The Good Excellent black-level performance for an LCD; accurate color; 120Hz processing smooths judder in motion; fine screen uniformity and off-angle viewing for an LCD; numerous picture controls; solid connectivity with three HDMI inputs and one PC input; distinctive "floating glass" design; interchangeable bezel color option.
The Bad Expensive; benefits of 120Hz blur-reduction hard to discern; smooth motion seems unnatural for film-based material and introduces some artifacts; main menu system kludgy to operate; many picture adjustments seem unnecessary and/or harmful.
The Bottom Line Although not quite as impressive as the best plasmas, the 46-inch Sony KDL-46XBR4 outperforms any flat-panel LCD we've tested so far.
Sony Bravia KDL-XBR4
Editors' Note 04/29/2008: The rating on this review has been modified from 8.3 to 8.0, and its Editors' Choice award removed, due to changes in the competitive marketplace.
A couple of years ago Sony abandoned plasma and bet the farm on LCD, and since then the company has consistently produced the best-performing flat-panel LCDs available, at least according to our tests. Of course, we've always seen better picture quality in plasma sets, and this year is no exception, as the Pioneer PDP-5080HD, with its jaw-dropping black-level performance, earned our Editors' Choice award. Sony's 2007 high-end LCDs, the KDL-XBR4 series--represented by the 46-inch KDL-46XBR4 reviewed here--come mighty close, but again fall short of the best plasma. This HDTV delivers the deepest, most realistic black levels we've measured on any LCD (with the exception of Samsung's LN-T4681F), and its color accuracy is also excellent, but its real claim to fame is 120Hz processing. We found the effects of Sony's 120Hz mode difficult to discern at reducing motion blur, but remarkable at smoothing out judder--that telltale stutter largely responsible for making film look more filmlike. If you really want that kind of smoothness, which we found strange for film but welcome for some other content, then plasma simply isn't an option right now, and the expensive Sony KDL-46XBR4 makes an excellent choice.
While we liked the looks of the KDL-46XBR4, we're not ranking it among the most attractive LCDs we've seen this year, an honor that currently belongs to the svelte Sharp LC-52D64U. Unlike the Sharp and many other flat-panel sets, Sony's XBR4 series has a lot of front-panel real estate that's not devoted to the screen. Specifically, the rectangular viewing area is ringed by a thick bezel of black, wider on the sides than above and below. That bezel is surrounded by about an inch of glass that's in turn ringed by a strip of silver. Remarkable touches include an illuminated Sony logo (it can be turned off) and indicator lights suspended within the glass. Including the matching black stand, the KDL-46XBR4 measures 49.8 inches by 31.4 inches by 12.8 inches, while without the stand attached it measures 49.8 inches by 29 inches by 4.9 inches.
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