I have yet to review an RPTV that’s real competition for this one, so I didn’t even waste my time dragging any out for a side-by-side comparison. Instead, I went straight to my reference 55" Hitachi plasma. I knew the Sony would win the dark scenes by a country mile, but I was really curious about the bright ones. The calibrated Hitachi has a way of looking sharp as a tack and remarkably lifelike on the best HD material, at least on brighter scenes. With both HD tuners receiving 1080i off-the-air signals and both sets adjusted to perfection (the Sony using the factory grayscale calibration), the contest was on.
Right away, several color differences stood out, though grayscale differences were subtle. On the Sony, reds were less orange, making tomatoes look much more real. Blues were a tiny bit bluer as well. Both sets were guilty of exaggerating certain shades of green. Flesh tones were more believable and hard to fault on the Sony. Resolution, too, was an easy Sony win—the writing on Conan O’Brian’s cup was distinctly clearer as were other fine details in any picture—yet without resorting to enhancement tricks. Artifacts on the buildings behind Jay Leno were about half as annoying on the Sony, probably because no scaling (only deinterlacing) is required for 1080i sources. Switching to a 720p broadcast (more ideal for the plasma) didn’t defeat the Sony’s resolution advantage.
The Sony also had less video noise and a smoother, more film-like picture at close (10'-12') viewing distances. Up close, the plasma exhibited a bit of the screen-door effect. The Sony didn’t, thanks to more pixels with less space between them, but the screen sometimes brought attention to itself by imparting a certain sheen to large objects, particularly bright white ones.
Still, the Hitachi plasma had an edge in that “you are there” illusion. Scenes containing a lot of white could go far brighter on the Sony, but more typical scenes were brighter on the Hitachi. This difference in gamma was the trick that made the plasma look more three-dimensional on the impressively shot late-night shows. The Sony, however, has a GAMMA CORRECTION control, and raising this a notch brightened up the midrange enough to give it that same illusion of reality the Hitachi sometimes had.
Dark shows in HD like Law and Order looked great on this set. Only the best CRT sets have this sort of darkscene detail and color saturation. I saw virtually no false contouring. I suspect the Panasonic and latest Pioneer plasmas would come closer to the Sony’s stunning black level and dark scene performance, but I’d be surprised if any current display (short of a front projector) could match this HD picture overall. This is one serious RPTV. Too bad you can’t hang it on the wall.
DVDs, which exhibit much less resolution than true HD programming, can look really beautiful on the very best CRT-based RPTVs, though only one or two truly high-end ones remain available. The Sony can hold its own against any of these, even in a dark home-theater environment, as few CRT sets have good enough DC restoration to allow them to beat the Sony’s remarkable blacks. My best DVD results were achieved with the Pioneer DV-59AVi player from its HDMI output at 1080i, with component-video 480i/p not far behind. The difficult Vanilla Sky and Master and Commander discs were shown beautifully. Interestingly, 480i/p from the HDMI output was not as good; test patterns indicated that this resolution is slightly rolled off at the Sony’s HDMI input.
Standard-definition sources like analog cable looked as good as I’ve seen them on such a large screen, but don’t expect miracles.
waited a long time for a self-contained microdisplay that’s as good for a dark home theater as it is for Monday Night Football with the lights up full. It’s finally here. Sony’s latest SXRD rearprojection TV is a real winner with few faults and fewer peers. I know there’s great appeal for flat-panel aesthetics, but if you’ve got a little more floor space, the KDS-R60XBR1 will give you a better overall picture and longer life (and with no screen-burn potential) than any plasma now available, and for less money. Rear-projection sets produced up to this point—move to the rear. SXRD has set a new standard.
They’re coming to take this set away from me now, but I’ll be okay, in time. Besides, the newest 1080p DLP rear-projection sets are coming here next. Some of these may offer stiff competition, but you’ll not likely see anything short of a top-flight front projector that will actually beat this set this year.