If you've been following the HDTV market for a while, you know that LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) projection technology really took it's sweet time maturing. Going back at least three or four years, manufacturers including JVC, RCA, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi all briefly introduced LCoS rear projectors, with all but JVC exiting the business.
Why? Though similar in some respects to widely used LCD (liquid crystal display) technology, LCoS suggested great promise, particularly in the achievement of high resolution 1080p screens - always considered HDTV's Holy Grail. Traditional LCD displays require a backlight shining through the liquid-crystal pixels, which act as electronic shutters to control the amount of light passing through to the viewer's eyes. Not only does this "transmissive" arrangement chew up some of the lamp's brightness, but it dictates that the electrical conductors used to address the pixels must be hidden in the grid lines between them. That, in turn, limits how closely you can place the pixels and explains why many LCD rear projectors, particularly older models, have an obvious "screen door" effect when viewed at close range.
LCoS, on the other hand, is a reflective technology. Instead of a backlight, light from a projection lamp strikes the liquid crystal cells from the front, hits a mirrored pane behind them, then bounces back out toward the screen. This means the wires to address the pixels can be hidden behind the mirror, and the pixels can be, well, as close as you can make 'em. This improvement in so-called "fill factor" makes for a smoother, more seamless image that really lends itself to up-close, cinematic viewing.
Nice concept. The only problem was that no one could figure out how to manufacture LCoS chips efficiently in large quantities, so the technology was restricted initially to expensive "statement" HDTVs. And in the end, they didn't make much of a statement: Despite their ultra-high resolution for the time, early LCoS rear projectors all suffered from an inability to reproduce a solid black.
Flash ahead a couple of years to the introduction of Sony's version of LCoS, dubbed SXRD for Silcon X-tal Reflective Display. Along with JVC, which has continued to refine its own LCoS technology (called D-ILA or, in HD models, HD-ILA), Sony notably pushed the envelope on LCoS performance while simultaneously solving the manufacturing issues that had plagued the early attempts. SXRD started out in a hyper-expensive $30,000 front projector and, later, the $13,000 Qualia 006 rear projector (first reviewed by Sound & Vision here). But, by the end of last year, affordable SXRD projection sets were flooding stores and winning awards from enthusiast publications. We selected the 50-inch KDS-R50XBR1 as Sound & Vision's 2005 Product of the Year.
The Sony KDS-60A2000 60-inch SXRD HDTV reviewed here marks the launch of Sony's second-generation SXRDs and represents the entry-level model for this size in an expanded, now multi-tiered line. Not too much has changed - "if it ain't broke," right? Perhaps most important, Sony has stuck with the same 1,920 x 1080 (1080p) SXRD chip that drove last year's 50- and 60-inch models (including the KDS-R60XBR1 that won our DLP/LCoS face-off in April). As before, there are three chips, one each for the red, green, and blue primary colors from which all colors are derived, eliminating the need for the color-wheel found in almost all DLP projectors and their potential for associated rainbow artifacts.
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