It’s refreshing to see an American company spring up with a noholds- barred, ultra-high-end rearprojection HDTV. The Brillian 6580iFB03 is certainly that, with technology and unusual features galore. Of course, 1080p sets are everywhere this year, but this one can actually accept a 1080p signal from one of the new Blu-ray or HD DVD players that are on the way. Most of the others must deinterlace 1080i input signals.
The LCoS technology used in this set makes it similar to the JVC D-ILA and Sony SXRD competition, but the Brillian is much more of a videophile’s dream with tweaking capabilities second to none. Custom-installation potential was another goal—this set is designed to protrude only two inches when mounted in a wall, though it requires 21 inches of depth.
If you like watching two ball games at once, just about any set will give you picture-in-picture (PIP) capability, but the Brillian lets you watch two games in a split-screen configuration with both in HD. The set provides three tuners: a pair of NTSC (analog) tuners suitable for off-the-air and regular cable reception along with an ATSC/QAM (digital) tuner for digital broadcasts and digital cable. There are three component inputs plus a VGA input for analog computer video, while a DVI input handles digital sources, including HDCP copy-protected sources and home-theater PCs.
The set is operated by a slick universal/ programmable remote with an illuminated touchscreen, a great layout, and a user-friendly feel. It can also run the rest of your system almost as simply and effectively as a $1000 Philips Pronto. Even the owner’s manual is unique, with 195 pages of well-written and easy-to-understand English.
The Brillian powers up and runs in just about the same way as other sets, but if you look deep enough, you’ll find controls in the VIDEO menu that are simply more advanced than those in most other displays. Without getting mired down in technical jargon (which is hard to avoid with this set), I’ll just say that just about every aspect of its video performance is tweakable, and that includes not just the usual controls, but also white balance, color decoder, and gamma—not just for each input, but also for each of the three modes (DAY, NIGHT, and CUSTOM) within each input.
Three gamma presets—VIVID, NORMAL, and CINEMA—determine how quickly the light level rises out of black. But if you’re into tweaking, you can cook up and save 30 of your own custom gamma curves. In fact, gamma is adjustable for all three colors and at 64 different points. You can lock your kids out of the tweaking areas, but there’s a convenient factory reset just in case.
Screen uniformity in the color of white (not brightness) has long been a problem for LCoS sets, so Brillian really went overboard to solve that problem at the factory level. Even some Sony SXRD sets have had a problem with this recently. DLP sets have no such uniformity issues, but they do have the dreaded “rainbows” that annoy some people to no end.
A set this complex has a good chance of picture variability from unit to unit as it comes off the assembly line or the delivery truck. Realizing this, Brillian has included in the set’s cost a complete ISF calibration in buyers’ homes. Specially selected independent ISF technicians will tweak the set for you at the factory’s expense.
I was lucky enough to have an engineer from Brillian help me unpack and set up the 6580. While he was here, he helped me understand some of the incredibly complex video tweaks that are possible. Via DVI, the set looked okay as delivered, but later, as I began trying different inputs, I realized why Brillian wants these sets field-calibrated. The two HD component inputs were so green that they were virtually unwatchable. Whether or not this sample was typical is impossible to say, but with an ISF grayscale calibration included in the sale, it’s a moot point. Normally, I evaluate sets primarily on how they look as delivered, but with this one, I did most of my viewing and evaluating after I calibrated it. There was one operational glitch: Moving connections from one input to another would occasionally lock up the set, requiring me to unplug it for a few seconds.
Bright scenes on Dish Network’s Voom channels looked great in HD. The Brillian is very bright, and I had to pull CONTRAST down from the default setting to eliminate an unwanted shift in white balance in the brightest whites. Even after this adjustment, it was still brighter than most RPTVs. The color decoder is remarkably accurate, even without calibration. I liked the NORMAL and MOVIE gamma settings. MOVIE was initially much darker, requiring a significantly higher BRIGHTNESS setting to optimize black level and correct the excessive overall darkness.