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Sony KDS-A2000 review: Sony KDS-A2000

The disc we chose to use for this evaluation was the dark, stylized, and razor-sharp The Chronicles of Riddick HD-DVD played through the Toshiba HD-A1. The Sony immediately impressed us with its depth of black; as the Necromongers' ships wheel toward the planet, for example, the blackness of space behind the star field matched the black of the letterbox bars, and both appeared positively inky next to that of the Panasonic PT-61DLX76, which we had on hand to compare. We were not able to directly compare the Sony's blacks to those of the Samsung HL-S5687W, but black-level and contrast-ratio measurements confirmed that the two were very similar in this regard. The Sony also did an excellent job of maintaining shadow detail in scenes with lots of bright material as well as mostly dark scenes, and colors remained consistent in shadows and bright light, a testament to the Sony's excellent grayscale tracking.

So far so good, but as we mentioned at the outset, the KDS-60A2000 review sample that we received failed one of our resolution tests. We always test 1080p HDTVs for their ability to resolve every line of a multiburst resolution pattern, which, when rendered in 1080i on a 1080p HDTV, should be perfect, with alternating white and black lines in the highest-frequency area. Last year's Sony KDS-R60XBR1 passed this test, as did the Panasonic, and while Samsung HL-S5687W did not quite pass, it could deliver almost all of the pattern. The KDS-60A2000 failed to resolve any detail in the highest-frequency areas via any of its high-def inputs, including HDMI, component-video, and ATSC. Sony told us that the set we received was a preproduction model, however, and gave us a service-menu-level fix that caused the KDS-60A2000 to pass the test perfectly via HDMI and component-video, although it still failed via ATSC.

Back in the real world, away from test patterns, things assumed some perspective. We were able to compare Riddick both before and after the fix, switching rapidly back and forth between the two, and the difference was negligible. In the star field mentioned above, we saw the same tiny pinpoints of light both before and after the fix. When the city on the planet's surface wheeled into view, its lights and structures appeared the same, with plenty of detail visible in areas such as the circular capital-looking building. We also looked at a few other HD-DVDs, such as Swordfish and The Bourne Supremacy, and the fix was again impossible to discern. When we compared the Sony directly to the Panasonic, details looked equally sharp and lifelike, from the chainmail links in the neck of the main Necromonger to the cityscape before it blacks out, to the thin strands of curly hair on the edge of Kyra's (Alexa Davalos) profile.

Moving on, the Sony KDS-60A2000 did a solid job with color, delivering neutral skin tones throughout Riddick as well as in more colorful material we watched. However, primary colors on the SXRD were inaccurate, falling outside the norm for the HD spec (see the Geek box), so they might appear a bit garish to some eyes. We turned down the color control somewhat to help compensate but were still able to maintain good saturation.

The Sony had no problem accepting 1080p/60 sources delivered by the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player, although 1080p/24 material from our Sencore VP-403 signal generator was not accepted. We also looked at resolution patterns via component-video; they were solid, although, as with any 1080p HDTV, we recommend setting your sources to 1080 output when possible. The KDS-60A2000 exhibited excellent white- and gray-field uniformity for a three-chip display, varying very little in color across the screen, although its middle was brighter in relation to the corners of the screen when compared to the single-chip Panasonic DLP. Focus was superb, and very little fringing was visible on white lines, pixel structure was invisible from further than arm's length from the screen, and the Sony suffered from less false contouring or banding than any set we've recently reviewed.

In terms of standard-def performance, the Sony KDS-60A2000 offered more than its share of surprises. A lot has been made of the fact that the step-up KDS-XBR2 line includes a different version of the company's DRC processing, and while we can't speak to whether it's better overall than the DRC used by the KDS-60A2000, we can say that the latter could use some improvements. First off, it failed to correctly detect and implement 2:3 pull-down detection according to tests from the HQV disc as well as Star Trek: Insurrection, introducing concentric lines of moiré and unnatural moving lines on the upturned boats, respectively. [08-14-06 Update: After this review posted Sony mentioned that we might experience improved performance by turning off DRC and turning on CineMotion, a setting found in the setup (not the picture) menu. In these settings the Sony still failed to pass the HQV test although moiré was reduced slightly, and on Insurrection it still exhibited sporadic moving lines via composite and S-video, while component-video was fine. Overall A2000 still delivered disappointing 2:3 performance compared to almost all late-model HDTVs.]

