Sony KV-36XBR400 Direct-View Television
It used to be that a TV plugged into the antenna or cable outlet and that was that. Then we got fancy and connected the antenna to the VCR and then to the TV.
Granted, it was twice as complex (two connections, instead of one), but it was still simple enough for your grandmother to understand. (OK, maybe not your grandmother, but at least your uncle got it.) Then came home theater, anamorphic DVDs, and DTV. Complications are now abundant enough for even Ivy League graduates to require professional assistance. Fortunately, some companies, like Sony, are here to help make things easy again.
A. The KV-36XBR400 is Sony's answer to all the home theater confusion out there right now. It's simple to use and simple to recommend.
Sony unveiled their new 36-inch, direct-view TV/HD monitor to the press at a technical briefing some months ago, and the feature list is impressive. Not one but two component inputs accept either analog or digital television signals with 480i, 480p, or 1080i signal resolutions. The set also accepts progressive-scan DVD players, although its own internal DRC video processor upgrades normal 480i signals to the progressive equivalent of 960i. Add in the full complement of audio/video inputs and outputs and Sony's S-control, and this is a set that will easily integrate into any home theater system. Sony has even enhanced the picture-in-picture function to include a picture next to a picture (they call it picture-and-picture) that can place HDTV images side by side with NTSC pictures.
With all the technical wizardry that's in the set, though, it's the ergonomic features that really set it apart. Granted, this isn't readily noticeable given the typical Sony remote and onscreen menu. The garden-variety controller uses a large rubber knob to help you navigate through the attractive and intuitive menu. Remote buttons are easy enough to find by touch, but the glow-in-the-dark feature fades with any length of time in a dark room.
The coolest button on the whole remote—and one tied in with a great feature in the menu—is the one labeled "picture mode." This button cycles through the menu's picture-mode settings: standard, vivid, movie, and pro. These offer the preset modes, as well as adjustable picture settings (contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness, and color temperature) to tune the picture for a particular program, person, mood, time of day, etc. Cycling through the adjusted settings with the push of a button gives you nearly instant access to a bright picture during the day and a darker, more-accurate image at night.
|B. This set has plenty of connections, including two component inputs.|
Of the settings, the movie mode comes closest to being accurate. Brightness adjustments in nearly all the picture modes are correct, although you'll have to change them if you decide to lower the ridiculously high contrast level. Various picture settings turn different enhancements on or off. For example, DC restoration (the ability of the TV to keep dark images a deep black, regardless of how the rest of the picture changes) is extremely stable in the movie and pro modes. This provides better shadow detail when viewing in a dark environment. The vivid mode, on the other hand, floats the black level. This means dark images get lighter when the picture is dark and get darker, or sometimes disappear, when the picture is brighter. While this may not be accurate, it does allow for a more-dynamic picture in brighter room settings. The standard mode is somewhat of a compromise between vivid and movie.