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Pioneer Unveils 3rd-Gen. 50W” HD Plasma Panel

During its recent line show for press, Pioneer took the wraps off a new line of HDTV monitors and issued an update on the capabilities of its long-awaited DVD-RW recorder that is now slated for fall deliveries. (See TWICE, June 25, 2001, p. 1.)

As previously reported, the video highlight of the line show was Pioneer’s third-generation 50W-inch HD plasma display panel (PDP), which carries the name “FlexPlasma” and is slated for delivery later this year. Added to the 1280×768 display is Pioneer’s new True Matrix Imaging system, which is said to boost brightness 50 percent, contrast 40 percent in darker rooms and 60 percent in brightly lit rooms, as well as increase sharpness and color accuracy from previous models. Pioneer marketing VP Matt Dever said brightness and contrast of the new panel is the equal of 32- or 36-inch direct-view CRT televisions.

Dever said the $17,500 suggested retail PDP also has an expansion slot for circuit boards to enable the panel to accept DVI and/or IEEE-1394 digital signals.

Initial applications for the feature are targeted at commercial users, but the company is studying consumer applications for the future. The slot will also enable upgrades for digital signal inputs if standards should change.

Dever said the new model would be the first panel produced at Pioneer’s third factory in Shizuoka, Japan, which will expand the company’s PDP capacity to 150,000 units/year from 50,000. The factory is capable of producing 37- to 60-inch plasma displays, he said.

Meanwhile, Pioneer has reduced the price on its current 50W-inch PDP to $14,000.

The new rear-projection HDTV lines include five models and the Pioneer-branded lineup has been trimmed to two units this year. All HD models in both the Pioneer and Elite lineups have 16:9 widescreen aspect ratios.

Key additions to the Pioneer-branded models include slimmer cabinets and a new 64W-inch screen size, which replaces the previous 58W-inch model. Both models ship in August. The 64W-inch unit, which carries a $4,799 suggested retail, features a new four-element lens systems that is said to yield higher resolution, contrast and corner-to-corner focus than the previous five-element lenses. The 53W-inch model will carry a $3,499 suggested retail.

Slated for the fall are three Elite series models in the 51W-inch, 58W-inch and 64W-inch screen sizes. Pricing on each will be announced at CEDIA Expo in September, Dever said.

All Elite models offer the new four-lens system but will not have the set-back docking station previously used for Pioneer’s terrestrial-DTV decoder.

Pioneer currently has no plans to continue selling a DTV tuner, because consumers prefer set-top satellite-TV/terrestrial-DTV devices and Pioneer opted not to participate in the satellite decoder business at this time.

The company also has no plans for integrated HDTV sets, but Dever hinted that something may be coming next year.

As previously reported, Pioneer has delayed its DVD-RW recorder launch in the United States to October, while the DVD Forum finalized a digital watermarking system. Pioneer used the added time to develop what amounts to the company’s third-generation DVD-RW product, counting decks sold in Japan.

Pioneer’s first U.S. model, DVR-7000, will carry a $2,800 suggested retail when it ships to Pioneer Elite specialty retailers. It is housed in a silver cabinet, and when used in Video Mode will produce recorded discs that can be played in most existing DVD-Video players and PC DVD-ROM drives. The Video Mode permits recording lengths up to two hours on DVD-RW or DVD-R discs. Blank media is expected to sell for $24 and $12, respectively, according to Michael Wakeman, executive VP of the home entertainment division.

Another new feature added to the DVR-7000 that was not included in the shelved DVR-2000 unit is Pioneer’s PureCinema progressive scan with 3:2 pulldown system.

This is the same video processing system used in Pioneer’s HDTV sets for upconverting analog sources. Also included is the ability to play audio CDs and record uncompressed PCM audio. A new graphical interface and VCR Plus+ recording has also been added. The IEEE-1394 digital interface for use with DV camcorder sources and a 181-cable-ready TV tuner remain.

Meanwhile, the DVD lineup was highlighted by a new entry progressive-scan model, DV-444, which is due in August at a $449 suggested retail. The digital progressive scan system was enhanced to compete with entry-level 3:2 pulldown players, Dever said. The unit is less than 2-inches-tall and adds MP3-CD playback.

The DV-444 also provides cataloging and onscreen menu features to let consumers make better use of the extra storage capacity of CD-R/RW discs. Other DVD models in the line include the DV-AX10 ($6,000), a progressive-scan model that plays both DVD-Audio and SACD discs, and the DV-38A ($2,000) with DVD-Audio and progressive scan.