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Sony KDL-46XBR2 LCD HDTV Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007
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ImageBoth Plasma and LCD flat panel TVs have been plummeting in price in recent months, and the two different display technologies are locked in a heated battle for your hard-earned dollars. The one obvious advantage that LCD technology has over plasma, at least in the short term, is the resolution. Enter Sony’s latest technological tour de force, the KDL-46XBR2 flat panel LCD HDTV. LCD flat panels have been available with their highly-touted 1080p resolution for some time now, and the Sony KDL-46XBR2 delivers this resolution and more for your viewing pleasure. Plasma panels are only now just arriving with 1920 x 1080 resolution, and definitely carry a major premium in price over their LCD competitors. This new Sony has many things to recommend it in terms of picture quality and performance but, like everything else in video, it also has its shortcomings.

The panel is quite unique in its design and, as with many Sony TV products, it is extremely attractive. Stereo speakers flank the left and right side of the screen and a silver frame encompasses the screen with a glass outer casing that surrounds it. Finally, a thin silver bezel surrounds the glass, producing a high-tech yet extremely elegant package. The silver bezel can be changed out for one of the five optional colors available, red, blue, black, white or brown. Sony’s ego light (Logo) sits directly in the center of the lower portion of the frame below the screen area. Thankfully, this light can be shut off in the menu system, as it is quite distracting.

Sony remote control designs have long been among my favorites for the comfortable feel in the hand, ease of use and intuitive layout of the keys. The KDL-46XBR2’s remote mostly lives up to that reputation, although it takes a little getting used to some slight design changes that have been made here. The internal menu system is not quite as intuitive as it used to be. For example, after hitting the menu button, you have to select the settings menu to access the audio and video menus and set-up features, whereas with previous designs, once you hit the menu button, the audio and video menus were immediately visible. Most of the more commonly used buttons are within easy thumb reach. While I would’ve liked some backlighting or at least illuminated keys, I was not surprised to discover that it lacked backlighting, considering most LCD flat panel TVs tend to reside in high ambient light environments, and tweaking in the dark is not as likely a scenario as might be with an RPTV micro display.

The KDL-46XBR2 is virtually packed with features, some for convenience and others designed to enhance picture quality. For black level performance improvement, Sony has employed a backlight feature, which will give you richer deeper blacks by controlling the amplitude of the lamps driving the panel, at the expense of some light output. See the Performance section for more details on this. Sony’s DRC (Digital Reality Creation) video processing modes are not very impressive, and the important Cinemotion feature that engages 2:3 pull-down for film-based video sources like DVD movies is buried in a completely separate area of the menu. I find it odd that Sony has isolated this important feature, which used to be in the DRC menu. It is almost as if they don’t want you to find it. And, as you have probably come to expect from most high-end HDTVs today, there are the obligatory selectable color temps (four in all), and three picture modes, although Sony’s excellent Pro mode is mysteriously absent.

As with all HDTVs, there are a number of features located in the advanced menu. These features should be turned off for the best picture performance. They include Black Corrector, Advanced C.E. (Contrast Enhancer) and Gamma, to name just a few. A Color Matrix feature offers a custom setting that allows you to actually choose the color decoding scheme for each source. This is an important feature that will allow you to achieve the correct color decoding for all your sources. A Color Space feature is included and should be set to normal for SD sources and wide for HD sources. This corresponds to the difference in the actual reference for the colors of red, green and blue between standard-definition NTSC sources like cable, satellite TV, DVDs and HDTV sources. For some inexplicable reason, this model does not have grayscale controls in the service menu. Instead, Sony has put white balance controls in the Advanced menu. However, the good news is that now grayscale calibration can be done separately for each input.

The Sony KDL-46XBR2 sports a number of other consumer-oriented features like a built-in ATSC tuner for receiving off-air HD broadcasts, and a sound-leveling feature that will appeal to many. However, considering how many picture-enhancing features Sony has included on this model , I was surprised to find it lacks even single tuner PIP (Picture-in-Picture), which is a convenience feature many people will demand in a set like this. Finally, the Input Label feature is convenient, as it not only allows you to label each input appropriately, but also gives you the ability to Skip the input if you are not using it, reducing the time it takes to switch back and forth between inputs.

Connectivity options are very generous indeed. A total of three HDMI inputs and one included on the side A/V input are unusually plentiful, considering that you are usually lucky to get two HDMI inputs on most flat panel sets today. There are also two component video inputs, one S-Video input and three composite video inputs (one also on the side panel A/V input) to accommodate most other sources. Finally, two RF inputs one for cable and one for antenna, and a 15-pin VGA input complete the video connections. A set of stereo audio outputs and a digital optical audio output are also on board. The headphone jack, a nice convenience for late-night viewers, is situated on the side A/V input.

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