Sony XBR-55HX950 3D LCD TV

When it comes to picture quality, LCD TVs ?with a full-array, “local dimming” LED backlight tend to outperform their edge-lit LED brethren by a not insubstantial margin. We’ve covered the particulars of LED backlight tech before, so I won’t get sidetracked in explaining it here, but the finer control afforded by a full-array design allows for improved contrast and, for the most part, better uniformity when displaying dark images. Sony was among the first TV makers to push full-array for LCD, and then mysteriously put the tech on hold. But it roared back in 2011 with the XBR-HX929 line, a series that pushed full-array to new heights. The newest such sets to arrive from Sony are the HX950 series, which started shipping in late 2012. Can they match, or even exceed, Sony’s vaunted HX929 TVs?

Along with its full-array LED backlight, the XBR-55HX950 model we tested has a frame-less Gorilla Glass surface. This is meant to protect the screen and reduce reflections, although reflections did prove to be an issue when I watched in daylight with the blinds open. It also has an odd circular stand that’s highly reflec?tive — you might want to spray-paint it matte black. (I’m serious.) At 2 inches deep, the 55HX950 is about ?as thin as any other super-skinny TV out there, and its rounded corners (didn’t Apple just patent that?) and back-mounted control buttons contribute to a sleek, seamless look. It can also be tilted back or forward a few degrees when stand-mounted to accommodate a range of installations.

While most other makers are pushing their high-end models as “Smart, “Sony humbly labels the 55HX950 as an “Internet” TV. To that end it has a built-in Web browser along with a sizeable menu of media-streaming apps, including the big three of Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus. Since Netflix is the only “Internet” feature most people will take advantage of, it’s good to see a red Netflix button placed prominently on the remote. Sony’s labyrinthine menu structure gives you many (too many...) entry points to tap other apps, including the SEN (Sony Entertainment Net- work) portal, which can also be accessed through the Home menu or via a remote button.

Navigating those menus and otherwise controlling the TV isn’t much fun using Sony’s remote, which is small and packed with many non-backlit buttons. Sony does give you another option with its Media Remote app for iOS/Android, however. Media Remote is one of the better smartphone control apps I’ve used, providing Simple and Full remote screens, along with a Free Cursor mode optimized for Web browsing/app control. Sony does not give you 3D glasses with the 55HX950, so if you want to watch 3D movies, you’ll need to buy either the company’s cool, lightweight $99 TDG-BR750 Titanium or bulky TDG-BR250 3D active glasses, which cost only $50 but are so uncomfortable that it’s difficult to sit through an entire movie wearing them. (Guess which model Sony sent me?) Do yourself a favor and spring for the Titaniums.

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