Last year, Sony sold the KDS-60A2000 for $3,699. This year, the exact same television, the KDS-60A2020, will sell for $800 less. The only difference between the two is color--and yes, we do prefer the new black exterior to last year's silver. Perhaps Sony was motivated to cut the price to compete with large-screen plasmas, such as Vizio's VM60PHDTV or even Panasonic's TH-58PX600U, or perhaps it's just a case of simple price erosion. Either way, the Sony KDS-60A2020 is poised to compete against the 2007 versions of other big-screen HDTVs, and while its technology is a year old, it's still perfectly viable. However, the most-demanding buyers will probably want to wait for the latest-and-greatest features to be found on newer models (see the Features section for more). The feature set of the KDS-A2020 is still nothing to sneeze at, and includes an SXRD light engine, full 1,920x1,080 (aka 1080p) native resolution, and scads of inputs and picture controls. Judging from last year's model, its image quality is impressive, delivering all the sharpness of the highest-resolution HDTV formats, excellent black level performance, and decent color. Of course, it still faces stiff competition from like-size plasmas and rear-projection sets, and for videophiles looking for the latest advances, last year's technology might not completely satisfy. For viewers looking for solid big-screen HDTV, however, the KDS-60A2020 remains a fine choice.
Series info: This review is of the 60-inch version, but our comments apply to every screen size in the series, namely, the 55-inch KDS-55A2020 and the 50-inch KDS-50A2020. Sony has not yet announced details on the 2007 successor to 2006's step-up XBR2 series.
The Sony KDS-60A2020 has tighter dimensions than earlier Sony SXRD rear-projection televisions, thanks to Sony's wise decision to move the speakers from the sides to the bottom. Its big 60-inch screen is surrounded by a thin, black frame that's set forward from the black cabinet. A silver strip runs the width of the cabinet's front, sitting above the perforated silver speaker panels and a flip-down door that hides a few principal controls as well as a set of inputs. Overall, we found the look attractive enough, striking a nice middle ground between the understated Panasonic PT-61DLX and the ultraslick Samsung HLS-6187W.
Measuring 55.75 by 39 by 20 inches (WHD) and weighing in at 94 pounds, the Sony KDS-60A2020 is right around the same size as the 61-inch Samsung, although about 3 inches deeper. To get this "tabletop" 60-inch HDTV up to eye level, you'll have to put it on a stand such as Sony's matching SU-RS11X.
While we would have appreciated glow-in-the-dark keys or other illumination, the longish remote generally stands out as a model of ergonomics. It can operate three other devices, and naturally, the company behind Blu-ray took care to equip its clicker with device controls for BD/DVD gear. The big central cursor control falls naturally under the thumb, and just enough shortcut keys are available to quickly cycle through picture, sound, and wide (aka aspect ratio) settings. A convenient tools key calls up a couple oft-used submenus, including picture and sound modes, wide-screen controls, and closed-captions.
The tools menu is even more welcome, because the main menu key summons a seemingly unnecessary interstitial screen that seems too focused on tuner controls: three of its five options pertain to cable and antenna channels, which cable and satellite box owners will rarely, if ever, utilize. Otherwise, Sony's menu design is characteristically clean and thoughtful throughout, offering text explanations of various functions and generally logical progression from basic to advanced functions. We also like the input menu, complete with options to label (with custom names as long as 10 characters) used connections and skip unused ones.
As we mentioned at the top, the KDS-60A2020 lacks some of the most cutting-edge features that likely will be found in upcoming HDTVs, such as the company's own 2007 XBR models, which we expect to be announced in June. We don't have full details on those new HDTV sets yet, but we expect some of their features to include Sony's xvYCC wide-gamut color, a higher refresh rate, more HDMI inputs (probably version 1.3) and a better-performing PC input, possibly DVI. We don't expect any groundbreaking picture quality improvements however.
The Sony KDS-60A2020 uses exactly the same LCoS-derived, SXRD-branded chips as its predecessor, the KDS-60A2000. There are a total of three chips, one each for red, green, and blue, each with 1,920x1,080 discrete pixels. This arrangement differs from that of DLP-based 1080p displays, which generally use a single chip and a color wheel to produce red, green, and blue. The Sony's 1,920x1,080 pixels exactly match the resolution of 1080i and 1080p HDTV sources, and should deliver their every detail (see Performance for more). Other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, and standard-def television, are scaled to fit the pixels.
