I do own the KD-34XBR2 set and I'd be glad to share my impression of it, just bear in mind that this is MY opinion.
Before I bought this TV, I looked at many direct view and rear projection HD sets. I found that I did not like the rear projection sets because, to me, they appear to be out of focus. I have heard arguments put forth that a direct view set cannot approach the resolution of rear projection. Perhaps that is true in terms of raw resolution, however, I judge a TV by what the picture actually looks like. With that in mind, I think that direct view sets are considerably better at displaying detail like strands of hair, pores in skin, brushstrokes in paintings, detail in flowers and plants and so on.
I've also heard that this is most likely because the projection TVs were not set up properly by the dealer. I'm sure there is truth to that but I found this image softness to exist at every place that I looked. I can understand that at a place like Good Guys or Fry's but some were high-end dealers and presumably at least one of these high-end dealers had the TV set up properly. I'm slightly near-sighted and to me, the rear projection TV looks like my vision without glasses and the direct view TV looks like my vision with glasses. I know that people have different opinions and like different things but that is how it appears to me. My intent is not to begin a flame war over which TV is 'better' but to simply explain the approach I take to evaluating this TV. Again this is my opinion... there are other differing ones.
Prior to buying this TV, I had [and still have] a Sony KV-27XBR96S which is a pretty good analog 4:3 set. I think this set holds its own when compared to the current crop of Wega analog sets. In some ways I think it is considerably better. I also have been subscribing to Directv for about five years and mainly watch movies on AMC, IFC, TNC, Sundance and Starz.
The KD-34XBR2 set certainly displays the Directv movies better than my old TV. A high quality letterboxed movie approaches an average quality DVD movie. I think this is mainly due to the fact that the vertical and horizontal line doubling on this set makes the scan lines disappear. The resolution obviously would not be any better but the overall appearance of the movie is much more film like. I've also seen movies on Directv that look absolutely horrible with this TV but then again, they would look bad on any TV. I think the trick is that if the source is of high quality to begin with then the HDTV TV will enhance it well.
As far as cable is concerned, I can't help you much there because I haven't had cable in years. I left when IFC came out and after being told numerous times that the local cable provider did not have the bandwidth to carry it. Funny thing was that they kept on adding home shopping channels and religious channels the whole time that they were saying they didn't have bandwidth... but that's another story that I won't get into now.
DVDs on this TV are absolutely great but they also are pretty good with my old TV. I think that the detail is better with this TV and not seeing the scan lines makes a big difference, I use a Sony DVP-S560D player which is nothing esoteric... decent quality but not high-end by any means. It came with component video cables which I used to hook it up to the KD-34XBR2. The movie 'The Red Violin', has some scenes with reddish wood paneling which has a noticeable grain. This paneling would display with pixelation on the TV. At first I thought that this was a problem with the TV as the same movie on my old TV did not have this. After some thought, I decided to buy a better set of component video cables. I got a set of AR cables and this cured the pixelation problem totally. The original cables were not shielded which I think is what caused the problem. My old TV does not have component video and I was using a good quality S-video cable that is also shielded.
This past weekend, our local PBS station aired about 7 hours of HDTV programming. It was a travel show about various European cities and the picture that the TV displayed was absolutely stunning. From detail in cobblestone streets, horses and carriages, paintings and cathedrals in Italy and France, etc, etc. the images were superb and the best that I have ever seen on a television. It's rather difficult to do justice to the picture by describing it in writing... you just have to see it for yourself.
Seeing it for yourself can be a trick though because most dealers do not have any HDTV programming to show you. The only HDTV I saw at all was the demo loop with the football game, flowers and the nature scenes. It was enough to show me what this TV was capable of but you'd think that these places with hundreds of thousands of dollars of TVs running could send someone up on the roof and mount a simple UHF antenna.... that's all it takes. I live about 15 miles from our transmission towers and, believe it or not, get a perfect signal with a $1.99 FM dipole antenna and a 300 ohm to 75 ohm antenna converter. The TV has a signal strength meter in the menu that shows the typical Sony bars. My signal is almost always in the second highest bar but will occassionally fluctuate one bar.
As far as I'm concerned, even with the limited amount of HDTV programming that is currently available, the OTA HDTV capability alone makes the TV worthwhile.
Now, what don't I like about this TV... a couple of things.
The TV has a favorite channels list where you can store up to 16 channels. This is fine but when adding a channel it stores the major channel and not the subchannel. For example, if you store 4.2, it actually stores channel 4. If you later access channel 4.2, it goes to channel 4 and then tunes in to the first available subchannel. In my case, channel 4 is a local NTSC channel that I can barely receive and channel 4.2 is the DTV signal for channel 4. The TV tunes to channel 4 because there is a signal... it's just not viewable. It would be much better it the favorites list would add the channel and subchannel that I actually want and then tune to that when selected.
The second item is the scrolling index function. This is similar to PIP except that the main picture is on the left and 4 minipictures are stacked on the right. One of the minipictures is active [a moving picture is displayed] and the other 3 are freeze frames. You can move the active frame to any of the 4 stacked pictures and then tune to that channel if you want. The problem is that these 4 minipictures seem to be limited to analog channels. Not a showstopper but it certainly limits the usability of the feature.
As with most TVs, the default brightness and picture settings are too high and the hue is slightly too reddish for my taste. Selecting the 'movie' picture mode and setting the brightness and picture to one bar to the right of center seems to be pretty good.
Lastly, when you go into a place like the Good Guys and see this TV next to all the large projection TVs, it looks downright small and compared to them, I suppose it is. It sure doesn't look small in my home though... in fact it seems to be just about right at a viewing distance of about 8'.