Pioneer Elite Pro-610HD
What Is ItThe Elite range of rear projection TVs (RPTV) is Pioneer's top of line the displays. There are three models, of varying sizes, and I have the middle one, the 610HD which has a diagonal screen size of about 58". The others are the 710HD (64") and 510HD (53").
The Device ItselfThis is a huge TV, not just the screen but the whole thing (it weighs 311 pounds and measures 54x26x53 unpacked). It only just fits in doorways, if you have any stairs it needs to go up, measure things carefully before delivery. Once unpacked, it looks glorious. Its got a classy black shiny finish (called urushi apparently) like other Elite equipment, and its on wheels so you can easily move it (once you've managed to get it into the right room).
The back has three separate inputs and there is an additional input on the front, but not all inputs can be all types:
Screen ModesThe TV has five screen modes, and it takes some getting used to before you select the right one for the right source information. I get a certain level of 'spousal feedback' when at the start of every movie I madly switch modes until I find the right one.
Regular TV (antenna A)The TV has two antenna inputs, one of which I have tried. I get pretty good OTA reception (I should do, I can easily see the transmitters from any room in the house), but we never watch actual TV on this (we watch via the TiVo). There are a bunch of trick modes for TV watching, such as split screen (two full pictures side-by-side), Freeze (makes the right side have a frozen copy of the image while the live image continues on the left) and Search (which lets you see 3 or 9 additional channels in the right hand pane). They are good to show the set off, but we never use any of them. If you watched regular TV on one of these they would probably be useful.
The Elite has an outstanding line doubler, so can take low resolution images such as OTA and make them look respectible on such a large screen. Of course it can't work miracles with low quality signals such as your average cable or OTA signal...
VCR via Composite Video (input #2)The VCR is the only device that is used to generate the lowly composite video signal, and the Elite does a good job, given the source material. I enjoyed watching the Dune mini-series which had been TiVo-ed then archived to tape, then watched in Cinema mode as it was widescreen. 4:3 tapes are watched in either Natural or Zoom modes.
TiVo via S-Video (input #2)The TiVo's best output is s-video and we occasionally watch it on the Elite (though to be honest most TiVo watching is upstairs on the regular TV. The line doubler does a really good job with a clear s-video input. TiVo is watched in either Natural or Zoom modes.
Input #2 has both composite and s-video connections to it and automatically uses the right one.
DVD via Component Inputs (input #1)I connect my DVD to the Elite via a 15' Monster component video lead. This was the most expensive cable I have ever bought, but it is probably the most important - slight improvements in video quality are more noticable to me than the same for audio. As I required quite a substantial length to get from the system rack to the TV I wanted to make sure I didn't lose any signal on the way.
The Elite has 3/2 pulldown in its line doubler, which means it does a great job of converting film (which is usually 24 frames/second) from DVDs into the best rate for the display (which is 30 frames/second). What this translates to is crystal clear pictures from anamorphic DVDs in particular.
For anamorphic DVDs we use Full, for non-anamorphic widescreen DVDs we use Cinema and for the occasional 4:3 DVD we use Natural or Zoom modes.
A progressive-scan DVD player (such as the new Sony) should give even higher quality pictures, although the difference won't be as marked as it is with lesser TVs due to the high quality of the built-in line doubler.
HDTV via VGA (input #3)On the back is a slot for Pioneers own HDTV decoder, the SH-D09. This is a now-obsolete first generation off-air HDTV decoder, with a retail price of several thousand dollars. No sane person should pay more than $200 for this now that integrated OTA/Satellite HDTV decoders are now available for less than $600. I really hope Pioneer do produce an updated decoder that can do satellite and that costs sensible money as the full integration would be great - one less remote and a much simpler user experience.
As I am not insane enough to buy said Pioneer decoder, I waited and waited for the Mitsubishi OTA/Satellite decoder, and also the Sony one, and the Panasonic too. All of them were delayed numerous times during the latter half of 2000, so I gave up waiting for all of them and bought a RCA DTC100 which had the advantage of actually existing. [Only the Panasonic has been sighted in the flesh even by the time of writing - Feb 1, 2001]. I got a 15' VGA cable from a local supplier, connected it to input #3 on the Elite and, well, nothing happened - no picture. It took a bit of head scratching before I realized there was a tiny switch on the back of the TV that determined if input #3 was S-video or VGA, so I flipped it and got my first taste of HDTV. If you've never seen HDTV, run now to your local dealer and check it out. It is massively clearer than anything you've seen. I checked out the four local stations who bother to broadcast in HD and most have some kind of demo loop they run, which looks awesome. Sadly few of them have any actual programming in HDTV, though some do broadcast their local news in 16:9 HD. The CBS franchise is the only one making any kind of effort at this point in time.
Anyhow, the HDTV picture is amazing. I got a DirecTV Plus dish installed so I can also get the meagre HDTV signals from that (currently one HBO channel that seldom broadcasts in HD and one HBO PPV channel the contents of which are amazingly hard to discover in advance).
The TV has a detachable protective screen, which slightly reduces the picture quality and increases glare. For optimal viewing you can remove it, but if I did the dog would destroy the expensive screen pretty quickly. The glare isn't an issue for me as the media room is totally window-less anyway.
All HD viewing is in Full mode, the TV won't let you change it to anything else. This can be a problem as some HDTV broadcasts are 4:3 (sometimes upconverted) so you get black bars on the sides (black, not grey), which could burn in. If you could change modes to one of the others this problem would be averted.
The TV can accept 1080i, 480i and 480p signals, but not 720p. This isn't a problem today, but it looks like the next generation DVD system will generate 720p signals so in a few years this might be an issue.
Screen BurnThe instructions state "continous operation for extended periods in 4:3 normal mode may burn out the screen" and also "we do not recommend the use of this monitor for video games, still pictures, or computers due to the potential damage to the CRTs". These statements have made me quite paranoid about watching in 4:3 mode, playing video games, and accidentally leaving a freeze frame up from a DVD. I don't know how easy it is to damage the CRTs, but I really don't want to find out.
RemoteThe remote is great for controlling the TV, and its best feature is that is is backlit, my only remote that has this. You can also configure it to control some of your other devices, but the list is pretty limited, and you can teach it codes for a few of the buttons, but not many. I programmed it to control my RCA satellite receiver but I still had to manually teach it several of the keys (e.g. Enter and Info). I did also manage to teach it how to control the volume on the Sony receiver.
The remote allows access to a bewildering array of screen setup options including convergence and color control for each input. After spending some time with the Avia DVD I really couldn't tell if I improved anything, so I left it on the general Film setting.
The TV has a Pioneer SR Remote socket which you can plug into other Pioneer equipment, but I have nothing to connect. As the IR receiver is the entire screen itself, it isn't possible to stick an IR transmitter anywhere, so controlling this TV from anything other than the remote seems pretty hard. For this kind of money it should have an IR socket and/or an RS232 connector for easy external control. I could then plug it directly into the Slink-e or the PC.
SoundThe TV has speakers, and you can use them as a center speaker if you like. I don't use the TV speakers at all, so can't really say much about them. I use the speakers connected to my receiver and sit my center speaker on top of the TV.
Additional InfoSupplier: Magnolia HiFi
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