By then, I couldn't wait to get to the really good stuff, so I plugged in our high-def disc players to look at some film-based content. During the big opening heist in Venice on the HD DVD of The Italian Job, all the beautiful woodwork details in the well-appointed dark interiors were revealed. Later, when the gang stops to celebrate its $35 million victory on a snow-covered mountain pass in the sunlit Alps, the precise rendering of every shadowy undulation in the mountains against the brightness of the snow gave the scene terrific depth. On a tight shot of John Bridger (Donald Sutherland), I could clearly make out the salt-and-pepper whiskers in his beard and the ripples in the black wool of his coat and the black leather jacket worn by the job's mastermind Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg).
Sticking with the Mark Wahlberg theme, I cued up the whacky hitman comedy/action flick The Big Hit on our Samsung Blu-ray player. Interestingly, this Paramount transfer, as well as several Warner Blu-ray titles I've viewed recently, suffer none of the noisy grain and scene-to-scene inconsistency that plagued the first wave of Sony Blu-ray discs we reported on in our review of the Samsung. In fact, it looked spectacular on the KDS-60A2000. In the opening sequence, in which Wahlberg's character Melvin Smiley transfers bagged body parts into the back of his SUV on the top deck of a sunlit parking lot, the subtle red hue of the actor's dyed hair was immediately obvious against the deep blue sky and the white and sand-colored skyscrapers in the background. In a later scene, the Sony passed the ultimate skin test as Melvin and his ragtag foursome of goodfellas show off their buff, naked bods and backsides in a gym locker room after a workout. I could easily make out the differences in their skin tones and see the razor sharp cuts in their muscles. No butts about it - with high-quality HDTV material, the Sony KDS-60A2000 really delivered the goods.
BOTTOM LINE I have to admit a touch of bias in favor of rear projectors. In a world gone mad for flat-panels amidst plummeting prices for LCD and plasma displays, there's even been talk of manufacturers abandoning RPTVs. But, to my eye, the best of the ilk still deliver the cleanest and most natural, film-like presentation I've seen from integrated HDTVs, especially at large screen sizes. And on a dollar-per-inch basis, they deliver that fabulous picture quality at a bargain price.
That said, the Sony KDS-60A2000 60-inch SXRD HDTV easily takes its place among the best rear projectors we've tested, offering not just a sensational image but all the means to adjust it to perfectly suit your taste and viewing conditions. It may not be as skinny as a flat panel, but if this set is any indication of things to come, I think it's safe to say RPTVs won't be disappearing from Sony's line for a long time to come.
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