Test Report: Sony KDL-55HX850 3D LCD TV

When I tested Sony’s flagship XBR-55HX929 TV for our November 2011 issue, I called it out as having “the best-looking picture I’ve seen from an LCD TV in a long time.” Jump forward a few months, and I’m attending a demonstration at Sony’s HQ. During the demo, Sony put its flagship XBR, a model with a full-array LED backlight, up against a group of other TVs, including the company’s new edge-lit HX85 Series set. If you follow our reviews, you’ll know that LCDs with edge-lit LED backlights typically don’t fare well, mostly due to screen uniformity issues. However, the HX85 set in Sony’s shootout not only smoked the competition but was about on par with the company’s XBR model. Naturally, I was eager to get my hands on one.

With its sleek, bezel-free Gorilla Glass facade, Sony’s KDL-55HX850 looks quite a bit like the XBR. The key difference is a silver-toned strip that runs around the edge. An included stand swivels 30° in either direction and can be tilted back 6° to accommodate installations on low-profile stands. With a cabinet measuring less than 1.5 inches deep, there’s no space for control buttons, so Sony instead slapped them on the back panel at the lower right.

Most of the TV’s inputs are clustered within an inset section around back to accommodate wall-mounting. The remote control is noticeably more compact than the one that came with the last Sony TV I tested. Unfortunately, it lacks a backlit keypad, though buttons you’re likely to use regularly (Input, Options, etc.) are fairly easy to find. There’s a red Netflix button to quickly leap to the menu for that service and dedicated keys to launch both onscreen Widgets and the Sony Entertainment Network portal, which is a menu where you can access apps.

Speaking of apps, Sony’s TV has a pretty good selection: Along with Netflix, there’s Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Skype, Pandora, Slacker, and Picasa. Sony also has a iOS/Android app, Sony Media Remote, that you can load on your smartphone to control the TV. I liked using Sony’s app, which has both a Simple mode and a Full one that duplicates all the buttons found on the hardware remote. The only other feature I could ask for is a keyboard input to type text. (It’s coming, according to the app.)

Hitting the Home button on the remote calls up the TV’s somewhat unwieldy menu system. Everything you’d normally want — picture controls, screen adjustments, etc. — can be found here, but you first have to do a bit of digging. Fortunately, you can hit the Options button on the remote to call up an abbreviated list for quick access to important menus like picture adjustments.

The 55HX850 doesn’t come with 3D glasses. Sony offers two 3D eyewear options: a basic pair, which will set you back $50, and the deluxe TDG-BR750 Titanium active 3D glasses, which cost $100/pair. Sony sent me Titaniums, which are among the most comfortable 3D glasses I’ve yet used. What sets them apart are the lightweight, flexible frames: You can sit through an entire movie without wanting to rip them off of your head. They can also be easily recharged by plugging them into a USB port on the TV.

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