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Sony Bravia KDL - XBR6 review: Sony Bravia KDL - XBR6

A pair of proprietary ports is also available around back. Sony includes a port labeled DMex for BIVL and a few other proprietary accessories including a DVD player, a module with four extra HDMI inputs and a wireless HDMI transmitter/receiver. If one proprietary jack isn't enough for you, the DMPort allows connection to even more add-ons, including a Bluetooth wireless audio adapter or an iPod dock.

Performance
We were quite impressed by the depth of black produced by the KDL-52XBR6, but its color had us scratching our heads. Despite delivering nearly perfect primary color accuracy in test patterns, in real life the display let us down. Most other aspects of its picture were solid, including that 120Hz video processing, but in the end, we didn't think it significantly outclassed our current 52-inch LCD favorite, the Samsung LN52A650, especially for the price.

The standard calibration of the Sony definitely improved its picture, removing the slightly greenish/reddish tinge from its grayscale in the best-quality Warm 2 mode and bumping up light output somewhat. We didn't miss having a color management system since, according to our measurements at least, the Sony came extremely close to the HD standard color points. Check out the Geek Box for details, and see the bottom of this blog post our complete picture settings.

Our image quality tests took place in a side-by-side comparison that also included the 46-inch Sony KDL-46Z4100, the Samsung LN52A650 and the Samsung LN46A950--all LCD models--along with our two favorite 50-inch plasmas this year, the Pioneer PRO-111FD and the Panasonic TH-50PZ800U. We checked out The Happening on Blu-ray with the PlayStation 3.

Black level: The Sony XBR6 delivered the deepest black levels of any conventional (non-LED-based) LCD we've tested. In dark scenes such as the shadowy inside of Mrs. Jones' house, as well as the lustrous black hair of Alma Moore in brighter scenes, for example, the XBR6 looked more realistic than the Samsung A650 or the other Sony and even a bit darker than the Panasonic plasma, although it still couldn't match the deep blacks of the Samsung A950 LED-based LCD or the Pioneer plasma. Details in shadows were quite distinct, thanks in part to the fact that gamma in the Low position was very good (2.191 versus an ideal of 2.2).

Unfortunately, like the Z4100 or the KDL-46W4100 we tested earlier, the XBR6 didn't maintain a constant level of black regardless of the brightness of the program material. The fluctuation in backlight intensity wasn't as noticeable as with the W4100--indeed, we didn't notice it at all during The Happening--but in certain scenes in other films we did see the XBR6's backlit dim and then brighten noticeably afterward. Our favorite test for this issue occurs at the 12:34 mark in I Am Legend, where the camera pushes into the dark bathroom. On both of the Sony sets, the entire screen became dimmer and when brighter, whereas the other displays maintained a constant level of black.

Color accuracy: The Sony performed well in this area, but still not as good as the Samsung A650 or the higher-end displays in our comparison. According to our measurements, the Sony XBR6 delivered very accurate color for the most part, coming extremely close to the D65 standard for grayscale, hitting the HD standard primary and secondary color points almost perfectly and exhibiting accurate color decoding. That's great, and in many colorful areas, the XBR6 delivered the goods, including the blues of Jess' jeans and the red blood dripping down Mrs. Jones' nose. The Sony's deep blacks also helped with saturation, making colors look a bit richer and more vibrant than on the displays with lighter black levels. However, all wasn't perfect.

First off, like many LCDs we've tested, the Sony veered into blue in its darkest areas, tingeing them a bluish color that became especially noticeable in shadows. One example came during the exterior of the farmhouse in Chapter 15, which had a bluish-purplish look to the skies and shadows and a similar cast on the near-black rooftop. Compared with the Samsung A650, however, which tinged those areas greenish, we still preferred the look of the Sony, although the Samsung A950 LCD and the plasmas were better than any of the other LCD at color accuracy in black and near-black areas.

Second and more puzzling, despite the accuracy of our measurements, we noticed that in program material skin tones especially, along with browns and other midtone areas, appeared more yellowish on the Sony LCDs--the XBR6 and the Z4100--than on our reference Pioneer or any of the other displays in the room. During the opening scene with the two girls sitting on the bench in Central Park, for example, their pale skin appeared more yellowish and slightly less flush than on the comparison sets. The same effect was visible in skin tones in other areas of the film, as well as in similar colors such as the light brown walls of the Moores' apartment. We also noticed that green, as in the plants and fields at Mrs. Jones' house, for example, looked more yellow than our reference displays.

Video processing: The XBR6 shares the same dejudder video processing as less-expensive Sony models, and in our comparison it performed the same as on the Z4100 we'd placed next to it. In general, engaging either of the two dejudder modes, Standard and High, smoothed out motion in the film and made for, to our eyes, a more videolike look that was less desirable than what we saw when we turned dejudder (aka Motion Enhancer) off. However, since Sony gives you the choice, we naturally went ahead and compared the Sony with the dejudder of the Samsung models, and in most cases we preferred the Sony.

