Sony Bravia XBR-55HX929 3D LED LCD HDTV


2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,800 At A Glance: Exceptional black levels • Outstanding detail and color • Head-tilt 3D ghosting

With the growing popularity of LED backlighting for LCD HDTVs, it’s easy to forget that not all such backlighting is created equal. LEDs can be configured to provide either backlighting or edge lighting. In either case, the lighting can be steady, with image brightness dependent only on the pixels of the LCD imaging panel, which darkens the picture as the source requires. Or the lighting can be dynamic, in which the set can dim the backlighting or edge lighting from instant to instant, as needed, assisting the LCD pixels in adjusting for the optimum light output.

At the top level of LED lighting technology is full-array LED backlighting with local dimming. In this method, the clusters of LEDs arranged behind the screen dim selectively according to the demands of the image in their specific areas. The LEDs behind the dark areas darken, while the LEDs behind brighter areas stay bright. Sony was an early pioneer of such sets. Its newest LED local dimmers, the XBR-HX929 series (available in 46-, 55-, and 65-inch sizes), represent the company’s flagship range.

The Main Features
Once mounted on its tilt-and-swivel stand, our XBR-55HX929 was surprisingly wobbly. It also listed a few degrees to starboard. But Sony had alerted us up front that this sample had been on the demo circuit before it came to us. Fortunately, the only obvious sign of this was the dubious condition of the stand.

The Corning Gorilla Glass that covers the front of the screen extends to the edges. Its reflectivity is average; like most of today’s sets, the Sony does not have a matte finish.

The printed setup manual offers straightforward though limited guidance. There’s more detail in an onscreen i-manual. While this information was largely satisfactory, its entries were sometimes skimpy and not always correct, possibly because the i-manual appears to have been designed to cover more than one series of sets. For example, while there are a mind-numbing 14 picture modes, just three (custom, vivid, and standard) are in the picture mode menu. The others are in the more obscure Preferences/Scenes menu. I used custom for all of my tests and viewing, adjusted as needed for an optimum setup—I recommend that you do the same. You can also have different menu settings for 2D and 3D, and for different inputs as well.

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I preferred to leave most of the set’s gee-whiz features off. These included noise reduction, Reality Creation, Black Corrector, Auto Light Limiter (adjusts the brightness according to the room lighting), Clear White, Live Color, Detail Enhancer, Edge Enhancer, and Skin Naturalizer (the latter wasn’t available in HDMI).

Used with discretion, the advanced contrast enhancer adds a little punch to the image. But its high setting produced ugly results on some material. A super bit mapping (SBM) enhancement control didn’t appear to do any harm, but its effect was subtle at best. The same for a related feature, called Smooth Gradation, which is said to use SBM to smooth out color transitions in parts of the image that have gradual transitions in color. I left all of these features off.

The gamma control, which offers selections from –3 to +3, was useful. The +2 setting I chose for 2D was different from my –1 preference for 3D (in both cases, a step up or down better suited some source material).

Motionflow XR 960, which is selectable for either 2D or 3D, is Sony’s most advanced take on frame interpolation. It offers several settings, one of which (Clear Plus) uses dark-frame insertion. The panel operates at a refresh rate of 240 hertz. For 24-fps material in 2D, Motionflow XR 960 adds nine interpolated frames for each real frame (for a toal of 10); for 24-fps 3D, it adds four interpolated frames for each real frame per eye (a total of five). With Motionflow off, the added frames are simply repeated, not interpolated.

Motionflow XR 960 is said to produce its maximum smoothing when the separate CineMotion control is set to Auto 1, but I noticed little difference when I switched from Auto 1 to Auto 2.

For me, frame interpolation, no matter how sophisticated, kills the look of movies by giving them a soap-opera-like smoothness that film (or video shot at 24 fps) doesn’t have. Apart from checking this feature out (it does work, if that’s your thing), I didn’t use Motionflow or CineMotion in this review. With these features turned off, the set merely repeats the required additional frames needed to match the source to the set’s 240-hertz refresh rate, rather than interpolating them.

The set also has white balance controls with both high (gain) and low (bias) calibration adjustments for red, green, and blue. There’s no color management system (CMS) for adjusting the color gamut. Fortunately, with a slight reduction of the color control and Live Color turned off, the Sony’s out-of-the-box color gamut closely matches the Rec. 709 HD standard.

The set’s 3D features include a 2D-to-3D conversion mode, automatic sensing of the Blu-ray 3D format, manual switching to other 3D formats, and controls to tweak both native 3D and converted 3D. There’s also a 3D glasses brightness adjustment, which I left in its default auto setting.

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COMMENTS
JoeBlogg1983's picture

Hi, Some other publications have noted an issue of a "crease" on their HX929 review samples. I'm wondering whether that is consistent to the sample you have reviewed?

