Sony KP-57XBR10W rear-projection television Page 3
Disney's recent DVD release of Dinosaur had striking depth and an almost incredibly crisp-looking picture, to a degree likely to be bettered only by far more expensive combinations of separate CRT projector and screen. Animation, of course, with its hard edges, has an inherent advantage over live action in this respect. The Perfect Storm was softer-looking, but this was also true of the film when I saw it in one of the best theaters in the country, the Mann Village in Westwood, California. Chicken Run was also a delight on the Sony—claymation resembles live action more than computer or hand-drawn techniques. I avoided KFC for weeks afterward.
The only flaws I noted were motion artifacts. They were infrequent enough not to be a serious distraction, but you will see them with some material. I encountered them most often with standard (non-anamorphic) letterbox DVD transfers. The ships' railings in Titanic gave the DRC momentary problems, as did the structures of space stations and mission-control monitor consoles in Armageddon. The opening scene as the "camera" pans across statues in Disney's Hercules also resulted in line twitter and jagged edges. But I also noted occasional problems with anamorphic releases, particularly those with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The ship's rigging in The Bounty caused brief problems. And at the beginning of chapter 12 of Gladiator, as Commodus returns to Rome, artifacts were clearly visible as the camera pans down over the eagle (look at the feather lines in the wings) and across horizontal features of buildings. These are all characteristic of interlaced scanning—and the DRC's output is interlaced.
The cure for virtually all such artifacts was a progressive-scan DVD player, which bypassed Sony's DRC and banished the problem, with no side visible effects. I can't really say that the progressive feed was superior to DRC in other respects, but it was never inferior.
I used a number of D-VHS tapes of high-definition broadcasts to evaluate the 57XBR's HDTV performance and came away seriously impressed. The PBS demo loop (often referred to by Joel Brinkley in his hi-def reviews) looked absolutely stunning on the Sony. In its level of detail and the richness of its color palette, it was miles beyond the NTSC we all know and love.
One of the tapes I viewed was a Thanksgiving Day football game between the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots. Sharp, crisp, 3D—we've used these words before, but they applied in triplicate here. Most revealing, perhaps, was a comparison of this hi-def game with another one in standard definition being broadcast at the same time on ESPN. The standard-definition, cable-transmitted game looked like doggy-do next to the hi-def. It wasn't remotely close.
The 57XBR didn't have quite the clarity and snap, that looking-through-a-window quality, of the very best high-definition displays I have seen—that honor goes to some very expensive 9-inch CRT data-grade projectors, including Sony's own VPH-G90U. But it certainly produced a better picture than 99.99% of the public has ever been exposed to. If the average sports fan could see the comparison I made above between games in HDTV and NTSC, he or she would fly, not walk, to the nearest big-screen dealer. That fan might not be able to afford today's hi-def prices, but I can guarantee that he or she will be waiting to pounce when the price is right.
Downsides? Only one. Recall my mentioning above that the 57XBR downscales 720p to 480p: When I fed the set some high-quality 720p HD material, it looked decidedly soft on the Sony—nowhere near as good as native 1080i programming. Any type of conversion, 720p to 480p or 720p to 1080i, carries with it the chance of degrading the image, and few manufacturers produce sets that can display 720p native. This might be a problem if 720p ever gets going, but at present the major proponent of that format, ABC, remains stingy in its support of high-definition broadcasting—720p or otherwise.
Can I recommend the Sony KP-57XBR10W? You bet. Properly calibrated, it will set you back on your heels with a good DVD—and nail you against the rear wall with the best high-definition programming. While watching that football game on the Sony, it occurred to me that if Jane and Joe Q. Sixpack knew what they were missing, the transition to HDTV would truly take off.