During the five years that I’ve been in this biz, few technological developments have stirred up the anticipation and unadulterated lust that Sony’s SXRD technology has. SXRD stands for Silicon Xtal (Crystal) Reflective Device—a three-chip reflective LCoS technology with full 1920x1080 resolution. (That’s two million pixels for those keeping score at home!)
SXRD has been a key component in Sony’s launch of its “Qualia”-branded products—an exclusive line of specialty gear sold through a limited number of dealers, including Sony’s own Qualia stores. To understand the Qualia store concept, think of an Apple store focused on expensive consumer electronics and worked by “retail consultants” dressed in tailored black suits, like agents “K” and “J” from Men in Black.
The first SXRD display was a $30k front projector—the Qualia 004 (reviewed in Issue 54). The Qualia 006 isn’t exactly Sony’s attempt to bring SXRD to the masses—it’s a 70" (diagonal) RPTV that costs $13,000, and that price doesn’t include the gorgeous stand provided for this review.
But the Qualia 006’s significance can’t be overstated. At a time when there is more HD content than ever before and high-def DVD is just around the corner, it is the industry’s only 1920x1080 RPTV in current production. The Qualia 006 is Sony’s “statement” RPTV in every way.
The Look Of Love
Though it’s typical to start a review by swooning over the appearance of a product, in this case the bling is justified. The “white glove” delivery and setup I got are standard service for Qualia customers. While this was a setback to my ego, you should be pleased to know that stepping up to Sony’s top-of-the-line will make you feel like an industry big shot, too. Sticking with the MIB theme, the Qualia 006 and its matching stand (which is over six feet wide and weighs a substantial 191 pounds) are finished in a slick and rather sci-fi-ish silver and black. The protective screen outlines the screen area in black, which increases subjective contrast and creates the illusion that the Qualia’s massive screen is floating in space above the stand. A Sony logo (that can be turned off in the menu) glows a smoky gray from a black area below the screen. The 006’s speaker system attaches at the sides and is finished in silver. Photos alone can’t convey how the 006 commands a room, well before the picture lights up. The remote is heavy and substantial in feel, with a brushed aluminum finish. It’s got a lot going on with its scores of buttons, but is well conceived. It doesn’t have the gee-whiz touch of a backlight that automatically glows upon being picked up, as the Qualia 004’s remote does, but it nevertheless lives up to its end of the Qualia statement.
The 006 is as outfitted with all the connections and features one would expect from a Sony flagship, so I’m just going to touch on some of the most relevant. First, the 006 has two HD tuners—an over-the-air ATSC tuner, and a CableCARD slot with a QAM tuner for HD over digital cable. Two component- video inputs are included, each capable of handling 480i/p, 720p, and 1080i signals. Two HDMI inputs (480p, 720p, and 1080i) are also available, which is excellent, as a fixed-pixel display such as this deserves to be driven by digital connections to source components. One of the HDMI inputs includes an analog stereo audio input for use with a DVI source (via DVIHDMI breakout cable) and the 006’s integrated speakers. A TosLink optical digital audio output is included to send audio signals from the integral digital tuners to an external audio system, but it does not output a digital audio signal from the HDMI inputs as some displays I’ve seen do.
There are not one but three i.LINK FireWire inputs, compatible with HD set-top boxes (STBs), D-VHS decks, digital camcorders, hard-disc recorders, and, perhaps in the future, Blu-ray disc recorders.
Functionality and Use
The Qualia 006 has three picture modes—VIVID, STANDARD, and PRO— capable of storing adjustments for each input. The nit I’ll pick with that is that the VIVID and STANDARD modes block out sections of adjustments in the menu, making them far less useful and less customizable than PRO mode. Selecting the PRO mode and switching to the WARM COLOR TEMP made for a hell of a good picture out of the box. Engaging DIRECT mode defeats Sony’s DRC processing (Digital Reality Creation) and didn’t improve the picture. I left it off.
In the ADVANCED VIDEO menus, adjustments vary a lot for different scan rates and sources, and for component video and DVI/HDMI. With component 480i, the default PRO mode picture was hideously etched and overenhanced unless the “Reality” adjustment was moved from the default to the lowest setting. (“Clarity” doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the impact on the picture that “Reality,” which is described as a detail enhancer, does.) With 1080i sources via DVI the default “Reality” setting of 40 was just fine, and artifact-free.