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This LCD HDTV gets very close to plasma quality
Written: Oct 5, 2007 (Updated Oct 5, 2007)
a Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
A recent Consumer Reports article on HDTV concludes that, for overall picture quality and value for dollar, plasma sets deliver a better deal.
But if you are looking for a bedroom television and don't have room for the minimum-size 42" plasma offerings.....then LCD is the default choice, and I have not been a fan of that technology's picture quality....until now.
What follows is a non-technical but hopefully common-sense review of my new TV, the Sony KDL-32S3000 .
TOO MANY CHOICES
I went to the local big box store and started looking around, after consulting product reviews online. You really should go into a store with some pretty good ideas of what brand, size and technology you are after, since the in-store displays are often confusing and it is impossible to perform a fair analysis of picture quality by simply looking across the sea of poorly-adjusted screens. One shopper I observed seemed paralysed by the available choices and specifications.I'm not surprised.
"CONSUMER REPORTS" TO THE RESCUE
The consumer website recommended a short list of several good 32" LCD sets.....the Sony Bravia KDL-32S3000 was highly rated but cost a bit more. I have owned several Sony tube-TV's over the years, usually Trinitron XBR models, and although they were always more costly, the performance was solid and worth the extra cash. Would this model be the same?
IT STOOD OUT IN THE STORE
I feel sorry for the poor salespeople who have to, in a few minutes, explain today's quickly evolving TV technology to people who have not a clue. When a sales guy approached me, I simply told him I had done some homework already and knew the basics....and asked him for the remote controls for three 32" sets, a Panasonic, a Sharp and the Sony Bravia. Then I asked him to leave me alone for a few minutes.
I used the remotes to take each set off its "hot picture" mode and adjust for more reasonable conditions. The Sony KDL-32S3000 instantly stood out from the others in both improved black levels, better contrast and colour purity. I noticed markedly less picture "smearing" that can happen with LCDs during action scenes or highly detailed scenes (like ocean waves). During a "sunset" scene, the other LCDs showed clear banding around the sun....the Sony did not.
So I bought it.
Did I mention I also have a 50" plasma, in the family room? It weights over a hundred pounds and takes two people, minimum, to move. Well, LCDs are much lighter and getting the Sony into the car (back seat) and into the house was no problem.
It was easy to lift the TV out of the box. Pack-ins include a nice-looking but very basic remote control, the usual manuals in 3 languages, batteries for the remote, a tether strap to secure the TV to a table, and a power cord. There are no other cords of any kind.
Sony has come a long way when it comes to the user interface on its TVs....it's quite elegant. I have an HD antenna connected to it, and upon first turn-on, the TV detected that and asked if I wanted to scan for available channels. It then took about 10 minutes to search for available analog and digital channels....and automatically added them to my channel list. Then came the satellite hookup via one of the 2 available HDMI connections. Effortless. And finally the DVD player, using the second HDMI connector. The HDMI cables are, of course, optional extras.
EASE OF USE
Sony uses something it calls the Xross Media Bar to take you through the various setup and option settings....this is apparently an Emmy-award winning technology. Regardless, it works very well and provides simple access to every possible tweak and adjustment.
One very handy feature is a complete on-screen analysis of the channel you are watching. For example, as you flip through channels, an information bar appears across the top of the screen, displaying picture information such as 480i,1080i, SD or HD, audio format, channel number and call letters, etc. Very informative and actually educational!
Switching through picture modes is one-button slick. Each button press cycles between auto-wide, normal, etc. I use the normal setting since I don't like artificially-stretched SD pictures.
The sleek black look of the set fits well in the bedroom, the 32" size is just right, and the picture performance is fine, especially with HD sources. An ambient light sensor adjusts brightness according to room light. I disabled it since it seemed to overcorrect.
2 front-firing speakers run along the bottom of the cabinet, and there is a "surround" audio mode. Each speaker has a 10-watt amplifier....and they sound fine although no substitute for a separate sound system.
FEATURES I'll NEVER USE (but you might)
- Picture Freeze
- PC hookup capability
- Bravia Theatre Sync (if you have other Sony components)
- Dmex compatability (Internet video streaming)
The remote is a simple slim, black and silver device that controls the TV only....there is no ability to learn controls for other brands of equipment, and once again (#*!) no backlighting of the buttons.
I still prefer my plasma for overall picture quality, but the Sony KDL-32S3000 DOES represent real progress in the LCD category, especially when viewing HD content. Price was $1,100.
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Amount Paid (US$): 1100
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