Sony BRAVIA XBR-52LX900 3D LCD HDTV Page 3

The Sony did shine on great transfers that don’t rely heavily on moody lighting. Despite its few dark scenes, Panda was one of them. Its colors were gorgeously vivid without going over the top, and the resolution was first rate. The other mostly bright sources I consistently use as references looked similarly compelling. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl looked gorgeous (I had the Gamma control set to +2 on this title), as did Seven Years in Tibet.

But the Sony didn’t do well with 2005’s War of the Worlds, which I deliberately auditioned on DVD at 480i rather than on Blu-ray Disc. This film employs some of the most difficult (and often downright odd) photography I know of. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski loves extreme contrast, with crushed blacks and blown-out whites, and neither the Sony nor the Panasonic earned a gold star on this test. While the Panasonic brought out more shadow detail, both sets suggested that the photography was sloppy. Only a 60-inch Pioneer KURO PRO-141FD, which I auditioned with this disc a day earlier at another location, convinced me that the disc wasn’t entirely to blame and Kaminski knew exactly what he was doing.

The Sony also has limited offaxis performance—a common shortcoming in many LCD sets. You’ll want to sit as close to the center as possible to get the very best picture, although less critical viewers won’t notice much amiss until they get at least 20 to 30 degrees to the side. Oddly, the Sony’s off-axis performance was marginally better in 3D than in 2D.

Deck the Halls with 3D
As I noted earlier, the Sony has a 2D-to-3D conversion mode. Its effectiveness, as with other such simulations we’ve seen, is generally mild but visible, and it’s free of artifacts beyond those present even with true 3D sources. More importantly, it provides the means to calibrate the set for 3D using 2D test patterns, the separate 3D adjustments on the set, and the 3D glasses positioned over the colorimeter. As far as I can determine with the animated 3D program material available at present, the Sony’s calibrated 3D color performance was impeccable.

The Sony’s 3D, on real 3D sources, was as effective as you’d expect. While those trick, jumping-out-of-the-screen effects are mercifully infrequent in most modern 3D productions (unlike those from earlier 3D eras), the paddleball in an opening scene from Monsters vs. Aliens, or General Monger riding in his hover chair in the same movie, popped just as they should. More importantly, subtle 3D worked beautifully. The new Disney 3D release of A Christmas Carol potently demonstrates how effective 3D can be when used in service to a good story—even though the film does slip into effects for effects’ sake here and there.

The Sony’s 3D image is rewardingly bright in its calibrated Custom mode—brighter than many competing 3D sets, including the Toshiba 55WX800U also reviewed in this issue. One concern I noticed was ghosting (left-to-right-eye crosstalk), particularly in A Christmas Carol (and no, I don’t mean Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and yet to come). In more than a few places—Scrooge leaving his office on Christmas Eve, Bob Cratchit schussing down a snow-covered sidewalk immediately after that, or Scrooge approaching his front door at 16:46—it was very obvious. It was much rarer on other discs, but the ghosting I saw on A Christmas Carol wasn’t visible at all on the Panasonic TC-P50VT25.

Like the BRAVIA XBR-52HX909, if you tilt your head even slightly with the XBR-52LX900, it will destroy the 3D effect and produce an obvious double image. On most 3D LCD designs (like the Toshiba), the image merely gets dimmer with a head tilt. In the plasma designs we’ve tested, tilting your head doesn’t change the image at all.

On three of the big four basic display qualities—color, resolution, contrast, and video processing—the Sony gives no quarter. Its color was as accurate as the sources demanded, and its video processing and resolution were pristine. Only its contrast came up a bit short. Most of the time, on bright and mid-bright scenes, it was hard to criticize.

But on dark scenes, this edge-lit design lacked the spark that distinguishes the best LED-backlit local-dimming LCDs. Sony’s own superb XBR-52HX909 is currently priced the same as the XBR-52LX900, apart from the fact that the LX900 comes with glasses and a built-in 3D IR transmitter, while the local-dimming HX909 does not. That’s not an insignificant detail, of course, as those extras will run you upwards of $350. And the LX900 is a very good set in most respects. But if you can delay your 3D fix long enough to save up for the extra-cost transmitter and glasses—or talk your video store into a deal—the XBR-52HX909 is the Sony to have in this price range.

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