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Sony KP-46WT500 review: Sony KP-46WT500

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The Good Solid video processing with CineMotion 3:2 pull-down; 46-inch, 16:9, HDTV-capable rear-projector; 480p and 1080i display capability; 3D-YC comb filter; two-tuner picture-in-picture mode; relatively inexpensive.

The Bad No independent input memory; tabletop design is an awkward, in-between height; nonremovable protective screen.

The Bottom Line A great performer, especially after calibration, this smaller, midpriced, big-screen TV sets a high standard.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9

Review Sections

The KP-46WT500, a 46-inch HDTV, is Sony's smallest and least expensive wide-screen, rear-projection set. That size is new for the company and rare among HDTV manufacturers; Panasonic's less expensive 47-inch PT-47WX42, as well as 48-inch models from JVC and Mitsubishi, come closest. The KP-46WT500 offers a mix of cutting-edge features and the right videophile tweaks, such as a learning autoconvergence mode and a technician-adjustable color decoder. Nobody would call this $1,899 TV a bargain, but its price is certainly competitive among today's rear-projection crowd. Sony describes the KP-46WT500 as a tabletop model, and while it is shorter than most rear-projection models by about 10 inches, it still has the look of a floor-standing set. And who has a 10-inch-high table, anyway? This TV seemed tall enough for comfortable viewing from a low sofa, but just in case it's not, Sony sells an additional stand that lists for $200.

This set has a good-looking, silver finish; a protective screen that (unfortunately for video purists) cannot be removed; and a base that houses two speakers. A full set of controls--including buttons for volume, channel, input, and menu--lie behind a small panel on the set's base. On the lower left, another panel hides the front A/V inputs, including those for S-Video.

The universal remote control is slim and easy to use, with a joystick-cursor control and key buttons that glow in the dark--if you remember to leave it under a bright light to charge the illumination. A second tier of buttons controls other home-theater equipment. The menu system is understandable and easy to navigate; it includes descriptive explanations of many options. As a Hi-Scan set, the KP-46WT500 utilizes a scan converter to change standard video signals to higher-scan digital signals. Sony calls this technology Digital Reality Creation, and it will take a standard 480i video signal and up-convert it to either 960i or 480p--your preference. Signals from a progressive-output DVD player are displayed in native 480p. HDTV from an external antenna, a cable box, or a satellite receiver appears in 1080i, the most common HDTV format. Unfortunately, incoming 720p signals are converted to 480p rather than 1080i.

This set offers four picture modes--Vivid, Standard, Movie, and Pro--for varying the settings for brightness, contrast, and sharpness. You can adjust each mode individually, and the Sony will retain your settings. However, you can't associate modes with individual inputs.

Three color-temperature options include cool, neutral, and warm. Sony offers Normal, Wide, Wide Zoom, and Zoom viewing modes for filling the wide screen to your liking. When watching standard programs in 4:3, we noticed that the bars to the left and the right of the image are a light gray, which helps prevent burn-in.

The KP-46WT500 misses no important connections. The back panel offers three composite-video inputs, two S-Video inputs, two RF inputs, and two wideband component inputs. You can connect an HDTV receiver to either component input or to the DVI input. The DVI input includes High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection so that it can mate with next-generation digital set-top boxes. We opted to evaluate this set using the warm temperature and the Pro picture mode. Pro is the only setting that turns off scan-velocity modulation; this happens automatically, and we discovered it only by viewing test patterns. Out of the box, the grayscale was fairly close to the industry standard, with just a hint of blue in the neutral grays and no obvious distortion from high light output. As usual, the color decoder oversaturated reds, but the yellows appeared properly lemony rather than too orange or overly green.

Convergence is critical for the three CRT guns in a rear-projection model. Using a test pattern, we saw that the set was excellently converged and didn't require tweaking. Further test patterns showed very good resolution throughout the range of bandwidth. Watching Al Pacino in Insomnia, we immediately saw that his cheeks were too rosy; the color setting had to be backed down a click, causing an overall loss of color saturation.

As is typical of rear-projection sets, off-axis viewing seriously affects image quality. You'll want to sit fairly close to the KP-46WT500's center in order to get the best picture.

Viewing options include Interlaced (960i), Progressive (480p), or CineMotion (480p with 3:2 pull-down for video that originates from film, such as DVDs, movie channels, and so on). The difference between Interlaced and Progressive with cable signals was minimal, except with sports, where there were some visible scan lines in Interlaced and some blurring of the action in Progressive--choose your poison.

We tested the 3:2 pull-down processing of CineMotion by watching the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection. Without 3:2 pull-down, the railings on the bridge, the canoes on the bank, and the eaves of the temple roofs all crawled with film-to-video transfer artifacts. With CineMotion enabled, the artifacts nearly disappeared. We also bypassed CineMotion using a Toshiba SD4800 DVD player with a progressive-scan output. In this case, the 3:2 pull-down is performed by the player, and the image was even cleaner, though not by too much.

To see how this set could perform at its best, we connected a Time Warner New York City HDTV-capable cable set-top box. Channel 13 HD, a high-definition showcase, runs reference material such as travel videos set to music. The broadcast images looked pristine in 1080i. The Sony really shined here; there was tremendous clarity and detail to the image, and the three-dimensional quality of HD showed that the set could deliver excellent resolution. A train engine pulling out of the station provided a good reference for black level, and this Sony delivered an excellent rendition of well-detailed blacks.

Reviewer's note: This set was so accurate that we believe it was pretweaked by the company for our review; your model may not perform so well out of the box. On the other hand, this Sony calibrates very nicely, and we think that it's well worth the added expense to have it serviced by a trained technician. The KP-46WT500 has an internal color-decoder fix that greatly improves color accuracy, and convergence settings can be memorized into the Flash Focus feature. The latter is a huge plus since CRT guns drift often in the first few hundred viewing hours.

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