Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pioneer's Kuro Elite: Best flat-panel HDTV ever

The subject of this blog post is a quote from CNET:

A couple of weeks ago my Sony CRT HDTV died. The particular model I had it turns out was extremely prone to failure. Visiting forums, I found them littered with people with issues. In some cases within two or three years after the TV was purchased in the early 2000's. As I did my research I weighed the pros and cons of trying to get the damn thing fixed. It turns an electronics repair place happened to be literally one block away from where I lived and they were well acquainted with the Sony model and its failure problems (a bad sign). They told me it would likely be $350 if it was fixable.

The "if" caught my attention and started me on the path of moving to a flat panel. It was a difficult decision for me since the video fidelity of the CRT was unmatched by flat panels. Even so, based on the reading I did on various forums the CRT could be a lost cause and I didn't want to sink any money on a 250 lb. dead weight.

So two days after its death I visited both Fry's Electronics and Best Buy and I was not impressed with the flat panel HDTVs I saw. Then on the same day on a whim I decided to visit Magnolia Hi-Fi in Seattle. When a salesman approached me I immediately commented that all the HDTVs I had seen that day were mediocre and that I was there hoping to be wowed by an HDTV but that I wasn't holding my breath. Before not too long he asked, "Are you familiar with Pioneer's Elite line?" I nodded. He then said something that immediately raised an eyebrow, "Are you familiar with the Kuro line of displays?" I responded with an affirmative but I also knew Pioneer was no longer making the Kuro line and that that even used they were expensive. Pioneer's Kuro line were reference displays and they blew everything else out of the water when it came to 1080p video fidelity. But as my luck would have it, Magnolia's manager actively tries to find Kuros for 'finicky' people like myself (aka videophiles). I had already seen BluRay playback over HDMI on a 50" Kuro in early 2009 and was utterly and thoroughly impressed (up until then no flat panel had impressed me).

I didn't need to be sold on the Kuro line. I didn't act back then because my Sony CRT was still working and I was extremely content with it given it didn't exhibit the graininess of flat panels when playing non-HD content (there's still a lot of non-HD content out there, e.g., streaming Hulu). I had been hoping the CRT would last me until 2015 when perhaps 50" OLED flat panels were available en masse but that wasn't meant to be.

When the salesman told me they had a brand new 50" Kuro in house, there was nothing else for him to say, I laid down the plastic. Magnolia didn't have a stand for it in stock so I picked it up two weeks later (back ordered). As I made small talk with my sales person I asked him if he still had the other Kuro in stock (they had 2 when I picked mine up) and he said, "I'm not sure but now you have me curious." He dug around in his inventory system and not only was the other one gone but there were 20 individuals who had laid down money at Magnolia stores across the US to get their hands on a Kuro when and if they became available.

The other small detail is that the CNET review is for the Kuro with the TV tuner, the Kuro I purchased doesn't have a built in tuner:

I'm using the Samsung HD tuner I had been using on the Sony CRT. I pointed out the CNET review since they're a third party singing the praises of the Kuro. It's not uncommon for CNET to make a comparison to the Kuro displays when reviewing a higher end HDTV. However, up to this day, no one has surpassed the Kuro line.

All I can say is, I lucked out and I'm extremely pleased with the Kuro.

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