The Final Weigh In
Anyone looking to Score a bigscreen HDTV will find no two better examples of the state of the art than the HP DLP and Sony SXRD (LCoS) assembled here. Having already reviewed the HP, and knowing that it costs a grand less than the Sony, I was very curious to see how it compared with its lauded rival. Good, as it turned out - and in some ways, not so good. The DLP's incredibly crisp detail not only let it compete with the more expensive TV, but it actually seemed to exceed the LCoS's picture sharpness on certain programs. The DLP also turned out to have superior screen uniformity and more natural color rendition. The LCoS's rich blacks and fine shadow detail, on the other hand, made it look dramatically better than the DLP with most movies viewed in our side-by-side comparison. Add to this a punchier, brighter-looking picture and an absence of "rainbows" - an inherent side effect with DLP rear-projection TVs - and you've got me edging over to the LCoS camp for this one, despite the HP's staggeringly good price.
While I knew from our measurements of the individual sets that the LCoS (SXRD) HDTV could reproduce a deeper black, the difference didn't really hit home until I saw it side-by-side with the DLP. There was no contest in terms of deep blacks; in every scene with dark material, the SXRD was clearly superior. Its better depth of black also contributed to deeper color saturation. In scenes like a football game in bright sunlight, however, the sets looked much more equal. On the other hand, in white or gray scenes such as the snow in LOTR and the walls in Ed Wood, the SXRD was tinged with a faint but obvious reddish-purple, while the DLP was very uniform and neutral. The DLP did exhibit rainbows, or brief flashes of color, such as one I noticed in The Matrix Reloaded at the edge of a bright bulkhead next to a dark shadow. I had to look very hard to spot other differences between these two sets - to my eye they were equally sharp, and differences like color accuracy have little to do with the technology.
Both of these sets did a great job delivering DVD and HDTV sources. Forced to choose between the two, I'd have to side with the LCoS for its much deeper blacks and lack of rainbow effect. I have to admit that, while I rarely used to complain about DLP rainbows, I have become more sensitive to them recently and spotted a few on the HP. To its credit, the HP served up a very consistent color from dark to light material, while the Sony suffered from a magenta color cast that was most noticeable in highlights and brighter material. In a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, a blanket of white snow took on a purplish tinge that was obviously not there on the HP. But a dimly lit bar scene from Ed Wood showed off the Sony's top notch-black level, with Johnny Depp's suit jacket (and even a scantly lit beam in the background) alive with tons of shadow detail. Likewise, the LCoS's deep blacks lent an authority and believability to the picture that really helped to draw me in.
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