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Sony QUALIA 006 70-inch SXRD HDTV Print E-mail
Monday, 01 August 2005
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Sony QUALIA 006 70-inch SXRD HDTV
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ImageHave you ever imagined a television that made you really feel that the image is a window on your world of programming, achieving the sort of drop dead gorgeous quality that no one can look away from (unless the person just doesn’t care about TV or picture quality)? As someone who already owns two Sony QUALIA 004 front projectors, I naturally had high hopes and expectations when I decided to take the plunge and buy a QUALIA 006 rear projector for another room in my lab/home. The first of these expectations included an exceptionally sharp picture (even by comparison to 35mm film projected at the same size), as befits Sony’s new SXRD 1920 x 1080p three-chip reflective LCos technology. Another was outlandish light output (I measured 90 foot-lamberts with the bulb in the low mode and a contrast ratio of over 3000:1!). Finally, fantastic styling (like a Cartier Watch), as well as a wealth of the usual inputs, including two HDMI (one with separate L/R audio inputs) and two 1394 firewire four-pin (front and back), suitable for use with most camcorders, still cameras and video HDCP-compliant devices like Sony laptops and certain DVD players.

The Sony QUALIA 006 delivers on all of these expectations and much, much more in abundance. This massive and expensive 70-inch diagonal rear projector (MSRP $13,000) weighs in at 285 pounds and truly demands the recommended stand ($1,500). The character of the set is stunning. Its silver polished aluminum and plastic casing commands attention in any room. This is a great thing, because it looks like modern-day sculpture, something that would be at home at the Cooper-Hewitt or Museum of Modern Art. Yet when you turn this television on, its picture completely dwarfs its architecture, offering up an incredibly lifelike image that has to be seen to be believed.

Because this piece is a QUALIA it uses Sony’s proprietary reflective LCos technology (SXRD). This is similar to what JVC has created for its D-ILA projectors, but the two technologies look completely different. In comparisons I have made repeatedly, here in my lab and at customer’s homes, the SXRD is capable of resolving much more color information without looking the slightest bit unnatural. This undoubtedly is due in part to Sony’s choice of a 200-watt UHP bulb, which has a life span that potentially could extend beyond 2000 hours (user replacement cost $300). There is also Sony’s choice of color primaries, which define the size and accuracy of the color reproduction triangle. This, in combination with the bulb’s fairly neutral spectral response, allows this projector to recreate photographic realism in your home theater with aplomb and to your delight.
You can well imagine that a television of this size is anything but easy to install. The box itself requires four people just to move or open it. When you invest in a QUALIA product from Sony, you get their “white glove” treatment, and to see these professionals move this into my living room was a feat to behold. Five people were necessary in the end to ensure that the set made it successfully up on its dedicated stand without a scratch (but a few fingerprints – no white gloves, unfortunately). The stand (185 pounds) comes in its own box, is styled in exactly the same way as the 006, and thoughtfully includes the entire area under the TV to be used to display your components – wire runners are included along the back to make the finished installation neat and tidy. A splendid-looking set of powered speakers are easily attached to the sides of the screen, and provide immediate sound in place of an outboard surround sound system.

The back apron of the set has six inputs, with a courtesy seventh on the front left below the screen. These include four banks of component/S-video/composite inputs and another two HDMI connections, one with analog L/R inputs compatible with the DVI output of a DVD player (which contains no audio). Finally, there are two antenna/cable inputs (for PIP windows) on F connectors that are Qualm Cable Card compatible (check with your cable company), meaning that you don’t have to use an outboard cable box to watch premium digitally scrambled programming – the cards they send you can be used by the TV directly, allowing you to use the set’s slender silver remote control to change channels or any other function that can be programmed into its 256 memory slots. There are also a pair of 1394 Firewire inputs on four-pin mini-jacks suitable for use with many digital cameras, video camcorders and some computers, at least the ones made by Sony. Interestingly, the Firewire worked perfectly with SD sources, but when I connected my QUALIA 002 HDTV camcorder, SDTV 480p sources showed clear through with sound, but not HDTV 720p or 1080i. The three JVC D-VHS decks I use could not play back anything other than 480i/p. But all other analog and digital inputs on the 006 performed flawlessly. I also particularly liked the fact the Sony lets you remove unused inputs from the scroll list, and you can assign a name from a short list of sources to any of the inputs, simplifying the changing of source inputs to a few clicks on the same remote button.

Because I am a professional audio and video calibrator, I see and work on just about every type of technology made in the last 60 years. But when I lit this television up, it was like the sun came out on a rainy day. Everything I looked at was immediately sharper, brighter and more three-dimensional-looking than on any other commercially available rear projector to date. It is simply a stunning image. HD Cable and the anamorphic DVD equivalent were the first items up for bid, beginning with “SWAT.” Half an hour into the film, Samuel L. Jackson and Collin Farrell stop at a street-side food stand. The most striking thing about the 006 is its tremendous ability to delineate three-dimensionality. In this scene, the sense that you can see around the far sides of people and other objects is seriously palpable, even though no such actual biocular information is present. I find this effect similar to looking at 35mm slides projected at the same realistic light levels and proportional size.

A similar 35mm slide comparison can be made with respect to color fidelity. The 006 is nothing short of outstanding. In “Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat,” almost every scene in the movie is outrageously color-coordinated. Yet for each shot, the sheer detail, range of hues and level of saturation produced a vibrancy that is normally reserved for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) member screenings; these feature a fresh print and a properly calibrated 35mm motion picture and 6.1 sound system. The purple cupcake paint splotches on the yellow wall of the kitchen, the orange fish in the green clay teapot and the blue-haired Thing One and Thing Two and their fire engine-red transdimensional Transportalator are just three consecutive examples where color choices by the cinematographer and director can produce more stunning, more realistic results at home with the 006 then in 99 percent of motion picture theaters throughout the world. This is not an exaggeration. Unless you’re lucky enough to be or know an Academy member, this SXRD television is the closest and most affordable way to see HDTV from the director’s chair.

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