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Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70-inch SXRD HDTV Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2007
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Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70-inch SXRD HDTV
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ImageI have always thought of a “home theater” as stereotypically consisting of a front projector like Sony’s Qualia 004 or even their new and affordable “pearl” projector and a large filmscreen. How else would you get an image big enough for a real theater experience? Sony’s new KDS-R70XBR2 with its 70-inch screen is a set that has changed the way I feel about the impact you can get from a relatively affordable rear projection HDTV. The ease of installation starts the romance. Being able to watch a big, bright HDTV with daylight peeking into the room only adds to the love affair. Then there is the price difference, which almost makes you want to get down on one knee and propose.

It took two people and some care to place this monster HDTV, weighing in at 161 pounds and sized at 74.25 inches wide by 45.5 inches high and 24 inches deep, on its stand and position it at the end of my 25 foot by 15 foot living room, where it fit very comfortably. The brushed silver finish glowed elegantly, awaiting a high-definition source. I left the speakers attached to the sides, although they are detachable, if you need to move or wish to remove them for something a little more beefy.

This is Sony’s top of the line XBR rear-projection TV and it has the guts to live up to the mighty hype. The set features the WEGA engine, which sports three full high-definition SXRD imaging chips, one for each color. SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) is the proprietary name for Sony’s reflective LCD technology. It has improved color accuracy and contrast ratio as compared to regular LCD. The SXRD panels on this unit have the native resolution to fully display the highest level of HD, 1920 by 1080 pixels. The Sony KDS-R70XBR2 has a three-chip design, so it does not have a color wheel, nor does it have the accompanying rainbow artifacts. The three-chip design also assures that the detail level and the gray scale delineation are state of the art.

This HDTV set comes with a technology known as an advanced dynamic iris. This is a very important feature, which greatly improves the image in dimly lit scenes. Let me explain what the iris does. Any projector that has a light source such as a bulb and then uses an imaging chip to filter the light and create an image is limited in its ability to produce black; no matter how good the design, some small percentage of light leaks through to degrade the blacks. For bright scenes, this is not a problem, since that percentage is low enough to still give an excellent contrast ratio. The problem is with dimly lit scenes (think the Bada Bing scenes in The Sopranos in HD). When the imaging chip is used to cut down the light to the level needed by a dim scene, the light that leaks though corrupts the blacks, giving the image a washed-out look. Also, since the dynamics of the brightness of the image are small, the number of bits used to delineate gray scale is also small, creating digital artifacts such a halos and stair steps. The dynamic iris solves this problem by cutting down the light from the bulb to what is needed by the scene, while the electronics in the set expand the dynamics of the brightness to match. The expanded dynamics use many more bits to define the image, cleaning up the digital artifacts. With the iris cutting down the brightness instead of the panels, the full contrast ratio is available, making the blacks much deeper and preventing the aforementioned washed-out look.

Having no shortage of inputs or outputs, the Sony KDS-R70XBR2 sports two HDMI inputs, which accept and display the full gamut of digital sources, including true 1080p, which is the state of the art in high-definition sources, such as HD DVD or Sony’s preferred Blu-ray formats. There are two component video inputs, an antenna input, a cable input (both of which accept digital and HD), a cable card input, a PC input (RGB), an S-Video input and two composite video inputs. There is even an optical digital output for audio, in addition to a set of analog audio outputs. The inputs can be accessed directly, named and numbered using the onscreen menu.

The set is chock-full of useful features, including parental controls, a full complement of inputs, the programmable remote control and a host of video and audio adjustments, which stay with the input they are set on. My favorite was the free, fully functional onscreen TV guide. The service is provided by Gemstar and has many of the search features you would expect from a DVR like TiVo. My favorite audio adjustment, if you are sick and tired of those loud commercials that scream in between the softer programming, is called Steady Sound. There is even an audio adjustment to sync the video from digital sources with the sound called A/V Sync.

As a rear-projection system, the Sony KDS-R70XBR2 has advantages over a two-piece front projector. The first and most important upside is that you can turn lights on without making the image bleach out. The picture is quite viewable, even in a moderately lit room. Also, there is no need for set-up or installation. However, the most important advantage is this all comes in at a cost well below what it would take to achieve the same level of performance in a front-projection system.

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