Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR4 LCD HDTV
At a Glance
Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR4
Sony's premium TV earns a stellar score for high-definition performance and also gets points for design.
The Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR4 HDTV has a distinctive and attractive cabinet design to match its strong performance. This 52-inch LCD set posted the highest overall image-quality score in its size category.
The HDTV yielded satisfying detail in various scenes with natural, vibrant colors. In a scene from The George Lopez Show, the different TV characters' skin tones looked natural. High-definition movies offered sturdy, finely balanced colors. It showed incredible detail in close-ups of two participants in a talk show. Their hair and facial features, including one man's stubble, were sharply defined without any shimmer. In PC World's lab tests, the set delivered unrivaled brightness and contrast quality, including easily discernible detail in dark areas of a movie segment from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
The KDL-52XBR4's price ($3500) is average for its size category. Its black bezel is a little wider than the norm (compare, for example, the bezel on the Mitsubishi LT-52244), especially on the left and right sides, and it's surrounded by a glass frame with a metal border for a unique and pleasing "floating glass" effect. Colorful replacement bezels are available for about $350 each.
The on-screen display (OSD) menu will be familiar to anyone who owns a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable game console. You use smoothly sliding animated icons to navigate myriad options for adjusting the TV's settings. The White Balance section of the OSD lets you control the color temperature of the TV--RGB gain for bright scenes and RGB bias (black level) for darker scenes--at a granular level. If you don't have the time or tools to perform advanced calibration, Sony's preset for color temperature options (Cool, Neutral, and Warm) and for brightness (such as Cinema and Vivid), are good settings for everyday viewing.
The KDL-52XBR4's picture-by-picture setting places two sources side by side on the large screen. You can resize the two frames on the fly by pushing the left and right arrows on the remote control. However, picture-in-picture works only when the main window source is a PC--that is, when something is connected to the VGA port or to one of the HDMI ports in PC Timing mode. The second window is always a TV source (over-the-air channels or cable).
The Sony HDTV's backlit remote lets you nimbly navigate through different settings menus. The remote can use programmable codes found in the manual to control a DVD player or other source.
Built-in speakers on the TV provided rich, full sound. A Blu-ray version of Phantom of the Opera had a good range of sounds, from background crowd noises to the main singers.
The Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR4 will satisfy videophiles with its natural-looking colors and fine detail reproduction. Fashion-conscious buyers will also like its striking design and replaceable bezel. But less-expensive sets such as the Samsung FP-T5084 and the Vizio GV52LF offer better value.