|Sony KV-36XBR450 Wega FD Trinitron 36-inch TV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs CRT TVs|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Friday, 01 February 2002|
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I watched this TV with a selection of video inputs, including composite from a VHS player, S-Video from DVD and satellite sources, and component from DVD. First of all, just to see what was there, I put some stereo audio through the internal audio system in the TV. Personally, what I really want from a TV is video inputs and excellent picture quality, not much else, but if you are going to use this unit as a traditional TV, the built-in audio performs very well. Even the “TruSurround” two-speaker surround decoding does its best to provide a surround feeling with only two speakers (just don’t use it on mono inputs, as it sounds a bit weird).
I have never had a TV this large in my living room, and it was in fact a touch big for the room. It also takes three guys to lift it safely, so be warned. It’s a direct-view CRT system and, as a result, it outperforms a back-projection TV quite easily in terms of sharpness, convergence and color accuracy. In fact, the only real criticism you could level at this TV is that it is simply too good for the majority of input signals. Network and local channel feeds from my Dish Network Dishplayer (S-Video) showed enormous and disturbing artifacts from over-compression, and I can well see complaints about this rising as time goes by and people have the benefit of TVs like this. In contrast, the movie channels successfully delivered the promise of “better than cable” picture quality. However, a common problem was the pixellation of captions and text on-screen, as on news channels, and a rippling effect on rolling credits. I believe these effects to be the result of shortcomings in the received video, being made visible by the extremely high resolution of the TV.
S-Video from a DVD source is much better. I used my standard test disk, “The Fifth Element” (the ordinary, rather than the SuperBit version, I’m afraid), and also “The Mask of Zorro,” both of which were transferred by the Sony High-Definition unit and are some of the best video sources I have. Even so, I was hard put to discern significant differences between the DRC settings, with a slight preference for “CineMotion” over interlaced in most cases. Looking at a number of DVD-Audio discs, with still images and/or text displays, the “Progressive” DRC mode made a significant improvement.
In the absence of a true HDTV source, the best I could do was to view those same DVDs via the component inputs. Here again, the TV demonstrated that in fact it was not the limiting factor in displaying a quality picture: the image was further visually improved, with no visible artifacts. The auto widescreen switching did its job faultlessly every time, and the significant viewable area of the screen made the widescreen mode very effective. Obviously, the image is not as nice as the size of a video projector would give you, but it's more than adequate for my living room.
The only real downside this TV has to offer that is actually its own fault are the limitations of the remote’s ability to operate third-party gear. Otherwise, the big problem with this TV is that it is of such high quality that it requires the very best quality inputs you can give it, and if the input is at all sub-standard, you’ll notice. Even S-Video from the satellite receiver is often sufficiently over-compressed that the artifacts are disturbing (for example, a distinct ripple running through people's moving heads or nasty blocks of pixels where the compression can’t follow a smooth gradation in the lighting of a background) and the pixellation of text was sometimes annoying. These effects have nothing to do with the TV, but they do mean that you will notice all the little blemishes in your source material.
The other trouble with a set this big is that talking heads on regular TV talk shows or CNN take on larger-than-life characteristics that make them simply too big. Ordinary TV is not where this extraordinary set excels.
What you want to do with this set is to use it to watch movies. Widescreen or regular TV aspect ratio, a good DVD player with component video capability is really de rigeur for a set like this. HDTV sources would no doubt be even more amazing. Give this TV the best possible input quality you can and you will get the best results. As I have suggested, the TV is capable of a better display than the vast majority of non-HD sources.
I have owned several Sony TVs over the years, and have always liked them. But with its exceptional picture quality, high-resolution features and multiple video inputs, the Sony KV-36XBR450 is by far the best-quality TV I have had the chance to live with and enjoy. I checked its smaller siblings in local stores, and they all do an excellent job. If you go to your local Best Buy and stand back from all the TVs of a certain size, you’ll notice that the picture quality on one of them stands out. Go up to it, and I bet you’ll find that it's one of these. What more can one say (apart from “Please don’t ask for it back”)?