|Sony Trinitron 36XBR200 36-inch HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs CRT TVs|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Friday, 01 February 2002|
The XBR 200 comes with all of the latest picture enhancements a high-end user could want in a set that is relevant to a modern theater. The most important feature is the Sony WEGA flat screen technology. Unlike traditional sets, the WEGAs are not curved at all, which provides a very crisp picture and reduces the effects of glare in a very bright room like my own. At just under 25 inches deep, the WEGA design allows more users the ability to fit a 36- inch tube set into places you simply couldn't squeeze one in a year ago.
At a $2,500 retail price, the 36XBR200 comes with every bell and whistle you could ever want or use. The remote is standard Sony with access to goodies like PIP, Jump Channel, adjustable Sleep Timer, Video Input and much more. The remote isn't bad by any means. However, I used both a Crestron STS ($3,000), which was cool for a large color interface, and a Philips Pronto ($480), which was nearly as good and proved better for integrating DSS using hard buttons on the Pronto for channel surfing. If you end up an XBR owner, you'll want to buck up for at least a Pronto to give you the easiest access to the best your top of the line set (and the rest of your theater) has to offer.
As for inputs, the 36XBR200 offers three banks of audio-video inputs, as well as one set on the front of the unit. For the best DVD picture, you can hook your player directly to your XBR via component video inputs. You'll find that this method is far and away the best way to achieve video nirvana. However, be forewarned. Even the most happening AV preamps with mega price tags don't have component video switching. This can cause some complication for non-hardcore users, in that you may have two different ways to watch a DVD or you may have to take an extra step to make a DVD player work on your control system. You'll also find front and rear S-Video inputs, which look great and will work with the better AV preamps on the market in regards to having the preamp, not your XBR, do your video switching. In the case of my Proceed AVP, my preamp looked better than the Sony. With a Sony $699 receiver, it is really a toss up.
Dollar for dollar, the Sony Trinitron 36XBR200 is the best TV on the market. The picture is simply that good and for $2,500, it is just the right price for a phenomenal video monitor for a mid- to high-end home theater. 16x9 aspect ratio is super for widescreen DVDs, if that is what you primarily watch. I do watch DVDs but much of my viewing is Philadelphia Flyers games and History Channel on DSS. These sources are still in 4x3 aspect ratio and will be for at least the next few years, even though I spend most of my time in one of the first HDTV markets, Los Angeles. For now, I can justify the expense of a $2,500 TV, because when DTV is ready for primetime in Los Angeles or my dish is loaded with 16x9 1080 I video, I'll make my upgrade. At this point, the cost of the investment and the compromise of living with the squished or smaller screen size is just not worth it.
For daytime viewing, the XBR simply killed my $9,000 Sony Plasma monitor. It is so much brighter and resolute that there really isn't any comparison. The Plasma, with its built-in line doubler, is far smoother in picture, but the contrast and tremendously dark black levels, especially with the color settings at the highest level, were simply great, even with sunlight pouring in. Compared to any video output I can think of, including rear projection, other tube sets, most CRT projectors, LCD projectors and DLP projectors (light valve projectors don't count), the XBR is going to give you the brightest, most useable picture. With the WEGA technology, off axis watching is about as good as it gets, while images that are naturally distorted by traditional, curved TV screens are more accurate.
While watching Strange Days (Twentieth Century Fox DVD), one can't help but notice how well the 36XBR200 resolves the entire spectrum of colors. In most pictures, you'll find that many of the colors blend together and that it is hard to determine the exact hue of each color, especially yellows and oranges. With the XBR, you are in for an awakening. Colors are vivid with resolute definition. If you're not equipped to do an A – B comparison with another set, you can try setting your monitor to a lower screen resolution. Basically, it is the same effect. The XBR WEGA is just that much more resolute compared to a traditional TV set.
I made note of how the contrast between the blue sky and the snow-capped mountains looked wonderful on Tomorrow Never Dies (MGM DVD) on my Sony Plasma review. Well, the contrast is even better on the 36XBR200. The blues are brighter and the clouds are more vibrant. The plasma is far smoother and gives you a more true-to-the-source feel with its 16x9 ratio, but for $2,500, the XBR certainly makes its argument loudly.
The biggest fault I can point out with the picture of the 36XBR200 is that there is a sense of graininess compared to the truly high-dollar, non-tube sets. In this respect, you get what you pay for with line doubled (or quadrupled) video systems, but let us not forget we are talking about a $2,500 TV here.
I like the fact that the 36XBR200 is not 16x9 for the type of TV and DVD-watching I do today. In the foreseeable future, the 4x3 ratio will not be as relevant as it is right now. Therefore, your $2,500 Sony investment will likely not make it as your reference video monitor for theater anymore. Then again, none of the gear you invest in today lasts as long as it used to. AV is a digital world and the gear improves as quickly as it does in computer universe. Your XBR will always have some value in some room of your home. For what it does right, it should have quite a bit of staying power in one role or another.
The Sony 36XBR200 is one of the best TV sets you can currently buy. At $2,500 it isn't cheap (although Sony does make a lesser-priced 32-inch version). However, it is comparable and even better than sets many times its price on a number of levels. With breakthrough screen technology, depth reduction (all the rage in L.A. these days), a sexy modern look and all of the performance mods you need, the Sony 36XBR200 is a serious player. If you need a new TV today, the 36 XBR200 is the one to get.