Sony Qualia 006 SXRD RPTV

Sony's $30,000 SXRD front projector, the Qualia 004, was hailed as a breakthrough technology when it came out last year. Now comes this rear-projection SXRD model at somewhat more approachable price—$13,000. No doubt, that is still a breathtaking cost for a television set. But as high-end TVs go, this one may be worth it.

In fact, while placement issues precluded a side-by-side comparison with my reference—a Sony G90 CRT front projector driven through a Faroudja VPH-5000 scaler—my reactions to the Qualia 006 were clearly measured against my years of experience with this state-of-the-art projection setup.

The big news about the Qualia 006 is that it is big. The 16:9 screen measures 70 inches diagonally. It is one imposing product that fills up a room. Wheel it into even the largest room in a typical house, and the center of gravity seems to shift. It is the largest standalone TV set I have ever had in my review studio, and seems almost as big as the 87-inch (wide) screen I use for my Sony G90 projector. That screen can be retracted into the ceiling; this TV is not going anywhere.

Sheer size is the most striking observation on first glance. But the most important news about this TV is its resolution. Sony says it is capable of 1920x1080—the full resolution of HDTV, with more than two million pixels! That is six times the resolution of conventional NTSC television. The holy grail. Before now, only a CRT projector with nine-inch CRTs could offer this. A decade after the standards for HDTV were defined, the industry is finally catching up.

SXRD stands for Silicon Xtal (crystal) Reflective Display. I guess SCRD didn't sound as sexy. This is a three-chip LCoS technology. LCoS does not use backlighting, which means the pixels can be placed closer together (there's no need for the addressing circuitry to run between the pixels), eliminating the "screen-door" effect that is so common on LCD sets.

First Glance
The Qualia 006 a clean-looking product. A black frame around the screen is itself framed in silver. It rests on a sculptured silver stand in such a way that it seems to float above it. The stand is a cube, and given the size of the TV, the cube's open front is a vast black cavity—71 inches wide and a foot high. You can, of course, put your center-channel speaker in there, as I did for this review. But it seemed tiny in this yawning space. It's hard to know what to do with the rest of it—if anything. Store your winter clothing?

One caution: This set is as heavy as it is large. The TV weighs 273 pounds, and the stand adds another 191 pounds—for a total of 463 pounds. Fortunately, installation comes with the purchase of the set. The installers who came to my house left the TV about 10 feet away from the viewing area, but they noted that the stand was on wheels and could be wheeled into place. Then they left. (I was not home.) That evening, a friend and I tried to wheel it in place—but couldn't get it to budge. It turned out that the wheels are not casters. They do not rotate, meaning you can roll the TV forward and back—but not sideways, as it needed to go in my studio. I had to call the installers back to move it. I tell you this just to warn that you should make sure this TV is installed exactly where you want it before the movers leave.

The front of the television is largely unornamented. The screen is covered by a thick sheet of clear plastic that Sony says is part of the lens system. On the bottom right is a slot for Memory Stick media, so digital photos can be displayed. Assorted power and related lights are beside that, along with a power switch. On the left behind a fold-down door are an S-video, component video, and L/R audio jacks as well as an i.Link (IEEE 1394) connection.

In the center of the black frame, just under the screen, is a large Sony logo that lights up when the TV comes and stays lit, bright white. Unfortunately, there is no control to dim or disable this. I found that distracting and would consider covering the light with black tape if I owned the set.

The set comes with two speakers that attach to the sides and are powered by a 100W internal amplifier. The speakers are good for watching the 6 o'clock news, but I doubt anyone who spends $13,000 on a television would fail to connect it to an external audio system.

The Qualia 006, being the top of Sony's line, comes equipped with every one of Sony's high-end features, including a digital comb filter, for that rare soul who uses a composite input, and 3:2 pulldown correction as well as a two-tuner picture-in-picture. It can accept a CableCARD, and a digital ATSC receiver is built-in.

The remote is silver metal, long and heavy. The normal Sony functions are arranged in banks of curved rows with tiny lettering, impossible to read in a low-light room.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I do not know why Sony, a company whose products I hold in very high esteem, cannot find the wisdom to produce backlit remotes for their high-end TVs—especially one that costs $13,000. My G90 front projector (almost $30,000 when it came onto the market) includes a big, backlit remote (as does the Qualia 004 SXRD projector—TJN). So Sony does know how to do it. A friend who is in the consumer-electronics business hypothesized that no one who buys this set would use the factory remote. A set this expensive would be part of a custom installation that comes with a universal remote system. As a result, he surmised that Sony saw little sense in investing much in the remote. That may be true for many buyers, perhaps even most. But I would argue that a TV like this is so easy to install—you just wheel it in and turn it on (more on that later)—that numerous buyers may do just that. They deserve a better remote.