This may sound a bit odd for someone posting in this forum, but personally, I'd just as soon not have a TV in the house.
(I've sent all my siblings a copy of "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television" by Gerry Mander.)
But my wife wanted to get one for a small "TV room" we've just fixed up, and it gets the TV out of our bedroom, so I dived into the project. We needed LCD because we needed as minimal depth as possible. HD seemed like a smart move since that's where the industry is headed.
We don't have cable or a "home theater" and OTA and DVD are the sources we watch.
I'm both a critical and skeptical consumer, but I also would rather pay more for a good quality product than save a few bucks and be unhappy with the result.
With all that background in mind ...
I just purchased a KDL-V26XBR1 with Sony DVP-NS70H and Terek HDTVi from CC. Monster Cable HDMI between the DVD player and LCD.
Eugene has limited stores at which we could view TVs, and the CC here has a miserable feed and not very knowledgeable staff. So it was a bit of a "leap of faith" after viewing a variety of competitive models at CC and other places and reading posts here and in other forums.
I've done some basic adjustments -- obviously not using the absurd "vivid" picture setting, etc. (What an insult to consumers!) Will do more once I get the DVE DVD. I'll post once I've settled on our preferences.
This is obvious, but bears repeating for other "newbies", like me -- Adjustments, source material, and antenna reception are critical. Without a few basic setup changes, and with the antenna not properly positioned, the images were subpar, regardless of the source.
However, once I got things setup decently and watched some great HD content from PBS -- Holy Cow! So this is what the HDTV excitement is all about?!
Given that the competitive models I viewed suffered from the same lame B&M environment that the Sony did, I can't say it's better than other alternatives. But on the HDTV material it was really fine. Very nice detail, even in dark images. Beautiful, natural looking color
. Handled motion well.
I can say at this point, the XBR does does meet my threshold for HD viewing, and I'm satisfied with the choice.
OTOH ... I'll work on adjustments some more, but for now I would hardly recommend the expense for what you see with SD broadcasts. (But I guess that's not the point of buying an HD TV, is it?)
My verdict's out on DVDs at this point. The couple of movies we've watched look good, but nowhere near the impact of the PBS (true) HDTV content.
Verdict is also still out on the Terek HDTVi antenna. The small base is definitely a nuisance; and, being a directional antenna, it's a hassle to move it around for different stations. But we may narrow our "favorite" channels down enough that we can get the antenna set and forget about it. It does seem to receive well when pointed at a mid-distance source.
BTW, I don't know who cooked up the "viewing distance" tables I've seen, but we are exactly 7' from the 26" screen, and (contrary to what I've read) that is just barely far enough away for pleasant viewing. I think 8' is a more reasonable minimum for a 26" screen and a 23" screen might have been a better size for our room. The clarity, motion, etc. is fine. It's just that a full 26" screen with an active image seems to me to be at the limits of the width where you can maintain focus without lots of eye movement. (But keep in mind, I'm a person who prefers reading a book.)