Conveniences on the KDS-60A2020 include a freeze option that devotes half of the screen to a still image, but notably missing is picture-in-picture and its variant, side-by-side viewing. If you want to watch two sources simultaneously on this set, you're out of luck. Sony did throw in the requisite ATSC tuner but neglected CableCard on this model.
The KDS-60A2020 offers myriad picture controls. Settings for the standard brightness, contrast, and so forth can be saved individually to each of the three adjustable presets, labeled Standard, Vivid, and Custom. In addition, each of these presets is independent for each input, so your contrast setting in Custom for Input 7, for example, can be different from the contrast level in Custom for Input 6 (Sony likes to call contrast picture, by the way). This provides a huge amount of flexibility in adjusting the picture for different sources, lighting conditions, and user preferences.
We appreciate the four color-temperature presets--the default for Custom, Warm 2, comes closest to the standard--but we're annoyed that only the two least-accurate are available in Vivid and Standard modes. Other picture adjustments include Iris, which affects the light output and contrast, with five fixed modes and two that adjust according to picture content; five noise reduction settings; three DRC settings; and a DRC palette control. The last two control Sony's video processing--which bears the always-rib-tickling name of Digital Reality Creation--and are available only with standard-def, 480i sources. We'll cover the effects of these settings in Performance.
There's also an additional menu section labeled Advanced Settings that appears only when you're in the custom-picture preset. In general, your best bet is to leave all of these set to Off. The options include a four-step Black Corrector, which is best left to Off to preserve shadow detail; a five-step gamma control, which is best turned off for the most linear rise from black to white (although Low is better if you have some ambient light since it brings up shadow detail a bit); a three-step Clear White control that belongs in Off, since the other settings just make whites look bluer; and a four-step Live Color setting that seemed to make reds more intense, although Off provided the best color balance. A four-step Detail Enhancer should be left to Off with already-sharp sources such as HDTV and even DVD, since it introduces unnatural edge enhancement, and there's another four-step control entitled Edge Enhancer that had no effect that we could discern. Finally, the Advanced Settings menu offers a white-balance setup screen that includes 20 steps each for Red, Green, and Blue gain and bias, in case the out-of-the-box color temperature doesn't come close enough for your liking.
We tracked down a few more picture-affecting options in other menus. The Screen menu offers a solid selection of four aspect-ratio controls for both standard-def and high-def sources. The zooms modes allow you to adjust the horizontal and vertical position--as well as the vertical size--of the onscreen image. We appreciated the unique option to specify how the set deals with 4:3 programs, as well as the option to automatically detect wide-screen shows and properly size the picture. A Display Area control adjusts overscan; the default normal setting exposes the most picture area to your eyes.
And yes, there's more. The setup section of the menu seems the fashionable place to stash a Game mode. Sony's engineers claim that it skips most of the set's video processing to eliminate the possibility of delay between the controller and what happens onscreen, but during testing we experienced none, whether the mode was switched on or off. The setup menu is also where you'll find CineMotion, Sony's name for 2:3 pulldown detection, which performed spottily at best in our tests. A power-saver mode is available to limit light output. We left it turned on although it reduced light output by only 25 percent, which is a pretty small reduction compared to such modes on other sets. And while the manual claims that engaging it improves black level as well, we couldn't see any improvement. You also can choose between standard def (ITU601) and high-def (ITU709) colorspace for each resolution--a nice option, but usually you'll want to leave these at default settings.
Around back, you'll find a solid complement of inputs, including two HDMI with 1080p input capability (they'll accept more-common 1080p/60fps sources but not 1080p/24); two component-video, one A/V with composite- and S-Video, one A/V with composite-video only; one VGA-style PC input (1,366x768 maximum resolution, a disappointment for a 1080p HDTV); and one each antenna and cable RF inputs. There are also an analog audio output and a digital optical audio output for use with the Sony's ATSC tuner. In an unusual move, the company's designers included a third component-video input on the front panel instead of an S-Video, joining it with standard composite video and analog audio inputs.