Review Date: October 2, 2007
 Last Updated: November 2, 2013

2007 Line-Up of Sony LCD TV Sets

Sony KDL-46XBR4 1080p LCD HDTV
Sony XBR range of premium line LCD HDTVs


The Sony KDL-46XBR4 forms part of the 2007 premium XBR series of Sony Bravia 1080p LCD TVs. It represents an upgrade over the 2006 extremely popular XBR2 1080p LCD HDTVs.

The all-new Sony offers a full range of advanced features, like 10-bit display, 120Hz refresh rate, 18,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, exhaustive connectivity, and a unique trend-setting design.

As expected, the Sony 46-inch KDL-46XBR4 LCD TV does not come cheap. Still, it is one of the most eagerly awaited 1080p HDTVs from a top brand for 2007. More in this LCD TV review article.


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The XBR4 Series of Sony LCD TV Sets: An Introduction

Unlike other major brands, Sony mainly focuses on LCD display technology rather than plasma. In fact, Sony is considered by many as a top leader in LCD TVs.

For the 2007 line-up, Sony released four series - ranging from the affordable entry-level KDL-S3000 sets, to the top-of-the-line 1080p KDL-XBR4 Sony LCD TVs.

The XBR4 series comprises the 52-inch KDL-52XBR4, the 46-inch KDL-46XBR4 reviewed here, and the 40-inch KDL-40XBR4. A smaller 32-inch version (KDL-32XBR4) also forms part of the Sony Class Bravia® XBR-4 series of LCD HDTVs, but the small brother in the range comes with a different design, 720p resolution and a slightly lower contrast ratio.

As one would expect from a leader in the field, with each new generation of LCD flat-panel TVs, Sony is offering increasingly improved picture performance, with even more features and an impressive styling. These top-of-the-line 1080p Sony LCD TV sets do not come cheap; the Sony Bravia KDL-46XBR4 LCD HDTV reviewed here is selling on-line at around $3,200. Despite the continually narrowing price gap between plasmas and LCDs, the new Sony 46-inch XBR4 set is still more expensive than a 50-inch 1080p plasma TV from a top brand. At the same time, if what you are after is a premium quality 1080p LCD HDTV, then there is always a price to pay for quality and innovation from a top manufacturer.

The 1080p sets in the XBR4 series feature full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, a 10-bit display panel, an 18,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio rating, and a 120Hz frame rate for improved picture performance.

Furthermore, the use of 'SPVA' (super patterned vertical alignment) LCD panel technology sourced through its joint LCD venture 'S-LCD Corporation' with Samsung, makes it possible for these Sony LCD TVs to produce both higher contrast and better viewing that still holds even at a much wider angle than that delivered by standard LCD panels.

To top it all, the XBR-4 series comes packaged in a trendy eye-catching 'floating' glass design. It also makes use of swappable designer-colored bezels as used in last year's Sony KDL-XBR2 series - thus making it possible to change the color of the frame around the TV for a more custom look.

Note: The set on review here is the Sony KDL-46XBR4 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV. However, the other Sony LCD TV sets in the XBR4 series are expected to perform equally the same in that all models in this series share exactly the same specs sheet. The only exception is the 32-inch model, which comes with both a lower contrast ratio rating, and a lower (720p) screen resolution; therefore it may perform slightly different from the larger models.

KDL-46XBR4 - Sony's Premium 46-inch 1080p LCD TV

As stated in our introduction, the KDL-46XBR4 Sony LCD TV is surely one of the most eagerly awaited 1080p Sony LCD TVs for 2007. There is a very simple reason for this. Over past years, 'XBR' represented the best consumer TVs Sony had to offer. And this year XBR4 line seems to be no exception.

In fact, the 46-inch Sony KDL-46XBR4 is a great example of a premium 1080p LCD HDTV that is capable of delivering exceptional picture performance. It compares well against both top LCD HDTVs from other brands - like the Samsung LN-T4665F reviewed on Practical Home Theater Guide, and equally important, against some of the best plasmas on the market.

