Sony Bravia XBR-84X900 3D LCD Ultra HDTV Page 2
First, the Tech Talk
I’ve got much good to talk about here when it comes to picture quality, but it’s worth noting up front that, surprisingly for such an expensive TV, the Sony failed both our SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition) motion adaptive (MA) deinterlacing tests, producing more rotating bar jaggies than would permit a passing grade. It also failed the 3:2 SD pulldown test and rolled off the highest-frequency burst in our Chroma Resolution test. Then, in attempting to check for how serious the deinterlacing issues might be on real-world 480i material (using the DVD release of Titanic), I discovered a general softening of 480i and 480p sources to a degree that was dependent on the setting of the Sony’s sharpness control. However, even with sharpness at the technically optimum setting, the visible result from letting the Sony do all the upconversion work for standard-definition content was clearly inferior to letting our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player do the 480i/p-to-1080p conversion before handing the signal over to the Sony for the final step up to 4K. This softening was more of a concern to me than the jaggies and in any event would have obscured subtle deinterlacing artifacts on real-world sources. At that point, with my time limited, I elected to chase the 480i issue no further.
Fortunately, the admittedly limited number of Blu-ray Discs I brought with real-world 1080i material on them (something other than test patterns) didn’t show any obvious consequences from the set’s failure to pass all of our formal HD deinterlacing tests. Overall, however, and to be consistent, our 2D performance rating was downgraded slightly from five stars only because of the Sony’s deinterlacing issues and softness with 480i/p standard-def content. And these went away when I let the Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player upconvert all interlaced material, HD and SD, to 1080p. Both 1080p and native 4K source material, with which I spent most of my allotted time, were unaffected by these results. Neither required scaling by the set that might produce deinter-lacing artifacts. And there were no visible issues from the chroma rolloff, which is not uncommon in many sets and is often done deliberately for valid technical reasons.
The Sony does offer a blizzard of five different adjustments that provide varying degrees of detail control: Sharpness, Reality Creation, Detail Enhancer, Edge Enhancer, and SBM (Super Bit Mapping). I left the Enhancers off and the SBM on for the entire test (SBM appeared to have no negative impact), but I initially vacillated between two combinations of Sharpness and Reality Creation. With the Sharpness on 50 (maximum 100) and Reality Creation off, the set produced the cleanest sharpness patterns, with little or no visible enhancement when viewed from mere inches away. With Sharpness on 10 and Reality Creation on Manual (Resolution 10; Noise Filtering 0) and with my nose nearly on the screen, I could see a trace of white line edge enhancement. But this was invisible at my viewing position, where this combination of settings produced a subtle but useful increase in subjective detail. This was the setting I used for my testing and viewing.
(After our access to the set had expired, Sony suggested different sharpness and Reality Creation control settings (see "Settings" page) that they say would have yielded a sharper image with 480i content. These are included on the Settings page. Sony did acknowledge that the jaggies we detected were endemic to the set.)
The Sony’s white-field uniformity was good. Not perfect—no video display is. But I was never distracted by oddities on predominantly white or near-white images. When viewed in a darkened room, LED edge lighting can also produce serious black-level uniformity issues in very dark scenes. But this was not the case here—with a single exception. When the source goes completely dark, the Sony’s screen goes very nearly full black as the LEDs shut off. But when the screen goes completely dark except for a small point of light, such as the pause bug the Oppo player places in the upper left-hand corner, the bug lightens that area of the screen. Because the edge lighting is top and bottom, you’ll see a fuzzy, lightened gray vertical stripe on the screen from top to bottom, above and below the bug. But this was rarely visible on normal program material.
The set will accept signals with color depth of up to 12-bit, though all the material on a 4K Sony movie server I had available (more on that below), as with all current and most future consumer video source material, was limited to 8-bit color. The color gamut on the server material was Rec. 709, the same as the current 2K HD standard. The XBR-84X900 does not offer a wider color gamut, which is not an issue as long as the source is no wider than Rec. 709—and no consumer sources (apart from some color photography) currently are. The movie server content was also delivered and digested by the XBR-84X900 with 4:2:2 color subsampling, which is a fancy way of saying that less digital compression of the color signal was used than is normally found in consumer video content.
4K: At Last
As explained in the accompanying sidebar, a server loaded with 4K movies and shorts comes with the XBR-84X900. The quality of this material varied. Among the movies, The Amazing Spider-Man, Battle: Los Angeles, Salt, and Total Recall (2012) were of reference quality. The Bridge on the River Kwai looked its age, and Taxi Driver was grainy, but that’s likely in the film source. [Ed. Note: Indeed it is; I saw this stunning restoration projected digitally in a theater, and it preserved the hard look that Scorsese effectively used to impart the grittiness of the crime-ridden New York City of the mid-1970s.—RS] The remaining titles (The Other Guys, The Karate Kid, Bad Teacher, and That’s My Boy) looked fine but weren’t up to the level of the other four.