The Good Reproduces the deepest black levels of any LCD we've tested; highly accurate primary color points and grayscale tracking; best-in-class bright-room viewing characteristics; scads of video processing options including superior dejudder capabilities; numerous picture controls; comprehensive complement of inputs including four HDMI and one PC; optional different-colored speaker grilles; unique styling; energy efficient.
The Bad Mind-bogglingly expensive; image quality fades when seen from off-angle; minor blooming in some high-contrast areas; some dejudder modes produce artifacts; nonremovable speakers protrude to either side.
The Bottom Line Although not quite the best HDTV we've tested so far, the wallet-busting, LED-powered Sony KDL-55XBR8 comes mighty close.
Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Among LCD heavyweights, Sony and Samsung have been trading blows for the last couple of years at the top of the standings. This bout involves cutting-edge, top-of-the-line LED-backlit models most of us can't afford, but it's entertaining nonetheless. In this corner is the Sony KDL-55XBR8, the most-expensive flat-panel HDTV we've ever tested at CNET and possibly the worst deal per square inch since Sony's own XEL-1. In that corner is the Samsung LN46A950. In case you don't have time to read the complete blow-by-blow, we'll cut to the chase: the Sony XBR8 won. It delivered deeper black levels than the Samsung, along with less blooming and off-angle fade, two issues you'll have to read about below. But as good as the Sony is, it still couldn't knock out the champion of the superheavyweight plasma division, Pioneer's Elite Kuro, which still reigns supreme as the best HDTV overall and it costs less, even at 60 inches, than the 55-inch KDL-55XBR8. That said, if you have a room full of light, a penchant for video processing modes, and a bank account bursting with cash, you'll find the flagship Sony mighty appealing.
Ever since the "Dumbo Ears" of Sony's KDS-60XBR2, the company has given its highest-end HDTVs a wider cabinet design than the rest of its lineup. The trend continues with the XBR8 series which also includes a 46-inch version. Compared with the less-expensive KDS-52XBR6, which mounts its speakers along the bottom, the XBR8 has side-mounted speakers that add a solid 3 inches to each side of the panel.