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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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The Downside
While this is unquestionably the best rear projection HDTV available for the money at under $5,000, offering outstanding picture quality and reasonably okay sound quality, it is fair to say it is not perfect. As noted, the sound quality, with its fixed speakers, is not anything to write home about. A Bose Wave Table Radio ($349 MSRP) was easily able to produce vastly more realistic and substantial sound, with clearer midrange and tighter bass, along with delicate highs that created a sense of imaging and depth that shamed the Sony. The built-in speakers simply could not compete, which is sad, considering all the other great parts of this set. The Qualia 006 is similarly crippled. I guess if you are spending this kind of money on an HDTV, you are likely to have a separate sound system. However, there are times when you just want to watch TV without switching the entire system on.

The blacks, while stunning and rich, are highly processed (prior to calibration), which can give dark areas of the picture a mottled appearance. This is correctable by employing several of the user noise reduction and DRC controls, but it is not possible to create a technically correct black that also looks correct with actual program material. “The Fifth Element” and “Starship Troopers” both feature scenes where the blackness of space is supposed to be at 4 to 5 IRE (or percent), but the KDS engine will only look correct if the black is at 0.5 IRE, which makes the lower shadow detail look correctly saturated. Otherwise, with the space black set up to 4 to 5 IRE, the lower shadow detail looks washed out, like the gamma is not tracking linearly.

Clearly, the KDS engine, like the Qualia 006 before it, is tuned to deliver the best possible image for sterling sources viewed in a slightly lit room, that is, with some kind of bias light, preferably behind the set. What this amounts to is a signal that can result in an ultra-vivid, highly articulated landscape, given a very good source. But since sources are usually of variable quality, and most DVI and HDMI sources (including HD and DVD) are heavily compressed, this great picture quality can just as easily reveal or exaggerate digital artifacts, sometimes rendering the image almost unwatchable. Clearly, program providers and broadcasters should be watching their efforts on a set capable of this quality. Otherwise, they simply have no idea of the true quality of their work.

The exception to this image interpretation is the PC input on the DB-15 connector, which shows no sign of adulteration and little if any overscan. The other inputs, even the iLink, seem to add or subtract some portion of the signal, either in the form of lost image from overscan or processed video resulting in block noise. Normally, the Direct Mode being engaged defeats all of these enhancements, but this is apparently no longer the case.

Because of the intrinsic high quality of the picture, most definitely augmented by the three-chip 1920 x 1080p SXRD panels and the Xenon Arc bulb, the quality of the screen becomes an issue, as it has with the Qualia 006. Many rear projectors suffer from a certain screen texture imposing itself on the image; even front projectors can suffer this disability if the screen gain is excessive and the viewing distance quite close. But the KDS rear projectors seem to be using the same screen materials as the 006, but on the smaller screen, this texture becomes even more visible, requiring a minimum of a nine-foot viewing distance before I could reliably ignore its effects. While the screen’s ability to collate light and provide a clear and less hot spot-ridden appearance than most is laudable, it still adds a visible texture in every brightly lit image, particularly in patches of solid color, like the aforementioned red “Star Trek” tunic worn by Engineer Scott, or patches of sky, which take on a grainy look.

The Sony KDS-R60XBR1 now joins the “the best bang for your buck” category. Its stunning 1920 x 1080p image, created by three SXRD chips and a Xenon Arc bulb that produces a very clean and accurate D6504 degree Kelvin gray scale, also possesses colorimetery, which is very accurate with respect to the video color primaries, but is exaggerated with respect to their absolute saturation, giving most images a lushness which can seem over the top occasionally, but most often makes everything look more realistic than the source actually allows for by itself.

The set includes significant image adjustment capability, so that the user can easily create a better-looking image than the source itself can muster, even the best sources. Major improvements in depth of field, grain reduction, and color accuracy can be easily achieved for any input source. The net effect of using these controls is a great and subtle improvement in the rendering of textures and colors. The set is capable of creating a cornucopia of vibrant, lifelike colors reliably and repeatedly.

The choice of input types is fairly generous with regard to the analog inputs, but only features two HDMI connectors, no DVI, and all FireWire/iLink inputs for a camcorder or laptop are only available on the back. What will someone do if the set gets built into a wall? I feel we must have all input types available on the front bezel in at least one place so that newer portable technologies, like HDR camcorders, portable capture devices, and video games/computers can be easily viewed on large sharp displays. Wireless would be even better!

All things considered, it seems impossible to find a better-looking picture at this price point. I do not care for the rainbow artifacts that accompany single-chip DLP projectors, so this three-chip SXRD alternative to JVC’s D-ILA technology seems both expertly engineered, if a bit colored in terms of absolute visual reproduction, and precisely marketed to video and game/computer aficionados. What I can definitely say is that this rear projector looks significantly better and brighter than any other television in this price range. It is a pleasure to watch and it demands to be seen with HD program material immediately and repeatedly.

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