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Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD Rear Projection HDTV Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 February 2006
Article Index
Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD Rear Projection HDTV
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Like the Qualia 006, the KDS-R60XBR1 (and the KDS-R50XBR, except where noted) comes in a largish rectangular box, where the top portion separates from the base, making it very easy to remove the rear projector from its moorings. Although somewhat heavy (112 lbs. 7 oz or 43 kg), the set is very responsive with three strong individuals. I personally would recommend four strong people, because $5,000 is still a lot of money for anyone, and it is better to be safe than have your new TV crash or get damaged. Be aware, the screen is not covered with peel-off protective film, so you should stay away from it to avoid causing small scratches, scuffs or handprints. All the same, the screen surface is an integral part of the viewing experience, and can be damaged more easily than other rear-projection sets, due to the very high resolution of the picture. This is a small liability once known, and hand and fingerprints are easily removed with a special cleaning cloth and brush that are included to help maintain the screen without scratching.

There is an integral stand (SU-GW12, $499.95 MSRP), which is designed to go with a number of other Sony rear-projection sets, and is quite attractive in the same silver and clear glass/plastic mantra of most recent Sony expositions, including this one. Unlike the 006 stand (SUSX10, $1,998.00 MSRP), which has warped somewhat in the last 10 months due to the 70-inch rear projection’s 273 pounds, the recommended stand for the 50-inch and 60-inch SXRD rear-projection sets seems able to withstand the weight without contusion. But we will see. Sony must pay better attention to materials, especially those used in making an expensive display stand.

Once in place, wiring is very typical of recent HDMI-capable Sony sets with, in reverse order, HDMI (with HDCP) on Input 7 and 6 (which also included separate L/R RCA jacks to accommodate DVI sources with a format changer for DVI to HDMI) – I would have really appreciated a DVI connector as well during this transition era, as I am sure many other customers would – two component video inputs with companion stereo audio inputs (all on RCA jacks) for inputs 5 and 4, while two S-Video with stereo inputs occupy inputs 3 and 1. Cable and an antenna input are also available on F-type connectors, along with a Cable CARD slot. Input 2, on the front bezel, behind a typical flip-down panel, features S-Video with stereo inputs and a Memory Stick reader. There are also three iLink or FireWire 400 on four-pin connectors for SD IEEE 1394 connection of an SD camcorder like the Sony VCX-2100, Canon XL-1S or similar output devices, such as the Sony or Dell VAIO computer system or similarly equipped laptop, featuring an identical 1394 connection and a HDR HD camcorder like the Sony HDR-FX1 or a workstation/laptop. This is a useful input that needs to be made available on the front!

Finally, of great note is the DB-15 analog RGB computer input, available for the first time on an SXRD rear projector. It is unfortunate that this input could not have been mirrored on the front, so that a laptop could easily be connected. I am a big advocator of computers being displayed on large screens with great picture quality. This rear projector offers a computer image of outstanding quality, as you will read, and I feel that this is a major step towards integrating all of the different sources on a single display device. Looking back over the last 10 years has proven how important it is to bring film, video, theater (home and cinema) and computers together on the same screen. In my opinion, when all our viewing is done on large, bright and accurately colorful displays, all sources will take on a much greater viewing experience and meaning.

A new master (2.35:1 HD) of “Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2” on the Starz HD network provided exceptional opportunities to view these outstanding examples of Quentin Tarantino’s filmmaking on the new Sony KDS-R60XBR1. With its decisive choice of colors, lighting and camera angles, plus the outstanding selection of pristinely remastered music must certainly be on every serious film aficionado’s must play list. As seen on the Sony KDS-R60XBR1, the transparency of this new transfer was jaw-dropping, vastly sharper than the previous version and in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio this time. Of great note were the outstandingly bright whites (92.2 foot lamberts on a calibrated 100 percent white window pattern), stunning blacks (0.004 foot lamberts) and a range of exceptionally accurate colors with slightly exaggerated saturation levels that seemed very lifelike, conveying slightly more than the actual program material has to offer.

It is particularly interesting to note how similar the performance is between the Qualia 006 and the two KDS rear projectors. Other than a larger screen size (which can be important) and removable speakers (006 only), almost every other aspect of the two rear projectors’ functions and picture quality were nearly identical. An entire plethora of special image adjusting controls are made available to the end user (along with the usual contrast, brightness, color, tint and sharpness), in addition to user-adjustable color temperature with sufficient range and articulation to create a very accurate gray scale (D6504 Kelvin from 10 to 100 IRE + 98 / – 26). Also included are several noise reduction modes and “Digital Reality Creation” palettes that can help you clean up a mediocre HD or DVD image to look really sweet, noise-free and sharper than the original. This can be easily seen in another great Tarantino film, “Jackie Brown” wherein many complexly orchestrated shots in the mall towards the end of the story can reveal hidden layers of people’s expressions when properly tweaked using these detail enhancements. This allows for an enhanced sense of being in the scene that is otherwise not possible.

A wonderful new feature, which has appeared in other recent Sony projector’s like the VPL-HS51, is the “advanced iris,” which can be set up manually, or to auto, which increases the contrast ratio beyond that of any DLP projector ever made. I measured a contrast ratio (after a full D6504 degree Kelvin color temperature calibration, plus gamma adjustment to 2.24), using a full white window pattern vs. an all-black window pattern (as above) for a total contrast ratio of 23,050 to 1. While this figure seems grossly exaggerated, it is one way of interpreting the data, and one that is comparable against other rear projectors, which have reported numbers as high as 20,000 to 1. Although I still feel that this feature is noticeable while it is working, the iris’s opening and closing is in sync with a scene’s changing from well lit to dimly lit, this is a very improved version of this neat adaptive technology. The results are very bright images that have considerable impact because they are so much brighter than traditional televisions, including recent plasmas. This, along with very dark although sometimes crushed blacks, provides an image which is more than reality or film can provide. “Batman Begins” features so many wonderfully photographed scenes, which include both very light and dark features from shot to shot. While some sense of image processing is evident in the form of small changes in gamma, and the iris itself is not always as fast as the scene demands going from very light to exceedingly dark, it is nevertheless an important addition to Sony’s line up of image enhancements that work most of the time.

The lack of absolute picture accuracy observed is a trait of more recent Sony products including the Qualia 006. Certain compromises, which can be dialed out through a complete calibration, have been made so that the electronic engine interprets the signal rather than simply pass it through. While this is not always desirable, it is easily possible for the owner to adjust the large range of available controls (with a good test disc) in order to achieve a subtle yet seductively transparent quality to almost any image. For example, the “color corrector” selectively enhances the intensity of reds and greens to make them appear more vivid yet properly saturated, as would be seen under the bright lights of a Broadway theatre. The third season of the original “Star Trek” (the blue set) is famous for its rather extreme color palettes, due to a cost-saving measure by the designers of the show; they painted and lit otherwise blank set walls with glorious 1960s psychedelic colors. Scotty always appears in a bright red tunic, which I am lucky enough to have several 35mm original film elements of to make a direct comparison, under matched conditions on the same-sized screen. My impression was that the KDS-R60 engine was able to pull more of the actual event that appeared before the cameras with actor Jimmy Doohan through to the viewer than the original 35mm elements did. This can become very addictive to watch, even though it is not totally faithful to the original source material.

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