Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD 1080p RPTV Page 3
Does SXRD Have The Necessary " Wow" Factor? Look, there are two ways of evaluating picture performance: judging the big picture observationally (subjectively), and picking it apart by the pixels by measuring. I realize that applying the audio model to video isn't quite appropriate since audio is a moving target with few accepted standards either in the recording or playback process. With video there are standards both in the production and reproduction ends. Nonetheless, in the real world of real consumers, watching is the activity, not putting up test patterns or counting the nipple hairs visible through Batman's costume.
This set "wowed" observers at this past fall's CEDIA Expo, and for good reason. So let's start with the big picture: though not perfect, overall, this is easily the best RPTV video display I've seen yet. On HD material, 1920x1080p resolution—especially the 1920 spec—brings a level of clarity and detail that is literally eye-popping, not to mention mouth-watering and hypnotizing (on top notch source material).
Horizontal off-axis viewing was excellent as far as approximately 65 degrees, while vertically, from around 10 feet away it was around 30 degrees from the center in either direction, as Sony specs it in the instructions.
Displaying the full resolution being broadcast is simply a no-brainer, and since the light engine includes three true 1920x1080 chips, there's no fooling around with color wheels or the Wobulation used in current attempts by TI to offer this level of resolution with a single DLP chip by conning each digital mirror into handling two pixels.
I don't mean to be doctrinaire: I've seen the TI system and it looks pretty good, but SXRD will force the DLP camp to switch to three-chip, full resolution light engines, while matching Sony's aggressive pricing for these sets. That puts Sony in the driver's seat, which is where they want to be.
The resolution hypnotized family and friends on sports events like The World Series and Sunday NFL Football. SXRDs "response time" is fast enough to handle sports without noticeable blurring, and whatever the Sony does to scale native 720p broadcasts from FOX and ABC is done well enough to avoid producing noticeable image artifacts. And there is simply no pixel structure to be seen, no matter how close to the screen you get.
Beyond that, this set produced CRT-like black levels and contrast ratios. The picture is both bright and high contrast, giving it a level of image three-dimensionality formerly reserved (in my eyes) for CRT. Even in the "Pro" position, this set can be watched during the day without apology. And thanks to an exceptionally non-reflective, glare-free screen, I could leave the shades fully up on three windows directly behind my couch and not catch a distracting reflection—even on a sunny day. And of course in terms of flicker-free image stability and overall picture uniformity, fixed pixel displays can't be bettered.
A while back, NBC broadcast a "live" episode of Will and Grace, that on this set produced the most solid, three-dimensional images I have ever seen on a television. The actors appeared as "fleshy entities," not as electronic images flashed on a screen. It was partly due to the lighting as that illusion has not quite been created on The Tonight Show, Late Night With David Letterman, or Saturday Night Live, though all three shows dazzle in every way displayed on this set compared to my CRT-based reference RPTV.
Subjectively, without putting up a chromaticity chart and measuring (which I don't have the instruments to do) the color gamut is a big improvement over earlier Sony sets, especially in the reds, which are mouth-wateringly deep, ruby-like, and not at all orangey. Perhaps the greens were a bit "minty," but not to the point of being cartoonish. Most of the time, post-calibration, the color balance was as natural and life-like as I've seen from an RPTV. Flesh tones appeared as well balanced and blotch-free as I've seen on a television.
I also couldn't use measurements to check out that dynamic, Advanced Iris. I'll leave that and other measurements to TJN.
Switching to DVD, I watched scenes from Dark City, and found detail in low level scenes—and gradations between light and dark— to be as close to my reference Hitachi CRT RPTV as I've seen here, to the point where black level performance and contrast were really (finally) non-issues. While Sony recommends setting the advanced iris to Off for sports and High for movies, I found that using either setting all the time produced pictures that did not call attention to any noticeable deficiencies.
A newly restored DVD release of The High and the Mighty, filmed in WarnerColor, produced impressive, film-like detail and richly saturated colors. Though the color decoder was apparently optimized for HD (where it was virtually perfect), and "pushed" the reds ever so-slightly on standard definition signal, reds were well-saturated and never displayed any "movement."
One of the problems with displaying this level of resolution with this much light output is that you see every defect and problem associated with the source material, and it's often difficult to determine whether a problem is from the source or from the set.
There were three negatives worth discussing. One was a granularity noticeable at times that was probably caused by the high gain screen. This is something that has afflicted every microdisplay RPTV I've seen, but at times it seemed to live within the Sony's picture. This set probably doesn't need such a high gain screen but competing in the retail environment probably dictates the choice. Wouldn't it be great if we could be offered two screen options?
In the case of the screen granularity, it was most noticeable and annoying on panned bright backgrounds like big sky landscapes, but even when watching darkly lit HD movies it was often apparent and could be considered intrusive.
Another lingering issue was the sensation of "sugar," a grain in the image that didn't move and didn't appear to be related to film or screen grain, but seemed to intrude upon the picture. This problem was very minor in the big picture (pun intended), and I have to say that overall, HD films from cable looked quasi-CRT and "film-like."
The other issue was video noise. Again it was difficult to tell what was generating it, but while watching the World Series, a scrim of busy movement would assert itself on large expanses of moderately dark images, such as the walls behind the plate and outfield. But other HD program material appeared to be noise and grain free. [Per Michael's point that an issue like this could be inherent in the source and not the display, I too noticed some moderate to severe noise during the otherwise spectacular World Series broadcasts on Fox using two different fixed pixel projectors. –Ed.]
Finding fault with the picture produced by this set required hard work, whether watching HD, DVD or even analog cable channels (though that's where you really saw the noise, not surprisingly). This is one set that looks about as good as video gets on all sources—at least as good as I've seen from any RPTV.
Physically impressive, with a distinctively superior picture to match, Sony's new KDS-R60XBR1 sets the standard for large screen rear projection television. It beats the images produced by any large screen LCD RPTV I've seen (including Sony's), offering subjectively CRT-like black level and contrast ratio, richly saturated, natural colors, and levels of detail only a full 1920x1080 chip (or three) can produce. For now, it appears that only JVC's new 1080p LCoS sets offer these SXRD sets any competition—at least technically.
The high gain screen grain and perhaps some intrinsic noise are the only serious complaints I have about this set's picture performance. That said, if you mostly watch DVDs on a good CRT based RPTV, I'm not sure you'd gain enough to make trading up to a set like this worthwhile.
Nevertheless, with this level of performance priced at $5000 for a 60" display, predictions of the demise of rear projection television are wishful thinking at best. Show me a 60"plasma or LCD flat panel display priced at $5000 that delivers this kind of picture quality, and I'll reconsider. For now, this set appears to put Sony back on top. It's really something special.
Highs and Low
Full 1920x1080p HD resolution
CRT-like black levels and contrast
Rich color gamut and outstanding saturation
No place for center channel speaker
Poorly organized instruction manual
No direct input access