Sony KDL-55HX850 3D LCD HDTV Page 2

There was none of this with the Sony. The sides of a dark screen did look a bit lighter than the center, but the gradation between the dark middle and slightly lighter edges was smooth and easy to ignore. This uniformity, combined with the edge lighting’s effective and artifact-free dynamic zone dimming, produced dark scenes as satisfying as I’ve pre- viously seen only on the best plasmas and fully backlit local-dimming LCD designs. I’ve referred to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 before, and will again, with good reason. Dark images dominate this film, and the entire third act in par- ticular is nothing less than an HDTV torture test for black level and shadow detail. The filmmakers walked close to the edge of theatrical digital projection capabilities here; I can only imagine how grim this film must have looked in the average multi-plex. Not here. The Sony performed as well on this disc as any set I’ve tested to date, and far better than most. There was virtually no trace of the murky fog that, on lesser displays, can wash out shadow detail and produce medium gray where there should be black. The only hint of superiority I’ve seen on top-drawer, backlit local dimmers and plasmas, with this and similar widescreen discs, is that they can produce slightly darker black bars. But on the Sony, these bars, when present, were not distracting.

The Sony also sailed through less challenging material without a hiccup. You’ll see more about its excellent color performance in HT Labs Measures, but I’ll just say here that even out of the box, the result needed little work. While on-site gray-scale calibration is always a good idea (unit-to-unit consistency is not something we can test for), on our sample it was little more than a nod to our normal test procedures. There was no visible change following calibration—at least not in 2D. And while a color management system might have precisely nailed the color points—Sony does not offer this feature on its flat-panel displays—it’s doubtful if it would have visibly improved the set’s color gamut.

Nor is there much to be said about the set’s clean, natural resolution. If you find it soft, you either need to adjust the Sharpness control (in many sets the zero setting is best, but on this Sony the midpoint default setting of 50 is where you want to be) or think about new glasses.

The Sony also performed well when viewed off axis. It’s no plasma in this respect, but I could move more than 30 degrees to the side before I was troubled by the off-center contrast fade-out typical of LCDs.

Or Not TwoD
Wow, this thing is bright! That was my reaction when I first experienced 3D on the KDL-55HX850. But let’s get real. If you’re looking for eye-popping 3D in a sun-drenched room, this isn’t your set. In fact, in that case nothing is your set, because nothing will satisfy that requirement. But with the Picture control reduced to 90 from its Max (100) default (to eliminate pinkish high-brightness whites), the Backlight also on Max (it’s not adjustable in 3D), and the 3D Glasses Brightness setting in its default (Auto) position, the peak 3D brightness measured 19 foot-lamberts. This is the brightest 3D I’ve yet seen apart from the far more expensive, 60-inch Sharp Elite (Home Theater, January 2012). Unlike the 2D results, however, the Sony did require calibration to achieve its best 3D color performance.

In 3D, the Sony converts 24-frame-per-second sources to 60 fps using 3:2 pulldown. Whether for this reason or not, with Motionflow off in 3D, the set produced clearly visible, and annoying, flicker. Setting Motionflow to Standard eliminated this without any obvious soap-opera effect. But this change does not carry over to the set’s (moderately effective) 2D-to-3D conversion mode. For that mode, which also has the same flicker issue, you must switch Motionflow to Standard separately.

As with other recent Sony 3D sets we’ve tested, you must keep your head on straight for accept- able 3D performance. Tilt the 3D glasses just a little, and the color shifts to bluish for a left tilt and reddish with a nod to the right. Tilt them a bit more, and the 3D image separates, resulting in severe 3D crosstalk (ghosting). If I kept my head reasonably level, however, 3D crosstalk was otherwise insignificant.

With all that brightness on tap, 3D images absolutely pop off the Sony’s screen. While the result is not as punchy as the 30 ft-L I used for my 2D watching, I never once felt that the 3D picture was too dim. From the deepest black to the brightest whites, Avatar looked like the 3D reference standard it clearly is. Computer animation, which dominates the current 3D landscape, was also stunning. Kung Fu Panda 2, in particular, showed off the KDL-55HX850’s chops in all respects—depth, brilliant color, and amazing detail. And unlike most animation, this film has a lot of relatively dark scenes. The Sony handled them flawlessly.

At an MSRP of $2,600—as I write this, it’s on sale for less on Sony’s own Website, although such offers are fluid—the KDL-55HX850 isn’t exactly a steal. But when you consider its superb black level, crisp color, and near-reference-quality 3D, you’d have to spend a lot more to do better. And even then, I’m not sure you could. About the only thing missing from Sony’s HX850 lineup is a larger, 65-inch model, and there’s no guarantee a larger screen would equal or exceed the performance of this 55-incher (the bigger the screen, the more difficult it is to illuminate uniformly with edge lighting). This is the first edge-lit LCD set I could live with without reservations. Yes, there’s that 3D head-tilt issue, but unless 3D dominates your viewing time, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. The KDL-55HX850 is too good a set to ignore.

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steve1971's picture

Excellent review Tom on the HX850 but dont over look the Sony HX750. I have the 46HX750 and besides the Corning Gorilla Glass the 2 tv's are almost the same. I used your settings for the HX850 on my tv and they worked! They looked better then Cnet's settings. But that being said Tom great review. I only hope you guys will be able to give a review of the HX750 which in my book and to my untrained eye measures up the the HX850 in every way.

etrochez's picture

It seems to me that the 2D performance in the rating system is king, yet the Sharp Elite got 4.5 stars and this one got 5 stars. Therefore, judging by HT's rating system this TV is better that the Sharp Elite when watching regular 2D content. Or, is the 5 star rating based on the price point of the TV? Which doesn't add up either, since the Elite has no competition, then why it would get 4.5 stars? I understand that the Elite is considered the best TV in the market, but I have always found the rating system a little confusing and inconsistent. Am I missing something?

HardBoiled's picture

It think that Mr. Norton thinks the Sony is just better than the Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD which was a TV from last year. Maybe Sony has made improvements in LCD/LED technology since last year. But I am surprised the Sony got a better rating than this years Panasonic VT50. Some reviews say the VT50 is the best TV so far this year.

NITRAMEEL's picture

Sony has come out with a 70" KDL model LED, 3D, smart TV, and I'm curious, does this one perform similar to the KDL 55 you reviewed? It has the motion flow, but it's rated at 120Hrz. Is 120 fast enough for this size of TV?