Editors' Note (07-20-2007): This model has been replaced by the Pioneer PDP-5080HD, so we have removed the PDP-5070HD's Editors' Choice award, although the rating will remain the same. A signature design trait of Pioneer and Pioneer Elite televisions is the glossy black finish, which surrounds the 50-inch screen of the PDP-5070HD on all sides. The panel has a simple yet elegant appearence that most viewers will find attractive, but it doesn't boast any distinguishing industrial design features, aside from the detachable speakers. The speakers consist of a single bar located below the screen when attached, keeping the width and overall footprint of the panel to a minimum.
With speakers attached and including the stand, it measures 48.2 by 33.1 by 12.7 inches (WHD); without speakers and stand it clocks in at a relatively petite 48.2 by 28.3 by 4.5 inches--just a bit larger overall than the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK. Unlike previous Pioneer plasmas, the PDP-5070HD lacks an external media receiver; so, like almost every other plasma, all of the connections and tuners are built into the panel itself.
The remote is a new design, and we didn't find it as ergonomically pleasing as Pioneer's previous remotes. It is long and slender, and fits well in the hand, but we found its numerous keys a little awkward to use, at least at first. We did appreciate the dedicated keys that could jump directly to each input, however, as well as the glow-in-the-dark buttons. A regular menu button doesn't control the set, but rather a Home Menu button gets you into the internal menu or GUI (Graphical User Interface) of the PDP-5070HD. The internal menu system is unchanged from last year and fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. The Pioneer PDP-5070HD has a native resolution of 1,365x768, which is one pixel short of the 1,366x768 standard among its 50-inch plasma competitors. That single pixel makes no practical difference, in case you're wondering, and the Pioneer has plenty of pixels to fully resolve every detail of 720p HDTV material. All incoming sources, whether HDTV, standard-def, DVD, or computer, are scaled to fit the pixels. Note that the company is also selling a 50-inch plasma with 1,920x1,080 native resolution this year, the PRO-FHD1.
In the convenience department, the PDP-5070HD delivers everything we expect. It includes dual-tuner PIP, or what Pioneer calls "split screen," for keeping tabs on more than one program simultaneously. It also has a built-in ATSC tuner for reception of off-air local HDTV channels, along with a CableCard slot for tuning digital and high-def cable without a box. To make up for the lack of an EPG when using CableCard, the company includes the TV Guide third-party program guide (we didn't test TV Guide or CableCard). Finally, it has a USB connection for viewing digital photos.
Picture-enhancing features include selectable color temperatures: Low, Mid, and High, with Low being the most accurate. We also appreciated the ability to manually adjust the color temperature controls in the user menu. Of the picture modes, only Dynamic mode doesn't allow you to change picture parameters; the rest of the modes, Standard, Movie, Game and User, let you customize the picture. You will need to select a different mode if you want to change picture control levels from one input to the next, however. The Standard setting for Pure Cinema in the Advanced menu is classic 2:3 pull-down. Advanced in the same menu is 3:3 or 72Hz processing, which is supposed to smooth out the choppiness, or jutter, preserved from the film transfer. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well (see performance).
Connection options are generous and improved over last year. HDMI and component inputs are now separate, whereas last year you had to chose one or the other. Obviously this adds to the connectivity, effectively giving you five high-quality video inputs instead of two. In addition to the two HDMI inputs, there are three for component video (one is located on the side), two S-Video inputs, two composite video inputs, two RF inputs, and a 15-pin VGA input for PCs (1,366x768 is the maximum resolution). It's worth noting that the PDP-5070HD's HDMI inputs can accept 1080p/24 (but not the more common 1080p/60) sources, although this isn't much of an advantage since the panel itself can resolve only 1,365x768. Pioneer's PDP-5070HD delivered excellent video quality overall and is one of the top performing 50-inch plasma panels we've seen to date. It's a step up in color accuracy over last year's 60 series and offers the same solid black-level performance.