Sony Bravia KDL-W5100 review:

Sony Bravia KDL-W5100

Sony includes four aspect ratio modes for HD sources, and a "Full Pixel" option that displays 1,080-resolution content without any scaling or overscan. We recommend using this setting unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which is the fault of the channel or service, not the TV.

Conveniences start with the TV Guide onscreen electronic programming guide (EPG). TVG allows the Sony to display a grid of information for antenna and cable channels, but people who tune primarily with an external cable or satellite box will probably use their box's EPG instead. In other words, TV Guide won't be useful for most W5100 series owners, and we didn't test it for this review.

We were pleased to see a two-step power saving option in the Eco menu that limited peak brightness and really cut down on energy consumption. Sony also includes a room lighting sensor, a mode to turn off the screen but leave the sound on, and another mode that automatically turns off the TV after a set period of inactivity.

Sony W5100 series
The back panel looks relatively sparse, as most of the connectivity is located on the side.

The W5100's connectivity is complete enough, but the company arranged the ports in an unusual way. Instead of mounting the majority of its HDMI inputs on the back panel, Sony stuck three of the four on the side-facing panel, leaving just one to the rear. The side panel also gets the VGA-style analog input for PCs, a USB port for music, photos and video, and an AV input with composite and S-video. The rear panel, meanwhile, merits that single HDMI port, two component-video inputs, an RF input for antenna or cable connections, the Ethernet port and some analog audio connections.

Sony W5100 series
The positioning of the side-panel connectivity makes it slightly easier to swap new gadgets in and out of your home theater.

One benefit for extra side-panel connectivity is improved access, which is a boon for people who frequently swap gear in and out of their systems. On the other hand, users who connect more than one piece of semipermanent HDMI equipment might prefer to see more than one rear HDMI port. In its favor, however, the side panel is roomy and recessed enough to accommodate fatter cables without exposing them to view from the front.

Overall the KDL-W5100 series exhibited very good picture quality, characterized by deep blacks--for a standard LCD--and mostly accurate color, along with the best dejudder processing available, if you like that sort of thing (we don't). On the other hand, its uniformity was definitely below average, dark area exhibited a bluish tinge, and we'd like the option to get antiblur without having to dejudder. All told, however, the W5100 was definitely the equal of, and receive the same score as, its more expensive cousin the KDL-XBR9.

TV settings: Sony KDL-46W5100
Setup of the Sony KDL-W5100 for our evaluation involved some tweaking of the Custom picture setting, which we found best for viewing in a darkened room. We're avoided the Cinema "scene" mode, which is also engaged when you press the Theater button, since the TV doesn't stay in that mode after you turn it off. The default Custom's Warm 2 color temperature was relatively accurate if somewhat blue, and calibration of the detailed white balance settings brought it nicely into line. Once we'd adjusted light output to our nominal 40ftl and chosen the most-accurate "1" gamma position, the set's gamma scored a respectable 2.27 compared to the target of 2.2.

After calibration we lined up the Sony KDL-W5100 against a few other comparable sets, including a pair of the company's own 52-inch LCDs--the step-up KDL-52XBR9 and the step-down KDL-52V5100--Samsung's higher-end LN52B750 and LN46B650, LG's 47LH50, Panasonic's TC-P50V10 plasma and the Pioneer PRO-111FD as our reference. The bulk of our image quality tests were conducted using the "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" on Blu-ray.

Black level: Among the displays in our lineup, the KDL-W5100 fell into the middle of the pack at producing a deep shade of black, which is no mean feat considering the quality of the comparison models. In dark scenes like the street outside the club in Chapter 3 or the passing train on the bridge in Chapter 8, black areas like the letterbox bars, the sides of the buildings, and the deepest shadows under the trestle appeared relatively dark and realistic. The plasmas along with the Samsung B750 all delivered a deeper shade of black, while the Sony XBR9 was about the same. The V5100 and B650 were very slightly brighter, and the LH50 was noticeably brighter. Shadow detail on the W510 was among the more accurate of the bunch, surpassing the B650 and the LG, for example, and we didn't notice any overt backlight fluctuations.

