kdsr50xbr1
There are so many words that can describe the Sony KDS-R50XBR1. Breathtaking, gorgeous, astounding, and unfortunately, expensive. This new rear projection by Sony employs a proprietary version of LCoS called SXRD to produce one of the best looking pictures I have ever seen. Sony has a winner on their hands with this set, but more importantly with, SXRD.

This is the second line of televisions that has employed SXRD. The first was the uber-expensive Qualia 006 that was released last year and was widely considered to be the BEST picture available. But that set was out of reach by the average Joe with a price tag of $13,000 for the 70-inch. Sony took nearly an identical mold and formed these little brothers of the 006 that are available at 60-inches and 50-inches for $5,000 and $4,000 respectively. The two different lines of TVs have nearly identical parts and the picture quality is amazing on both.

Remote

This is the same remote that Sony has used on XBRs for the past 2 or 3 years. (picture below) That’s OK by me though as it is a cool remote. It is sleek and made out of metal. The buttons have a nice solid feel to ‘em and the layout is fine. The only complaint I have about it is that it gets nasty after a few months of use. The metal gets dirty and fast.

remote

Oh, and note to Sony; this remote would look killer if you put LED backlighting on it Apple Powerbook style.

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Menu

The menus on Sony’s newer TVs are all the same, but that’s OK ‘cause it works fine. They are easy to navigate and provide the user with enough adjustments. This TV has an ‘Advanced’ menu though that can fine-tune the TV even more. It even allows a person to adjust the ‘Iris’ of the lamp in order to increase contrast and brightness.

This XBR however, allows the common man to access the holy grail of TV adjustments: Sony’s DRC palette. This little devil is like a line doubler for TV signals. There are plenty of options (picture below) to allow the user to find the sweet spot of detail versus smoothness. Once you find the right spot for your set, you'll be happy you have this option.

drc

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Inputs

This TV has it all, well almost.
  • 2 HDMI
  • 3 Firewire/iLink
  • 2 Component
  • VGA
  • 2 sets of composite/S-Video

It has tons of inputs but that’s where I have a problem. Check out the picture below and look at how spread out they are. I understand that people don't like to be messing with inputs that are crammed together, but Sony laid them out over the entire back panel. Wire maintenance on this guy is terrible. Having the cable card on the side however is smart; I like that.

back

The one input that is missing, however, is a front HDMI port. I was sure that Sony was going to start putting them on their sets with this generation, but I was wrong. My line of thought was that the Playstation 3 has dual HDMI so you would want to take the PS3 over to a buddies house and have a quick connection. Oh well, not on this set.

front

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Picture quality

-SD-
Hey, this is a rear-projection and this TV is aimed at those that have a bigger wallet and therefore at least digital cable or satellite. Nevertheless, the expected pixelation was evident with a standard signal, however, it was not worse then any other set.


-DVD-
Perhaps I cheated a tad when I chose Toy Story to review this set but it sure was bright and pretty: very crisp and clear. It did however, produce the grayish blacks that are characteristic of its LCD brethren. I was a tad disappointed with it. But my god, it was bright and crisp!

Master and Commander produced a similar problem with the black levels. The TV made easy work of the dark shadows but struggled with the deep blacks. The lines were as crisp that a 480p picture could be. Overall though, the picture was great.


-720p High Definition-
The picture is amazing. Even at 720p it is gorgeous and by far the best looking picture I have ever seen on a rear-projection set. The blacks are black and the whites are white. Blue sky is as smooth as God made it. And to think that the 720p signal from DirecTV is only half of what this 1080p set can do; it makes me anxious to see the full quality of this guy. What more can you ask for?

The SXRD technology resolves the biggest issue Sony has had in the past with their microdisplays built off of LCD: screen door effect. This TV is smoother then any DLP I have seen and shows no effect of a grid. LCoS shoots light off a panel rather then through it like LCDs. Plus, the SXRD variant of LCoS has a denser pixel count and so the chance of seeing the grid is reduced even more.

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Sound

Buy a sound system. You will not be happy with the one that is in this $4,000 TV. Sony should consider beefing up the power on the speakers; not everyone has money left to buy a good sound system after dropping four-grand on the television!


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Overall

I love this TV. It has almost everything that a person could be looking for out a large screen set. Besides having crappy sound, I have no major issues with it. The blacks are not incredible, but they aren't bad ether. I would like to start seeing front HDMI ports on higher end TVs but that is not something to mark this TV down on. The jacks are spread out but at least there is every kind a person could need.

If you are looking for a great picture from DVDs and HD, consider this TV. Sure it is expensive, but man the picture is amazing.

Overall Score: 8 out of 10

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HD Beat Review: Sony KDS-R50XBR1