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Sony KDL-V5100 review:

Sony KDL-V5100

Sony KDL-V5100 series
The side panel of the Sony, with its three HDMI and one PC input, is where the action is.

Non-HDMI jacks in the back include two component-video and one RF for antenna or cable, as well as analog and digital audio outputs. That well-rounded side panel boasts a PC input (1,920x1,080-pixel resolution), a USB port for photos and music and an AV input with S- and composite-video.

Sony's relatively entry-level KDL-V5100 series exhibited very good picture quality for the price, and in some ways it bested the company's significantly more expensive, albeit feature-laden, XBR9 model (in fact, the two received the same score in this subcategory). We appreciated its relatively deep black levels and accurate color in bright areas, but wished for better color accuracy in dark scenes and improved uniformity across the screen. Sony also falls short of Samsung in its dejudder implementation.

TV settings: Sony KDL-52V5100

Adjusting the Sony for optimum picture quality in our dark home theater meant starting in its Cinema mode, also accessible by pressing the Theater button. That mode came relatively close to our ideal settings for calibration, although we had to disable a few picture tweaks, reduce light output to our nominal 40 ftl level, and bring the somewhat reddish grayscale closer to the standard. In the end the adjustments were mostly successful, although the grayscale still varied too much (becoming quite blue in darker areas). Gamma was solid at 2.25 versus the ideal of 2.2.

For comparison purposes we lined up a few competing LCDs, including the Samsung LN46B650 and the JVC LT-47P300, along with the higher-end Samsung LN52B750 and Sony's own KDL-52XBR9. We also threw in Panasonic's entry-level TC-P50X1 plasma, and as always our reference display was the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma. This time around we conducted most of our with the help of "21" on Blu-ray.

Black level: The V5100 was solid for an LCD in this category, but couldn't match most of the other displays in our comparison. In dark scenes, such as the warehouse in Chapter 5 where Lawrence Fishburne works over the cheater, black and near-black areas such as the letterbox bars above and below the image, the pillars in the foreground and the recesses in the background appeared brighter and less realistic than on the Samsung B750, the JVC and the plasmas, and just a hair brighter than the XBR9--although about equal to the B650. Shadow detail, from the equipment along the edges of the room to the stubble along the shaded side of Fishburne's face, was quite good.

Color accuracy: In bright scenes the V5100 performed well in this category, thanks to its accurate grayscale and primary and secondary colors. The morning-lit face of Kate Bosworth in the hotel room in Chapter 8, for example, exhibited natural-looking skin tone without the slight greenish cast we saw on the XBR9 and the Panasonic plasma. The red headboard, green plant and golden sheets also looked quite close to the colors on our reference display, although sky shots appeared a bit too bluish in side-by-side comparisons--perhaps a symptom of the Sony's less accurate cyan. Overall saturation was about average, and didn't quite match the punch of the more expensive models.

Our biggest knock, as is often the case with LCD, was the bluish cast to shadows and black areas. The effect was less obvious than on the Samsung B650, but worse than what we saw on the other displays in our comparison.

Video processing: As we mentioned above you'll need to engage the V5100's MotionFlow dejudder mode to get the antiblurring benefits of its 120Hz refresh rate, but doing so has the usual effect on film-based sources like "21" 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 as in the past we liked the Sony's Standard better. A crane shot up and over the pedestrian bridge in Chapter 6, for example, looked characteristically too-smooth on the Samsung compared to the Sony (and, for what it's worth, smoother on the XBR9 than on the V5100). That said, 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, and we appreciated that when we did so the V5100 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, while the Panasonic and JVC, for instance, introduced the characteristic hitching motion of 2:3 pull-down.

The V5100 but didn't quite resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p still resolution sources, falling short of the format's vertical resolution just a bit according to our test patterns. It deinterlaced 1080i video-based sources correctly but failed with film-based sources regardless of the CineMotion setting we chose. Motion resolution with 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--indeed, the 1080p Sony looked just as sharp as the other 1080p displays and the 720p Panasonic X1 plasma during "21."

Uniformity: The V5100 was less even across its screen than we'd like to see, and exhibited worse overall uniformity than most of the other LCDs, with the exception of the XBR9, which was about its equal. The sides appeared brighter than the rest of the screen, and the upper-left corner was brighter still, especially in black and very dark scenes such as the dark warehouse. When seen from off-angle the screen washed out at about an average rate compared to the other LCDs, and there was no overt discoloration as we saw on the JVC.

Bright lighting: The XBR9 and JVC, both matte-screened LCDs, joined the V5100 as the best in our comparison under bright lighting. It handled reflections from windows and lights facing the screen quite well--better than the other 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, and about as well as the Samsung LCDs.

Standard-definition: The V5100 turned in an average standard-definition performance. The Sony 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, albeit not as many as on the XBR9--although the waving American flag appeared about the same on the two Sony displays. The V5100s 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: We were surprised to find that the V5100 couldn't resolve every detail of 1,920x1,080-pixel sources via HDMI and VGA, failing to deliver the full vertical resolution according to DisplayMate. PC sources still looked relatively crisp nonetheless, but not as good as on the XBR9, for example.

Before color temp (20/80) 5941/6532 Good
After color temp 6458/6514 Good
Before grayscale variation 174 Good
After grayscale variation 89 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.641/0.329 Good
Color of green 0.281/0.603 Good
Color of blue 0.146/0.051 Average
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 Fail Poor

Power consumption: We didn't test the power consumption this screen size, although we did test the 52-inch KDL-52V5100. For more information, please refer to that review.

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