Color accuracy: We appreciated the W5100's accurate color in scenes with flesh tones, such as Darlene on the bed in the hotel room during Chapter 8. Her bare arms and face appeared natural and not too ruddy, as we saw on the Samsung B650 or the Sony V5100, but they did exhibit a slightly yellowish tinge we blame on color balance--we saw a similar effect on the XBR9, albeit to a greater extent than on the W5100. The other sets in our lineup looked more-accurate in skin tones. Primary and secondary colors, like the green plant and the red bedspread, were highly accurate.

As usual, however, the Sony's black and very dark areas turned quite blue as opposed to remaining neutral. The Samsung B650 and LG were worse in the regard, but the W5100 was still quite noticeably blue, and worse than the other displays in our lineup.

Video processing: Turning on Sony's MotionFlow dejudder mode is required if you want to get the antiblurring benefits of the W5100's 120Hz refresh rate, but doing so has the usual effect on film-based sources like "Walk Hard"--it makes them look more like video.

We compared Sony's Standard mode, the least objectionable of the two MotionFlow settings to our eye, against Standard on the Samsung and Low on the LG, and as in the past we liked the Sony's Standard best. The camera movement and pans of the "Walk Hard" musical sequence in Chapter 5, for example, looked more artificial and video-like, as if the camera was on too-smooth rails, on the Samsung and LG, while the Sony's Standard preserved more of the judder of film and thus looked better to our eye. As usual the "beauty" of dejudder is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and we really prefer Samsung's system overall, since it allows significantly more customization than Sony's simple two settings.

Our preference was to leave dejudder off for films, when we did so the W5100 handled 1080p/24 sources well. Our preferred test for this capability, the shot moving over the deck of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," revealed that the Sony properly preserved the cadence of film, without the characteristic hitching motion of 2:3 pull-down.

The W5100 deinterlaced 1080i video-based sources correctly and unlike the V5100, also handled film-based sources well as long as we engaged either the Auto 1 or the Auto 2 CineMotion setting. Motion resolution was normal for a 120Hz LCD: 500-600 lines with dejudder engaged (MotionFlow set to Standard or High), which dropped it to 300-400 lines with it turned off. As usual, we found it difficult to spot the effects of these resolution characteristics when watching normal program material.

Uniformity: The screen of the W5100 was the least-uniform across its surface among the models in our lineup. The main offenders were brighter areas in the corners in dark scenes, such as the "Springberry High School Talent Show 1953" titles against the black background, as well as the letterbox bars in every scene--those bright spots were more obvious than even the one on our XBR9 sample. We didn't notice any overt uniformity issues in bright areas however. From off-angle, the W5100 washed out at about the same rate as the other Sonys and Samsungs, and looked better than the LG.

Bright lighting: The Sony performed well in brighter rooms. The mostly matte screen of the W5100 handles reflections from windows and lights facing the screen quite well--better than the other non-Sony displays in our comparison, which all have glossy (the Samsungs) or glass (plasma) screens. It also preserved black levels in dark areas better than either of the two plasmas.

Standard-definition: The W5100 turned in an average standard-definition performance. It resolved every detail of a DVD source and fine details in the grass and stone bridge looked as sharp as we expected. With video-based sources we saw more jaggies on moving diagonal lines than on other displays, and more than on the V5100--although the waving American flag appeared about the same on all of the three Sony displays. The W5100's noise reduction performed very well, cleaning up the snowy, noisy shots of skies, and sunsets with aplomb, although the MPEG noise reduction option didn't seem to do much in those areas. CineMotion set to Auto1 engaged 2:3 pull-down to remove moire from the grandstands.

PC: As we expected from a 1080p LCD displaying computer sources, the W5100 resolved every detail of 1,920x1,080 via HDMI and VGA and delivered crisp text with no overscan or edge enhancement.

Before color temp (20/80) 5984/6545 Good
After color temp 6505/6593 Good
Before grayscale variation 173 Good
After grayscale variation 74 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.638/0.328 Good
Color of green 0.283/0.601 Good
Color of blue 0.147/0.051 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: The Sony KDL-46W5100 was among the most efficient non-LED-based displays we've measured this year, if only by a hair compared with the like-size competition.

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Sony KDL-W5100 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Sony KDL-46W5100.

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