In terms of picture-affecting features, there are the obligatory selectable color temps (four in all) and picture modes (only three). A backlight feature that controls the amplitude of the lamps driving the panel is largely responsible for the panel's good black-level performance. DRC (Digital Reality Creation) modes for the video processing are largely ineffective, and the CineMotion feature that engages 2:3 pull-down is buried in a completely separate area of the menu.
A number of features in the advanced menu are best left off, including Black Corrector, Advanced C.E. (Contrast Enhancer) and Gamma, to name a few. The Color Space feature should be set to Normal for SD sources and Wide for high-def ones. Good news for people who like tweaking the image: Sony has chosen to remove the grayscale, or White Balance, controls from their service menu on this set, and has placed them in the Advanced Menu for anybody to use. We also appreciate that grayscale calibration can now be done for each input separately. A Color Matrix feature offers a Custom setting allowing you to actually choose the color decoding scheme for each source. This is a great addition that will allow you to get your color decoding correct for all your sources.
The Screen menu has four aspect-ratio controls for both standard-def and high-def sources. A Display Area control adjusts overscan; we loved its Full Pixel option because it showed the extreme edges of the image and didn't subject 1080-resolution sources to scaling. We recommend using this setting unless you see interference along the edges.
Connectivity is also quite generous. A total of three HDMI inputs, with one on the set's side, was an unusually pleasant surprise since most HDTVs have just two. Two component-video inputs, one S-Video input, three composite-video inputs (one also on the side panel), two RF inputs (one for cable and one for antenna), and a 15-pin VGA input (1,920x1,080 resolution) complete the video connections. A set of stereo audio outputs and a digital optical audio output are also on board. Finally, a headphone jack is also included on the side A/V input. Having lived with the Sony KDL-46XBR2 for a couple of weeks before reviewing it, we came to the conclusion that we liked just about every aspect of picture quality with only one exception: black levels. Although better than just about any LCD panel we've ever seen in that area, there were still times when black and dark areas of the picture were a bit noisy and not quite rich enough compared to those of the best plasma sets, such as Pioneer's PDP-5070HD. Color accuracy and clarity, on the other hand, are the XBR2's main strengths, and it produced color more accurately than any other LCD flat panel we've ever evaluated.
We began our evaluation by tweaking the picture settings to our liking. After some experimentation, we chose to set Gamma to off, and it was still not quite right, resulting in somewhat rocky or choppy grayscale tracking. Video processing was a bit noisy, and 2:3 pull-down, although present when Cinemotion is engaged, was a bit slow as evidenced by the Film sequence on the HQV test DVD. However, the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection was rendered smoothly and cleanly.
As we mentioned, color accuracy on the Sony surpasses that of any LCD we've seen yet. While the primary colors are not spot-on, they are much closer--especially in green--than most LCD panels' we've tested to date. Nonetheless, a Color Management System (CMS) that enables a technician to completely correct color would be a welcome feature on this set. Color decoding is also very accurate, which means that color saturation was excellent, with no dreaded
Scenes from the Seabiscuit DVD looked pretty darn good, with outstanding color saturation and natural skin tones. The grass on the inside of the race track looked particularly natural, thanks to the accurate primary color of green. For black level testing, we used the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back DVD. Blacks in space shots were convincing, and star fields looked solid with few visible artifacts. Training Day, arguably one of the sharpest transfers ever done on DVD, looked superb indeed. Chapter four, during the chase scene involving the cops and the VW bug, looked as sharp as we've ever seen it.
We were pleased to find that both the HDMI and the component-video inputs delivered all the resolution from a 1080i HD signal. We did not test the KDL-46XBR2's HDMI inputs for the ability to accept 1080p signals, but Sony's literature claims that they can, and the 40-inch KDL-40XBR2 handled 1080p/60 sources fine (however, not 1080p/24). The 46-inch KDL-46XBR2 also appears to de-interlace 1080i HD material correctly, preserving all the resolution.
HD material appeared exceptionally sharp on this panel. Natural Parks, a program on the Discovery HD channel, mostly looked awesome, but there was some visible noise in darker scenes. Tennis on the INHD channel also looked virtually razor sharp, with excellent color saturation and natural-looking skin tones.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,100/6,220K||Good|
|After color temp||6,800/6,350K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 303K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 250K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.651/0.320||Average|
|Color of green||0.298/0.621||Good|
|Color of blue||0.142/0.086||Poor|
|Black-level retention||Gray pattern stable||Average|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|