Sony Bravia KDL-40V5100 LCD HDTV Page 2
I was initially unable to get the Sony to consistently display, without geometric distortion, sources that required either the Normal or Zoom aspect ratio settings. A firmware update that Sony sent us for our sample, which turned out to be from a pre-production run, appeared to cure the problem.
The Nitty Gritty
The Sony scored in the low-middle range in color and last in detail. In reality, only the Panasonic’s raw score in the latter category was the clear leader of the pack, with the others tightly clustered below it. But the Sony achieved a winning score in blacks, together with a tie (with the Panasonic) in shadow detail. Its solid second-place finish overall (first among the LCDs) and first-place preference by two of the five panelists are also nothing to sneeze at.
In my own time with these sets, the Sony’s black level and natural punch impressed me in a way that I never expected from an LCD without an advanced and expensive technology like LED backlighting with local dimming. The only distraction from the Sony’s uniformly rich blacks and solid shadow detail was a patch of lighter black in one corner, which was only visible on a very dark or full black image. (This suggests that a gnome with a flashlight had settled in there for the night.)
The judges definitely agreed. “Best black level on axis and best shadow detail of the bunch,” wrote one judge, although he was a bit bothered by the way bright scenes washed out as he moved off axis. He also observed that the Sony had more video noise than the others in dark scenes. But none of this kept him from giving it solid 10 scores for both black level and shadow detail.
“Did a great job on The Dark Knight,” commented another, who also found the off-axis fading noticeable—but curiously more on bright scenes than on dark ones. On a scene in King Kong that shows a dark close-up of Kong’s hairy face and shoulders (chapter 48), the same panelist noted that the Sony had the best shadow detail of the group. “I keep coming back to this set on the dark nighttime scenes,” another one wrote. She then noted in the best analogy of the day that while the Sony (and the Panasonic) looked amazing on the star field from Stargate—like stargazing in the desert—viewing it on the other three sets was like looking up at the night sky in Los Angeles. Anyone who has lived in or visited any big city will immediately understand what she meant.
Two panelists marked the Sony’s color high, one graded it low, and two put it in the “meh” zone. Some found the colors a little on the pale side, which may have been due to a too-conservative approach in setting the color during setup. The Sony lacks a blue-only mode to assist with this. While one of the two most positive boosters thought that the set changed dramatically when viewed off axis, the other thought it held up except at unnaturally wide off-axis positions. More than one of the judges thought that the Sony was the best-looking set with the lights on. One of them even remarked that he thought it looked the best in both lighting situations—lights on and lights off.
While the Sony didn’t draw raves overall for its resolution, at least one panelist rated it highly. However, another who also gave it a high rating commented that it fell down on really fast motion. And while a third thought it looked a little soft overall compared with the others, a fourth commented that on Casanova it did a great job showing Heath Ledger’s worry lines.
The Sony came in a close second in the judging. Two members of the five-judge panel voted it first overall, and two rated it second. No one really disliked it. I can’t say how I might have voted had I been participating blind, but I like to think I would have placed it on top, given my partiality to serious viewing in a darkened room and the resulting need for great black levels. As I noted earlier, the Sony also won raves for its performance with the lights on—although that was a very short part of the test and not included in the scoring.
This Sony may not have grabbed a victory here, but it’s still a clear winner.