Yes, you read correctly... In our opinion, this Sony LCD TV compares favorably even against 'some of the best plasmas'. But we have to make one thing clear here. When it comes to the very best plasmas, these still deliver better images with improved picture performance, deeper blacks, better reds, wider viewing angles, and significantly better motion detail than any top LCD can do. And this at an even lower price tag!

Still, the Sony KDL-46XBR4 is impressive by any standard, thanks to a series of innovative technical features and a trend-setting design.

Main Features

This 46-inch Sony LCD TV is classified as 'Full HD', meaning that it is capable of resolving full 1080p high definition content thanks to a screen native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and 1080p video inputs.

Once properly adjusted in 'Custom' or Cinema' mode, it delivers enhanced picture clarity with a clean image that exhibits deep blacks and very good shadow detail even in dark scenes.

The KDL-46XBR4 Sony LCD TV can render accurate colors, partly thanks to its wide color gamut backlight system; picture quality holds even at extreme off-angle viewing thanks to the use of S-PVA display technology.

Numerous picture controls let more demanding users zero-in on the best picture settings.

Equally important, this Sony LCD TV has one of the best motion resolution performances for an LCD display.

Superb connectivity - with a full assortment of digital and analog options both on the rear as well as on the side.

The accompanying remote for the XBR4 Sony LCD TV comes with illuminated and well placed buttons; it feels good in the hand and can be used to control up to three other devices.

Sony KDL-46XBR4 in Detail

Sony KDL-46XBR4 46-inch 1080p LCD TV

The KDL-46XBR4 46" Sony LCD TV

Main Design: As indicated earlier on, the XBR4 line of Sony LCD TVs is characterized by a design that is innovative and trendy at the same time.

Like the former XBR2 series, the KDL-46XBR4 display comes embraced in a glass frame around the entire display panel. The frame, made more visible by a beveled silver edge on all sides, measures approximately 3/4-inch wide.

Etched into the glass frame, there is the Bravia brand on the upper left side.  The bottom side of the glass is characterized by a number of technology logos on the left side, a big illuminated Sony logo in the middle, while three status LED's plus the IR and the light sensors reside on the right.

The blue light behind the Sony logo can be set to off if desired in the set-up menu.

Optional designer colored Bezels available for the Sony KDL-46XBR4To continue with this unique styling, the new Sony LCD TV comes with a swappable bezel (the frame surrounding the display).

The standard bezel that comes with the KDL-46XBR4 is black, but optional interchangeable bezels are available in five selected designer colors - Pacific blue, Sienna Brown, Arctic While, Velvet Black, and Scarlet Red. A matching colored stand is also included with each bezel.

Mind you, at $300, these do not come cheap, but then gives you the possibility to customize your Sony LCD TV to better match your room decor.

The KDL-46XBR4 is somewhat wider than what you would expect for a 46-inch flat-panel TV; this is partly due to both the side speakers and also the rather oversized bezel/glass frame combination. Overall, this set measures 49.7" wide x 31.3" high x 12.7" deep with the pedestal stand and 49.7" wide x 28.9" high x 4.8" deep without the stand; weight including the stand is 84 pounds.

Power Consumption: The rated power consumption of the Sony KDL-46XBR4 is 280W under default settings; however, this can be reduced by up to 50% once the set brightness level is properly adjusted to better suit the home environment. Unfortunately, manufactures tend to set default settings to provide a too bright an image to try to surpass that of the competition under a showroom environment.

Product Features: Apart from the full 1080p HD capabilities of the Sony LCD TV highlighted earlier on in this LCD TV review article, the KDL-46XBR4 also comes with a number of other interesting features.

