Sony SXRDOur own Matt Burns gave a review of this set a few weekends ago, but what's better than a reader review? HD Beat reader Thom McCann had a television die on him, so after the funeral, he decided to pick up new Sony SXRD 50-inch set. Thom has plenty of pics and opinions on his purchase, so read on for his full reader-review after the jump!

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"Last weekend my 9 year old Sony Trinitron 34in XBR went kaput! So I was forced to explore my options on a replacement set. I’ve been holding out on HDTV for many reasons including price, resolutions, future compatibility, home space constraints and lack of HD content. I was hoping to get another year or so out of my Trinitron. While I kept somewhat up to date on HD offerings, I was now in a position where I needed to immerse myself in the details.

After a little bit of research and shopping I felt comfortable that HD technology had reached a relatively good price/performance point. More importantly, with the arrival of several HD sets that provided 1080p and HDMI, I felt reasonably assured that these products were relatively future proof. I wanted an HD TV that could handle all of today’s formats and display full HD resolution.

One could easily be overwhelmed when shopping at some of the better HD retailers. There are so many offerings available; traditional CRT, rear projection (DLP), Flat Panel LCD and Plasma. When I started out, I figured I would be looking at DLP based sets since they offer the larger flat screens at a lower price than the plasma or LCD flat panels. They take up less room than the older generation of rear projection systems (or larger CRT TVs) although the do have a bit of bulk. In my research I looked at 1080p systems from Sharp (LCD Flat panel), Sony SXRD (non-DLP rear projection) and DLP sets from Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Samsung. The prices ranged from around $3,000 (DLPs) to $5,000 Sharp LCD flat panel.

I was able to view the Sony SXRD set in a store with high quality input source and the picture was absolutely amazing. There were better pictures from some plasma sets nearby but they were more than double the price. I was not able to see a set with such a good input source as the Sony but I did assume that the others suffered from signal degradation that is somewhat common when shopping for an HD set. The Toshiba was a bit too big for my space at 56 inches. The Mitsubishi set looked good. The Sharp LCD flat panel was tempting and I wanted to give the Samsung a chance.

In the end, I chose the Sony SXRD 50. I didn’t want a monstrously big screen so I thought 50 was the right size. The Sharp 45in LCD flat panel might be a better fit for my space but it’s another grand and the model didn’t have two HDMI ports (although it did have 1 HDMI and 1 DVI). The Sony had a nice form factor with dimensions: 57 1/4" x 34" x 18 7/8, the base is only 38in wide and fit nicely on my existing TV stand. I could just replace my old TV and plug the SXRD into my existing components – although I did buy a new DVD player (Sony DVP-NS70H) to do 720p/1080i.

TV on standAt 94-pounds, the SXRD 50 was easy to carry and maneuver with two people. The set fit nicely on my existing stand.
 
I picked up my HD DVR set top box from Comcast and some overpriced HDMI and optical cables from Best Buy. I was ready to move into the world of HDTV!

At first I hooked up the cable box to the new TV via component video cables and the new DVD player via HDMI (with optical out to the sound system). When I viewed HD channels with this setup, the picture didn’t look as great as I thought it should. There was some noise. I worked through the Sony menus to adjust the picture to reduce the noise but it still wasn’t perfect. I then switched to the DVI out on the cable box, going into the TV via and HDMI connector cable. The HD channels were outstanding with this setup. I was amazed at the picture clarity and color – and an instant fan of HD TV. I then proceeded to do what every other HD TV owner does; I watched stuff that I had no interest in because it was in HD. The picture is definitely compelling.

Back of UnitThe setup of the HD TV was easy to figure out. The back of the Sony TV is very clearly labeled. It has 8 different video inputs besides the TV input. It has 2 composite and S-Video, 2 component video and a PC input via VGA (all with RCA audio in). There are 2 HDMI inputs with one having an additional RCA audio in.
 

Back leftThere are also a set of front panel inputs (composite, S-Video, Sony’s iLink (IEEE 1394) port and Memory Stick slot). The SXRD has a cable card slot, but I have it connected via a HD-DVR box from Comcast. The TV also supports Analog audio out and Dolby digital out via optical port.

The remote has easy access to a wide range of features when using the TV. With the normal direct cable connection to the TV, I can use the Twin View feature to watch two channels at once. Twin view also supports viewing various video inputs but not the digital inputs. I can change the wide screen format when watching any TV channel or video input. This helps when watching programs in the standard 4:3 format. Of course, watching non-HD programming is not acceptable in full wide screen mode. The picture can be adjusted to cope with this but even in centered 4:3 the picture is a bit blurry and grainy. 

The DVD player connected thru HDMI provided a very high quality picture. My old DVD player was non-progressive and connected thru S-Video. The combination of the progressive scan up-converting to 720p/1080i connected to a digital video interface was outstanding. I can’t wait for 1080p content to see the next level.

Football is the reason they invented HD!

Football
  
The only drawback for me is that the integrated speakers make the set almost 10 inches wider. They are not detachable. It would be nice to remove the speakers since I use a home theater system for the audio. It would also be nice to have some way to know what resolution is currently being shown. With all the various formats, it would be great to compare the difference between the formats and to know when a source is being converted.  

At $3999, this set is on the expensive side for a rear projection system. It was $500 more than the equivalent Samsung. If not for the simple fact that it fit on my existing TV stand, then this review might have been about the Samsung HL-R5078W. All in all, the Sony SXRD 50 (it also comes in a 60 inch screen) is an awesome HDTV with a large range of features and high quality screen. I might just keep it." - Thom McCann

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