|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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With HDTV’s flying off the shelves nationwide with and prices dropping like clothes off a stripper in a Champagne room, there’s no need to beat around the bush when it comes to Sony’s latest rear pro TV, the 55-inch Bravia KDS-55A3000. It’s going to sell. The question is, do you want one?
Sony’s new Bravia TV arrived at my office shortly after the mighty Vizio 60-inch plasma left my humble abode, and within days of my purchase of the latest Samsung 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV (review pending). I had enjoyed the Vizio immensely and felt that it was a solid value for the money. However, when I heard that the new Sony Bravia retailed for $1,999 (a full $500 less than the Vizio), I was at a loss for words. When was the last time you heard of any state of the art Sony product costing less than the budget brands? Never, that’s when. If there is one thing Sony has never been shy about, it’s costing more than the competition; at least, the old Sony wasn’t. Oh how times are a-changing. A quick jump onto Sony’s website reveals that all of their HDTVs, be they plasma, LCD or rear projection, are aggressively priced, some undercutting the competition by hundreds of dollars. Clearly, this is something new.
The KDS-55A3000 is somewhat standard-looking for a large rear-projection TV. However, Sony has decided to spice things up a bit by adding a removable speaker grille that allows the user to customize the TV’s look by adding different colored grille covers (sold separately). I’ve seen other Bravia TVs clad in almost every color from standard gray to Ferrari red, which is always a nice touch. The KDS-55A3000 boasts a 55-inch diagonal screen, which is more than enough real estate for most medium to large living rooms. It’s a bit slimmer than most other rear-projection TVs on the market measuring 15 inches deep by 36-and-a-quarter inches tall and almost 50 inches wide. Unlike the Vizio 60-inch plasma, which was a beast in terms of weight, the KDS-55A3000 is rather manageable at 81 pounds.
Turning my attention to the back of the KDS-55A3000, all I found were a few cooling vents for the TV’s lamp enclosure and a power cable. Where were all the input/outputs? The KDS-55A3000’s input/outputs are located on the left side of the TV (looking at the screen) just behind the screen’s edge. While I truly did appreciate the KDS-55A3000’s side-mounted inputs, I began to think stealthy cable management might become an issue, but more on that later. As for inputs, the KDS-55A3000 has three HDMI inputs (HDMI 1.3 spec), two component video inputs, a PC input and three composite video, as well as a single S-video input. All of the analog video inputs are mated to standard RCA-style audio inputs, including one of the HDMI inputs, and all of the HDMI inputs are capable of carrying an audio signal from your player to the TV itself. The KDS-55A3000 has an optical audio output, as well as a pair of RCA-style audio outs. There is also a VHF/UHF/Cable antenna input.
Behind the scenes, the KDS-55A3000 boasts some pretty impressive specs, especially for a sub-$2,000 HDTV. For starters, the KDS-55A3000 is a native 1080p display, with a full 1920 x 1080 display resolution via Sony’s latest Bravia EX video processing engine. Where the KDS-55A3000’s Bravia engine differs from previous versions is its ability to upconvert 480i content to full 1080p for greater picture detail and definition. The KDS-55A3000 also features Sony’s latest batch of SXRD chips, which have always been a personal favorite of mine and can be found in my reference Sony Pearl projector.
The KDS-55A3000 also features 120Hz Frame Rate Technology and Sony’s own Motionflow processing. Motionflow reportedly eliminates the need for 3:2 pull-down by doubling the amount of frames, using real-time calculations to create “unique” or new frames between the 60fps signal, effectively giving the viewer a 120fps image for smooth, lifelike motion. The same holds true for 24p content found on most DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. The KDS-55A3000’s Motionflow option has three settings, high, standard, and off, with the high and standard settings impacting the smoothness of the image and subsequent motion in varying degrees.
The KDS-55A3000 also features Sony’s Advanced Iris Function, which is designed to improve contrast by automatically adjusting the picture for the deepest blacks, improved brightness and overall contrast. The Advanced Iris has multiple settings: Auto 1 for material with varying brightness from scene to scene, Auto 2 for material with less variation in brightness between scenes, Manual for use in different lighting conditions that vary from room to room, and High, Medium and Low to give the viewer the maximum amount of contrast and brightness based on levels of room light. Lastly, the KDS-55A3000 uses x.v.Color Technology, which uses the full HDMI v 1.3, as well as the newly approved color standard xvYCC (which Sony co-created) specs to faithfully reproduce the total amount of natural colors in the video source, as opposed to the TV itself limiting the number, as in previous HD displays. The above represents the bulk of the KDS-55A3000’s more unique features. It still has an internal ATSC/NTSC tuner and digital noise reduction Gamma Compensation, as well as a variety of picture and sound modes and presets.
Which brings me to the remote. Sorry, Sony, but for all your greatness and forward thinking, you just can’t make a remote that I want to use. The KDS-55A3000’s remote is no exception, for it is illogically laid out, features no backlighting of any kind and is so ungainly and long you can’t possibly operate all the necessary controls, like selecting DVD or Blu-ray power, then pressing play without having to adjust your hand position or, worse, use your other hand. Worse still, especially with Blu-ray discs and players, necessary button commands are located under a trap door on the lower end of the remote. While I appreciated the out of the box compatibility with my other Sony products, mainly my Blu-ray player, I loathe this remote.
I placed the KDS-55A3000 in my bedroom system, where the Vizio 60-inch plasma display once sat. Two able-bodied people are needed to move the KDS-55A3000, but unlike large plasmas or LCD displays, the KDS-55A3000’s weight is very manageable. My girlfriend and I had no problems carrying it up a flight of stairs and maneuvering it down a narrow hallway. Making the requisite connections between my Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray player, Toshiba HD-A35 HD DVD player (review pending) and modified Apple TV was a snap, thanks to the KDS-55A3000’s side-mounted inputs. Cable management was also a non-issue, as the KDS-55A3000’s screen extends beyond its input panel far enough that even the bulkiest Ultralink HDMI cables were hidden from view.
Once everything was connected, I began calibrating the set, using my Digital Video Essentials disc on HD DVD. The KDS-55A3000 was set up in the Vivid setting straight out of the box, which was overkill for my tastes. I found the Standard and Cinema settings to be better fits, but both equally altered. The Standard setting was still a bit bright, while the Cinema setting was a bit muted and dark. In a pure black room, the Cinema setting seemed closest to ideal, but that’s what calibration is for. I therefore began navigating my way through the Digital Video Essentials disc and the KDS-55A3000’s own picture controls, using the Standard setting on the TV as my jumping-off point. It didn’t take long for me to achieve a suitable picture, due to the KDS-55A3000’s wonderful menu layout and host of picture control options. While I always endorse professional video calibration, the KDS-55A3000’s picture controls are such that, with the right disc, even a DIY job can have spectacular results.
All in all, including un-boxing and moving the KDS-55A3000, I was up and running, ready to enjoy the latest HD formats in under one hour.