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Sony KDL-46Z4100 LCD HDTV Print E-mail
Thursday, 30 April 2009
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Sony KDL-46Z4100 LCD HDTV
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ImageIt’s Springtime, and along with the Birds & the Bees, pollen alerts and hearing about all the government bailout cash you’re not getting, the new crop of TVs which debuted at January’s 2009 CES are hitting the shelves or online reseller’s fulfillment warehouses.  So, a Sony 46Z4100, what’s with reviewing LAST year’s television technology?  Isn’t that a bit like reading yesterday’s newspaper - or perhaps more appropriate to our times, a Blog that’s an hour old, or an Instant Message or Tweet from thirty seconds ago?  All seemingly fruitless exercises.  But sometimes a glance back reveals a hidden gem that may have been overlooked in the midst of the dizzying array of technical specifications, product features and marketing among brands, all vying for your attention and dollars.  The Sony KDL-46Z4100 LCD TV is one of those.

It’s packed with advanced video features capable of delivering terrific pictures, has a classy appearance and especially now, with close-out deals at half its original MSRP of $2,800, the 46Z4100 is more than reasonably priced, and well worth the effort of hunting down.  Sure, it’s last year’s model, being replaced by the upgraded 5100-series.  But in these lousy economic times, the 46Z4100 is still an inviting prospect for those who might normally have settled for a lesser S, V or W model in Sony’s new 5100s while paying more of those scare dollars in the process.  

Sony threw everyone a curve ball in 2008 by offering 10-bit video processing and 10-bit LCD panel only in the Z-series among non-XBR models.  The 2007 model V3000 and W3000 did have 10-bit, but inexplicably that feature was eliminated from the V and W sets in 2008 resulting in confusion among customers accustomed to models carrying enhanced performance features forward.  Note:  The W4100-series has 120Hz Motionflow and a 10-bit LCD panel, but not 10-bit video processing.  Neither the S4100 nor V4100 models have 120Hz Motionflow or any 10-bit technology.  The new S, V and W5100 series still only have 8-bit processing, but do have 60, 120 and 120Hz refresh rates respectively.  The Z5100 cranks up the Motionflow spec to 240Hz.  More on special video processing and motion features later in the review.
Out of the Box

The first thing you notice unpacking the 46Z4100 is its lightweight.  At 49 pounds (the base is not attached) and the 42” x 27” x 3” size, it’s not difficult for one person to lift and carry.  Next is the striking appearance.  The narrow, 1” piano black bezel has a classy air of high tech sophistication.  It’s a departure from the wider bezels on S,V and W models, and is identical to slim bezel as the more expensive 46XBR6, giving the set an elegant yet business-like appearance.  The Z also has a variant with brushed metal, silver bezel.
The panel slips easily onto the sturdy aluminum and plastic base, requiring four screws to fasten securely.   There’s a bit more front to back play than you’d expect, but the base and connection to the panel are both solid, so the slight wobble is apparently a shock absorbing part of the design.  A simple, but effective partial raceway and tie-wrap in the base allows threading a few cables to help reduce clutter.  With all big screen TVs, it’s probably worth your peace of mind to either obtain Sony’s optional Support Belt Kit, or fashion a similar restraint for added stability of your new set.  The panel can of course also be attached to a bracket for wall or other mounting.  Overall build quality is good, typical of Sony, especially for A/V connectors, however, there’s is a hint of an inexpensive, plastic feel to the back’s external housing.

A/V, Media & Network I/O

The 46Z4100 continues the evolution of the high definition displays becoming the central media integration device in the home.  It’s gone way beyond just hooking up tape machines, DVDs and DVRs.  Today’s extensive assortment of A/V inputs and outputs, interfaces for digital media players, storage interfaces and Internet connections is now considered a standard expectation, not a luxury.  The 46Z4100 delivers all of those capabilities and more.  Four HDMI 1.3 (for 1080p24, 1080p60 and the new HD audio formats) inputs, component, S and composite video, optical audio out, personal computer I/O, USB 2.0 and T10/100 Ethernet connection to your LAN.  There’s also a special Digital Media Port that conforms to the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) interoperability standard so you can view photos via DLNA Certified equipment.  Not only can you watch high definition broadcast, cable or satellite television and Blu-ray discs, but also view photos from your digital camera or USB flash memory and listen to music through a variety of players.

Sony takes a step further in expansion and flexibility with its own Digital Module Extender (DMeX™) port.  DMeX (pronounced “Dim-X”) is essentially a plug and play interface for connecting BRAVIA® Link Modules to provide integration plus a consistent user interface for several categories of external devices including:  additional HDMI inputs, DVD upscaling, MP3 audio playback, JPEG viewing and connection to selected internet-based video on-demand programming services.  Current VOD offerings include:  Amazon, YouTube, Yahoo, CBS, Howcast, Crackle (Sony Pictures Entertainment) with others being added.  BRAVIA Link Modules run from $150 MSRP up to $800 for the special Wireless Link Module.  That one in particular, although pricy, would be wonderful step towards eliminating the rat’s nest of cables occupying the area behind my TV!

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