Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD Review

Pioneer Kuro models have been the best plasma TV models on the market for quite a while. They have the deepest black levels you can see in a plasma TV or any other type of HDTV for that matter. The side effect of having such deep black levels is a positive one: you get a great contrast ratio and color reproduction and that means a superb picture. However, because they are the best they cost more money than other plasma TV models. Considering the quality it is worth it though.

Without putting much weight on the price factor and focusing instead on picture quality, we pick Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD as one of the best plasma TVs of 2008. As opposed to last year’s Pioneer Plasma TVs, this year Pioneer Kuro models are not lacking just some extra fancy features. The Elite models are significantly better, but if you are not ready to pay the price for them, the regular Kuro models – as PDP-5020FD – are the next best models you can buy.


  • Screen size: 50 inch (that’s what the “50” in PDP-5020FD stands for)
  • Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p / Full-HD – designated by “FD” in PDP-5020FD, the rule applies to all models, “HD” being used for Pioneer’s 720p displays).


  • Absolutely outstanding black levels and detail in dark areas. The black levels are very good even in well lit environments.
  • Very good contrast.
  • Great overall picture quality (even though base colors are not absolutely perfect).
  • Visible improvement in quality over its predecessor.
  • Very good anti-reflective screen.
  • Optimum Mode is a nice feature for the average user.
  • Network connectivity and ability to play content from a computer or USB memory.


  • Fewer controls for fine tuning than its predecessor. The lack of color and temperature controls is the biggest minus for this plasma TV.
  • Slightly inaccurate color reproduction for base colors. This is however very hard if not impossible to distinguish with naked eye when watching real content (movies, TV).
  • Probably the price, though to be honest I think PDP-5020FD it’s worth the money. The MSRP might scare some people because it’s pretty high compared to top of the line Panasonic models but in practice the difference is not that big – you can find the PDP-5020FD at a good price if you look around.

Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD Picture Quality

Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD is one of the new models making part of Pioneer’s 2008 generation. Though the HDTV as a whole is new, the actual display (panel) isn’t. It is pretty much the same type of panel found in the older Pioneer models like PDP-5010FD. However Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD picture quality is much better than that of its older brother. This might make you raise an eyebrow but it’s true.

Five times deeper blacks

By developing better video processing and filtering electronics Pioneer managed to obtain better black levels without having to develop a new display. This is even more impressive when we take into consideration the fact that the new Pioneer Kuro HDTVs manage to produce five times (5X) deeper black levels than their predecessors. That is something pretty impressive, especially that its predecessors were the best HDTVs on the market last year.

Superb Picture Quality

Those deep black levels have the side effect to give better contrast ratio and color saturation. And like that wasn’t enough, Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD has one more ace in its sleeve: Optimum Mode – a setting that makes the Kuro dynamically adapt to the environment. More precisely, it has a built-in sensor that detects the amount of ambient light in the room and automatically adapts the picture so it looks best in that environment.

The same thing happens on the audio part. That is very convenient since you don’t have to manually change the setting to get the best picture. Of course, the purist among us will probably prefer to calibrate it by hand especially if they maintain a constant ambient light in the room – like it is the case with people who have a dedicated home theater room.

By calibrating the plasma TV and using Movie Mode instead of Optimum Mode you can get more consistent picture quality. While Optimum Mode is a great feature for those who don’t want to bother much with calibration and the setting, it does mess up with the picture (something common to all automatic/intelligent modes of HDTVs).

SD Content

As one might expect from a top-quality plasma TV as Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD, standard definition content looks good. Of course, you can’t expect miracles but the video processing and filtering system of this plasma TV do a good job. In Optimum Mode, it’s actually pretty good at eliminating noise and while you may prefer not to use Optimum Mode for HD content you will find it a good choice for SD content.

