Editors' note July 21, 2008: Due to the publication of the Samsung HL61A750 review, this review had been modified to remove the Editors' Choice award, lowering the performance subrating from 9 to 8 and hence the overall rating from 8.5 to 7.7.
Sony has a real winner with the new KDS-A3000 series, represented here by the 55-inch KDS-55A3000, the middle of three sizes. We liked Sony's LCoS-based SXRD technology when it was first introduced a couple of years ago, and the company has followed up by significantly improving performance. While not perfect, the KDS-55A3000 is the most color-accurate RPTV money can buy today. Its weakest point is in its video processing, which has been the case with Sony for years, but in this TV's instance, that's hardly a deal breaker. As far as overall picture quality is concerned, the 1080p resolution A3000 series tops our list among rear-projection HDTVs, and its excellent value proposition seals the deal.
The external appearance of the KDS-A3000 series is rather basic, and not nearly as striking as the company's flat-panel LCD models, such as the KDL-XBR4 series. This big rear-projector is finished in silver, with black speaker grilles below the screen where the stereo speakers are housed and a strip of see-through paneling below that. It boasts a table-top design with commendably narrow side and top bezels for a look that's mostly screen; its cabinet is relatively narrow in depth. Overall, the 55-inch model measures 49.6 inches wide by 36.3 inches tall by 15.6 inches deep and weighs 81 pounds.
A redesign of Sony's remote control from a few years ago, although not terrible by any means, is sort of a step backward from the company's excellent earlier remotes. For example, now a Home button is called the Menu button, which is less than intuitive. The internal menu system, or GUI (graphical user interface), is a love-hate affair: you either love it or hate it. We take the negative opinion, because we found it labyrinthine and difficult to navigate compared with the previous design.
Features abound on the KD-S55A3000, starting with a massive selection of picture settings. Of course, there are the usual selectable picture modes (Vivid, Standard, Custom, and Cinema), and color-temperature presets (Cool, Neutral, Warm 1, and Warm 2). We found the best combination of these to be Standard mode and Warm 2, which produced the best picture at factory presets. The Noise Reduction feature in the Advanced menu cleans up video noise extremely well without significant side effects. However, the MPEG Noise Reduction feature wipes out about 20 percent of the horizontal resolution; perhaps it should be renamed "Resolution Reduction."
Under the advanced settings menu are Black Corrector, Gamma, Clear White, and Live Color, which should all be set to Off as they only impair picture performance rather than enhancing it. For that superb color fidelity we mentioned, choose the Standard setting for the Color space. We measured the primary colors of red, green, and blue for both Standard and Wide, and found Standard to be very close to--you guessed it--the ATSC standard.
The Motion Enhancer feature is Sony's version of the new craze in TV, 120Hz de-judder processing. One goal of 120Hz processing is to eliminate an artifact that is created in the film-to-video transfer process with the use of 2:3 pull-down, called judder, that is most visible as subtle stuttering on pans and other camera movement. Depending on the implementation, it may or may not work well. In the case of the KDS-55A3000, it definitely smooths out these types of scenes, but it also makes the picture look decidedly more like video and less like film.