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Sony KDL40W3000 Picture Quality

by Vincent Teoh
16 October 2007

High Definition

Blu-Ray

In the midst of crippling UK postal strikes, I was fortunate enough to receive Apocalypto on Blu-ray from Lovefilm, which I promptly watched on the calibrated Sony KDL40W3000.

Jaguar Paw

The first thing that struck me was how right the colours looked on the Sony. This gripping adventure epic – set in ancient Mayan civilisation – is laden with close-up face shots and luscious forest scenery, providing me with the ideal opportunity to examine skin tone and green foliage. These are the two key elements that can immediately separate the superior panels from the average: they are notoriously difficult to nail especially on flat screen TVs; and because we see them every day we instinctively know what looks authentic and what doesn't.

Whereas Bravia LCDs in the past can often be accused of oversaturation thanks to Sony's non-negotiable deployment of Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), the Sony KDL40W3000 (post- calibration) presented the most realistic colours I have seen on any LCD television to date. And I say this after watching a wide variety of material in addition to Apocalypto, pending review of its more well-specced cousin the X3500 and Toshiba's new Z series.

Zero Wolf

Obviously the spot-on 709 colour gamut contributed immensely to accurate colour rendition, but equally important was the Sony KDL40W3000's proficiency in tracking D65 greyscale. No scene encapsulated this more than the miraculous solar eclipse sequence: portrayal of blazing sunshine one moment and shadowy overcast the next would struggle to convince if the greyscale was rife with errors.

Black level on the Sony KDL40W3000 ranked among the very best for a non-LED-powered LCD television, with excellent shadow detail to boot. In the scene in which a black monkey fell into the deep pit where Jaguar Paw's wife and son were languishing, the blacks were sufficiently inky to impart a sense of fear and dread, yet it was still not difficult to make out the ridged texture – weathered through time – on the stone wall, and organic matter on the pit floor.

Oracle

The end credits of the movie triggered the auto-dimming feature more than a few times as text appeared on screen, and then faded out to black. Calibration made a big difference here: once I dialled down black luminance close to the set's absolute lowest black level while keeping light output in line with SMPTE's recommendation, the fluctuating blacks became so subtle that I probably would not even have picked it up if I did not witness it (when it was more obvious) prior to calibration.

Captives

The fine resolution stemming from "Full Pixel" 1:1 mapping on the KDL40W3000 showered the film with a stunning degree of clarity and revelation. Delicate detail was extracted and then presented with exquisite ease: for example one could effortlessly see all the pebbles and rocks scattered along the river bank during an overhead shot of the captives treading the cliff above. Similarly, during the sacrificial ritual all the intricacies – from the elaborate embroidery and menacing headpieces to the glistening body paint and ornate piercings – simply jumped out from the screen.

Standard Definition

Freeview Digital TV

While scaling and deinterlacing for standard-definition broadcast material was just about acceptable on the Sony KDL40W3000, its natural-looking colour palette and excellent blacks placed it one league above most other LCD televisions. As long as you adopt a sensible viewing distance (8 to 10 feet away for me), high bit-rate content like Ugly Betty can look wonderfully filmic:

Ugly Betty

Video material, such as the recent onslaught of sporting events, also came to life on the Sony KDL40W3000. The realistic colours (the green on the field never once looked digital) and the image depth afforded by deep blacks and well-behaved gamma made watching England's heroics in the Rugby World Cup on ITV a thoroughly engrossing affair. Mosquito noise and the occasional blocking artifacts were readily apparent especially if I sat closer to the screen, but the fault lies with MPEG compression within the source, not the Sony.

Sure, there exist external video processors that can clean up these compression artifacts remarkably well, but they cost upwards of £800 so it's hardly fair to expect the same level of performance from a £1500 television. [MPEG Noise Reduction] on the KDL40W3000 works by applying a spatial filter to blur the whole picture therefore concealing the artifacts; I left it off to preserve detail.

Jonny Wilkinson

The KDL40W3000 lacks the [MotionFlow + 100Hz] technology that Sony have reserved for their top-end X3000/ X3500 range. Even so I never found motion handling to be wanting when viewing fast-action sports. There remained some predictable drop in motion resolution during camera pans, but this was about what I would expect from a high-end LCD television that's not equipped with motion compensation frame interpolation (MCFI).

Rugby

PS3 Console Gaming

The rulebook on D65 can be thrown out the window when it comes to console gaming: I have no reason to stop you from using the [Standard] or even [Dynamic] picture preset to generate bright and vivid images which are important to most gamers. I had no complaints about motion handling in fast-moving scenes. I did not have the means to carry out formal input lag testing as outlined in this forum post, but engaging [Game/ Text Mode] did not seem to make any difference although it may depend on the actual game, or I might have through the course of calibration switched off all the unnecessary processing anyway.

Resistance Fall Of Man

Depending on the [RGB Full Range (HDMI)] settings on your PS3, the Sony KDL40W3000 may clip blacker-than-black (BTB) and whiter-than-white (WTW) detail even if you set [RGB Dynamic Range] on the television to "Auto". It's quite easy to prevent this: try using the car selection menu in Gran Turismo HD Concept demo and experiment with the settings – you should be able to clearly see the delineation between the tyres and the body of a black car.


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