NEWS: The new black - Pioneer launches its eighth-generation plasmas
It's called 'Project Kuro': Pioneer has been rethinking the way its plasma screens work to create a new eighth-generation range designed not only to outperform the direct competition, but also show a clean pair of heels to LCD rivals. And it's all about the basic advantage of plasma technology - the ability to show clear, rich blacks. Two new line-ups will be available in what the company is calling its Vision range: XGA screens will arrive in June, with Full HD versions coming in September, in 42in, 50in and 60 in sizes. And just to add to the range of badges already on the market, Pioneer is introducing a new one: HD Digital Film Direct 24, which shows the sets' ability to handle 1080P/24 frame per second signals in their native form, rather than processed to the more common 25 frames a second. As the company puts it, 'exactly as the director intended': it means no more pitch-shifted, speeded-up dialogue, and smoother images. So what's 'Project Kuro' all about? The word means 'black' in Japanese, and the team lead by Pioneer's 'Godfather of Plasma', Yoichi Sato, has gone back to basics in creating richer, deeper blacks on the new screens. Using new screen technology including a redesigned electron source, enhanced signal processing and a non-reflective pure colour filter on the front of the screen, the team is now claiming blacks matching those of old-style CRT TVs, creating a blank, or rather black, canvas onto which the screens can create their pictures, not to mention a 20,000:1 contrast ratio. Add 'optimum mode' picture processing, which adjusts the parameters such as colour, brightness and contrast according to the source material and ambient light in the viewing room, and Pioneer claims the screens maintain their quality even in bright lighting, giving them another advantage over the rival plasmas and LCD screens. The new sets also feature an HDMI link system designed to allow single-remote control of an entire system, and have multiple HDMI inputs as well as the ability to be used with an external 'media box' switcher. Pricing is yet to be set for the new screens.