Among the most important, there is 10-bit video processing and a 10-bit display panel. Without going into the actual mathematics, 10-bit gives you 64 times more levels of color - or shades of gray - than an 8-bit panel. This translates into smoother transitions from color to color making it possible for the display to produce subtle color changes even more accurately. Some manufactures boasts of 10-bit processing, but then their display panel is not capable of handling full 10-bit color - hence you would not enjoy the full benefit of 10-bit processing.

The KDL-46XBR4 also comes with what Sony defines as 'on-screen' or static contrast ratio of 2000:1; this refers to the luminosity ratio of the brightest whites and the darkest blacks that can be displayed simultaneously on the screen. This is one of the highest but as with most manufactures, there is no reference to the ANSI or some other standard; therefore, one cannot really compare with other brands.

To continue with this contrast issue, the Sony LCD TV has a rated 18,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Again, this renders the KDL-46XBR4 one with the highest dynamic contrast ratios around. This is possible thanks to the use of real-time image processing to adjust the contrast along with optimizing the backlight brightness. The use of Sony's automatic contrast enhancer (ACE) seems capable of doing a good job in producing deeper blacks in dark scenes while still maintaining good shadow detail.

However... We cannot but remark here that Sony seems playing the same 'number game' as Samsung with its new LCD displays. It is true that this 18,000:1 refers to the set dynamic contrast ratio - meaning that it represents the highest contrast as seen over a period of time rather than simultaneously.

From a picture performance perspective, this is not as important as the static contrast rating, and while high dynamic contrast ratio levels are truly achievable with today's display technologies, yet do not let these large numbers impress you! Contrast alone does not make the picture - even more so dynamic contrast levels. We are not saying that an improved contrast ratio performance does not make a difference, but the difference in picture performance is not as much as manufactures are trying to imply through their big numbers.

For more information on contrast ratio ratings, refer to our article: 'The Contrast Ratio Game - Playing with Numbers!

A new feature on the Sony LCD TV is the 'Motionflow' 120Hz high frame rate technology. Basically, this means that the Sony XBR4 series of LCD HDTV sets use 120Hz refresh rate by interpolating content in intermediate frames. Technically, this should help reduce judder and produce smoother images with less motion blur both when handling film sourced at 24fps encoded content and also with 60fps 1080 HD content.

In general the Sony did a good job smoothing things out and still keeping them looking natural. However, the end effect may not always be according to your preference - this being mainly dependent on the type of content being viewed. In any case, you can always de-activate the MotionFlow feature.

We were very much impressed with this Sony LCD TV capability to produce a full range of 'clean' natural looking colors.  The KDL-46XBR4 features the use of Sony's Live Color Creation technology which works in combination with the wide color gamut CCFL backlight to deliver better images with clean reds, blues, and natural looking greens.

Another feature found on the XBR4 Sony LCD TV and which seems capable of doing a respectful job is Sony's DRC or Digital Reality Creation. This Sony 1080p LCD TV uses DRC-Multi-Function version 2.5.  This technology is an integral part of the BRAVIA engine and is designed both to upconvert standard definition 480i and 480p content to 1080p, and also to minimize loss in interlace-to-progressive conversion when converting 1080i content to 1080p.

The Sony KDL-46XBR4 offers a complete assortment of picture controls and settings in addition to the usual standard adjustments for contrast, brightness, gamma, color temperature control, etc. Apart from adjustable presets for pre-defined settings, there is also a fully 'Custom' setting. Furthermore, each of the presets can be set independently for each input - thus providing a good level of flexibility in adjusting the picture for different sources, lighting conditions and user preferences.

Other picture adjustments on the Sony LCD TV include a full range of color temperature settings, noise reduction, edge enhancer, backlight control, an extensive collection of zoom options for both HD and SD content, etc. You name it and it is there!

The level of possible user picture control that this TV incorporates is probably more than any other. Good for the more technically minded and the perfectionist user as it lets you zero-in to your preferred settings. For many though, this mass of user controls may also lead to a more confusing situation, partly thanks to a rather vaguely written documentation.

