Syntax-Brillian 6580iFB03 1920x 1080p 65" LCoS HDTV Page 2
Since the price includes an ISF calibration, there's no point in talking about the pre-calibration picture except to say that low light information took on a slight greenish tinge, while after calibration, as the chart shows, the set tracked a 6500-degree gray scale in a reasonably linear and accurate fashion, though not with 100 percent accuracy in the middle IRE range. Nonetheless, low light signals still appeared to have a very slight, green bias. ( Though the Before readings may only be of academic interest in this case, we show both the Before and After results in the color temperature chart as is our usual practice. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the out-of-box Before results on this set will show more unit-to-unit variation than with many televisions. Since a free on-site calibration is provided, it seems likely that the assembly line tolerances don't need to be as tight as on many sets, which will speed up assembly time.—Ed. )
There was also a puzzling artifact noticeable only when displaying uniform field test patterns (and even then not always), consisting of a series of gray vertical lines beginning near the top of the screen and fanning out from a central point as they descended downward. I hadn't noticed these lines until the test patterns were put up during the calibration.
Shortly thereafter at a press event, I was talking with a compatriot from another publication (we do talk to each other, you know) and he mentioned having the Syntax-Brillian in for review. Before I could ask, he said, "Did you notice those unusual lines. . .?" I responded in the affirmative, adding that they were not discernible on any normal program material. He told me that it had been such a serious problem with his sample that he contacted Syntax-Brillian. Apparently a few early samples were built using defective mirrors. His sample was far worse than mine, and the replacement set he got was perfect, so if you're contemplating purchasing the 6580iFB03, I wouldn't worry about it, but I felt duty bound to report it.
I am an LCoS/SXRD/D-ILA fan, whatever you want to call it. I appreciate the densely packed pixels, which create a high "fill factor," and frees the image of the "screen door" effect, not to mention the brightness and the fast response time. I also appreciate a picture that's not presented "under glass." With memories of Sony's KDSR60XBR1 SXRD RPTV as my reference fixed pixel RPTV, I put the Brillian through its paces for several weeks.
I understand that unlike audio, video has standards. Nonetheless, I believe in the end that televisions are made for watching not measuring, and that if anything measurable is way off the standard it will be detectable by eye. For instance, look at the majority of LCD and plasma sets and you see wildly electric, iridescent greens. Watch a golf event on such a set and you think you've just dropped acid. It doesn't take a SMPTE color space diagram to know the green is way oversaturated and the color point way off the mark. And it really doesn't take a measurement to know if black levels are washed out and grey looking.
When ISF calibrator Kevin Miller dialed in the Brillian he noted that the color coordinates were not "spot on," but they certainly were close enough to not cause psychedelic fairways and other obtrusive color errors. Familiar products in commercials, for instance, resembled what they look like in real life. Miller also noted via test pattern that the set displayed the promised 1920x1080 resolution, but that was apparent by eye from the moment I first turned on the set.
Every technology has its up and downsides. Microdisplay-based RPTVs have notoriously grainy looking high gain screens. Watch a pan over midday blue sky and you're easily distracted and sometimes disoriented by a "sugar coating" that remains fixed in space on the screen while the camera pans. The Sony has it, as do all micro-RPTVs I've seen, except for the Brillian. It had the most transparent presentation of any microdisplay-based RPTV I've seen, in part because it didn't exhibit any "sugar coating." Yet the picture was pleasingly bright and vibrant. Post calibration, the peak light output measured 115 foot-Lamberts! The 6580iFB03 is also equipped with the most non-reflective RPTV screen I've seen yet, though the Sony's was also outstanding in that regard. The Brillian's effective viewing angle is also noticeably wider than any other RPTV I've looked at, both vertically and (especially) horizontally.
In my Sony review, I carped about a scrim of video noise on live HD programming, such as baseball games, especially in shadow areas. For whatever reasons (signal or set quality or both), HD baseball games and other programs appeared much "quieter" through the Brillian, which combined with the "sugar free" screen helped produce an exceptionally three-dimensional and transparent picture.
