Once my tweaks were completed, I sat back to watch some TV. The picture was undeniably crisp - the Super Fine Pitch tube really does live up to its name - but even with the Warm color temperature selected, whites looked slightly blue and there was a reddish cast to faces seen in closeup. The set's color literally snapped into place after I made minor adjustments in the service menu (see "in the lab" below).
HIGH POINTSExcellent all-around
LOW POINTSlight red push from color decoder.
In the Daredevil DVD, Jennifer Garner's pale skin looked natural, while her green eyes had an intense, otherworldly glow. In the scene where Garner and her superhero boyfriend Daredevil (Ben Affleck) attend a black-tie event, I could easily discern the many different shades of black in the guests' tuxedos and other formalwear. In an earlier scene where Affleck first encounters Garner, I was even able to make out the fine weave of his suit - a subtle detail that wouldn't have been easy to spot on a lesser TV.
DVDs looked fantastic on the Sony, but what I really wanted to do was give its Super Fine Pitch tube a workout with some HDTV. I was not disappointed. Tuning into my local PBS channel, which broadcasts a steady stream of eclectic high-def programming, I caught a good slice of a Chef's Afield segment that was taped on a farm in Oregon. I was struck by how incredibly vivid a yellow squash looked set against the slate-gray northwestern sky. And when the camera zoomed in on a shallot, the range of pink/purple tones on the surface of this obscure vegetable was staggering. The colors appeared to leap from the screen, yet they were clean and solid. Background foliage and trees also looked very sharp and detailed, while the thin roots protruding from the front of the shallot gave the image a nearly three-dimensional quality.
Sony's KV-34XBR910 proves not only that tubes are alive and kicking, but that CRT technology still sets the standard in video performance that other technologies are trying to match. Sure, you can buy a similar-size HDTV-grade plasma set for five grand or so, and it will look very cool mounted on your wall. But if you have some cabinet or table space to spare, this set will deliver superior image quality at half the price. There are plenty of new HDTV alternatives to consider, but something tells me that the death of the picture tube has been considerably exaggerated.
In The Lab
Color temperature (Pro preset, Warm color temperature before/after calibration)
Low window (30 IRE): 11,943/6,509 K
High window (100 IRE): 8,358/6,538 K
Brightness (Pro preset, Warm color temperature before/after calibration)
100 IRE: 27.6/21.7 ftL
With the Sony's Warm preset selected, it measured far enough off the NTSC standard of 6,500 K that you might want to consider professional calibration. (Calibration needs to be performed by a qualified technician with specialized equipment, so discuss it with your dealer before purchase, or call the Imaging Science Foundation at 561-997-9073.) After adjustment, light output was similar to other direct-view tube TVs we've tested. This is an impressive achievement given that the aperture grille has a finer pitch than those in previous CRTs - a factor that would normally decrease brightness. Grayscale tracking fell within the ±200-K range, which is excellent.
Screen geometry and corner focus were very good, but overscan was 5% on all sides, which is higher than average. I also measured a color-decoder red push of +15% - a relatively common problem that I corrected with a service-menu adjustment. DC restoration was excellent, with the level of black remaining rock solid through changes in average picture brightness.
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