Sony’s X-Series Bravia screens represent the pinnacle of its flatscreen LCD aspirations. Does this 46-inch debut live up to the hype?

It took some time, but Sony is finally enjoying the kind of commercial success with its LCD screens that it once had with its Trinitron CRT TVs – thanks to the successful roll-out of its Bravia LCD brand. Now the company is gunning for critical acclaim in the shape of its eagerly-awaited high-end range, the X-series.
The first of these, the flagship KDL-46X2000, complete with state-of-the-art picture-processing technology and ‘Full HD’ 1920×1080 resolution, hit Australian stores in October.

The 46X2000’s design oozes high-tech opulence. The grille-effect silver screen frame is eye-catching, and its impact is heightened by the transparent glass outer frame that has almost become a Sony high-end flat TV trademark.

Connectivity is excellent – it sports one HDMI input able to take 1080p HD signals as well as 1080i/720p. Also a boon is two HD-ready component video inputs. Elsewhere, there’s a D-Sub PC jack, three Scarts (all RGB capable), a CAM slot and even an optical digital audio output for system hook-up.

The set does not incorporate the brand’s latest DRC-MFv2.5 picture enhancing technology, which is able to deliver a 1080p picture from any video source, but does employ a version of the Bravia Engine EX suite of picture tweaks specifically for the extra resolution of the X series. Also onboard the 46X2000 are two key new technologies sported by Sony’s lower-specification S and V Bravia series: Super Vertical Pattern Alignment (SPVA) refracts the angle of the backlight so that the picture retains its integrity over a viewing angle, while a ‘Wide Colour Gamut’ fluorescent backlight enhances the colour range.

The 46X2000’s intuitive onscreen menus are rammed with other, user-accessible features including MPEG block noise reduction; backlight adjustment; horizontal and vertical image shift; a film mode for improving motion-handling with film sources; and an almost infinitely flexible sliding scale adjuster for the potency of the Digital Reality Creation processing.

With 1080i high-definition from a JVC D-VHS D-Theater deck (which for my money gives more consistent results than the first HD DVD and Blu-ray decks), plus 1080p from a Marantz DV9600 upscaling DVD deck, the Sony’s picture proved jaw-droppingly good.

The 1080 mode typically offers four picture benefits: extra sharpness, less noise, smooth, unjagged contours, and slightly subtler colour toning. And the 46X2000 delivers all these advantages with aplomb.

Its sharpness is particularly remarkable as it became possible to make out the features of faces in the crowd from hundreds of yards away during one scene in a war movie we tested with. The edges of the soldiers’ black hats looked immaculate too, suffering no bright haloes or stepping.

A well-worn D-Theatre tape of Alien, meanwhile, shows the worth of the Wide Colour Gamut technology; the film enjoys an expansive but

natural colour palette, especially where fleshtones are concerned.

This movie also reveals that Sony has made great strides minimising those traditional problems with LCD black levels, as the 46X2000 delivers the darkest corners of deep space with outstanding depth and plenty of that subtle grayscale delineation that gives shadowy areas tangible depth. This makes it an unusually good friend of gloomy Xbox 360 HD games like Prey or Condemned.

Brighter, more colour-rich Xbox HD fare like Kameo, meanwhile, shows off the 46X2000’s outstanding brightness and vibrancy, as well as suffering seemingly zero colour noise.

The only negative thing we can see in the 46X2000’s HD pictures is slight and occasional signs of motion smearing. But, in every other way, the 46X2000 is not only a powerfully persuasive argument for high-resolution LCD, it’s arguably comparable to Pioneer’s stunning 1920×1080 PDP-5000EX plasma display, reviewed on the pages before this.

The 46X2000 is not, however, as successful as the Pioneer at handling standard-definition sources. During the switch down to these, it’s noticeable that the set’s colour tone loses some naturalism, motion smearing increases and noise becomes more pronounced than it does on some of the better 768-line panels out there.

We spotted a couple of small operational niggles during our tests too. First, for some reason, our sample often defaulted to 4:3 mode when switching to an HD source. Second, during Xbox 360 gaming the component-fed signal kept triggering the TV to flash up the ‘1080i resolution’ information bar on the screen. But we would rate neither of these as really serious glitches.

The 46X2000’s audio, sourced from an integrated S-Master digital amplifier, is undeniably accomplished. There’s a vast amount of power on tap, which is put to superb use in combining convincing bass rumbles with clear and natural speech tones and a stunning wealth of harshness-free treble. The TV’s soundstage is engagingly wide too, perfectly matching the scale of its 46-inch pictures.

This X-series debut is a great harbinger of things to come for Sony’s TV division. It’s a pity that the 46X2000’s merely solid standard-definition performance doesn’t stop its performance from feeling like a game of two halves. But then I suspect that its HD talents will be what really matters to its likely target market, and in that respect it’s nothing short of imperious. So X really does mark the spot.


Sony Bravia KDL-46X2000 |$6999| | www.sony.com.au 
For: Lush design; great pictures; great connectivity
Against: Slight motion smearing; not confident with SD sources
Verdict: A sign of great things to come from Sony

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