|Sony KDS-55A3000 55-inch Bravia SXRD HDTV|
|Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs SXRD Rear-Projection HDTVs|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Friday, 01 February 2008|
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Television And Movies
I began my evaluation of the KDS-55A3000 at the bottom of the resolution scale and worked my way up, starting with an episode of Penn and Teller’s BS on Showtime (Showtime Entertainment). I turned all internal upsampling on the Toshiba HD-A35 off to see how the KDS-55A3000 handled standard-definition material and turned the Motionflow setting to off. Right off the bat, the image was vibrant and punchy, albeit a touch soft, with solid white and black levels. Skin tones were smooth and lifelike, which for standard-definition video, was quite an achievement.
Every episode of BS opens with Penn and Teller standing or sitting on a seamless bright white backdrop. Through lesser TVs, this level of white often bleeds over into other aspects of the image, degrading the picture’s edge fidelity. Through the KDS-55A3000, the whites remained relatively in check and didn’t bloom or bleed the way other displays do. I did notice that when there were multiple items on the backdrop at one time – for example, a host of live chickens and various diner props – the whites did bleed slightly into the lighter elements of the surrounding “cast,” but remained very sharp against Penn and Teller’s nearly all-black attire. Speaking of blacks, the KDS-55A3000’s black levels were superb. Motion, be it camera or character, was what you would expect from a 480i signal, as it exhibited a bit of stair-stepping, especially against the stark black and white contrasts found in the opening scenes, and lacked the smoothness I’ve come to expect from HD material. Engaging the KDS-55A3000’s Motionflow settings corrected a lot of these anomalies, but when set on High, the motion didn’t seem as well composed as it did with the setting on Standard. The High setting produced an unnaturally smooth, almost green screen-like image that seemed to somehow get ahead of itself, resulting in a different kind of jerkiness. However, for standard-definition content on an HD display, such as the KDS-55A3000, the image wasn’t vomit-inducing; in fact, it was rather viewable.
Switching gears, I cued up The Day After Tomorrow (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) on DVD, with the Toshiba HD-A35’s internal scaling set at up to 1080p. The image was decidedly sharper. Across the board, the naturalness of the colors improved, as did the white and black levels. More detail could be seen throughout the image, especially in the darkest regions of the backgrounds. Edge fidelity improved tenfold and the blooming issues I ran across with P&T’s BS completely disappeared. I left the Motionflow setting on Standard, which seemed to be perfect for this particular DVD. The fast-moving action of the storms and floods that consumed most of the nation was superb and unlike anything I had ever experienced with a traditional DVD. The sudden tidal wave that washes over New York City bordered on feeling like the real thing. The absence of any sort of motion blur to the raging waters gave them eye-catching clarity and a level of realism that I just wasn’t prepared for. The frothy mist that preceded the large waves was so finely rendered that, for the first time, droplets of water appeared as droplets of water, as opposed to video noise. Also gone was the appearance of “jaggies” in the stark vertical lines of the city’s numerous buildings and streets. When changing the Motionflow setting to High, the motion, be it camera or on screen action, smoothed out even more, resulting in an almost unnatural viewing experience. With an effects-driven film such as this, the compositing and CG elements just don’t fare well with a TV as resolute as the KDS-55A3000, at least when the Motionflow settings are set to High. It seems that you can get too much of a good thing.
Not wanting to prolong the inevitable, I went ahead and cued up the Blu-ray disc of Tony Scott’s time traveling thriller Déjà Vu (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), starring Denzel Washington. With my BDP-S1 set for 1080p/24p, I braced myself for the best the KDS-55A3000 had to offer. Oh, my God. Seriously, I actually wrote that down in my viewing notes. Forget everything you think you know about HD-quality video, for nothing can prepare you for HD content viewed on a 120Hz-capable display. It’s hard to describe just how overwhelmingly cool and amazing the video quality is unless you see it for yourself in a proper setting. Beyond the accurate colors, superior resolution and sheer depth an HD signal affords you, when you tack on the KDS-55A3000’s heightened refresh rate and Motionflow technology, the image is otherworldly. Colors were rendered naturally and free from any sort of floating or excess grain that I’ve seen in other rear-projection sets. Edge fidelity was razor-sharp, giving the image some of the best depth of field I’ve ever seen. Black levels were inky, yet transitioned very well into the middle values, completely free of any sort of banding. The KDS-55A3000’s white values were topnotch and free from any perceivable video noise. I could sit within a few feet of the display and still enjoy a seamless, artifact-free image. However, proper viewing distances aided in enjoying the best possible image. With the Motionflow set to Standard, I could detect zero stair-stepping or jaggies, even when presented with insanely quick camera or character action. The motion was silky smooth, but when the Motionflow setting was on High, I felt the image took on a sort of cut-out look, which was a bit distracting. Throughout all my viewing, whether standard definition or HD, the Standard Motionflow setting seemed to work best. While 1080p/24p content is uber-smooth and usually very crisp and pleasing to the eye, disabling the Motionflow settings resulted in an image that can only be described as choppy in comparison. Another caveat that has to be mentioned is Motionflow’s reaction to slow-motion shots. When presented with a slow-motion shot, the KDS-55A3000 image appeared to exhibit a touch of judder, something that was more apparent with the High setting.
I ended my evaluation of the KDS-55A3000 with Pixar’s latest animated hit, Ratatouille, on Blu-ray (Disney Home Entertainment). The entirely CG-animated film benefited immensely from the KDS-55A3000’s superior resolution and refresh rate. Ratatouille looked fantastic. Edge fidelity was so crisp and the colors so faithfully rendered that the entire image had a true three-dimensional feel to it. Primary colors, especially the greens of the country farmhouse in the beginning of the film, were spectacular. Ratatouille was the only film during my evaluation that wasn’t made distracting by the Motionflow’s High setting. I honestly don’t know what else to say, other than the fact that the KDS-55A3000 is one of those rare HDTVs that not only defines what’s possible, but does so at a price point everyone can afford.