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Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD Rear Projection HDTV Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 February 2006
Article Index
Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD Rear Projection HDTV
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ImageIt seems like new televisions are coming out all the time now. The most interesting of these are the new 1920 x 1080p sets. Increasing the pixel count by 225 percent versus a 1280 x 720p set improves the portrayal of fine details and textures, creating a spellbinding quality. While these sets can theoretically accept a 1080p source, there are currently very few (if any) to choose from on the market. Generally, the highest resolution any HD format (HD-DVD, HD cable or satellite, D-VHS, Xbox 360 etc.) goes is 1080i, but the extra pixels are far from wasted. The most recent rear-projection offerings have provided outstanding picture quality with extraordinary resolution, high light output, and very accurate yet deeply saturated color fidelity, along with extended black level reproduction at a somewhat pricy point: the Qualia 006 in particular, followed by certain DLP designs.

The sudden proliferation of the 1920 x 1080 native resolution projector in today’s marketplace has, in my mind, quickly pushed out all 1280 x 720 platforms sold for the same price. Most of these rear projectors are based on a single-chip DLP design by Texas Instruments, which uses a color flywheel to divide up the light coming from an ultra-high-pressure Mercury Halide bulb. The bulb is not a white light source but rather has peaks in the blue and green portions of the spectrum. The color wheel creates the color images we see through a process known as persistence of vision. Unfortunately, this color fly wheel also creates a nasty artifact called “rainbow distortion,” which can be seen all too easily. Examine any high-definition football or baseball game with horizontal motion on a single-chip DLP projector (front or rear) and the image becomes a mass of subtle rainbow-colored ghosts, for as long as the fast motion continues. This becomes even more noticeable if the color is turned off to produce an otherwise black and white image, until the fast horizontal motion begins.

The solution is to use a three-chip design, eliminating the need for a color wheel. Traditionally, this has cost three times as much as the single-chip design, leading to the creation and development of such technologies as LCD and D-ILA. The resulting projectors, which are available at a lower price than their DLP counterparts, have not until recently showcased the best color or black level when compared to ever-better DLP engine designs. Indeed, some recent examples from JVC of their D-ILA technology have demonstrated the capability of RPs other than DLP to showcase acceptable black levels and high light output, along with some extraordinary color fidelity.

So now, after over two years of proving in practical applications, Sony has made available an affordable version of its recent LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) variation to JVC’s D-ILA (Digital Image Light Amplifier) technology, and they call it: SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display). Basically, a naturally reflective form of liquid crystal is suspended between several micro-thin pieces of tempered glass substrate, and controlled on the engine side by millions and millions of tiny IC transistors that turn on or off the reflective character of the liquid silicon, pixel for pixel. With a little computer processing and thousands of miles of microscopic circuit board traces, an image is rendered pixel by pixel creating by reflecting (or absorbing) separate red, green and blue light, created by dividing a white light source (usually a UHP Mercury Bulb but in this case a Xenon Arc Bulb) using a prism.
The Qualia 004 front projector began using this technology over two years ago and it is also at the heart of Sony’s new 4k CineAlta line of professional electronic cinema projectors, capable of reproducing greater temporal impact than 70mm film prints (one-third of an IMAX frame ). Not surprisingly, the 70-inch Qualia 006 rear projection set ($12,998 MSRP) has now been joined by the 60-inch KDS-R60XBR1 ($4,999.99 MSRP and the subject of this review) and the companion 50-inch KDS-R50XBR1 ($3,999.99 MSRP), both of which share exactly the same electronics engine. Sony rear projectors featuring this same SXRD technology and 1920 x 1080p resolution are available at the same price point as the 40-inch direct-view CRT Sony 40XBR700 or 800 and any number of standard-definition (720 x 480p) 50-inch rear projectors from all manufacturers just five years ago today. For their size and resolution, the Sony KDS-R50XBR1 and KDS-R60XBR1 are outstanding values, but do they maintain the same lineage as the previous SXRD products?

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