Sony KDL-55XBR8 LCD TV Real-World Performance

Real-World Performance
Starting as usual with chapter 3 of Mission: Impossible III on HD DVD at 1080i, the moiré in the pan across the staircase was pretty bad, though shadow detail in the catacombs was very good. Also, color was excellent overall.

To further test the frame interpolation, I pulled out Cars on Blu-ray and played the beginning. During the profile of the three race leaders, Lighting McQueen appears in front of an array of bright blue lights that can appear smudged when frame interpolation is enabled, but not on the Sony—it was clean as a whistle with Motion Enhancer set to Clear.

The same was true near the beginning of Star Wars VI on DVD—there were no shimmering artifacts in the first view of the Death Star from Darth Vader's shuttle or in the fine vertical lines on the side of the landing bay. Shadow detail in the shuttle cockpit and Jabba the Hutt's dim lair was excellent, though differentiation in Vader's black garb was not that great. Detail in the surface of the Death Star and the dessert terrain of Tatooine was sharper than I've seen DVD look on many displays, and colors were likewise superb.

Regarding color, I should point out that the 55XBR8 was one of four TVs in a recent face-off conducted by our sibling publication, Home Theater. The other three were the Samsung LN55A950 LCD, Pioneer Elite PRO-111FD plasma, and Panasonic TH-50PZ800 plasma. The face-off will appear in HT's February 2009 issue.

With all four TVs side by side displaying the same material from a Blu-ray player through an HDMI splitter, the Sony's color appeared to have a slight greenish cast compared with the others, even though it measured nearly perfectly in terms of grayscale and color gamut. The reason for this is unclear. However, viewed in isolation without the other TVs right next to it, this greenish cast was not particularly apparent. Skin tones looked a bit paler than other sets I've looked at recently, but this wasn't troubling at all, except when placed next to other sets with rosier skin tones.

The black of space that opens Stargate: Continuum on Blu-ray was truly awesome—deliciously deep and inky, though there weren't quite as many stars visible as on a plasma. Even better, there was virtually no haloing around the bright title as it faded in and out. Shadow detail in the sequence aboard the Achilles in chapter 3 was very good, and the overall detail in the Tokra city and spaceship exteriors was razor-sharp. Colors were rich and natural, with beautiful green trees and blue skies. As mentioned before, skin tones were a bit paler than I'm used to seeing, but it didn't bother me in the least.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was equally gorgeous. Detail in the ships' rigging, facial textures, and brick buildings was super sharp, and shadow detail was just as impressive in the nighttime attack on Port Royal, the dimly lit jail, and treasure cavern. The black letterbox bars completely disappeared from consciousness, and there was no black-level pumping or haloing around the white credits on a black background.

The 55XBR8's onboard audio system sounded okay, but it was nothing special. Dialog intelligibility was not great, and the overall sound was somewhat closed in and congested. As always—and especially with a set this large and expensive—I recommend using an external surround-sound system for maximum enjoyment.