Sony Grand Wega KF-50XBR800 LCD HD Monitor
Sony insists that I pronounce this TV's name correctly: Wega (Vay-guh). I think Wegg-ah is so much more amusing. Perhaps Wee-ga. If only Sony had gone all out and put an "e" at the end of Grand. I can hear the annoyance of salespeople everywhere as customers come in looking for one of them thar Grand-ee Wee-gas. It's too bad that the rest of the model nomenclature is hard to poke fun at. After all, how funny is KF-50XBR800? KF-50Exburrerr… never mind. Names aside, the TV itself is very hard to make fun of. Mostly.
The 50-inch KF-50XBR800 is the 60-inch Grand Wega's little brother, but size can be deceiving. The KF-50XBR800 shares the same three 1,366-by-768 LCD panels for its image projection. Like all of the new chip-based RPTVs, the KF-50XBR800 isn't very deep, only a little over 16 inches. It still weighs in at 111 pounds, so you might want to enlist a friend to help you get it out of the box. The only other concern is its height: At just 43.5 inches, your knees will have an excellent view of the middle of the screen. You'll need a stand, either from Sony or from another vendor like Salamander Designs, whose stand we feature on this month's cover.
After you situate the TV where you want it, you can start hooking up your sources. The two component (Y/Pb/Pr) inputs handle 480i up to 1080i. There are three composite and three S-video inputs, including one on the side panel. There's no FireWire connection, but the single DVI input has HDCP to allow you to view copy-protected HD material.
The remote looks very upscale, with a brushed-metal case and silver buttons. Unfortunately, function follows form. Most of the buttons are minuscule and impossible to distinguish in the dark. The brushed metal almost always feels cold, which may be useful if you want to place the remote against the back of someone's neck at a key point in a horror movie. Another problem is that there are no discrete input buttons. You have to use one button to cycle through eight inputs (including the tuner), which gets annoying. The remote is preprogrammed to control some separate tuners (satellite or cable), as well as a DVD player or VCR.
As with most Sony TVs, the KF-50XBR800's basic setup is easy. The menus are logically laid out and have presets for the vivid, standard, pro, and mild modes. You'll probably use the pro mode most often, as it does the least to the picture. Three color-temperature settings are also available: cool, neutral, and warm. These really should be labeled blue, mostly blue, and red. The warm setting is close to the D6500 Kelvin standard, but it's a little too warm. The TV has two other video settings: CineMotion and DRC Palette. CineMotion is supposed to pick up film-based sources' 3:2 sequence, which it does quickly and well through the component and S-video inputs but slowly and poorly through the composite input. On test patterns and some movies like Armageddon and Gladiator, it didn't seem to pick up the 3:2 sequence at all through the composite input. However, with other movies like The Phantom Menace, the Sony just picked up the 3:2 sequence a tad slower through the composite input than it did through the component input. When it did pick up the sequence, it did an excellent job of creating a smooth, filmlike image. The DRC Palette is one of the TV's more-amusing features. In a square box, you can adjust the amount of reality (on the vertical axis) and clarity (on the horizontal axis). Can you imagine what life would be like if you had a feature like this in the real world? Is life bringing you down? Decrease your reality setting. Can't make a decision? Crank up your clarity. I can think of a few nights out when my clarity was way too low. Back in the TV world, the reality setting seems to adjust the amount of edge enhancement, while the clarity setting handles noise reduction and smoothes out less-than-perfect signals (like most people's cable feed) quite well.