen in its class. The physical construction of this RPTV
is equally impressive. While most rear screen projection televisions are
made of cheap plastic and particleboard, Pioneer Elite series RPTVs offer
a high-gloss piano-black finish on a rigid framework. Moving the PRO-610HD
is fairly easy on my hardwood floors thanks to the casters that support
the 312-pound load. The overall look and feel of the unit is similar to
well-built furniture. As with all HD-ready televisions, the PRO-610HD requires
a separate HD tuner for high-definition reception. The back of the television
has a slot that is designed for the Pioneer SH-D09 DTV tuner cartridge.
Since the retail cost of this tuner cartridge is $2400, most consumers including
myself would rather go with a set-top box such as the RCA DTC100 ($549)
or the Panasonic TU-HDS20 ($1099). Both set-top boxes include DirecTV decoding
capabilities as well. Toshiba and Mitsubishi will be offering similar units
in the coming months. The PRO-610HD also comes with a smoked gray acrylic
screen protector. This is useful if you have small children since the non-protected
screen is easily scratched. However, the screen cover lowers the light output
and reflects ambient light, and therefore, is not recommended for optimal
Initial setup is fairly simple using the built-in cross pattern. First, the center cross-hairs are adjusted for red on green and then blue on green. Green stays fixed during the user convergence adjustments. The remote control buttons are nicely laid out for this procedure. Once the center cross-hairs are adjusted, the 72-point cross pattern appears for full 2-dimensional tweaking. There are five different screen modes (Natural Wide, Cinema Wide, Zoom, Full and 4:3 Normal) available when using 480I source material. Each screen mode needs to be converged independently since the parameters are stored separately in memory. Once the convergence is adjusted on the whole screen you are ready to enjoy the video. One of the most noticeable features of the new Pioneer Elite PRO series is the performance of the internal line doubler. Unlike most of the current crop of line doublers, the Elite RPTVs are capable of performing exceptional 3:2 reverse telecine which Pioneer refers to as PureCinema. The user can select the level of processing (HQ, STD or OFF). The importance of this feature becomes evident when viewing film based material from interlaced sources. Proper reconstruction of the film frames translates into smooth progressive frames. I've seen several internal line doublers from other manufacturers that do a poor job of converting 480I to 480P. The performance of the PRO-610HD internal line doubler is similar in performance to the iScan unit I recently reviewed. A common problem with the PRO-610HD as well as many of the new HDTVs is the picture locks into the full 16:9 mode when fed 480 progressive or 1080 interlaced signal. This will cause non-16:9 enhanced (anamorphic) DVDs to be streched horizontally. In some cases this will be taken care of by the unit outputting the 480P signal. For example, both the latest generation iScan V2 line doubler as well as the Panasonic DVD-H1000 progressive scan DVD player have the capability to squeeze 4:3 data to keep the proper aspect ratio for 16:9 screens.
The PRO-610HD has plenty of A/V inputs for today's demanding home theater systems. There are two sets of component inputs, both of which are capable of 480I, 480P or 1080I video. In addition, the PRO-610HD offers an RGB/HV (D-sub) 15 pin connector. Some set-top boxes such as the RCA DTC100 require this type of connection to the HDTV. Having both covers all bases in this ever changing world. There are four S2 compatible s-video inputs and four composite inputs as well. Two channel audio can be feed to all four sets of A/V inputs. The component inputs automatically detect the type of video being fed to the unit (i.e. 480I, 480P or 1080I). The PRO-610HD does not have the capability of accepting 720P which is a limitation in my opinion. However, watching high definition material from both local broadcast stations as well as HBO in 1080I made me forget about it. The picture quality is truly stunning. This projection television produced some of the best images I have seen from 7" CRTs. In fact, some 9" CRT based televisions don't look this good.
The color temperature is user adjustable and includes a 6500 degrees Kelvin setting. Like many of the high-end TVs, Scan Velocity Modulation (SVM) is built in this unit with three user settings (high, mid and off). The circuit tries to improve image detail, but sometimes over-exagerates sharp transistions. Most videophiles recommend turning SVM off. Pioneer also offers a 3-D comb filter for composite source material such as laserdisc or analog broadcast video. By detecting motion the comb filter switches between 2-D and 3-D, maximizing Y/C separation performance under all conditions. There are five settings for the 3-D comb filter allowing the user to bias the algorithm for still or dynamic picture content. Pioneer also offers 3-D noise reduction for s-video source material. The manual says it reduces noise in the Y/C signals.
My evaluation setup included both the Panasonic DVD-H1000 and Pioneer Elite DV-37 progressive scan players. The video was stunning and showed very little noise on the Panasonic DVD-H1000. Colors looked accurate and natural with incredible detail. The DV-37 had a slightly softer image, but still looked very good overall. Using the progressive outputs of these players looked slightly better than the interlaced outputs running through the internal line doubler in the PRO-610HD. The fact that the internal line doubler looked even similar, convinced me that the PRO-610HD has some pretty advanced electronics. The stability of the image during sudden changes in brightness was very good which can be attributed to a well regulated high-voltage power supply.
The high resolution capabilities of the PRO-610HD made the compression artifacts of DirecTV evident. However, both high-definition channels 199 and 509 (HBO HD) looked amazingly good and there were no serious compression problems here. Some local terrestrial broadcasts did show some compression anomalies during quick scene changes, but nothing too serious. The 3-D comb filter performed well on composite sources such as the Pioneer Elite CLD-99 laserdisc player as well as the internal NTSC tuner. The PRO-610HD has two NTSC tuners for the picture-out-of-picture feature. The internal NTSC tuner in the PRO-610HD produced a much better picture than the RCA DTC100 set-top box, which upconverts all video to 1080I.
The Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD is truely one of the best HD-ready televisions I've had the opportunity to watch. The image processing capabilities of this RPTV is well above average. Construction and build quality are top notch. The multi-point convergence allows users to bring the picture to its best. Even priced at $7300 retail, the PRO-610HD is well worth it and comes with a 2 year parts and labor warranty. Even though terrestrial HDTV has a ways to go, watching DVD on this high-end display won't leave you disappointed.
- Kevin Nakano
|Review at a glance|
Pioneer Elite PRO-610HD HDTV
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