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Sony KDL-46XBR2 LCD HDTV Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007
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Not being a big fan of LCD display technology in general, mainly because of black-level performance issues, I must say that the performance of the KDL-46XBR2 impressed me. Blacks are markedly better than on other LCD panels I have tested in recent months, which is mainly attributable to the backlight feature. By turning down the amplitude of the lamps driving the LCD panels, internal light scatter is reduced, and blacks become deeper and richer as a result. However, this does come at the expense of some light output, and the lower you set the backlight, the less light output you will get from the TV.

Overall, color accuracy is also more impressive than on most of its competition. While the primary and secondary colors of red, green, blue, magenta, yellow and cyan are not spot on, they are much closer, especially red and green, than any comparable LCD panel I have tested to date. I would like Sony to add a Color Management System (CMS), a feature that some competitive plasma products offer. This is a color feature system that individually addresses the primary and secondary colors, and gives a technician the ability to correct these colors to the system specifications as part of an in-field calibration. Color decoding on the KDL-46XBR2 is also very accurate, which yields impressive color saturation with no “red push,” leaving skin tones looking very natural and accurate.

After some experimentation and grayscale tracking measurements, I set gamma to “off” in the Advanced menu. It was still not quite as flat as I would have liked, which resulted in slightly rocky or choppy grayscale tracking. I have never been impressed with Sony’s DRC (Digital Reality Creation) video processing, and the KDL-46XBR2 revealed that it remains noisy and more prone to artifacts than many other TV manufacturers’ internal video processing schemes. 2:3 pull-down, although present when Cinemotion is engaged, is also a bit slower than some mainstream video processing from Panasonic and other companies. This was clearly evident in the film sequence on the Silicon Optix HQV test DVD. With that said, it did pass the test of the opening sequence of Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount Home Entertainment) with flying colors, rendering the scene cleanly and smoothly.

I watched quite a few DVD movies over the weeks I had the panel in my system, and richly saturated movies like Seabiscuit (Dreamworks/Universal Studios Home Video) and Moulin Rouge (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) were quite impressive, with excellent color saturation and very natural-looking skin tones. The grass on the inside of the race track in various scenes of Seabiscuit looked particularly natural, thanks to the reasonably accurate color of green. For black level testing I used the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Lucasfilm Ltd./20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) DVD. Blacks in space shots were convincing and star fields looked solid, with very few visible artifacts. Training Day (Warner Home Video), arguably one of the sharpest transfers ever done on DVD, looked as sharp as a razor. Chapter four, where Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke chase the kids down in the VW bug looked as clear and crisp as I have ever seen it rendered.

I was happy to observe that both the HDMI and component video inputs delivered all the resolution in a 1080i HD signal. This is something that many supposed 1080p resolution displays today cannot do. Although I couldn’t get it to display 1080p test patterns via the component video output of my Sencore HDTV signal generator, it did display 1080p from a Samsung Blu-ray player, so it is safe to say that it does display 1080p. It also does de-interlace 1080i HD material correctly, preserving all the resolution in the process, which, surprisingly, most consumer HDTVs still do not do correctly.

In any case, HD material looked exceptionally sharp on this panel. The Discovery HD channel, as it almost always does, looked just great. Monster Garage, a program on the Discovery HD channel looked mostly awesome, but there was some visible noise in darker scenes. INHD 1 and 2, two other reference-quality HD channels on my Time Warner HD cable system, also looked exceptionally sharp, with excellent color saturation and very natural-looking skin tones.

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