Sony KDS-60A2000 60-inch SXRD HDTV Page 3

The Short Form
This 2nd-gen SXRD rear projector follows the tradition of excellence set by its predecessors.
•Punchy, vibrant color •Excellent black and shadow reproduction •Crisp 1080p resolution •Impressive selection of picture controls to adjust the image
•No backlight on the remote
Key Features
•1,920 x 1080-pixel SXRD •Two 1080p-capable HDMI inputs •Full suite of picture controls including White Balance, Gamma, Iris, and others •Inputs: 2 HDMI video/audio, 3 component-video, 1 S-video, 3-composite video (all with stereo audio), 1 PC (with mono audio), 1 RF coax (antenna), 1 RF coax (cable) •Outputs: 1 optical digital audio, 1 analog stereo audio •Dimensions: 55.8 x 39 x 20.3 inches •Price: $3,500, optional stand (SU-RS11X) $400
Beyond the White Balance controls, two other unusual and highly useful options are the Iris and Gamma controls. An iris is a mechanical shutter provided in some HDTVs that shuts down light output from the lamp to help the TV deliver better blacks and contrast, and the KDS-60A2000 offers more settings to adjust its iris than any other HDTV I've seen: Min, Low, Medium, High, Max, and two Auto modes. After starting out at Min to derive the deepest blacks, I eventually found the increased brightness of the Medium setting to provide the best compromise between good blacks and the dynamic punch I was looking for. Likewise, there are several settings for Gamma, which can be used to extract details from shadows without dramatically affecting the overall brightness of the image. The Off setting resulted in deep, inky blacks, but washed out virtually all the shadow details in dark scenes. The Low Gamma setting brought up the detail just enough to give dark scenes nice depth while retaining good blacks.

Beyond this, the set has a number of other advanced picture processing options, most of which I eventually left off. But the High setting for Noise Reduction really helped clean up crappy 480i broadcasts without affecting higher-quality sources. Along with Sony's Digital Reality Creation (DRC) modes, which kick in for low-res signals and allow you to play with the balance of image detail and smoothness, I was able to get standard def signals into a very watchable state, particularly high-quality DVDs.

PERFORMANCE It didn't take more than a few moments of scanning the high-def cable channels to realize this Sony follows in the big footsteps of the SXRDs that came before it. Even with the brightness adjusted down for our darkened home theater, these TVs all share a vibrancy and punch that's something to behold. Watching coverage of the space shuttle Atlantis launch on HDNet, the shuttle's white body and the clouds behind it were set in almost 3-D relief against a rich blue Florida sky. The spaceship's auxilliary fuel tank was a pungent brown-orange rust, and I could see the shiny white finish on the solid-rocket boosters that straddled the tank.

When the scene switched to the two shirt-sleeved commentators sitting at their outdoor anchor desk, the screen flooded with hyper-sharp detail. I could easily see the shiny, embroidered logo on the pocket of a vivid blue dress shirt one of them was wearing - even though the logo was exactly the same color as the shirt and set off from the fine cotton weave only by its raised, satiny finish. Flesh tones were excellent: nicely balanced without being exaggerated, and full of subtlety. I could instantly see the contrast between one of the anchors' fair skin (and the red tops of his ears from too much southern sun) and the other's more ruddy complexion and rosy, freckled cheeks. I observed how the gold wedding band one of them was wearing popped off the screen as it caught the light when he moved his hand around and the perfectly reproduced neon-green markings on the reporters' typed notes where they had highlighted them.

When I switched over to a New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game in HD on SportsNet NY, the set made easy work of resolving the vibrant Mets blue and orange (with which I'm intimately familiar) from the deeper blue and red on the Dodgers uniforms. The grass at Shea Stadium was a perfectly natural green hue, rendered in sharp detail by the Sony's 1080p screen, and when El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) came off the Mets mound, his face soaked in sweat, I noticed that his blue cap was stained dark all the way around the rim where he had soaked it through. Wow! This is the kind of mesmerizing HDTV experience that can make you stop caring about what you're actually watching.