Sony KDL-55XBR8 LCD TV Setup & Tests

Setup & Tests
Tom Norton calibrated this set before I could get to it, so I'll let him tell you about the process:

Before calibration, even the Warm 2 setting of the Sony's Color Temperature control was measurably blue, though less so than most sets. Calibration rectified this completely—in fact, the measurements show the set's color tracking and color gamut (Standard Color Space setting, Live Color off) to be as accurate as any display we have yet measured. With the right test tools and the user menu's White Balance controls, the calibration was problem-free.

Setting the brightness and contrast were easy as well. The LED local dimming did not pull the entire PLUGE pattern into total blackness—the above-black stripe remained fully visible when the below-black stripe vanished at the correct brightness setting. Similarly, I was able to set the contrast so that above-white was properly visible, and there was no ringing with the sharpness control at its default value of 50.

Detail on the HQV Benchmark DVD at 480i via component was very good, but jaggies were moderate to poor with DRC (Digital Reality Creation) disabled. Setting DRC to Mode 1 reduced jaggies dramatically, whereas Mode 2 looked worse. Noise reduction was very effective with only slight softening of the image at the High setting—it even reduced MPEG mosquito noise. By contrast, the MPEG NR control was not very effective, and it noticeably softened the picture, so I left it off.

With DRC in Mode 1 and CineMotion (film mode) set to Auto 1, the set picked up 3:2 pulldown very quickly, though there was a bit of shimmering in the bleachers. Performance on 2:2 video was not so great, with lots of shimmering in the coffee cups and newspaper.

Switching to the HQV Benchmark HD DVD at 1080i via HDMI, jaggies were invisible, and the video resolution-loss test was solid with DRC disabled; Mode 1 introduced some smudging in the vertical high-frequency bursts, while Mode 2 cut the visible resolution in half. There was some serious flickering in the moving monoscope of the film resolution-loss test, and the DRC and Motion Enhancer settings had no apparent effect on this. The bleacher seats lost some detail during the pan, and DRC Mode 2 introduced some obvious moiré in the upper seats.

To evaluate the Motion Enhancer frame-interpolation settings, I looked at FPD Benchmark on Blu-ray. In the scrolling monoscope, detail was degraded with Motion Enhancer off, while the other three settings—Clear, Standard, and Smooth—sharpened the image significantly, though there was some smudging in the bursts and wedges. All three settings were about the same in this regard, as they were with the other motion clips that are very revealing when it comes to motion detail and artifacts. After watching these clips multiple times, I decided that I slightly prefer the look of the Clear setting, so that's where I left it.

The FPD Benchmark disc also includes some great clips to evaluate a set's light-gradation performance. The 0-100% ramp was very smooth, but the 0-25% ramp had much more banding. The differentiation between different blacks and whites was very good in the shots that focus on these differences.

The mostly black shots also provide a great torture test for off-axis performance, and the Sony did much better in this regard than most LCDs I've seen. Yes, the apparent black level rose and the color shifted when I moved off-axis as all LCDs do, but not nearly as much as I'm used to.