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Sony KDL40X3500 Image Quality

by Vincent Teoh
6 November 2007

High Definition

Blu-Ray

Oldboy

Korean thriller Oldboy is the Marmite of movies: its powerful and controversial taboo theme means that you will either love it or hate it. Regardless of which camp you're in, there is no denying that the film is groundbreaking in every sense, from its mind-blowingly twisted plot to its visually innovative cinematography.

This Blu-ray release from Tartan Video isn't the best disc you can use to show off what high definition is all about. Don't get me wrong, the bit-rate runs very high and the transfer cannot be faulted, but because bleach bypass was applied to most scenes in the film, saturation is reduced and therefore colours won't dazzle like Casino Royale or Apocalypto. Nevertheless, as I am familiar with this movie I ran the Blu-ray disc using the PS3 on the calibrated Sony KDL40X3500 to assess its picture quality.

Lee Woo-Jin

When colour saturation is intentionally attenuated by the director, contrast ratio becomes all the more important to carry the film through. The Sony KDL40X3500 didn't disappoint in this respect: its deep black level – among the best measured on non-LED-powered LCD TVs – endowed the film with a very three-dimensional image depth.

To complement its excellent blacks, the Sony KDL40X3500 could paint shadow detail in a revealing and realistic manner, which – along with that produced by the cheaper W3000 – is the best I've yet seen from an LCD TV. In the overhead crane shot outside the phone booth (04:59) on the rainy night when the protagonist was kidnapped, one could still clearly see the ribs of the umbrellas. Another example is how the pattern of the wallpaper remained visible in the darkest corner of the room when Oh Dae-su was interrogating Mi-do (52:32).

And while bleach bypass was used to give the low-saturation look that director Park Chan- wook wanted, the movie itself relied on a few colour themes – achieved through filters and post-production correction – to infuse symbolic and temporal layering to the plotline. Had the greyscale on the calibrated Sony KDL40X3500 been anything but D65, or its colour gamut any less accurate, one might find it difficult to appreciate the nostalgic washed-out brown during the school flashback sequence (1:18:58), the red glow in the motel corridor (1:03:34), or the ubiquitous violet on the umbrella (05:10), the envelope (1:09:02) and the wrapping of the box (1:36:15).

Grass

The panning shot across the street (34:37) provided me with the ideal opportunity to gauge the benefit of MotionFlow 100Hz on film material. The combination of [Film Mode] "Auto 1" with [Motion Enhancer] "Standard" or "High" would maintain the clarity of the shop signs extremely well during the panning motion, but smooth things out so much that the result looked like amateur video rather than high-quality film.

[Film Mode] "Auto 2" and [Motion Enhancer] "Standard" is probably the best setting if you wish to boost the motion resolution of films without destroying the surreal 24p cinematic quality, though purists may want to switch [Motion Enhancer] off altogether. You cannot engage [Motion Enhancer] anyway if you turn [Game/ Text Mode] on to solve the other problem of auto dimming.

Mi-do

Standard Definition

Freeview Digital TV

I tuned in to watch some Carling Cup football highlights on ITV and Match Of The Day on BBC, as I sought to see if the Sony KDL40X3500's 100Hz Motion Flow feature could help with reducing motion blur on more demanding fast-action sports.

Football

The answer is yes: individual members of the crowd, the advertisements on the pitch-side boards, and the outline of the running players all maintained clearer definition during pans when [Motion Enhancer] was set to "Standard" or "High", although the absolutely blur-free motion of CRT televisions remained out of reach.

In the past I have always bemoaned the various interpolation artifacts, ranging from tearing to shimmering around moving objects, found on all other manufacturers' attempts at motion compensation frame interpolation (MCFI). This is where Sony's implementation of Motion Flow 100Hz on the KDL40X3500 LCD TV sets itself apart: even with [Motion Enhancer] set to "High" ([Film Mode] "Off" as we're dealing with video content), I genuinely did not detect any undesirable side effect that has afflicted the 100Hz televisions I've reviewed before.

Joey

For broadcast film material (e.g. Joey on Channel 5) however, setting [Motion Enhancer] to "High" would once again tamper too much with 24p, making the programme look like video. For such content I settled on [Film Mode] "Auto 2" (for 2:2 pulldown whenever the television could detect the cadence) and [Motion Enhancer] "Off" or "Standard" (there was virtually no difference).

Gordon Ramsay

Otherwise, standard-definition video content was extremely watchable on the KDL40X3500 due to its authentic colours and excellent blacks. From a viewing distance of 8 feet away I had no problems with the picture, but if you sit nearer you may find the scaling veering on the soft side, in which case you may wish to sprinkle in some DRC judiciously to enhance the image.

PS3 Console Gaming

The Sony KDL40X3500 can generate bright and vibrant images to deliver an involving gaming experience. I am not entirely sure if [Game/ Text Mode] is meant to reduce input lag (the manual doesn't specifically state so), but subjectively I didn't notice any lag with [Game/ Text Mode] "Off" anyway.

Ninja Gaiden

Perhaps the more compelling reason to avoid engaging [Game/ Text Mode] is so that we can continue to use [Motion Enhancer] with all the perceptible benefits it brings. When I spun the camera around the character in Ninja Gaiden Sigma quickly, [Motion Enhancer] "Standard" or "High" would preserve the detail of the leaves on the trees, the texture of the rocks, and the ferns on the floor better than if [Motion Enhancer] was "Off".

Yes, there was some shimmering around the character as the camera was spinning, but this was far more tolerable than the motion tearing I witnessed on the Samsung F86 with [100Hz Motion Plus] engaged. In actual gameplay I didn't actually notice the shimmering that much, so I think it's a worthwhile trade-off for the increased motion resolution granted by Sony's Motionflow 100Hz.


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