Image of Pioneer's latest Kuro technology (still in the labs) that achieves abolute black levels for crazy-high contrast. Courtesy Pioneer; Inset: Kevin Law

Sure, they are pricey energy hogs, but dang, those Pioneer Kuro plasma TVs are stunning. Crisp pictures, gorgeous colors and sky-high contrast ratios that make the movie characters practically jump off the screen.

So it was with great alarm and sadness that we got the news that Pioneer still stop making those incredible panels. By my reckoning, it will be at least another three years of eating nothing but beans and rice until I can afford to buy one of the sets, and I suppose they may all be sold out by then.

But Pioneer isn’t leaving the plasma TV business. It will instead buy panels from plasma behemoth Panasonic. What’s unclear is whether Pioneer will take generic Panny panels or whether Panasonic will make glass based on Pioneer’s (let’s face it) superior Kuro technology. And what about Pioneer’s miracle-working video processors, which take the crappiest video feeds and turn them into crisp pictures? Will Pioneer keep manufacturing and developing them?

Not making the panels themselves is not such a big deal. Sony doesn’t make it’s own LCD glass, but its sets are arguably the best out there thanks to great processors and all the other tweaks that go into making a TV.

Pioneer may have a quality edge that most people can see, but few of them can afford it. On the other hand, Panasonic is no slouch, and it sells to the mass market. So, if Panasonic adopts the Kuro tech for its TVs, we all win. Stay tuned for more on this, as the story develops.