Sony KV-36XBR450 Wega FD Trinitron 36-inch TV 
Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs CRT TVs
Written by Richard Elen   
Friday, 01 February 2002

The KV-36XBR450 is a 36-inch direct-view TV from Sony, part of the FD Trinitron Wega series that features an extremely flat tube and a number of interesting enhancements. These include “DRC,” or “Digital Reality Creation,” which is basically a horizontal and vertical line doubler, “Cinemotion,” which allows automatic detection of film content and application of a reverse 3/2 pulldown, “Twin View,” which allows you to view two different inputs side by side, 16:9 enhancement for widescreen-enhanced sources, velocity modulation, which enhances vertical line definition, and component 480p, 480i and HD1080i and S-Video inputs.

Installation and Setup
The KV-360XBR450 is fitted with a helpful series of inputs. These include the standard VHF/UHF antenna/cable coax input and a converter output allowing the TV to be switched between scrambled and unscrambled cable channels without a splitter (in through VHF/UHF in, out of “to converter” to the cable box, and out from the cable box to “AUX”). The auxiliary coax input could also be useful if you can’t get local channels on your satellite system and want to hook up an antenna as well.

For most people, however, it’s the A/V inputs that will be of most interest. There are six of them: 1-3 offer composite, S-Video and stereo audio inputs, with #2 being on the front panel for hooking up your camcorder. Input 4 offers composite only plus stereo audio, while 5 and 6 are component inputs (accepting 1080i/480p/480i), plus stereo audio. Useful. In addition to the inputs, there are composite plus stereo monitor out, and a fixed or variable stereo audio-only output. A pair of sockets for Control S in and out completes the picture.

That’s really about it for hookup: all you do if you have a cable system connected is to run Auto Setup to find your available channels. Once you’ve done that, you can set up a list of favorites and preview them with Twin View while continuing to watch the main selection. You can change the relative size of the pictures, using the comprehensive remote, which includes a joystick as well as the theoretical capability to control other pieces of gear you own (it wouldn’t talk to any of mine, but I have a Pronto, as regular readers will know, so never mind). Also accessible from the remote is the Freeze function, which freezes the picture so you can note down phone numbers, etc.

The onscreen menu situation is pretty comprehensive, accessed with the Menu button on the remote and then selected and configured with the joystick. Video controls picture settings, Audio is similarly obvious, Channel configures the Favorites list and auto program, Parent includes V-Chip-related parental controls, Timer lets you set the clock and program the TV for scheduled viewing, and Setup is the most fun of all. Operationally, this is one of the most intuitive menu setups I have seen, easy to navigate and operate.

In the Video section, you can do all the obvious stuff like contrast, brightness, color, hue (how primitive this seems to someone brought up on PAL, where you can’t make people’s faces go green…) and sharpness. There is even more fun to be had here, however. There are a set of viewing modes: vivid (turns everything up too much – yuck), standard – exactly what it says, and if you set it to this you would not be unhappy, movie – supposed to make the picture more “film-like” (I don’t like, personally), and pro, which for my eyes gives the best balance of all.

Then you can mess with the color temperature: cool, neutral or warm (the latter being NTSC standard, and adding a slightly red tinge). I preferred neutral. Velocity modulation sharpens the picture, evidently by amplifying the contrast on either side of a transition. You can have it set to high, medium, low or off. This is rather a matter of taste (as is a lot of this stuff), but I preferred medium. Finally, there is the Digital Reality Creation (DRC) mode setting. I kept coming back to this and trying different settings. You can choose between three: interlaced, progressive and CineMotion. The DRC system is a line doubler as mentioned above, which affects hi-res input sources such as component or S-Video inputs. Interlaced is recommended for moving pictures, Progressive for still images and text – especially good for DVD-Audio -- and CineMotion does something really arcane, applying a reverse 3/2 pulldown process, depending on recognition of film content. The result of this is to improve the appearance of moving images. Interlaced does the same thing, so you need to see which you prefer on a given source.

The Audio menus handle treble, bass, balance, MTS (mono, stereo, SAP), speaker on/off, and so on, all of which you probably aren’t using, because you are probably running the audio through your A/V receiver. There is also a surround effect option that allows you to do two-speaker surround decoding with TruSurround, simulate the effect for mono programs, or turn it off. Furthermore, you have a built-in level regulation system called Steady Sound, which keeps the volume the same between quiet programs and over-loud commercials: you can turn it on or off. Finally, you can determine whether the audio outs follow the volume control setting or not.

The Channel menu includes things like cable/antenna switching, the favorite channel system referred to earlier, auto-program and channel skip/add and labeling. In addition, there is a very useful feature called Channel Fix. This lets you limit the channels you can select to a subset if you are using external sources for everything (like me). You can lock the set to channel 3 or 4, for example, or the AUX input, or a video input. You can lock the set down to a very basic set of channels, as I did. I had three labeled inputs, Receiver (an S-video input); VHS (a composite input) and DVD (a component input), and set the system to allow only those selections. Nice and trouble-free.

