|Sony QUALIA 006 70-inch SXRD HDTV|
|Home Theater Rear-Projection HDTVs SXRD Rear-Projection HDTVs|
|Written by Jeremy R. Kipnis|
|Monday, 01 August 2005|
Page 3 of 3
Even the most cutting edge products do have their shortcomings and the Sony 006 is no exception. The most egregious of these has been a shift in convergence. Starting in the first 50 hours of use, the red channel in the lower right corner began to tilt in, so that the station logos found on CBS of CNN could clearly be seen to have either a red or green shadow where there should be solid white logo on a black background. Perhaps if the problem had remained in that corner I could say it was a normal variation, but this convergence error has spread to the rest of the picture during the next 100 hours of use. It is now easily possible, if seated closer than 100 inches, to see credits in the middle of the screen (check out the end of “The Big Chill”) exhibit a red or green shadow rather than looking completely clean. Sony informed me the set may have been damaged during shipping and they will send a technician right away to have a look. Since these projectors are in such short supply, understandably so, I have not had any word back on exactly when the problem will be solved. But since this is the fourth QUALIA product I have purchased (at full price, not reviewer accommodation), I have faith that this elite division of Sony will make things right. Certainly customers have a right to expect as much when it comes to a $13,000 HD digital television, stand included.
Speaking of the stand, it looks great, but seems to be dipping very slightly in the front, directly under the center of the screen. This is an area where there is no center support – which looks fantastic – but the bulk of the set’s 285-pound weight is in the front, right over this area. While somewhat minor, it does concern me that the stand is not structurally more solid. Also, there are eight wheels on the bottom of the base that will not lock in place or park. I am sure that some installations will find that the whole set and stand may move across the floor due to high levels of bass vibration, which can frequently be found in today’s surround sound mixes. I personally chose to put the entire projector/stand combination up on a platform, removing the wheels and letting the complete bottom of the stand be supported by the platform. Naturally, I adjusted my seating height upward to be dead center, which brings me to me next point.
Seating height has been carefully considered in the design of this television and its dedicated stand. A couch seating height of 28 inches on average is the target for most of the focused light output from the three-layer composite screen. If you sit more than six inches above or below the center of the screen, there is a noticeable loss in light at the farthest side of the screen. Similarly, sitting off-center more than 30 degrees will result in one side of the image being noticeably brighter than its opposite. This may bother some people more than others, but it is a standard characteristic of rear-projection in general. I comment on this because the image is so solid, bright, three-dimensional and beautifully rendered when seated head-on that anything less is immediately noticeable.
Like all super high-quality displays, garbage in, garbage out. So if you’re watching a bad laserDisc, VHS or Beta tape, or of course analog cable or over-compressed satellite, results will vary by a wide, wide margin. The adjustment range of the user controls (not to mention the service level controls) allows for a considerable opportunity for improvement. But I wish that the 006 shared the six memories available in the 004 and many other standard Sony projectors like the Sony HS-51 $3,500 projector I reviewed in June 2005. That way, three more variations in picture settings could be programmed in to be available at the touch of a button.
As mentioned earlier, I was very puzzled that the two IEEE-1394 FireWire inputs would not respond to high-definition sources (720p and 1080i), but instead only respond to SD (480i/p). The three JVC D-VHS recorders I own all lock onto and can even record the HDTV signal now available from Sony and JVC. My belief as a consumer is that a 1080p television with FireWire inputs should display HD sources automatically, particularly from other QUALIA components, like the 002 HD camcorder. Perhaps a software upgrade would work, but I don’t know where one might make the connection.
Lastly, the overscan (lost picture information) was close to four-and-a-half percent on all sides, even through the HDMI inputs. Normally, the analog component, S-Video and composite inputs are subject to overscan, but two percent is more typical in these days of increased digital signals. This I find to be of equal importance as the convergence error, but most consumers are usually unaware of how much actual viewable picture is left to simply fall off the sides of the screen. This was particularly apparent in the HBO-HD and DVD versions of “Contact.” Many scenes include lots of extras (non-speaking actors) off to the sides, who can be clearly seen at a news conference on my QUALIA 004. These extras on the side are a significant part of the action and feeling created by the cinematographer and director to elicit a feeling of claustrophobia. With those extras lost to overscan, the composition changes to become a close-up of the action rather than a long shot. The scene becomes entirely different in character and is just one example of why, in our digital age, overscan should be standardized to zero. There simply is no excuse for it.
The Sony QUALIA 006 is the finest rear-projection set ever to be offered to the consumer. Its light output is astonishing for a device of its size (well over 82 foot-lamberts calibrated to SMPTE standards), easily presents a realistically bright image of great HDTV sources as though you had installed a new bay window 70 inches diagonal. It comes with powered speakers, which are of the same silver metal and plastic design that is the character of this set. There are more than enough input options for most videophiles and the television can be calibrated to produce almost perfect results. Its resolution is a full 1920 x 1080p, with a great on-board scaler that is just slightly less than that found in the Sony 004, which is slightly less than the visual capability of the Faroudja, Terranax and Snell & Wilcox scalers (in that order), costing as much or more than this rear projector. To see the image created by this piece, before or after a calibration, is absolutely mesmerizing. Words do not do justice to the SXRD rear-projection technology, which clearly offers much more fidelity than any other rear projection system currently available.
Jeremy R. Kipnis has been producing, evaluating and calibrating home and commercial theaters for over 30 years. His many credits include over 200 audiophile recordings, using minimalist microphones, released on the Chesky and Epiphany labels. Currently pushing for a new and much higher quality three-dimension picture and sound standard, he travels the world calibrating the perfect picture and sound under the auspices of Visual Calibration Laboratories, a dedicated audio and video evaluation and calibration resource center.