As of this past Saturday, I am now the owner of a KDL-V32XBR2. Actually I was somewhat surprised since the Sharp LC-32D50U had been at the top of my list, but after a half-hour at Ultimate Electronics playing around with the settings on both sets, I just liked the Sony better. The Sharp gave people's faces an overly ruddy or red look that I was unable to dial out. The Sony was initially overly sharpened with slightly cartoony colors, especially greens, but I was easily able to adjust. The Sony was about $250 more expensive but still within my budget, so I figured it was worth it.
The Out-of-Box Experience
I was able to easily get it home myself in my little Subaru Forester. The box was slightly damaged on the bottom, but the sales rep said the TV should be fine, and it turned out that it was. I was happy that it came with the stand already attached (no assembly required!). Sitting atop my flat-top Sanus TV stand, it looks good. I like the matte black bezel a lot; I was worried that the silver frame would be too much, but actually it's quite subtle.
I connected my cable box and DVD player via component cables and turned it on. Initially it's set to Vivid, and it was awful. Too bright, poor blacks, lots of artifacting including macroblocking on some SD channels. So the first thing I did was set it to Custom and get to work on the settings.
Cable TV (Comcast digital cable via Motorola 6412 DVR, connected via component)
The first thing you have to do, if you want good blacks, is go into the Setup menu and turn on Power Saving. Low allows you to still make some backlight adjustments; High seems to lock the backlight into its minimum setting. Then I dialed up the contrast to get the most shadow detail I could, and also dialed up the brightness as much as I could without compromising the blacks too much; about halfway (it's helpful to be on a channel with pillarboxes while doing this to give you a base for "black"). I left the sharpness relatively low. I set most of the bells and whistles like noise reduction, black corrector, etc. to Off.
Once I was finished, I was surprised at the quality of the SD channels; they were as good or better than on my old CRT (a 10-year-old 25-inch Samsung TXE-2546). Some are somewhat soft, none is HD quality, but most were quite good at my 7-8-foot viewing distance. Very little artifacting, which had been my main fear.
HD looks excellent; in fact the contrast is a little too stark at times -- Conan O'Brien's pale face and hair against the dark blue backdrop on the "Late Night" set, for example -- so I may have to try backing off on the contrast without taking too much of a hit on shadow detail.
Watching football on Sunday was awesome. I noticed just a little bit of blur during quick camera pans, but no "ghost trails" or anything like that.
Two things I don't like: I'm still struggling with shadow detail; especially on SD, some shows that are not brightly lit (Law & Order SVU, for example) lose too many of the details in dark hair and clothing. I'm hoping further adjustment can improve this somewhat.
Also, viewing angle. The black level takes a hit at anything more than maybe 30 degrees (guesstimate) off angle. Color still looks pretty good, but the black starts fading to gray. Seems more severe at a vertical off angle than horizontal. Straight on, though, the black level is pretty good and I'm pretty satisfied with it.
One minor thing: If you have a brightly lit room like I do (living room with lots of windows and southern exposure), you will get some glare if there's direct sunlight in the room. Not like with a plasma or CRT, but kind of a diffuse white reflection. With regular room lighting at night, I don't notice any glare at all, but when the sun is shining in, it's not exactly "glare-free."
One note about the sound: I use the built-in speakers. The clarity is good, but it lacks some of the depth (if that's the right term; I'm no audiophile) and richness of my old Samsung CRT, which had great sound. But overall I'm happy with it. I'm using the TruSurround feature, which is actually a little distracting at times. I may tinker with that.
DVD (JVC XV-S300, connected via component)
Initially DVDs didn't look very good, and I thought, uh-oh, I'm going to need a new DVD player for sure; It's five years old and it doesn't even have progressive scan. Then I realized: The player was still set for a 4:3 display, and the Sony was automatically zooming the image to fill the screen. Once I set the player for 16:9, I found I got a really good picture. The TV was doing all the deinterlacing and scaling, and it did a pretty good job.
I haven't watched a lot of DVDs yet, but what I've watched so far looks good; reference DVDs look excellent. On the Superbit edition of "Lawrence of Arabia," I was amazed at the scene at the well where Sharif Ali first appears on the distant horizon. Never saw that level of detail on my old TV, that's for sure. I know it's not HD, but it's the best SD I've seen. Good enough that I may hold off for the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war to be decided before buying a new DVD player.
All in all, I'm a happy customer. My overall rating: 8 out of 10.
Settings (for cable; DVD settings are fairly similar)
Power Saving: Low
Light sensor: Off
Picture mode: Custom
Color temp: Warm1
Noise reduction: Off
Advanced picture menu
Black Corrector: Off
Contrast Enhancer: Off
Clear White: Off
Live Color: Off
Color space: Wide
MPEG noise reduction: Off
Sound mode: Dynamic
Steady Sound: On
Surround: TruSurround XT