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Sony KDS-A3000 review:

Sony KDS-A3000

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All of the inputs on the KDS-55A3000 are conveniently located on the left side of the set, out of sight yet within easy reach when adding or removing a component from the system. Connectivity is standard for a set in this price range. Three HDMI inputs head up the video connection list, and of course they are all 1.3 compatible. There are also two component video, one S-Video, and three composite video inputs. A single RF input and a 15-pin RGB input for computer hookup round out the video connections. On the audio side are an optical digital audio output and one set of variable/fixed stereo audio outputs.

Overall performance on the Sony KD-S55A3000 was excellent, and its standout characteristic compared with other HDTVs is color accuracy. When the Sony is set to Standard color space, the primary colors of red, green, and blue are nearly dead-on accurate to the ATSC specifications. The color decoding is accurate for both SD and HD sources, and the grayscale from the Warm 2 factory preset came mighty close to the broadcast standard. A quick tweak in the advanced menu under white balance made the grayscale nearly perfect. For our full user-menu settings, click here or scroll down to the Tips section below.

Based on previous models, we expected the black-level performance to be very good on this SXRD set, and we weren't disappointed. Images are also quite smooth and noise-free, particularly if you utilize the Noise Reduction feature. At first, we noticed a lot of background noise in Chapter 14 of Seabiscuit on HD DVD, for example when Jeff Bridges' character is talking to his wife in the locker room of the race track, but engaging the Noise Reduction feature cleaned it right up without any adverse effects (although in some test patterns there was some softening in High mode). The opposite is true of the MPEG Noise Reduction feature, which you definitely want to turn off, since it robs a good deal of horizontal resolution when engaged.

There is also loss of resolution in the Custom and Cinema picture modes; in neither mode could the HDTV resolve the full 1080i signal from our generator, although it did so in Standard. To address the issue, Sony confirmed that it will make a firmware upgrade available in the next few weeks to A3000 owners through its Web site. According to the company, the upgrade will be sent out on USB keys free of charge upon request, and so will not require a service visit. We received the upgrade, and it worked well on our review sample, restoring Custom and Cinema to the same resolution as Standard.

As has been the case with Sony for many years, the video processing on the KDS-A3000 leaves something to be desired. On the plus side, the CineMotion feature does provide 2:3 pull-down, and the Motion Enhancer 120Hz feature also smooths out the picture with film-based content. However, the processing does not de-interlace film-based 1080i HD material properly, which reduces some vertical resolution from 1080i material from off-air HD broadcasts, and cable and Satellite TV HD sources. Of course, those sources still appeared quite sharp, and the lack of proper 1080i de-interlacing is not a problem with Blu-ray and HD DVD as long as you set your player to output 1080p.

We watched quite a few scenes from the excellent HD DVD transfer of The Departed for two reasons. One, it is a reference-quality transfer and ably showed the Sony's many picture quality attributes, such as exceptional color saturation and razor sharp imagery. The other reason is that the early luncheonette scene in Chapter 1, specifically the long pan as the waitress moves from the right side of the counter all the way to the left to meet Jack Nicholson at the register, is a great test of de-judder processing. Sony's Motion Enhancer seemed to smooth out that pan quite nicely with no artifacts in Standard mode, although High mode made it look entirely too videolike. (Update 11-30-2007) For most of The Departed and for film-based material in general, however, we preferred to leave this setting Off completely to preserve the filmlike look. Your personal preference may vary with this setting in particular; some viewers like the extra smoothness, while some do not.

Chapter 4 of the Blu-ray version of The Italian Job looked awesome. The contrast between the scene below the surface of the water and in the dark area of the building where they blew the safe, and the boat chase above water makes for a great test. We looked at black level and shadow detail performance, along with bright and colorful scenery during the boat chase through Venice. The very next scene, comprising snow-capped mountains in the Alps, is always a good place to look for white field uniformity problems, and they were not overly noticeable on the 55A3000.

A direct comparison with Mitsubishi's top-of-the-line Diamond series WD-65833 65-inch DLP RPTV proved no contest for this Sony. The Sony was clearly cleaner, sharper, and far more color accurate than the Mitsubishi.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,200/6,550 Good
After color temp 6,470/6,470 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 207K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 49K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.636/0.332 Good
Color of green 0.296/0.606 Good
Color of blue 0.15/0.06 Good
Overscan 2.5 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Sony KDS-55A3000 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 210.4 193.04 193.4
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.16 0.15 0.15
Standby (watts) 0.75 0.75 0.75
Cost per year $64.35 $59.08 $59.19
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Average

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