Scott Wilkinson's picture
What do you mean by a "crease"? A crease in what? Where is it located?
JoeBlogg1983's picture

Hi Scott. The "crease" on the HX929 has been noted on several AV forums as well as some other publications. You can probably find results by searching "HX929 crease" in google.

It is generally described as a "column" of slightly darker pixels running along the left or right edge of the screen.

Claims have been made that this column ranges from barely noticeable to the unit being considered "defective".

I'm in the market for a new TV. The HX929 seems to be a good candidate, but the "crease" problem that I've been reading about may be a deal breaker for me.

I'm wondering if those are isolated incidents or a general problem for the series. You guys are the pros! - and therefore wonderingif you guys spotted the same problem in your review sample.

Thanks!

MISHARI M BERAGDAR's picture

i think it is the best detailed review with very good settings.

i thought 3D settings only shows cinemotion auto 2, i will check that.
and for motionflow, when set to OFF, 3D glasses flicker too much which is painful, so better to change to Standard to eliminate flickering

MISHARI M BERAGDAR's picture

also the 3D ghosting due to angle variation is due to Sony glasses, Xpand X103 eliminates this problem with better 3D overall. but the glasses flickering in Motionflow OFF is common, it can be seen by looking at the window or any bright light source and then change Mtionflow to Standard to notice the difference

Thomas J. Norton's picture
That's something we didn't see in our sample. If we had seen it, you can be sure it would have been mentioned. But is it possible we missed it. The sample is fortunately still here, so I'll check it out next week.
zoetmb's picture

I took delivery about 2 1/2 weeks ago on a set with an August 2011 Mexico build date and I have absolutely no crease. I also never saw a crease when I looked at the set in many different retail environments, including 2 chain stores, 2 independent stores and 2 Sony stores. But there are definitely people who have the crease, including some who also have an August 2011 build date.

From the online postings, Sony doesn't recognize it as a critical problem, instead saying that it's "within spec", but they have come up with a methodology for adjusting some hidden settings that supposedly fixes it or at least makes it less visible.

By the way, your review didn't mention anything about the audio quality of the set's internal amp/speakers, which I think is remarkably poor. While I realize there isn't much space for speakers in a flat panel, it has vastly inferior sound to my 25-year-old Sony KV-1917 CRT TV.

But there's no question that this is a great set and I'm actually happier with it than I thought I'd be, which is remarkable. Usually when I spend a lot of money on a device, I'm disappointed.

etrochez's picture

Can you be more specific about the black levels in this TV? You state the black level in Custom Picture Mode is unmeasurable by your meter. I'm stunned that you didn't talk more about the black level performance. You never waste any time to compare any TV to the 0.002 ft-L performance by the Kuro. Yet you don't mention anything in this review other than the comparison with the Panasonic. Does the Sony TV has the best black level performance you've ever tested? I'm sure I'm just confused, but a little clarification would be nice.

P.S.: I saw the new Elite at my local BB and it looks stunning. Can't wait for the review.

Stephen Trask's picture

From the HTLABS Measures page:
"With the LED Dynamic Control on low and the other settings unchanged, the peak white level was 29.6 ft-L AND THE BLACK LEVEL 0.004, for a full-on/full-off contrast ratio of 14,800:1. With the LED Dynamic Control off, the relative measurements were 30 ft-L white and 0.021 BLACK (A VERY MEDIOCRE NUMBER IN TODAY’S MARKET), FOR a full-on/full-off contrast ratio of 1,429:1. We recommend leaving LED Dynamic Contrast in its standard setting...

THE BLACK LEVELS FOR THE LOW AND OFF SETTINGS WERE TAKEN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE IMAGE DROPPED TO BLACK. IN THOSE SETTINGS, THE BLACK LEVELS DROPPED AN ADDITIONAL DEGREE SHORTLY AFTER THE READING WAS MADE.

The color was not calibrated separately for 3D for reasons described in the main text. But I did measure a 3D peak white level of about 14.1 ft-L and A BLACK LEVEL OF 0.001 ft-L, for a full-on/full-off 3D contrast ratio of 14,100:1 (with the backlight at max, the picture on 70, the brightness on 43, the gamma on –1, and LED Dynamic Control on standard)."

TreyT's picture

You mention a .004 black level with the LED dynamic lighting set to "Low" but in the review you recommend having this on the "standard" setting. What measurements did you get in the "standard" setting if the .004 and 29.6 ft/l was in the "low" setting?

Breakdancefight's picture

I was able to find an open box close out at Best Buy. I picked it up for a steal and am loving everything about it. The closest to an Elite for me this side of winning the lottery.

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