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Sony KF-XBR800 review: Sony KF-XBR800

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The Good Sleek, slim design for a 60-inch, rear-projection TV; requires no convergence or geometry correction; solid video processing with 3:2 pull-down.

The Bad More expensive than like-sized sets; no true independent input memories; poor black-level performance.

The Bottom Line This LCD set has a very sleek, sexy design, but it can't match the performance of less expensive, CRT-based HDTVs.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

The KF-60XBR800 LCD rear-projection TV is Sony's second-generation Grand WEGA model, and according to the company, it's a dramatic improvement over its predecessor. LCD technology allowed Sony to build a huge, 60-inch screen in a thin, fetching cabinet--at least when compared to most big-screen boxes in stores today. However, the Grand WEGA costs more than comparably sized, CRT-based sets, and its video performance isn't as impressive. Still, if you're looking for a slim, large-screen model and have the cash, this TV's unique looks and easy maintenance make strong arguments for going Grand. The Grand WEGA's styling must be tempting for folks who want a big screen but don't like large, black boxes. This set's attractive, slim-line design almost makes it look like a flat-panel plasma TV, although it's 22 inches deep instead of just 4 inches. The unit is almost all screen, with the left and right speakers hidden behind a very finely perforated grille. A slick, pop-out door below the screen reveals some of the set's most commonly used controls.

To denote its upscale status, the 60XBR800 comes with a new, aluminum-plated remote. The remote has been completely redesigned, and we found that its smaller overall size and tiny buttons make it more difficult to use. The set's internal menu system offers simple navigation through the various functions, and the picture adjustments don't obscure the rest of the screen. Sony's use of LCD technology provides more than just a slim profile; it also means that the set isn't subject to the convergence and geometry errors that plague CRT-based TVs. You won't have to periodically realign the tubes or pay somebody else to do it since this set has no tubes. LCDs also don't burn in, so you don't have to worry about permanently etching a TV station watermark or another static image into the tube. (Granted, this is an issue with CRTs and plasma-based sets only if you leave the contrast too high.) The 60XBR800 has three 16:9-shaped LCD panels with 1,366x768-pixel resolution. This WEGA can display 1080i and 720p HDTV when connected to a separate set-top box, and it scales all incoming video to fit the panels--so technically, it doesn't display every line of a 1080i source. Nonetheless, this set is still one of the highest-resolution display devices available.

Performance-related features include CineMotion 3:2 pull-down--which helps eliminate artifacts from film-based material such as DVDs--as part of the adjustable Digital Reality Creation video processing. There are three selectable color temperatures (warm, neutral, and cool), giving you the ability to tailor the overall cast of the picture from a warm, reddish hue to a cool blue. Four picture modes come with very different factory presets for contrast, brightness, and other controls. For sources such as VHS and cable TV, the set sports a 3D-YC comb filter to help eliminate composite-video-related artifacts. A selection of aspect ratios are onboard to accommodate standard 4:3 video, anamorphic DVD, HDTV, and regular letterbox sources--including a mode that selectively stretches the image to fill the wide screen with minimum distortion.

On the convenience side, the Grand WEGA has much to offer. A dual-tuner picture-in-picture mode, complete with side-by-side windows, gives you the ability to keep tabs on two programs simultaneously. Sony provides a Memory Stick slot so that the set can display images from a digital camera. Favorite Channel, Channel Skip/Add, a sleep timer, and the obligatory V-Chip parental control are just some of the other handy features. In terms of audio, the set offers MTS Stereo and Simulated Surround, the latter of which gives a semblance of surround sound using only the two left and right speakers.

The Grand WEGA's jack pack is also quite comprehensive. Front-panel A/V inputs with S-Video are conveniently located on the left side of the set's base. On the rear panel, the 60XBR800 sports two broadband component-video inputs that support 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i sources. Additionally, you'll find three A/V inputs (two with S-Video), a set of monitor outputs (composite video only), a set of variable-audio outputs, two RF inputs, and an RF loop out. All A/V inputs have stereo audio for use with the set's onboard sound system. Finally, and most importantly, the 60XBR800 adds a Digital Visual Interface jack with Hollywood-sanctioned HDCP copy protection for use with newer HDTV receivers. While LCD technology works wonders for the Grand WEGA's look, it doesn't do as good a job as CRTs in creating a beautiful picture. As with many HDTVs, this set's out-of-the-box performance was not very good. Even the warm color-temperature setting looked quite blue, and the picture was severely washed out with little or no detail at or near black. After our standard ISF calibration, the picture improved considerably.

We were pleased to find color-decoder adjustments in the service menu, giving us the ability to eliminate red push and dramatically improve the color saturation with component-DVD and HDTV sources. As with all Sony sets, one of this model's drawbacks is its lack of independent memory for each input, which lets you optimize your settings for various video sources. If you do set up different adjustments for each memory slot on this set, you'll have to change the mode in the menu every time you switch inputs.

We tested our adjustments with scenes from another Pixar masterpiece Monsters, Inc. Chapter 4, The Morning Workout, is a nice, bright scene that showed off the Grand WEGA's strong points, including excellent color saturation with the newly calibrated decoder. Chapter 11, on the other hand, is fairly dark and stands as a good torture test for LCD-based TVs since reproducing good black level--deep and inky with plenty of detail in the shadows--is an LCD's biggest performance challenge. Despite Sony's claims of improved black level from the previous Grand WEGA, blacks on the 60XBR800 still appeared as dark gray. A kind of haze comes over the picture whenever you are viewing dark scenes on this set.

HDTV sources from Time Warner Cable in New York City looked pretty good. PBS in particular was quite nice as long as the image was bright. Again, the dark scenes suffered, even with high-resolution HDTV sources. Overall, the Grand WEGA provides a good--but not great--picture, and at this price, we expect greatness.

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