20 TV Questions

Richard McGready recently wrote to me with several TV questions:

I'm thinking about buying a Sony XBR5 LCD TV, but I heard that Sony is coming out with a newer top-of-the-line model in a couple of months. Do you know anything about it? What new features, if any, does it have? Is it better than the XBR5? I've contacted Sony and they won't tell me anything.

I've heard rumors that Sony is coming out with a TV with 240Hz instead of 120Hz. Do you know anything about that?

I've also heard that Samsung is coming out with a 3D TV. Is that true and, if so, is it any good?

What 50- to 60-inch plasma or LCD TV do you think is the best?

Okay, so that's not 20 questions, but it's more than I usually get in a single e-mail. To start with, Sony did announce several new lines at the recent CEDIA show, including XBR6, XBR7, and XBR8. Each line has its own hallmarks—for example, the XBR8 line, which will be available in 46- and 55-inch models, uses an array of red, green, and blue LEDs as the backlight instead of the conventional fluorescent lights. These LEDs can be independently dimmed or brightened behind dark and bright areas of the image, greatly increasing contrast without the visible "pumping" commonly seen with dynamic fluorescent backlights.

The large-screen XBR6 line, available in sizes of 40, 46, and 52 inches, has a new piano-black cabinet, but it's otherwise very similar to the previous XBRs in terms of features. Same for the XBR7 line, with one major exception—the KDL-52XBR7 (pictured above), which offers a refresh rate of 240Hz, twice the rate of the now-common 120Hz LCD TVs. Like 120Hz, the faster rate is supposed to improve motion detail; look for a review as soon as I can get one.

Samsung and Mitsubishi have both been making 3D-capable DLP rear-projection TVs for at least a year now. To see this effect, you must have content encoded for 3D—mostly games at this point—and some active LCD-shutter glasses that open and close each lens alternately in sync with an infrared signal from the TV. I've seen demos of these sets, and I must say it's not my cup of tea. Yes, the 3D effect is unequivocal, but I get a headache after more than about 10 minutes of it.

The best 50- or 60-inch plasma is easy—Pioneer's Kuro line, such as the PRO-111FD 50-incher. As for LCDs, I'd have to give the nod to Samsung—the LN52A750 is the best conventionally backlit LCD I've seen, and the new LN55A950 looks amazing with its LED backlighting; look for a review in a couple of weeks.

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sourceinterlink.com.