The king of televisions: Pioneer's KURO plasma vs Samsung's Series 8 LED TV

We pit the best LED TV on the market against the best plasma TV

Samsung's UA46B8000 boasts a claimed 3000000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

Samsung's UA46B8000 boasts a claimed 3000000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

Colour accuracy, gradation and saturation

When using their Movie mode presets, both the Samsung UA46B8000 and Pioneer KURO PDP-LX509A have fairly accurate colours. Both units have enough adjustability to make calibration easy, and both display vibrant and accurate colours when correctly set up. The Pioneer edges ahead in gradation, displaying smoother tones in our test scenes of horizons, skin tones and sunsets.

Digital tuner quality

A lot of effort has gone into the internal DVB-T tuner in the Pioneer KURO PDP-LX509A. It switches channels in under a second, it is sensitive enough to pick up distant broadcasts and it didn’t have any reception issues in our tests. We feel confident in saying it’s the best tuner you’re going to find in this generation of televisions, short of buying a dedicated digital video recorder.

The Samsung’s tuner is still good, but it doesn’t have the same snappy feel as the Pioneer plasma. Perhaps it’s due to the image-heavy user interface, but changing channels takes an extra second and the initial scan went on for an excruciating five minutes. In all fairness, we did pick up the same number of digital television channels on both televisions, and there were no differences in reception.

Motion control and de-interlacing

Being a plasma, the Pioneer KURO PDP-LX509A has an advantage when dealing with fast-motion content. While Pioneer doesn’t quote a figure for screen refresh rates, we're confident it easily matches the Panasonic TH-P50G10A’s 600Hz. When watching the wide panning shots in Planet Earth and the fast vehicle motion of Batman Begins we didn't notice blurring or juddering. The image shown was as good as any we’ve seen in our Test Centre, with 24p frame rate compatibility rounding out a suite of image-enhancing features for cinematic playback.

The Samsung UA46B8000 may have a lowly LCD panel at its core, but it’s one of the best we’ve seen in regards to motion control. The shining feature of the Series 8 LED TVs from Samsung is 200Hz motion smoothing, incorporating back-light scanning technology with regular frame rate doubling to create smooth video that’s free of distortion or judder. There’s a great level of adjustment available, with four separate motion control modes, including a custom mode with 10 increments for judder and blur reduction. It handles Planet Earth and Batman Begins admirably, although the 200Hz mode can sometimes be a little overzealous and give footage a too-smooth feel. We’d still give the Pioneer TV the edge, but the Samsung comes close.

Connectivity and menu system

The Samsung UA46B8000 and the Pioneer KURO PDP-LX509A both have a bundle of HDMI and analog inputs — enough to keep any enthusiast happy. We don’t like the Samsung’s approach to its composite and component analog connections, though: two 3.5mm to RCA break-out cables mean there’s extra bulk when connecting older devices. Both screens have good quality VGA inputs, with our test Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook displaying video content accurately and faithfully on both panels.

When it comes down to menus, it’s horses for courses. The Samsung has a flashy, full-colour menu that has smooth (if slightly jerky) transitions and appropriate graphical extras. The Pioneer plasma’s interface is far more minimalist and unobtrusive, with small notations appearing in the corner of the screen when changing channels and inputs. We prefer the simplicity of the Pioneer interface — it gets you into the spirit of movie-watching.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

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