Great Anti-Reflective Screen

Anti-Reflection or Anti-Glare is a characteristic of a screen that prevents it from reflecting light. This is usually achieved by coating the screen with an anti-reflective layer. Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020HD has a great anti-reflective screen – one of the best as a matter of fact. It is so good that even in a very well-lit room you get minimal glare and the detail amount in dark areas is not affected. Just so you know, its predecessor has the same type of anti-reflective screen (which is natural since they share the same panel).

Keep the lights out!

If you really want to get the best from this TV you should know that you get the best picture from it in a low light room or even totally dark. As opposed to LCD TVs which look better in well-lit rooms, Plasma TVs give you a better picture in a low light environment.

By no means should you think that it performs badly in a well-lit room because it’s not the case. Thanks to the very good anti-reflective screen it performs very well even when it is a lot of light. However, if you watch it with lights turned off or with dimmed lights, it’s absolutely fantastic.

Features & Connectivity

A New, Redesigned GUI

Other than the Optimum Mode, the new PDP-5020FD comes with a new GUI (graphical user interface) which Pioneer redesigned for improved ease of navigation. This is not something on which will base your buying decision but I guess it does add up to the other qualities of PDP-5020FD.

Normally I would not have even discussed this because I don’t find it important but it happens that I actually like it. Most HDTVs have a GUI consisting of a semitransparent overlay over the actual picture. Pioneer Kuro’s new GUI doesn’t have the semitransparent overlay but a filled black background which makes the text appear sharper.

Detachable Stereo Speakers & Audio Quality

Regarding audio, Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD comes with a detachable bottom speaker and integrated audio amplifier. The amplifier is a 2x18W which matches the two stereo speakers each hawing 18W. If you want to use a separate home theater audio system you can conveniently remove the bottom speakers. You can configure the sound settings per A/V mode or per input so for example you can have different settings for your Blu Ray player than the ones for TV.

The audio quality of the speakers, as you may expect, doesn’t match the one of a high-end home-theater audio system. However, for watching TV is very good and if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy a separate home theater audio system I am sure you will find the audio quality good enough even for HD movies. If you’re a more serious movie enthusiast however I am sure you will want a 5.1 system or something that gives more spatiality to the sound.


On the connectivity part Pioneer, Kuro PDP-5020FD has plenty. You get 4 HDMI inputs, 1 component, 3 composite, 1 S-Video, a PC connector, and even USB and Ethernet (10/100 Base-T). That pretty much covers all your connectivity needs.

Home Media Gallery

Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD as I said above has an Ethernet connector. That is used in conjunction with Home Media Gallery which gives the plasma TV network compatibility (designed according to DLNA™ 1.5 guidelines). The Home Media Gallery can play some of the most popular audio, video, and image formats.

This feature of PDP-5020FD gives it a few of the features of an HTPC (Home Theater PC) which are quite nice to have. You will need of course a PC to which to connect it. It is not uncommon to want to watch the photos you have made on holiday on your Plasma TV and the USB support and Home Media Gallery allow you to do that very easily.

Built-in Tuner

Pioneer Kuro PDP-5020FD does come with an integrated NTSC (analog) & ATSC (digital) tuner with clear QAM so you can just hook up a feed and you’re ready to watch TV.

Tip: Usually if a plasma TV contains “HDTV” in its name it has a built-in tuner. For displays without a tuner, FCC requires the manufacturers to describe them as “monitors” instead of “HDTVs”.


It is thinner than its predecessors by about 20% – it is 3.7 inches deep. I don’t think it’s a big deal but it’s worth mentioning.

The usual anti-burn-in features – pixel orbiter and whitewash. Useful to keep the plasma TV burn-in-free. Chances of burn-in are slim to none on such a new model. You would have to really abuse it to get burn-in. However such features are always welcome.

It also comes with a remote as you might expect. It is backlit and it has buttons on it. When you push the buttons it makes crazy animal noises like elephants, chimps, cows, etc. OK, I made that up but you have to admit it would be funny (for the first 2 minutes).

This article was last updated on August 30, 2021 .

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By Adam

The Display Blog staff account. We know display.