|Sony KDL-40Z4100 LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Saturday, 01 November 2008|
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Television and Movies
I began by evaluating the fundamentals: detail, color and contrast. With my Pioneer Blu-ray player set up to output 1080p/24, I fed the KDL-40Z4100 some Blu-ray demo scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), Kingdom of Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment), Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Enchanted (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). The results were impressive. The Sony’s level of detail was excellent and its great light output gave brighter HD content a lot of pop, which made for an engaging experience. The warm 2 color temperature appeared quite close to the D6500 standard, so I didn’t feel the need to adjust the white balance controls any further. My reference Samsung LN-T4681F’s pre-calibration color temperature was a tad cool. When comparing the two TVs, the Sony’s skin tones consistently looked richer and more natural. The Samsung’s red, green and blue color points appeared to be more accurate, but not by much. The Enchanted and Ghost Rider discs were filled with bright colors, and the Sony did a nice job of bringing those colors to life without taking them over the top. Add in the pleasing flesh tones, and the result was a naturally inviting high-def picture.
Next up was a look at the effectiveness of Sony’s 120Hz technology – first with motion blur, then with film judder. I popped in my reference FPD Benchmark Software Blu-ray disc and checked out the various resolution patterns. With Motion Enhancer turned off, the TV exhibited blur with moving patterns. It wasn’t as pronounced as I’ve seen with other LCDs, but I saw definite improvement when I turned on the Motion Enhancer feature, especially with the map pattern, when a camera quickly panned across a map filled with city names. The names were crystal clear at the standard ME setting. I should point out that, with darker test patterns, turning on Motion Enhancer feature added an obvious red trail to moving letters and characters. However, I didn’t notice this issue with real-world content.
To analyze the technology’s effects with film judder, I used scenes featuring long camera pans from the Gladiator DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray disc, among others. With Motion Enhancer turned off, the TV simply repeated frames to get to 120. With DVD sources, judder was still evident. However, with native 1080p/24 Blu-ray content, the TV repeated each frame five times in a phenomenon called 5:5 pulldown, which resulted in slightly less judder than the traditional 3:2 process without creating unnaturally smooth motion. The tradeoff is potential motion blur when you turn off Motion Enhancer. The standard Motion Enhancer mode clearly reduced judder and produced smoother motion, but the result was fairly tame. Meanwhile, the high mode created super-smooth movement that made film look more like video. I’m not really a fan of the super-smooth look; it was just too artificial. Also, the high mode sometimes introduced digital artifacts and created traces around moving objects that I found even more distracting than judder. Ultimately, I liked the standard mode’s more subtle effect and the fact that it did its job with more consistency and fewer artifacts.
Interestingly, the choice of CineMotion modes also affected the quality of motion with film sources. As I mentioned above, the auto 1 mode added “motion estimation,” which seemed to work in tandem with the Motion Enhancer feature to produce smoother movement. The auto 2 mode did not use motion estimation, which would make it the better choice for film purists. Both modes performed quite well in the de-interlacing department, through both the HDMI and component video inputs. My 480i de-interlacing tests from the Gladiator and Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video) DVDs looked clean. The TV passed the film test on the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix). It struggled with the jaggies and text-crawl test patterns on this disc, and it didn’t do as good a job cleaning up a poorly encoded scene from the Into the Wild DVD (Paramount Home Video) as my Pioneer Blu-ray player did. But, overall, its de-interlacing performance was consistently sound with 480i film sources. In the scaling department, with demo scenes from Lost: The Complete Second Season, Signs, Ladder 49, and The Prestige (all Buena Vista Home Entertainment), this TV produced a solid level of detail when up-converting the signal to its native 1080p resolution. Images weren’t the most detailed I’ve seen, but they certainly didn’t look soft, and fine details were evident. The smoke that hung over the rescue sequence in chapter 12 of Ladder 49 looked clean and natural, not noisy and pixilated. In general, digital noise was sometimes present in darker scenes and I saw some uneven steps in light-to-dark transitions, but neither was a huge distraction. The noise-reduction feature did a very good job minimizing the appearance of noise without overly softening the picture.
The KDL-40Z4100 also proved that it properly de-interlaces 1080i film sources. With my Blu-ray player set for 1080i output, the TV passed all of the processing tests on the HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix) and cleanly rendered the staircase in chapter eight of the Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray (Paramount Home Video). When I switched over to TV sources using my DirecTV HD DVR, I did not see digital artifacts with 1080i film sources. What I did see was a great-looking image. Both 720p and 1080i sources had excellent detail. Color and skin tones were rich but natural and the picture had plenty of pop.