The effect of the smoothing was most visible on all displays during camera movement, such as when the camera following Elliot Moore around his classroom, or the push at the beginning of Chapter 7 that follows the moving train. With dejudder turned on, it looked as if more than the train was on rails--the camera appeared very steady, unnaturally so, especially in High mode. If we had to choose between the two, we'd take Standard.

As usual, High also introduced more artifacts. During the scene in Grand Central where the main characters flee New York, for example, we saw breakup among the press of bodies, where parts of people briefly seemed to detach and reform, especially when the camera swung around at the same time (at the 15:37 mark). The artifacts seemed more prominent compared with what we saw on the Samsung's High mode, although those were also noticeable and objectionable. Sony's Standard and Samsung's Low both let some judder remain in the image, although that meant the TV was seeming to kick in and out of smooth mode, which could be jarring at times--although the kick-in appeared less-jarring on the Sony than the Samsung in Low. We also noticed that the Samsung's suffered from the "triple puck effect" where a fast-moving hockey puck would seemingly break apart then reform, while the Sony displays did not. To be fair, the breakup was quite difficult to spot in the Samsung's Low mode, although its other modes exaggerated he effect more.

As with many other 120Hz displays, the Sony XBR6 is capable of preserving the native 24-frame cadence of 1080p/24 sources, typically available on Blu-ray Discs, and skipping the 2:3 pull-down process. To test this capability, we set our PS3 to 1080p/24 output, tuned off Motion Enhancer, and compared the image with that of the 120Hz Samsung displays (with dejudder turned off), the Pioneer in its 72Hz Advance mode, and the Panasonic set to its standard 60Hz mode as the baseline reference. In short, the XBR6 performed as expected, delivering the smoother (but this time still filmlike) pan over the park in Philadelphia, for example, which we preferred to the slightly chugging, stuttering motion we saw in the Panasonic. It was nearly impossible to distinguish differences in the handling of 1080p/24 between any of the 120Hz LCDs or the Pioneer plasma, however.

During our resolution tests, the XBR6 performed quite well, as we expect from any 1080p HDTV. It displayed very line of 1080i and 1080p sources, correctly deinterlaced both film- and video-based 1080i material, and scored between 300 and 400 lines of motion resolution with dejudder turned off, and between 500 and 600 lines when we engaged either of the two dejudder modes. As usual, it was difficult for us to notice any of these resolution attributes while watching real program material, as opposed to test patterns. It's also worth noting that the XBR6 showed no trace of the red trails we noted in the video processing section of the Z4100 review.

Uniformity: Our review sample was a bit below-average in this category. In very dark or black areas we noticed a brighter patch in the upper-left corner of the XBR6, which also showed up in the letterbox bars of 2.35:1 aspect ratio films such as I Am Legend, and in black screens such as the credits or fields of stars. As usual with LCDs, the edges of the screen also appeared slightly brighter than the middle, although the difference was nearly impossible to detect outside of test patterns. When seen from off-angle, the image on the Sony's screen washed out and discolored at about the same rate as the other LCDs aside from the Samsung A950, which was noticeably worse.

Bright lighting: The XBR6 has the same screen as the Z4100 and W4100 LCDs, and its effective antireflective properties were apparent in our bright room. Compared with the plasmas and the Samsung LCDs, it did a better job of attenuating in-room reflections from the windows and light sources.

Standard-definition: With standard-definition sources, the Sony fell a bit below-average. While it resolved every line of the DVD format, details in the grass and stone bridge appeared softer than we'd like to see. It removed jagged edges from moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag somewhat, although there were still more jaggies than on the other sets in our comparison. Sony's noise reduction is still excellent, cleaning up the noisiest areas of low-quality material almost completely in its strongest NR mode, and offering a great selection of NR settings between to deal with higher-quality material. Finally, like the W4100 and the Z4100, the XBR6 did engage film mode to remove the moire from the bleachers behind the speeding car on the HQV test disc, but it fell out and then back into film mode quickly, thus failing our 2:3 pulldown test. The results for this test were the same in both Auto 1 and Auto 2 CineMotion settings.

PC: With analog PC sources connected via the VGA input, the Sony performed very well, resolving every pixel of a 1,920x1,080 signal with no overscan and delivering crisp text, although we did see a bit of edge enhancement, even in the special "Text" TV preset, that we couldn't eliminate. Via a digital HDMI connection PC performance was as perfect as any 1080p TV we've seen, with every detail resolved, no edge enhancement or overscan.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 5923/6268 Good
After color temp 6573/6534 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 338 Average
After grayscale variation +/- 68 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.64/0.333 Good
Color of green 0.293/0.613 Good
Color of blue 0.151/0.056 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Fail Poor
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Sony KDL-52XBR6 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 272.63 134.97 85.67
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.24 0.12 0.07
Standby (watts) 0 0 0
Cost per year $84.38 $41.78 $26.52
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Average
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.
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