Sony’s Bravia line of LCD TVs is making a big splash in the ever-popular world of flat panels, especially among women shoppers who are apparently drawn to its elegant design. It’s not that guys don’t care about styling—most would agree that these TVs are gorgeous—but getting dibs on the remote is what really counts most.
At the top of the Bravia heap is the XBR3 line, which includes the KDL-46XBR3, a 46-incher with 1920x1080 resolution. The TV’s most visually striking feature is its “floating glass” bezel, which makes the screen appear to float in thin air. Very cool.
The input complement is ample, and an onboard digital TV tuner displays free over-the-air HDTV signals, most of which are delivered in the 1080i format. This set’s 1920x1080 resolution is great for programs in this format as well as for movies on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, all of which can be displayed pixel-for-pixel with no image-degrading overscanning.
Sony touts the Bravia Engine Pro video processor with Digital Reality Creation Multi-Function version 2.5 (DRC-MFv2.5), a marketing mouthful that encompasses a variety of tasks. Among those tasks is edge enhancement, which cannot be completely defeated; even with all the relevant controls turned off, sharp horizontal edges sometimes include thin white lines that aren’t actually part of the picture, an artifact technically known as “ringing.”
Another ballyhooed feature is the Live Color Creation System, which is said to achieve a more precise and wider color reproduction by combining signal processing with a backlight called—get this—Wide Color Gamut Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (WCG-CCFL). I’m sorry, but “more precise” and “wider” are mutually exclusive when it comes to color reproduction. A display should accurately reproduce the colors that were used to create the programs, not a wider range. I selected the Normal color-space setting to achieve the most accurate color reproduction.
The KDL-46XBR3 includes a dynamic-contrast feature called ACE (Advanced Contrast Enhancement) that changes the backlight intensity according to the overall brightness on the screen at any given moment. As usual, I left this “feature” off, preferring not to be distracted by a constantly changing backlight.
The remote is a so-so universal type able to control up to three devices other than the TV. There are no direct-access buttons to select the desired input. There’s not even a button labeled Input; instead, it’s called TV/Videdeo, which harkens back to the days of VCRs and TVs tuned to channel 3 or 4. To top things off, using this button to switch inputs was maddeningly slow; selecting inputs from the menu was much faster.
Speaking of the menu, well, it’s not the most intuitive I’ve seen. For example, you have to dig down two or move levels just to get to the picture controls. At least adjusting those controls works as it should—the menu disappears and the selected control moves to the bottom of the screen, allowing you to see most of the image you’re trying to improve.
As with most TVs, the KDL-46XBR3 came out of the box too bright and too blue. Turning down the backlight to its minimum setting helped reduce the black level—enabling the set to produce deeper blacks—but it was still higher than I like to see, leading to a somewhat washed-out look.
None of the color-temperature presets produced a grayscale close to ideal. (Color temperature and grayscale refer to the TV’s ability to reproduce the color of gray from black to white, which is critical for accurately reproducing all colors.) The Warm1 and Warm2 presets were equally off in different directions: Warm1 tended toward blue while Warm2 went in the direction of yellow. I went with Warm1, but it’s definitely a matter of taste.
Looking at the HQV Benchmark DVD, fine lines in the detail test were clearly visible, though the color lines were somewhat less so. The next tests include sharp, moving, nearly horizontal edges between light and dark regions; such moving edges can exhibit so-called “jaggies” if they are not processed well.
With the Sony, these edges were awash in jaggies, as were the edges between the red and white stripes of the waving American flag. And the processor never seemed to successfully compensate for the conversion from film’s 24 frames per second to video’s 30fps (technically called 3:2 pulldown).
On the plus side, the intentionally noisy clips were cleaned up quite nicely with the set’s NR (noise reduction) control. Still, I recommend using a good progressive- scan DVD player with the KDL-46XBR3, bypassing the set’s deinterlacing and 3:2 pulldown compensation.