Second, it didn't do a very good job of removing jagged edges from moving video, such as the stripes in a waving American flag. The results of these tests were the same, regardless of which DRC preset was used or how we adjusted the custom "reality vs. clarity" DRC matrix--don't ask.

On the other hand, the Sony's detail with standard-def sources was excellent, and its ability to reduce video noise was among the best we've tested. We looked at standard-def resolution patterns, and the Sony aced them in DRC Off mode, while High Density looked a little softer and Progressive (the other two DRC modes) looked unstable. Turning from test patterns to real video, the shot of the bridge from HQV was commendably sharp in all three modes via component-video, although via S-Video it softened up considerably in Off. The shots of noisy sky from HQV, which wreak havoc on many HDTVs, looked much smoother in the KDS-60A2000's highest noise-reduction setting with no apparent loss of detail, and even the Auto mode--available in composite and S-Video only--did a good job of engaging the correct level of noise reduction.

Xbox 360 performance: We also tried playing a couple of video games on the Sony with our Xbox 360--Dead or Alive 4 and Prey--and the picture looked excellent. We didn't notice any delay from controller to screen whether or not the set's Game mode was engaged. With composite-video, turning Game mode on did have the effect of softening the picture considerably, obscuring details in the ridges of one of the guns in Prey, for example, but that's to be expected, since engaging Game Mode skips video processing. With component-video 1080i, we noticed no difference in picture quality regardless of Game mode setting.

We also tried connecting the 360 via the VGA adapter, and the console did not fill the Sony's screen, regardless of which adjustments we made on the console of the TV itself. Component-video looked much sharper and also filled the screen.(Thanks to David Rudden for 360 testing).

PC performance: We hooked the Sony up to a PC via VGA, and as expected, the set maxed out at 1,366x768 resolution. The desktop did not nearly fill the screen, and furthermore, according to DisplayMate, the Sony couldn't resolve every line of resolution; text indeed looked pretty soft, even after we engaged the set's automatic calibration for PC.

When driven by an HDMI input connected to a DVI adapter, however, the Sony's PC picture quality improved significantly. First off, the set had no trouble accepting a full 1080p source, and it did resolve every line, although the image was overscanned significantly; the edges of the screen, including the entire Windows toolbar for example, were invisible. We couldn't adjust it properly in the Sony's menu system, but our GeForce 7900GTX video card's HDTV Overscan Compensation came in really handy. When we selected the Underscan option, it fit the screen perfectly; displaying at 1,824x1,016 pixels. Of course that's not full 1,920x1,080, and we'd prefer not to have to make these kinds of tweaks--a "dot by dot" aspect ratio would be a big help--but it's safe to say that computer display via HDMI really outclassed the Sony's VGA input.

KDS-60A2000 picture-quality comparisons

Vs. existing KDS-R60XBR1: We were not able to test the XBR1 and the A2000 side-by-side, but we really do not expect the latter's ability to accept 1080p signals to provide a major picture quality improvement. Most other aspects of performance will be identical, including black levels and color reproduction, although white- and gray-field uniformity seem to be improved on the A2000. Overall we recommend the XBR1 over the A2000, as long as it's available, because of its better standard-def performance.

Vs. Samsung HL-S5687W: Again, we did not have this Samsung DLP on hand to directly compare, but in previous testing, it delivered similar black levels, better primary color accuracy, and superior standard-def performance. On the other hand, its characteristic DLP rainbows may be visible to some viewers, and its tendency to accentuate reds is something the A2000 doesn't share. The Sony scored higher in performance, but the Samsung's 61-inch equivalent is probably a better value to viewers who aren't bothered by rainbows.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,821/6,776K Good
After color temp 6,529/6,547K Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 303K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 59K Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.680/0.320 Poor
Color of green 0.287/0.698 Poor
Color of blue 0.144/0.046 Average
Overscan 2.5 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps No Poor
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good

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