|Sony KDL-V40XBR1 LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2006|
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It never ceases to amaze me just how quickly technology marches forward. Take the 40-inch television, for example. Five years ago, in 2001, Sony introduced the first 40-inch Direct View HDTV CRT Television featuring flat-screen WEGA (pronounced “Vega”) tube technology. At the time, this model, the 40XBR700, was the largest and most expensive consumer direct-view CRT ever created, retailing for a cool $4,000. Aside from its enormous size and weight at 385 pounds, the picture tube was designed to offer the best color fidelity and resolution for an NTSC consumer television up to that point, save for the Sony 32XBR100 squared (available from 1994 through about 1997), which remains the only consumer direct-view CRT monitor to have achieved the full NTSC color gamut in a commercially produced television, not counting, of course, the new Qualia 005, which is a Tri-Luminous LCD television capable of 105 percent of the 1953 NTSC color gamut and a real stunner of an HDTV.
The improvements that the 40XBR700 offered over any earlier efforts were quite astonishing, and (after a full NTSC calibration) the set was (and is) capable of coming quite close to the exactingly rigorous standards of reproduction set forth in the original 1953 North American Television Standards Committee (NTSC) documents, except for a slightly weak red and green primary saturation.
The joy that I derived from watching this television with tried and true DVDs like James Bond’s “Thunderball,” with its complex and beautiful cinematography, including many gorgeous long shots of Nassau and the Caribbean, was only exceeded by certain presentations on Sony, NEC, Runco and Vidikron three-gun front and rear CRT projectors costing ten to twenty times this 40 inch direct view Sony HDTV set. Both color fidelity and picture details were surprisingly transparent, and it was difficult at times to imagine that a direct-view television could really get any better.
Now, five years later, with HDTV in full swing, comes a surprising improvement in LCD technology, yielding the Sony KDL-V40XBR1, a 1366 by 768 active matrix HDTV, utilizing the newest Sony LCD technology and featuring a remarkable picture, reminiscent of my earlier experience with the Sony 40-inch XBR CRT, yet subjectively leagues better with respect to absolute performance when compared to both film and an open window. The $3,299 MSRP 40-inch Bravia (Sony’s new monogram for their elite video division after the conclusion of Qualia – but still, this is an XBR set, which is important by comparison to the “S” or “V” series televisions) can be table-mounted using its included 90-degree swivel stand (a nice touch, whereas the $15,000 Qualia 005 has this only as an option) or wall-mounted like a traditional plasma on a bracket that is sold separately. Yet where François Truffaut’s film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” with its forward-looking appearance of large, flat-panel displays in the home, and recent improvements in Plasma display technology have left off, Sony’s new Bravia LCD offering is indeed as exciting and impressive a release to an HDTV-hungry public as any to have come along in recent years.
Although I was heavily overextended calibrating and preparing for the arrival of my new Sony Ciné Alta SRX-R110 pro-theater projector, a 4k front projector behemoth that uses 3 by 4096 by 2160p SXRD chip technology similar to that featured in the Qualia 004 SXRD Projector, Qualia 006 Rear Projection, and the recent KDS-60XBR100 Rear Projection (all reviewed here on AVRev.com), my delight over the new Sony KDL-V40XBR1 was no less palpable. While the 4K Ciné Alta projector sets the benchmark for the entire film and video industry, demonstrating visual accuracy and transparency that has many of the better qualities of 35mm motion picture film, along with the control and adjustability of a video projector, the new Bravia 40-inch LCD sets the standard for flat panel displays in very much the same way.
I was quite flabbergasted at just how easy it was to take this piece out of its well-designed carton (with the aid of a second person) and install it into a working system with great speed, using the supplied IEC power cord. The total unpacking and set-up time did not exceed five minutes, faster by far than the 40-inch tube CRT of five years earlier, which required four very strong men and a difficult ascension up half a flight of stairs, and a standard 38-inch wide hallway and 30-inch doorjambs. That installation took an hour and a half and there were a number of shaky moments. The new 40-inch Bravia was comparatively a cakewalk. The wall-mounting bracket (again optional) can easily be attached to wall studs with all wiring to the set neatly hidden on the back (except input 2 on the left side, which features Y-Pr-Pb inputs, a USB connector, a 3.5mm headphone jack and, finally, a six-pin IEEE 1394 Firewire input, suitable for connecting a D-VHS, HD or DVR camcorder, as well as a USB 2.0 jack suitable for a digital camera, a computer or laptop.
The television has seven inputs besides the cable/antenna connection on F-connectors, each of them nameable and addressable in the “External Inputs” dialogue of the system menu, now called “Wega Gate,” as in gateway. Three of these include Y-Pr-Pb inputs alongside S-Video and composite and left/right audio on RCA jacks, but strangely, there is only one HMDI input. Only one HDCP-compliant digital input to connect a whole bevy of new HDMI and DVI-capable sources is not enough; what is a person to do? Thankfully, I was also reviewing the new and easy to integrate PureLink 4x1 HDMI switcher by DtroVision (reviewed last month) and this device so perfectly solved my digital switching issues that I have been able to almost completely ignore the lack of more HDMI inputs on the Bravia itself – almost. Still, this adds another $549 or so to the price of operating the television, which could very well have been deferred by adding another HDMI input to the television in the first place, and not all that much more expensive from Sony’s perspective. Of equal interest is the RGBHV input on a DB-15 connector found on Input 7. It includes a 3.5mm stereo audio input, but I am surprised that there is no DVI input that could be used with many of today’s laptops to create an even better picture. But the ability to use this television as a widescreen desktop can neither be overrated nor underestimated, as will be seen shortly.