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Sony Bravia KDL-55HX925 Review
For the last couple of weeks, we have been ogling at one of the best LED TVs in the market today. Every day, we would walk into our labs and start grinning ear-to-ear, and then slot in one of our test Blu-Ray discs for a few minutes of absolute eye-popping visuals.
Internally, in our many discussions, we have thrown in the unmentionable “best in class” back and forth. Initially during the first few rounds of viewing tests, we shied away from giving it that badge, but after every session of getting sucked in by its gorgeous renders, we were giving into what our eyes kept telling us: that the Sony Bravia KDL-55HX925 may very well be the best LED TV in the market.
Scoring such an expensive product anywhere near 9 meant we had to be super-sure of our test results and review conditions. And hence we did a marathon run of tests under a variety of calibration settings. The review is also a collective effort in more ways than one, because not only did we get many qualified reviewer eyes on this model, but we went through every real-world scenario to ensure that this TV got the testing treatment it deserved.
The TV has just left our labs, and we are now feeling the first pangs of eye-candy withdrawal symptoms as we write this review. If you want to jump right into the performance bit of the review, click here.
Design and Build Quality
The 55HX925 looks worthy of its pricing, the lack of a clearly visible bezel separating the display from the frame makes it look like a solid black slate. From afar, it looks like a single sheet of glossy black awesomeness. It’s a conversation stopper, and it makes you pause and look at it.
The TV is just a little more than 3.5cm in thickness, which makes it sleek given its overall size. And while there’s a large stand provided for it to sit on, we think that it would be a crime not to wall-mount this TV. Of course, if you have the space to spare, then mounting it on a corner table would be quite a sight, too. Besides the clean-flush look, a Sony logo lights up at the centre of the bottom bezel, there are no other visible controls or labels on the front. The left bottom has a power indicator and there are a few sensors that include a small camera, again very neatly embedded within the frame. Sony also bundles a camera for use with Skype.
The stand could've been sturdier
The display is glossy and with it turned off, it does reflect quite a lot. Sony has used Gorilla glass on the surface, which makes it very sturdy and there’s little chance of ruining the finish, while cleaning it or if you happen to bump into it.
The controls are positioned on the back of the TV to maintain its elegant look. Besides, no one really uses the physical controls on a TV. The back of the TV is made of metal - it is sturdy and there are no fans visible for cooling purposes. There are a whole bunch of connectivity options on the rear of the TV. Like on all modern televisions, there are four HDMI inputs at the rear. There are two rows of connectors at the rear - one placed vertically and the other horizontally. The connectors have been positioned in such a way that it won’t interfere if you wall-mount the TV. Surprisingly, there is no component or composite connection on the TV itself, but there is a separate panel that connects it to one of the interfaces that allows the additional connects. There’s also D-Sub to connect older PCs to it as well as an optical audio input on the television.
The back of the TV does have large vents that should offer necessary ventilation. During extensive testing, the TV did not get too warm at the back, and while our studio has inhumanly chilly air-conditioning, we reckon it should get only slightly warm in normal temperature conditions.
Power on the TV and you see the familiar Sony XMB (Crossbar) interface, which seems tweaked for a TV. The XMB is now used across a number of devices ranging from PlayStation consoles to notebooks and even televisions, so you should feel right at home if you’ve used Sony products in the past. There are 8 different menus on the home screen, most of which are for selecting inputs and choosing from the most used content sources and online content.
A very basic user interface - simple and practical
The Settings menu is extensive and offers a whole bunch of customization options that users can choose from. There’s even a detailed manual that explains all of the features of the television. But the interface leaves a lot to be desired; it’s clunky, not as quick and seamless like the Crossbar interface is on the PS3. Moving back and forth from the menu and onto the content can sometimes be painful. Of course, you won’t be doing this all the time, so it’s a minor irritant. Also, the profiles for each setting are not saved on their own, but are linked to the port from which the content is being displayed. This seems odd, because if you wanted to swap to another profile, it’s not possible, unless of course you change all the settings for that port. For a TV this expensive and impressive, it will invariably fall into the laps of videophiles and enthusiasts who are often tweaking their calibration settings to get the perfect viewing settings for a particular type of content. This in our opinion is one of the areas where this TV falls short, miserably.
The 55HX925 comes built with integrated Wi-Fi connectivity, so you don’t have to depend on optional modules. Setting up and connecting to a Wi-Fi router is no more difficult than it is with the PlayStation 3 or other Sony devices. There’s also a wired Ethernet port. Almost all smart TVs today support playing of media over the network and via USB storage devices. However, Sony being Sony, this TV is only able to read FAT32 content and it supports just a few formats. MKV and other HD containers refuse to play and are simply not recognized. This kind of codec hobbling of a near-perfect TV is quite amusing, and we know that this is very much done on purpose by Sony.
Very sleek, very slim for its size
Music playback works fine and it has all the features that you would expect on an audio player, in an HTPC, software or an HD media player. Again, our one complaint is that the interface engine does not allow you to switch back to other menus and have the music playing in the background. There are basic EQ settings and some visualization settings available too. Viewing images is equally simple and transition between images is quick. 2D to 3D conversion for images is also present.
The TV has a set of video channel presets that you can access over the net. These include YouTube, Blip.tv and a whole bunch of local streams from various channels with a presence on the web. Some of the streams are in HD as well, but there is no clear option to switch between SD and HD content on any of the streams.
A pair of 3D glasses comes bundled with the TV. The 3D glasses are active and require to be charged. In the time that we used it, we didn’t have to charge the batteries. We suppose the battery life should easily last you for a few full-length 3D movies. The glasses are a little bulky, though, and they are certainly not of the best kind available in the market today. The TV supports built-in 2D-to-3D conversion, and while it does work, in our opinion it only has gimmick value.
