Just kidding about the second part. But what Pioneer has done is just as amazing. Its latest Kuro prototype, unveiled at CES, can turn the screen completely black while it’s running.
Why is this a big deal? Contrast is the most important aspect of picture quality. A big difference between light and dark in a picture heightens the appearance of detail and the richness of colors.
I can say with certainty that you’ve never seen anything black on a modern TV screen. If you don’t believe that, just watch TV in a dark room and wait till the screen fades to black between scenes or before a commercial. The “black” screen is actually gray and probably gives off enough light to illuminate the room. (Old-style CRTs can get pretty close to complete black—which is why some videophiles originally mourned their demise.)
When Pioneer invited us into a darkened theater at CES, we saw three plasma panels displaying “black” screens—what turned out to be light-gray rectangles. Thing is, there were actually four TVs in the room. The fourth was Pioneer’s new prototype, which gave off no light at all and was invisible.
Amazingly, those three other TVs are the blackest sets on the market—Pioneer’s original Kuro line that won a Best of What’s New grand award in December specifically for it’s amazing black levels.
To get the screens so dark, Pioneer reduced their so-called “idle luminance” – the amount of light the pixels produce even when they are “off.” Idle luminance comes from the need to keep the pixels primed with an electric charge so they can fire in milliseconds (or less) to create full-motion video.
In the original Kuro, Pioneer reduced the idle luminance by 80 percent. In the latest Kuro prototype, they seem to have eliminated the other 20 percent. Does that mean they are not priming the pixels at all? I asked their head honcho for the US, and he said he didn’t know. The tech is so new, he’s not sure how it works. But it may work fundamentally differently than any other plasma TV.
The goal is to eventually combine this technology with the ultra-skinny plasma set that Pioneer also introduced at CES.
So when can you get it? Again Pioneer won’t say. But they did mention something interesting. When the Kuro project started, their goal was to get to this level of performance and introduce a product in time for the Beijing Olympics in the summer of 2008.—Sean Captain
Want more? Check out our entire CES 2008 coverage here.