Audio support on the Sony KDL-46XBR4 is typical of what you expect to find on similar LCD 1080p HDTVs. The Sony LCD TV can deliver up to 11W per channel. Included, there is also on-board sound decoding for both Dolby® Digital and the latest SRS® TruSurround® XT audio.

The XBR4 Dolby Digital decoder enables this TV set to reproduce Dolby Digital soundtracks from HDTV broadcasts and DVDs through the TV stereo speakers. SRS TruSurround audio processing helps simulate the effect of 5.1 surround sound over the television's built-in stereo speakers. The Sony TruSurround XT technology comes with the latest features on board - Dialog Clarity, TruBass, and SRS WOW.

Convenience features include among others, a 'Freeze Function'. You can temporarily freeze the picture in a separate window while the program continues - thus enabling you to take note of say a phone number or a website address. All that it takes is to push the 'FREEZE' button on the remote and then copy down the required information at your leisure.

Through Picture-in-Picture (PIP) and Picture and Picture (P&P) support, you can display video content from a second source or when using the 'Freeze' option. However, you cannot display a second TV channel unless you have an additional device with a TV tuner connected to your Sony LCD TV; the KDL-46XBR4 comes with a single built-in tuner supporting both analog and digital TV transmission.

A 'Light sensor' is also included to adjust the backlight brightness based on the picture settings to better match the ambient light in a room for more comfortable viewing.

Sony XBR4 TV RemoteInteresting is the supplied TV remote control. More longish than typical TV remotes, the XBR4 Sony LCD TV remote comes with illuminated buttons that are well placed and easy to use.

It also doubles as a universal remote, in that it can be used to control up to three other pieces of gear. It comes pre-programmed for the Sony BD, DVD and Sony satellite receiver, but it can easily be re-programmed to cater for devices from various brands.

It comes with just enough keys to make cycling through picture, sound, and aspect ratio controls quick and easy. A convenient 'Options' key calls up a couple of often-used submenus covering both picture and sound modes, while a 'Theater' short-cut button switches the picture to 'cinema mode'.

One interesting feature of the XBR4 remote is a blue button labeled 'HOME'. This is equivalent to the 'MENU' key on other remotes.

The different name is probably Sony's way of informing you that the on-screen menu of your new XBR4 Sony LCD TV looks more stylish than that of the average TV. Termed XrossMediaBar or XMB interface, it is more of a Media Center or PSP style menu than a traditional TV menu - with items arranged horizontally and vertically on a sort of cross structure. While this type of menu structure does not always result in the shortest path to access sub-menus, yet the overall effect is still a clean and easy to navigate menu.

Connectivity: The KDL-46XBR4 Sony LCD TV comes with a solid connectivity base. As with most TVs in its category, the Sony XBR4 includes a total of 3 HDMI connectors, and side A/V jacks.

The HDMI inputs are HDMI 1.3 compliant; the latter supports a higher bandwidth and xvYCC - also referred to as xvColor technology.

xvYCC is a newly approved international color standard with a greatly expanded color space. More specifically, it supports 1.8 times as many natural colors as existing HDTV signals for a more faithfully reproduction of color.

However, as far as we know, xvYCC HD content is not yet available - so for the time being, this is not much of value except for 'future proofing'. In any case, the capability to deliver this expanded color space would ultimately depends on the set display.

A USB port is also included on this Sony 1080p LCD TV, but unfortunately, this can only serve a purpose for servicing unless you decide to opt for Sony's optional BRAVIA expansion module. Sony refers to this USB port as DMeX/Service port, where DMeX stands for Sony's Digital Media Extender. The latter provides a digital connection path for optional modules like the new Sony Bravia Internet Video Link; the latter lets you stream video content direct from your broadband connection without the need for a PC.

Unfortunately, this connectivity option comes at a relatively high cost; in our opinion, a more 'open' USB port would have been more suited considering the price tag of this XBR4 LCD TV.

