My 46" XBR4 is coming up on 5 years now. Until recently it had been the only TV set in our home since 2008. B/c its in a window filled family room that gets incredibly bright during the day, we use the VIVID picture mode with the brightness increased even more than the default setting (with Contrast set to 100 and Back-light 10). In the late-afternoon & evenings with the ceiling lights on we use a modified STANDARD mode (toned down) and for movies either in the dark or with a little lamp on in the corner we use a CUSTOM mode I fine tuned to get the darkest blacks out of the set (Back-light on lowest setting, power saving mode ON, and a few other tricks).
Our main sources are OTA channels, BD/DVD movies and content streamed via Boxee (Netflix, internet channels, etc). When my kids watch their Disney BD's/DVD's or streamed cartoons during the day the picture is out of this world. B/c the room gets so bloody bright, VIVID is literally the only setting we can use during the day. Although it is not optimal/accurate (saturated reds, blue-ish whites, etc), in this environment it looks stunning. To this day when we have guests over and they see HD golf OTA or football on the XBR4 they marvel at how vibrant the picture looks. We had neighbours over a few weeks ago when our sons were playing in the family room with Cars 2 BD on for background entertainment, and from where we were sitting in the kitchen (open concept) the couple both asked us "why" the picture looked so good? The wife then asked her hubby "how come it doesn't look like that at home?" I explained to them that the picture settings (colour, contrast, brightness) were practically maxed out and that it wouldn't watch it like that in the evening, but still for that moment in that environment is looked killer.
Having said that, the black levels never satisfied me all these years when watching movies with low/no lighting. I knew it was a trade off. We needed an LCD in that room and a plasma would have died trying to compete with the daytime brightness. Last Christmas (2012) I finished my basement and finally bought a big, bad plasma (GT50) and resurrected my old home theater system. The new Panasonic plasma is a marvel in many ways, but especially in the black level department (naturally). Movies downstairs now look the way I had hoped and envisioned all these years. The picture has a very cinematic quality to it, plus my analog LD's have never looked better - the XBR was never able to process the signal well (LD's looked horrible on the Sony). But as great as the new plasma is, a funny thing has happened: I'm actually appreciating the quality and capabilities of my old XBR4 even MORE now. After ample comparisons with source material it is clear (pun) that the Sony has a far sharper picture; obvious to anyone not just me. I've played with settings on the GT50 and have the inputs and picture modes pretty much set to how I like them, and without a doubt the picture is noticeably softer than the XBR4's. BD content is about the closest the GT50 will get in terms of sharpness but putting the same disc on upstairs is like putting eye glasses on for the first time. The plasma is also a much dimmer image, which is expected, but even after I've tweaked it's colour and brightness/contrast setting for OTA hockey - which I view with all the lights on in the basement - I can't get the picture to "jump out" like it does upstairs on the XBR4's modified STANDARD picture setting. Plus the image is much softer. And its not just for OTA - I notice these disparities just as much when using Netflix on both sets.
Its quite remarkable how I now perceive my XBR4's picture as being better
than its ever been before. Instead of noticing the LCD's contrast limitations I am now appreciating how sharp the picture quality is
The new plasma may reign supreme in the basement, but my XBR4 is and always will be the undisputed champion of the main floor family room. It may be a bit of a dinosaur these days in terms of weight and girth, but I love my Sony XBR4 more than I did 5 years ago. And I don't know about anyone else but I'd put this XBR4 up against any LED set available - LED was never an option for me downstairs, even though I wanted to get the biggest size, because the back lighting they use appears so unnatural and artificial to me (way too blue). If my main floor Sony ever died I'd sooner replace it with a plasma than an LED panel. Really can't get accustomed to what's going on with those pictures.
Long live the XBR4.