On the Parent menu, you can set up a four-digit password and configure a parental lock facility for different ratings systems, depending on where you purchased the unit, while the Timer menu offers settings for two timers and clock setting (including DST on/off).

The Setup menu covers a bunch of things that haven’t been handled elsewhere, some of which are very useful. Several different sets of closed-captioning and station information can be displayed, including XDS (Extended Data Service) where available. You can correct the tilt of the picture, if there is any, and set the language for onscreen displays. You can also run a demo of the onscreen menus and set up 16:9 enhancement, which increases the resolution of the picture on widescreen sources, to be either “auto” or “on.” You can label the video inputs from a (rather restricted) list, or set them to “skip,” so that when you step through the video inputs with the remote, it skips past inputs that have nothing connected to them.

While the remote control is elegant and very effective at controlling the TV, the flip-cover that reveals an additional set of controls for handling other devices is only really useful if you have Sony gear. The list of codes for third-party devices that can be controlled from the remote is very limited and there is no IR “learn” facility, which essentially wastes an otherwise nicely-designed remote control.

Performance
I watched this TV with a selection of video inputs, including composite from a VHS player, S-Video from DVD and satellite sources, and component from DVD. First of all, just to see what was there, I put some stereo audio through the internal audio system in the TV. Personally, what I really want from a TV is video inputs and excellent picture quality, not much else, but if you are going to use this unit as a traditional TV, the built-in audio performs very well. Even the “TruSurround” two-speaker surround decoding does its best to provide a surround feeling with only two speakers (just don’t use it on mono inputs, as it sounds a bit weird).

I have never had a TV this large in my living room, and it was in fact a touch big for the room. It also takes three guys to lift it safely, so be warned. It’s a direct-view CRT system and, as a result, it outperforms a back-projection TV quite easily in terms of sharpness, convergence and color accuracy. In fact, the only real criticism you could level at this TV is that it is simply too good for the majority of input signals. Network and local channel feeds from my Dish Network Dishplayer (S-Video) showed enormous and disturbing artifacts from over-compression, and I can well see complaints about this rising as time goes by and people have the benefit of TVs like this. In contrast, the movie channels successfully delivered the promise of “better than cable” picture quality. However, a common problem was the pixellation of captions and text on-screen, as on news channels, and a rippling effect on rolling credits. I believe these effects to be the result of shortcomings in the received video, being made visible by the extremely high resolution of the TV.

S-Video from a DVD source is much better. I used my standard test disk, “The Fifth Element” (the ordinary, rather than the SuperBit version, I’m afraid), and also “The Mask of Zorro,” both of which were transferred by the Sony High-Definition unit and are some of the best video sources I have. Even so, I was hard put to discern significant differences between the DRC settings, with a slight preference for “CineMotion” over interlaced in most cases. Looking at a number of DVD-Audio discs, with still images and/or text displays, the “Progressive” DRC mode made a significant improvement.

In the absence of a true HDTV source, the best I could do was to view those same DVDs via the component inputs. Here again, the TV demonstrated that in fact it was not the limiting factor in displaying a quality picture: the image was further visually improved, with no visible artifacts. The auto widescreen switching did its job faultlessly every time, and the significant viewable area of the screen made the widescreen mode very effective. Obviously, the image is not as nice as the size of a video projector would give you, but it's more than adequate for my living room.

The Downside
The only real downside this TV has to offer that is actually its own fault are the limitations of the remote’s ability to operate third-party gear. Otherwise, the big problem with this TV is that it is of such high quality that it requires the very best quality inputs you can give it, and if the input is at all sub-standard, you’ll notice. Even S-Video from the satellite receiver is often sufficiently over-compressed that the artifacts are disturbing (for example, a distinct ripple running through people's moving heads or nasty blocks of pixels where the compression can’t follow a smooth gradation in the lighting of a background) and the pixellation of text was sometimes annoying. These effects have nothing to do with the TV, but they do mean that you will notice all the little blemishes in your source material.

The other trouble with a set this big is that talking heads on regular TV talk shows or CNN take on larger-than-life characteristics that make them simply too big. Ordinary TV is not where this extraordinary set excels.

Conclusions
What you want to do with this set is to use it to watch movies. Widescreen or regular TV aspect ratio, a good DVD player with component video capability is really de rigeur for a set like this. HDTV sources would no doubt be even more amazing. Give this TV the best possible input quality you can and you will get the best results. As I have suggested, the TV is capable of a better display than the vast majority of non-HD sources.

I have owned several Sony TVs over the years, and have always liked them. But with its exceptional picture quality, high-resolution features and multiple video inputs, the Sony KV-36XBR450 is by far the best-quality TV I have had the chance to live with and enjoy. I checked its smaller siblings in local stores, and they all do an excellent job. If you go to your local Best Buy and stand back from all the TVs of a certain size, you’ll notice that the picture quality on one of them stands out. Go up to it, and I bet you’ll find that it's one of these. What more can one say (apart from “Please don’t ask for it back”)?
Manufacturer Sony
Model KV-36XBR450 Wega FD Trinitron 36-inch TV
Reviewer Richard Elen
Diagonal Screen Size 28 to 36-inches
Native Resolution 1080i





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