The list below summaries the whole set of connections available on the KDL-46XBR4 46-inch Sony LCD TV:

 

Inputs and Outputs

Quantity

Remarks

Rear

Side

HDMI (19-pin Type A)

2

1

HDMI 1.3 compatible; one of the HDMI on the rear comes with external R-Audio-L inputs for use with a DVI source.

Composite (A/V) - RCA Phono

1

1

Connects composite video and audio

S-Video (4-pin mini-DIN)

1

1

Connects S-video and audio

Antenna In

1

Nil

Connects to your cable STB or VHF/UHF antenna

Component (Y/Pb/Pr)

2

Nil

Includes audio

External Remote Jack

1

 

RS232, D-sub 9-pin

PC Input

1

Nil

HD15

USB 2.0

1

Nil

For service/firmware upgrade, or DMeX Module only

Analog Audio Out

1

 

Left/right channels only

Digital Audio Out (optical) - TOS

1

Nil

PCM/Dolby Digital compatible

Headphone Jack

Nil

1

 

Performance: It is a fact that the majority of today's 1080p LCD TV sets are capable of doing a reasonable job in delivering a great picture irrespective of their brand. Yet it is also a fact that some are capable of doing a better job than others. The Sony KDL-46XBR4 reviewed here forms part of this last category. Overall, this Sony LCD TV is a solid performer.

As indicated earlier on, the KDL-46XBR4 is capable of resolving every single pixel in a 1080p signal. This means that it can deliver the full 1920 pixels horizontally by 1080 lines when presented with a static image in Full Pixel mode.

De-interlacing of 1080i HD broadcasts can be tricky and most would simply discard every other frame to end up with 50% of the vertical resolution. This is also what the Sony does when set in either Vivid or Standard picture modes. But in either Cinema or Custom picture mode, the KDL-46XBR4 will deliver the full 1080 lines of picture resolution when viewing a 1080i static content.

It may be interesting to note here that a motion resolution test carried out by HDguru on this same set revealed that when it comes to moving content performance, the Sony LCD TV vertical resolution falls short of the full 1080 lines. Still, at 600 lines, it is among the best for 1080p LCD TVs. Again, when tested by HDguru, the Sony LCD TV delivered best performance when set in either Cinema or Custom picture mode; this is in line with our finds for other performance measures.

Overall, once properly set, this XBR4 Sony LCD TV is simply one of the best 1080p LCD TVs around - with very similar picture performance - including the set's deep black levels and contrast - to that of the Samsung LN-T4665F reviewed earlier on our site.

This comes to no surprise - after all, both sets use SPVA, or 'Super Patterned Vertical Alignment' LCD panels. SPVA technology is the result of a partnership that these two giants in the consumer electronics industry had entered into in 2004 to meet the rising demands for larger LCD TV sets.

Furthermore, the many picture settings would surely enable you to zero in on the best picture for your liking. Having so many user controls is an added bonus for the perfectionist looking for the best picture set-up.

And the non-technically minded that would find all these user picture controls confusing to say the least, would surely appreciate  the Cinema picture mode on this Sony LCD TV. The Cinema mode is easily accessible through the 'Theater' short-cut button on the remote.

As with the 'Movie' mode on the Samsung LN-T4665F, the Cinema mode on the Sony KDL-46XBR4 is capable of delivering very accurate colors with natural looking images.

Conclusion

This Sony LCD TV is one of the best flat-panel TV sets we have ever come across and is worth considering if you are looking for a top of the line 1080p LCD TV that is capable of premium performance.

The KDL-46XBR4 swappable bezels and the dedicated Sony Digital Media Extender options represent a costly premium - considering the price of this 1080p Sony LCD TV. But if you want a customized look that better suits the rest of your room decor, or the option to stream on-line content without having to be tied up to a PC, you can simply do it!





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