At the same time, detail resolution was "you are there" spectacular, without being overly enhanced. This resulted in image textures that were somewhat more three-dimensional and less "video-like" than on the Sony. As with great audio, great video should have an effortless quality that allows the senses to relax instead of feeling taxed and fatigued. Watching the 6580iFB03 always produced that "correct," stable sensation of less processing, and in this case, less resulted in a picture that definitely delivered more. This held true when I ran my HD cablebox via component video or HDMI into the Brillian's DVI input (and I can't say I saw any significant differences between the two).
The overall color produced by the set was well balanced, vivid, and generally realistic, particularly the reds, which were on the rich ruby side, if slightly oversaturated. Greens were also somewhat overly vivid but nothing like what you see on most plasmas and LCDs.
The built-in ATSC tuner locked into all of the expected Over-The-Air channels and provided a picture that was somewhat brighter, more detailed and better focused than the older ATSC tuner built into my reference Hitachi CRT based RPTV. It was a slow channel changer, however.
While Syntax-Brillian suggested running DVD interlaced via its 480i input to take advantage of the built-in Pixelworks deinterlacer, my Camelot Technology Roundtable Mk.2 only offers progressive scan video from its component video output. Again, I found DVD picture quality somewhat less mechanical, more film-like and transparent through the Brillian compared to the Sony. In that regard it was more like the smoothly textured, film-like presentation of my CRT set, though neither the Brillian nor any other fixed pixel display can match the rich dark blacks produced by the old technology. The NTSC color decoder had measured spot-on so I wasn't surprised to find the color balance and saturation ideal.
Later, I borrowed my mother-in-law's $69 Panasonic DVD player and ran it interlaced through the set's 480i-only component input. Look, I didn't try to trip up the Pixelworks deinterlacer, nor did I test its 3:2 pulldown capabilities. I just watched a few movies and didn't notice any "jaggies," or other objectionable artifacts—not that I was looking for them. I was watching a movie. While the picture produced by the budget player wasn't quite as smooth-looking as my reference player, particularly in terms of light to dark transitions, which were sometimes noticeably more "blocky" within dimly lit scenes, for $69 it was laughably good. I concluded that DVDs shown on the Brillian, even with the $69 DVD player, looked more film-like than on any fixed pixel RPTV I've checked out so far.
As more of an "observational" video reviewer than a measurement-oriented one, I tend to judge a set's picture by how it looks over time. My chief measurement is "can I watch it over the long haul and remain convinced?" If there's a constant "wrong," such as noticeably washed out blacks, or electric greens, count me out. Being acclimated to CRT's superior black levels makes me particularly sensitive to poor contrast and murky black levels. I'd rather give up resolution and sharpness than put up with grayed out blacks and poor contrast. In fact I do, by owning a 300-pound CRT-based RPTV and sticking with it.
I'm the first to admit that there are many other video reviewers with greater technical expertise than I, and some who are "pickier" about finding minor glitches and elevating them to "major problem" status. However, I think there's more to being a video critic than technical expertise or picayune "gotcha" style fault-finding. I'm more interested in consistent day-to-day viewing satisfaction and having a balanced visual value system. I have seen sets praised that turn golf courses into Gatorade, and produce enough grain to fill a giant silo. I don't understand that.
The Sony KDS-R60XBR1 SXRD was a superb performer and has won universal, well-deserved praise, but for me personally, it was an "almost," and not a definitive step up from my lower resolution CRT set. Brillian's 6580iFB03 offers a bigger screen size and a much bigger price tag than the Sony. But it also produced a subjectively better picture and the best overall picture of any RPTV I've seen, especially in terms of transparency and freedom from both video artifacts, and "processy-ness." It produced a picture that was exciting, but not over-stimulating or fatiguing; it was inviting without becoming overly familiar. That's the only way to describe a picture that was so good I looked forward to seeing it every time I turned on the set. As with fine audio, don't expect to be blown away or to completely appreciate the set's sophisticated performance at first encounter. What the Brillian does best is more subtle and takes longer to appreciate. But once you do, you'll be happy to have bought based on performance instead of price.
Wide viewing angle, "sugar free" picture
Excellent ATSC tuner
ISF calibration included in purchase price
No HDMI or Firewire port and only one DVI input
Slow reaction time on many functions