Well...I am back in the hunt for a 1080p LCD set. And I really, really want it before too much of the football season passes ( I am a diehard FB Fan - Dolphins!! - shows just how diehard I am
Even though I had previously spent some time with the XBR2 - the recent reports of macroblocking and other wierd artifacts and anomolies alarmed me. I too have seen some really crappy setups of this set. (No where near as bad as some pics posted - but crappy none the less).
I dragged 3 of my mates along and off to Fry's we went to spend the afternoon determining if the SOny was the set...and which one. The Fry's (Phoenix Thunderbird location) has the xbr2 next to the sammy 96 and JVC 97 and sammy 95 with the XBR1 at the end. Made for some easy ways to compare. We took along a macbook, mac pro and laptop running at ATI card. Also brought some VGA cables (monoprice), HDMI, DVI/HDMI and component.
I did not spend alot of time comparing- but quickly grabbed the remotes (thanks to David - salesman at Frys) and setup all 3 sets. I spent ALOT more time tweaking the Sony and the reason why - was also to determine how much effect the DRC modes had and if they would be worth anything. Hence the reason I am posting in this thread. Wanted to determine if I should just wait for the 2500. Fry's had an HD feed (PBS) and SD (station 5) fed via coax from cable to the sets, we also used a BR player and an HD(non updated).
AT NO time during the playback of HD PBS did we witness ANY macroblocking. There was a bit of dithering in dark scenes and at close distance (less than 2 ft) mosquito noise. This disappaeared at about 6+ feet. Should mention that ultimately for the video feeds we had DRC to mode 1 with all other processing turned off. It appears using DRC for some video feeds and utilizing the advanced programming of it (62/57 resectively) in combination to the other settings smooths out the picture to an almost plasma like level. It was easy to compare the sets to the sammy and JVC as well as the plasma's behind us as we tweaked. Since we did not spend the same amount of time tweaking the sammy's - I cannot tell if they could get to the same space. They certainly did not have the fine grained controles, color space, RGB or bias settings we were able to access on the Sony - so it is somewhat doubtful that you will get that last 10% out of them. However we did tweak the Sony and ultimately had many employee's, passer by's and others quite impressed with the PQ. It was hands down better than every display on the row. (All mentioned above). Then moved over to the SD signal - in non stretched mode and bringing up the backlight a bit - were able to tweak this to very accetable levels. We were unable to get any of the other sets as close in PQ. This fell apart when stretched and they all looked bad.
Black levels and contrast were really a differentiator - natural colors, great depth and fine detail. This was apparent as one of the images were of a man wearing a dark black sweater - the folds of the swearter were visible without washing it out or "graying" it as the sammy and JVC did in order to show the folds. You could actually see the weave - again no macroblocking - very clean PQ. There was a lady playing the pinao with her hands flying across the keyboard - we watched for motion blurring, ghosting and trailing. The skin tones against the lighter and dark keys provided a great contrast and ability to see any type of artifacting. WIth DRC turned up and all the procesing in place - motion blur and mosquito noise were evident. Properly set - it was impossible to see from beyond 2-3 feet.
We then moved on the HD and BR. We found that turning off DRC processing achieved the best results. In addition turning off all other processing. The demo material from both players was outstanding and then we played scenes of trianing day. The BR was short lived (we need not go there
) and moved on to all HD playback. Scenes were very detailed, black levels were not crushed and whites were great. (For some reason giving the lighting white level settings on high were very appealing) along with various settings for gamma, back light and advanced settings of bias - the PQ was stunning. AGain NO, NONE, NOT a SPEC of any macroblocking what so ever. There was film grain and the DRC modes turned on enhanced this in an unappealing way. Turning them off, smoothed out the PQ without losing detail or overly softening it while not emphasizing the film grain.
We then hooked up all Mac/Pc's via the HDMI and VGA inputs. In all cases the PQ was crisper, text was smoother and the display more appealing via HDMI. There was slight ghosting on the VGA input and the colors seemed dull compared to the HDMI input. All output was at 1080p - using full and no overscan as present. Very little tweaking was done to the various OS desktop modes and text was clean and sharp (if a bit small
) at 4-5 feet. At 2-3 ft the experience was not as pleasant.
We ran multiple quicktime trailers, several movie scenes and opened up office and various applications. All were very detailed, no ghosting, no trailing and crisp and clean.
I am very staisfied with our testing. The Sony looks to be the set. What intrigued me was possible getting the 2500 instead of the XBR2/3. I did find that there was a small amount of difference (positive in terms of PQ) in using the various DRC settings and advanced programming of it for video based sources. Enough to justify the larger $$$ - without seeing the 2500 I do not know. If that is the only diference - than DRC off for most sources probably will be good enough. It is not even available in PC or gaming modes - so only an issue for film and video sources.
All else being equal - and the 2500 having the rest of the advanced settings and calibration tweaks the XBR's do - then the 2500 might well be a heck of a display. Not to mention I personally prefer the swivel stand and styling of it to the XBR series.
SO - these sets can look great - however they MUST be tweaked. As they are displayed - they are pretty bad and the differences the various configurations have is pretty extreme. If I had not done it for myself - not sure I would have believed you could get this level of PQ, black levels and contrast from this display. So - while reports on AVS are great - this is one set that you need to have a known source and play with the settings to really determine if it will work for you. As always - just my .02$