If you're in the market for a new large screen, you would think that plasma is the technology for you. However, with some new developments in LCD, flat-screens have finally become a two-horse race.
Sony's KDL52XBR is the penultimate TV in their range after the stupendously expensive, but does it have the muscle to continue the company's recent performance dream run?
If there's one thing Sony takes pride in -- after performance -- it's design. And true to form the 52XBR is a stunner. For the AU$300 extra on the 52-inch X3100 you get a very spiffy looking brushed aluminium finish. Of course, unlike the X series this isn't interchangeable, but it looks better anyhow. The floating glass finish is still there and so is the illuminated Sony logo (which can be turned off). Overall, the build quality is everything you'd expect from a premium television by Sony.
The remote is the same one the company uses for the other models in the XBR series and is large, friendly and easy-to-use.
The Sony KDL52XBR features a 52-inch 1080p panel, and like the we reviewed recently, includes a number of up-to-date features. There is support for the Blu-ray (and HD DVD) 24p standard, and a 100Hz anti-judder mode.
But if HD disks aren't your thing then there is an onboard HD tuner so you can receive 1080i content. Other features include a USB port for photo viewing, PC connectivity, and three HDMI version 1.3 ports.
The menu is straightforward and easy to navigate, with TV channel options appearing first. Advanced options, such as PC Power Saving, are logically arranged, while the Contrast control, as with many other Sony TVs, is here entitled Picture.
Using an HDMI splitter, we found the KDL52XBR performed almost identically to its smaller brother, the 46XBR. Watching Mission Impossible III on Blu-ray showed that detail, colour and judder-removal were all executed with pinpoint accuracy. As we've said before 100Hz Motionflow is perhaps the best technology we've seen for removing judder and on Blu-ray it works superbly.
We were interested to see how a large screen such as this coped with black levels, and we were encouraged to see that it coped well. While the picture didn't seem to boast as much contrast as the Sony 46-inch the blacks were a smidgeon deeper.
Colour was a little more accurate on the 52-inch after calibration, with skin tones in particular looking quite natural. This ability carried through to HD broadcasts, though Channel Seven newsreader Ian Ross's red eyes looked particularly lurid. This wasn't a fault of the TV, but his physician -- give this man some eye drops!
Backlighting is more consistent than its little brother, though over time we have noticed the backlight clouding problem grow. Off-axis viewing isn't as good as the smaller one, either, with a noticeable rainbow sheen and reduced contrast.
As expected, gaming via the PS3 was excellent, with little detectable motion blur and bright colours bringing out the best of Rock Band. Using the PC input was also as good as expected, with none of the buzzing pixel noise you'd see on a plasma TV.