Editor's note: Sony has replaced this television. We have published a review of the newer model, the KDS-R60XBR2, and this review has been modified accordingly.
The Sony KDS-R60XBR1 looks similar to its less expensive Grand Wega cousins, although it has a couple of distinct styling cues. The chassis itself is finished in silver, and a glossy black border surrounds the massive screen, lending the TV a distinctly two-tone look and increasing the perceived contrast ratio. The speakers protrude a good distance from the left and right sides of the screen, making this behemoth a full 7 or 8 inches wider than comparably sized sets with speakers located beneath the screen. It measures 66 inches wide, 40 inches tall, and 20 inches deep, and it weighs a comparatively feathery 112 pounds.
This rear-projection set, like almost all its competitors, has a table-top design, so you'll want use some sort of stand to raise it 18 to 26 inches off the ground--the approximate height needed to put the middle of the screen at head level. Sony offers a matching stand (model SU-GW12, $499 list) for this purpose, as well as a complete home-theater system in a stand (model RHT-G2000, $1,500 list).
Sony's remote is the same as the recently redesigned version for the Sony Grand Wega LCD rear-projection sets. It is a slender wand finished in silver, and the metal construction gives it a solid feel. The metal buttons, though on the small side, are clearly labeled in black, and it's easy to control the center rocker and the channel and volume keys with your thumb. Our only real complaint with the remote is its lack of illumination.
The Sony KDS-R60XBR1 has such an extensive feature package that we have to limit our coverage to only the coolest features and those that help or hurt performance. First off, it has a native resolution of 1,920x1,080, thanks to Sony's proprietary SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display) light engine, a variety of LCoS technology. That resolution, combined with the inherently progressive nature of the display device, qualifies the KDS-R60XBR1 as a 1080p HDTV, meaning it should be able to display every detail of the highest-resolution HDTV format, 1080i. It scales all other sources, including standard TV, DVD, HDTV, and computers, to fit the pixels.
Like almost all high-end big-screen HDTVs, the Sony KDS-R60XBR1 is Digital Cable Ready and has an onboard ATSC tuner to receive local off-air HDTV stations. Twin-View is Sony's name for two-tuner PIP, which works equally well with standard- and high-def sources. The set offers five aspect-ratio selections for standard-definition sources and four for high-def.
A number of picture-enhancing features are on tap; some are good, and some you should leave off for the best performance. We counted three picture modes (Vivid, Standard, and Pro), all of which can be adjusted independently for each input. There are also three selectable color temperatures: Warm, Neutral, and Cool. We chose the Pro mode and the Warm color temperature for our evaluation.
One unusual adjustment is Advanced Iris, which dynamically controls the TV's light output on the fly when program material changes. Its four settings, Off, Low, Medium, and High, progressively increase brightness and affect overall contrast ratio. We left it in the Off setting, as the set provided ample light output to begin with; however, in brightly lit environments, you may want to engage it.
The Color Corrector feature adversely affected color decoding, adding red push. It's best left off. The DTE function, which supposedly enhances detail, didn't visibly increase the sharpness of the picture. The Detail Enhancer definitely introduced some horizontal and vertical edge enhancement, so leave it off too. The Black Corrector feature simply changes the black level, so leave it off or else turn it on before setting the brightness or black level properly. The Clear White feature appeared to improve white-field uniformity a bit, but it also tinted the picture blue. Again, leave it off for the best performance. Gamma Corrector provides several choices that affect the grayscale tracking and the low-level brightness. Once again, the Off setting produced the smoothest transition from black to white, with the best grayscale tracking. Finally, for professionals, the White Balance menu has grayscale controls for calibration, which work extremely well (see Performance for details).
The Sony KDS-R60XBR1's generous jack pack offers the following: two HDMI inputs; two component-video inputs; two A/V inputs with both S-Video and composite; two RF inputs, one for antenna and the other for off-air HD signals; a set of audio outputs; a CableCard slot; and Control S ports for controlling other Sony A/V gear. Although we appreciated the addition of a 15-pin VGA-style RGB input for PC hookup (maximum resolution 1,280x1,024 at 60Hz), we were disappointed to find no RS-232 port for control purposes. On the front of the set, to the lower left of the screen, is another A/V input with S-Video, an iLink (Sony's name for FireWire) port, and a Memory Stick slot. Like most other 1080p HDTVs available today, the Sony KDS-R60XBR1 cannot accept 1080p sources via any of its inputs (more info)
In terms of overall picture quality, the Sony KDS-R60XBR1 sets a new benchmark for fixed-pixel rear-projection HDTVs. It's easily the best LCoS-based display we've reviewed so far and the best we've seen among the current crop of 1080p HDTVs. While blacks are not quite as rich and inky as on the best DLP sets we've reviewed, this Sony can produce deep enough blacks to provide a solid overall contrast ratio and make exceptionally dark material such as Alien, Seven, or the Star Wars flicks look very convincing. The extremely difficult opening scene of the Alien: Director's Cut DVD, with the Nostromo traveling through space, was more than watchable, with only a hint of low-level noise and no real false-contouring artifacts.
The Sony KDS-R60XBR1's color decoding is quite accurate. As long as we left the Color Corrector turned off, we detected no red push. The green decoding was excellent as well. This, combined with a nearly flawless grayscale, enabled the set to produce extremely realistic flesh tones and natural-looking colors. (Author's note: My field experience calibrating the new Sony SXRD sets makes me skeptical about the nearly perfect grayscale our review sample had before calibration. I am typically finding the Warm color temperature setting in the 9,000K range, which leads me to suspect that Sony may have tweaked the sample sent to CNET.) However, the actual colors of red, green, and blue are not accurate according to the ATSC standard. Red is on the orange side, green is a little yellow, and blue is somewhat purplish.
The video processing uses Sony's DRC system with 2:3 pull-down, but it's still noisy and prone to artifacts. We ran 480p via the component-video outputs of an older Denon 2900 DVD player and got a cleaner picture than with the interlaced output. Bright scenes from the great Vertical Limit DVD looked excellent overall, with impressive color saturation and detail.
HDTV on the Sony KDS-R60XBR1 looked awe-inspiring. In particular, HDNet via the HDMI input from our DirecTV HD satellite feed was remarkable. Thanks to the 1,920x1,080 resolution, visible details were breathtaking. A 1080i multiburst pattern from our HDTV signal generator was reproduced cleanly at the HDMI input, indicating that the set is giving you all the resolution from 1080i HDTV sources--not something all 1080p HDTVs can claim.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,300/6,525K||Good|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,450/6,500K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation 20 to 100 IRE||+/- 67K||Good|
|After grayscale variation 20 to 100 IRE||+/- 47K||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.674/0.325||Poor|
|Color of green||0.284/0.698||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.045||Average|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|