Sony Bravia XBR-55HX929 3D LED LCD HDTV Page 2

One downer is that the Sony’s 3D glasses (rechargeable via a USB connection to the set) are an extra-cost option for the HX929 series. They will set you back $70 a pop. But the transmitter to energize the glasses is built in.

The XBR-55HX929’s onscreen menus are a modification of Sony’s well-established XMB (Xross Media Bar) layout. But as in all past Sony menus, you can’t jump directly from the top of a given menu to the bottom by going around the horn. It’s tedious to access menu items that are located well down in the hierarchy.

The backlit remote doesn’t offer direct access to specific inputs. Apart from a bit too much crowding around the navigation controls, it’s reasonably intuitive. There’s also a downloadable Media Remote app (not tested) that lets you use your iPhone or Android phone as a remote.

1111sonybra.rem.jpgThe XBR-55HX929 has a ton of Internet features, accessible via a wired or wireless broadband connection. The set’s wireless LAN receiver is built in. Track ID and music/video search features can identify the music you hear in a program or provide additional information on the music or video using an Internet database run by Gracenote. The set also includes Skype, which can make video and voice calls to another Skype-enabled user via your broadband Web service and Sony’s optional CMU-BR100 camera and microphone unit ($150).

You can also play back videos, photos, or music either directly from a USB storage device or from your home network, or search for music using Sony’s Qriocity subscription music service.

2D Star Power
It should be clear that like most modern HDTVs, this Sony is rife with technological goodies, most of them named to generate the maximum PR buzz. In addition to those we’ve already mentioned, there are also the OptiContrast front panel, the Intelligent Presence Sensor (we know you’re out there!), and the distance alert (how near!). But none of these would be more than names on a page if, at this price, the XBR-55HX929 weren’t a performance standout.

Fortunately, it is. The Sony’s video processing was impeccable, easily navigating all of our standard HD tests (see the Video Test Bench chart). It also cleanly handled standard-definition upconversion (from 480i to 1080p in 3:2, 2:2, and MA—motion adaptive), which isn’t shown in the chart.

The set’s color, even out of the box, will likely satisfy most buyers, although only the warm 2 color temperature setting is close to accurate. After a good calibration, the color was impossible to fault. Fleshtones were as natural as the source would permit. Greens looked right. Spilling more ink to describe the Sony’s calibrated color performance would be as productive as looking out the window and commenting on the colors in a backyard pool party.

The same goes for clarity and detail. Some day, we may see another leap similar to the jump from DVD to Blu-ray (4K, anyone?), but until that day comes, the Sony is anything but a stopgap. The XBR-55HX929’s resoution is simply superb.

Off-axis performance and motion blur have been enduring issues with LCD sets. These are two areas in which plasmas have had it all over LCDs. That’s still true, but the Sony was very watchable at reasonable off-axis angles. Only the fussiest videophile will object to viewing angles beyond 20 degrees, and the average viewer won’t be put off at even 45 degrees, or perhaps even more. The image lightens noticeably as you move off center, but the colors remain relatively stable, if a bit less saturated. Nor did motion blur bother me with most program sources, even without Motionflow.

There are three settings in Sony’s Intelligent Peak LED backlight feature (oddly called LED dynamic control in the onscreen menu): standard, low, and off. Forget about anything but standard, unless you pine for the black levels in your 2006 LCD set. If so, the off position can return you to those thrilling days of yesteryear. With the other controls set up properly and standard engaged, the screen fades to total black (or at worst nearly so) when the source calls for it. Unlike some earlier local-dimming sets we’ve tested, the XBR55HX929 drops to black immediately, without pausing (annoyingly) at intermediate levels.

There’s more to contrast than absolute blacks, of course. The Sony also has exceptional shadow detail. In fact, I found only two shortcomings to the set’s local dimming. The first was an occasional tendency for very dark scenes to look a little crushed as the set pulled some of the very darkest grays into black. The second was a visible halo around bright spots of light against an otherwise black background. This haloing effect was relatively rare, and for me, at least, it subtracted little from the Sony’s otherwise outstanding performance on dark scenes.

3D: Into the Deep
The XBR-55HX929 is astonishingly bright as 3D sets go—in fact, I actually had to turn down the 3D picture (contrast) setting (the default is maximum, or 100). Even at a picture setting of 70, I measured a peak white level of 14 foot-lamberts. That may not sound like much, but it brings out a level of 3D detail that’s lost in most (dimmer) 3D sets, and in most theatrical 3D presentations as well. It also transforms 3D from simply a fun novelty into a compelling, immersive experience.

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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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