|Sony KV-34XBR910 Wega XBR 34-inch HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs CRT TVs|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Sunday, 01 February 2004|
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Most of what I watch is prerecorded on TiVo, which is something of a shame, because the compression of TiVo negatively affects the picture of such a gorgeous set. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t allow me to really get home in time to watch the best in primetime and HDTV programming. Even when fed with the compressed TiVo signal, the KV34XBR910 looks great. The colors of animated shows like “South Park” and “Family Guy” are vivid and the blacks look better than on most plasmas.
One of the improvements I found on this set vs. the generation-one Sony Plasma my father bought for his house in Arizona was the zoom feature. Even if you are an HDTV junkie, it is likely that more than half of the TV that you watch is broadcast in 4:3 aspect ratio. In the old days, as with my Dad’s plasma, the zoom feature that allowed you to stretch a 4:3 picture into a 16:9 screen made the picture look unwatchable. This is not the case with this Sony set. With one hit of a very well-designed remote control, I can zoom in on a 4:3 picture and make it fill a 16:9 screen in a number of effective ways. The version I use most is “zoom,” which cuts off a little of the perimeter of the screen but doesn’t seem to distort or stretch the picture in any noticeable way. There is a problem with this feature for some content, however. If you are watching Headline News or a sporting event with a ticket at the bottom or scores at the top of the screen, you might cut them off by zooming in on your screen. Movie buffs might also want to avoid zooming in on a 4:3 movie, as it might cut off even more of the original content. For me, when watching my favorite shows like “Crank Yankers” on Comedy Central or “Molto Mario” on the Food Network, the zoom feature is very useful.
Movies look awesome on the Sony KV34XBR910. My video reference standard has become my Madrigal Imaging D-ILA projector with a Faroudja NRS native rate video processor, all set up by video guru William Phelps. The system is very bright and very resolute but it simply cannot keep up with this Sony set in terms of blacks and contrast. On the 1977 hockey spoof “Slap Shot” (Universal) on DVD, you can clearly see the subtle differences between the vivid blue of the jerseys on the Hanson brothers against the bright white of the ice. You can see the slight skate marks on the ice, as well as the tiny marks on the boards of the rink. On a digital set, these kinds of subtleties tend to look more blurred. On the KV34XBR910, the images are bright, resolute and impressive. What was even more impressive was how smooth “Slap Shot” looked. If you really nerded out up close to the screen, you could see what looks to be the grain of the actual film. However, if you sit back, the CRT system has the ability to make a very smooth, very cinema-like picture.
Color accuracy is another area in which the Sony KV34XBR910 excels. On “Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me” (New Line), before the predictably bombastic intro dance sequence, Dr. Evil’s gigantic Bob’s Big Boy spaceship contrasts fantastically with the beaming blue Earth in the background. Right after Austin figures out that Vanessa (Liz Hurley) is in fact a fembot, the DVD puts the Sony KV34XBR910 to the test as Austin struts (naked, unfortunately) through the lobby of what looks to be a casino hotel in Monaco. At one point, he jumps into a pool to meet up with synchronized swimmers. Even under water, the colors are bright and believable on the set.
On HDTV, sources on nearly every set – LCD, Plasma and CRT – look great. What I noticed most about HDTV on the Sony KV34XBR910 is how well it can keep up with the movements of fast-paced sporting events. During the recent NCAA college football National Championship game – I mean, the Rose Bowl – one could clearly see the makeup on the USC Song Girls as the ABC camera crew tracked in on them. Unlike my D-ILA projector, which struggles a bit with 720p vs. 1080i because of its internal video scaler, the only picture problems during the Rose Bowl were the fault of the local ABC broadcast. I had the game on in the big theater and in the bedroom and there was no question the picture was more alive and vivid on the XBR. I have had the chance to see some hockey games on HDNet this year and the fast paced action has been truly impressive. The Sony KV34XBR910 is able to keep up with the frenetic pace of play without glitching out or leaving any noticeable artifacts. When the cameras pan through the audience, as often as I have seen it, I still couldn’t believe how realistic the people looked.