The Sony 34XS955 - For the BEST picture quality possible!
Jan 15, 2005
Review by boden11
Rated a Very Helpful Review
After purchasing my 30 Inch Toshiba HDTV television I wanted to try out one with a built in tuner. To clarify, any HDTV that is listed as an "HDTV monitor" has no built in tuner. One that is an HDTV television (pretty redundant...high definition telvision television) has a built in tuner and can pick up HDTV and SDTV (Standard definition) signals and display them. In a nutshell--no paying for local cable. While I'm satisfied with the Toshiba, I still feel like the picture could be a little sharper and tighter. Well where else to turn to but to the...
Recommend this product?
Sony KD34XS955 HDTV Television
If you're looking for *THE* HD CRT television to buy there is only one choice--the 34XBR960. Widely accepted as the reference HDTV it is considered the cream of the crop, and quite possible the best TV not only to be ever made, but that is most likely EVER to be made. You see CRT televisions, despite their deep blacks and great depth are on their way out as people are sucked into the gimmicks of Plasma and LCD tv. Add on the great weight of a CRT which translates to difficult shipping and you can see why manufacturers are quick to jump on the Plasma and LCD bandwagon.
However, one notch below the $2,200 XBR960 is the XS955 line. Like the XBR the XS line has the same superfine high pitch tube giving you identical Picture Quality (PQ) as the XBR960. Also they both have built in tuners and the same 34" Trintron flat screen. In fact, there's actually not very many differences between the two. The most important difference is the price. While the 34" Widescreen XBR960 sells for an MSRP of $2,199 the XS955 has an MSRP of $1,999. Now I realize that doesn't sound like much, however the XBR960 isn't sold at very many stores. Only a handful of authorized places carry it (and a few non-authorized ones as well) and almost none stray from the $2,199 MSRP price. Sony has geared this TV exclusively to the videophile with money, someone who can spot quality and isn't afraid to drop a lot of dough for it. The XS955 is sold at MANY more stores which leads to price competition and ultimately, prices significantly below MSRP. The store where I purchased (or borrowed until I can return it after comparing it) it from was selling them at more than 10% less than MSRP. That's more than a $400 difference from the XBR for a TV with the exact same screen.
The 34XS955 is a 34" Widescreen (sometimes referred to as 16:9) HDTV Television. Coming in at over 200 pounds and a massive footprint of over 3 feet of width, 2 feet high and 2 feet deep the XS955 has an even more impressive presence in any room than your typical run of the mill TV. In fact, even with the TV off it's something to admire and behold.
The cabinet of the television is dark grey with large speakers lining the left and right borders of the screen. The letters: S O N Y shine in bright silver (plastic) on the front, with the power button and small control panel below. In fact, this TV has basically the same cabinet as the model below this one...the HS420 series, except the cabinet for the XS955 is in a much darker grey. To be fair, the XBR960 has a similar cabinet as well, with an even darker grey--almost a black in fact. I guess Sony figures the darker the plastic the better the television.
On the front if you flip up the access panel you are greeted by an SVideo input, RCA (Composite) input and some basic controls for volume, channel and navigating menus. The back of the TV has an additional 2 SVideo inputs, 3 RCA Composite inputs, 2 Component inputs (HD), and 1 HDMI input with HDCP (Hardware CopyProtection). There is also a CableCard slot on the back which allows you (if your cable company supports it) to get full cable access with one small credit sized card instead of a gigantic cable box. Also there is a MemoryStick slot on the front which can play JPGs and MPGs using Sony's proprietary MemoryStick technology. Sony still hasn't figured out that the more mainstream technologies such as CompactFlash and SD are a LOT more popular than their own MS.
I setup the TV and plugged in my Progressive Scan 480p with component cables and a Toshiba VCR using composite cables. So was there a difference in PQ?? Did the additional $1,000 buy a better tv set or was it all hype?
The 34XS955 In action
Oh yeah there was a difference. While before the Toshiba had some issues with excessive grain and loss of fine details, the Sony managed to pick them all up. The TV made full use of its additional scanlines provided by the superfine tube to present 480p material in beautiful clarity and depth. Definitely a step up to the sort of PQ I was used to with the Toshiba. But now I go back to the original question...worth the $1,000 ? Now this is a harder question to answer.
The Toshiba and Sony televisions compete in two separate markets. While my Toshiba was only $720 for 30" the Sony was over $1,700 for 34". I realize that $1,000 sounds like a lot for just 4", but that's not the whole story. In fact, a 34" 16:9 TV is just about 30% larger in visible screen area in any aspect ratio than a 30" TV. And for those of you still not sold on this whole 'Widescreen' thing anyway, you might want to check out this site:
Here you can check out how say a 30 inch Widescreen compares with a 32 inch Fullscreen TV. Find out yourself...surprised how there's more viewable area in WS mode on a smaller TV?? Also, the very DEFINITION of HD incorporates the concept of WS. TRUE HD material should be filmed and displayed in a Widescreen format. For those of you STILL not satisfied and not ready to give up your FullScreen TV, relax. Sony still makes a few XS955 FullScreen TVs, namely the 36 inch. Actually, for HDTV CRT's, a 30" is almost ALWAYS WS, 32" FS, 34" WS and 36" FS. This is important information to know, as I wouldn't want you to get excited about the 34XS955 and then decided to buy a 36XS955 hoping for a bigger TV only to discover it's not Widescreen.
Anyways I'm drifting...worth the $1,000 ...the answer is a resounding...YES! After watching my Toshiba for the past few months I was taken aback by the improvement in quality the Sony was able to make with the same video source. Not only with 480p signals from my DVD player, but SDTV sources such as cable and my VCR.
Sony has developed what they call Digital Reality Creation (or DRC) which can take a 480i image and then reprocess it into 960i or 480p. While the material isn't improved 4 fold like the possible resolution enhancement, it does bring SDTV back to life on the HDTV. That's been one of the biggest problems for HDTVs, the fact that SDTV material actually looks WORSE on most HDTVs then on a regular TV. You try selling a MORE expensive TV to someone and then letting them know it's going to make what they currently watch look worse! This is most likely one of the biggest factors in what is keeping HDTV from becoming mainstream. DRC makes SDTV signals/sources look like how they look on a regular SDTV.
The Sony also uses much nicer menus than my 30HF84. To be honest, even the 34" Toshiba has prettier menus than the 30", but the XS955 still beats them both. With nice borders and attention to detail and nice use of color, the menuing system on the Sony XS955 is one of the best ones I've seen. It's actually fun to mess with your settings!
While the sound doesn't sound as rich as it does on my Toshiba, it's understandable as the Sony only packs 2 7.5 watt speakers, but it does include a 15 watt subwoofer for a little oomph that the Toshiba does lack. The Toshiba packs 2 10 watt speakers in the 30HF84, 2 10 Watt speakers and a 13 watt sub in the comparable 34HFX84 model. I can't compare the Sony to the 34HFX84 as I only own it's little brother. Regardless, the sound on the XS955 is still nice and clear, and I'd imagine most people paying $1,800 for a TV probably also have a surround sound system.
Other faults with the Sony include its remote. It's a bland grey with a decent button layout, but I still prefer the Toshiba remote over it. The buttons on the Toshiba remote feel more natural when you hold it and have better spacing for the numbers and separating the less used buttons from the others. Also the Toshiba has better zoom/stretch modes for watching FullScreen programming on a widescreen TV.
After fiddling and messing with this TV for the past few days I've realized that this is perhaps the best deal for CRT tvs out there. While it is a little expensive, it has exactly the same picture quality as THE REFERENCE XBR960 for a lot less. The features the XBR has over the XS include: Picture in Picture, Firewire connection, a little longer warranty for parts and labor (2 yr vs 1 yr). Also I'm rather partial to the color scheme on the XBR compared to the XS, but most people buy a TV to watch it when it's on, not off.
This TV will blow the doors off any other WideScreen HDTV for not much more. Basically, the only question you really have to ask yourself is--"How much am I willing to spend to get the most detailed picture on a TV ?" And when you compare the price of this TV with the most basic, godawful Plasma tvs that AREN'T EVEN TRUE HDTV capable, or a projection TV that lacks the same richness and depth a CRT can offer, I hope you come to the same conclusion I did...time to return my old TV and get the Sony !!
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Amount Paid (US$): 1700
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