The 55HX925 - the best there is, from Sony
The remote is large and has a curvature in it where the buttons are placed. The remote can be used as an all-in-one remote with other devices. In our case, we were able to use it with a Philips Blu-ray player, but not without problems. Every time we tried switching back to the TV’s interface, the Blu-Ray player’s interface would take control - it simply wouldn’t let go. This was one of the most frustrating menu mix-ups we’ve seen, and thankfully it did not occur with any of the other Blu-Ray players. Our temporary fix was to choose the Input source menu and quickly switch to home, which was the only way for the TV’s menu to come back on.
Browser, Social Networking
There are Twitter and Facebook widgets as well as a dedicated web browser built into the TV. The browser renders pages fine. You could quickly look up something if you wanted to, but it’s not the best experience. Typing also is slow as users have to use the remote control’s number keys to type or use the directional keys on the on-screen keyboard. We would’ve liked it if the remote keypad came with the alphabets imprinted on it. You can imagine yourself looking at the screen and then looking for numbers that match the alphabets on the screen, not an experience you’d like to have on a TV this expensive.
There are some other nifty little features as well. A small camera at the front of the TV detects presence of people in the room and this can be used to lower power consumption when the TV is not being viewed. Similarly, there are presence sensors that alert if children are too close to the television. Another feature is Position control that optimizes audio and video output based on the location of the viewers. The TV actually scans for faces in the same way that cameras do with face detection, it then maps people on a pattern.
The image quality of the Bravia 55HX925 is really the party piece of the TV. The HX925 is the first local-dimming LED TV that we’ve tested, and while it is not without a few faults, it is a great step towards LED TVs that can produce black levels that hold their own against high-end plasma TVs.
The Local-Dimming method of backlighting allows specific areas of the panel to go dimmer, lower in brightness. This, at least in theory, means that the screen has better chances of displaying truer blacks. This one feature of the TV is what defines much of its performance.
All blocks are visible, except for the darker blue shades
Before we get into the specifics of the TV’s performance, let us lay out some of the calibration settings we used to test the TV with.
Out-of-the-box settings of the TV are pretty decent. If you are not the kind who will tweak a lot then you will be happy with what you get immediately as you turn the TV on for the first time. Our first rounds of tests were under these conditions, and the TV performed very well in many of our tougher tests.
But if you intend to max out the TV’s true potential, then you should give the settings listed below a try:
- Picture Mode: Custom
- Backlight: 4
- Picture: 70
- Brightness: 53
- Color: 45
- Hue: 0
- Color Temperature: Warm 2
- Sharpness: 50
- Noise Reduction: Off
- MPEG NoiseReduction Off
- Dot Noise Reduction Off
- MotionFlow Off
- CineMotion: Auto 1
- Advanced Settings
- Black Corrector: Off
- Contrast Enhancer: Off
- Gamma: +2
- LED Dynamic Control Standard
- Auto Light Limiter: Off
- Clear White: Off
- Live Color: Off
- White Balance:
- Red Gain: -5
- Green Gain: 0
- Blue Gain: -5
- Red Bias: -1
- Green Bias: -1
- Blue Bias: -1
- Detail Enhancer Off
- Edge Enhancer Off
- Skin Naturalizer ---*
- i/p Conversion Preference ---*
- Screen: Display Area Full Pixel
- Color Matrix Auto
- HDMI Dynamic Range Auto
- Simulated 3D Effect High
- 3D Glasses Brightness Auto
- Color Matrix Auto
- Ambient Sensor Off
- Pro Picture
- HDMI Dynamic Range Auto
- Color Matrix Default
- SBM Off
- *Not accessible in HDMI
Calibration settings credit: Hometheater.com
Our performance conclusions have been derived from using these settings, and by selectively enabling and disabling Cinema Drive, and Motionflow-related settings.
We used a bunch of content to gauge the performance of the TV. We used The Last Samurai DVDs as well as The Dark Knight and Casino Royale Blu-rays and HD1080 60fps video samples for the TV. We also had a DTH service (Airtel Digital TV HD) with HD channels setup to see how well the TV would perform in day-to-day viewing conditions.
The TV performs with such arrogance in many of the DisplayMate screens that at times we wondered if we should even bother with going through with the entire set. Contrast levels are brilliant, scoring typically 10/10 for many of the contrast test screens. This means every gradient bar, at every step was clearly visible and identifiable, and was rendered distinctly without any discolouration or change in them.
A fine dark seam is visible between the green and pink bands
DisplayMate did catch it out in some places, although please note that we were being as obtuse and nitpicky as we could possibly be. The basic colour bars test, where some standard colours are placed next to each other showed some anomalies. For example, there was a dark seam or a crease visible between the pink and green colour. Another lighter seam was visible along red and blue. In the pixel tracking and timing lock test, in which some panels create some interference with dense and complex patterns, we noticed a faint moire pattern especially while viewing from the sides - even 10-degrees from the centre. Another abnormality noticed here is a side-effect of local dimming LED TVs. The region surrounding the mouse pointer appears illuminated thus changing the intensity of the colour. There’s also some delay in the lightening noticed while moving the mouse cursor around the screen.
Uneven patches on the display
Rendering of text seemed to be a problem, too. Especially when set against contrasting colours, as we discovered with the reverse video contrast test. We noticed reds had a problem against most colours, so did green against a light grey background. Similar issues were present in the graphic colour combination test, which renders fine lines and single-pixel dots of a specific colour against other colours. We were unable to see any dots against some backgrounds - these were minor issues. The backlighting isn’t very even, either - with the background interference test, we noticed uneven patches across the screen on all colours.
First two blocks on the top of the Colour Triangle appear mixed up
The dark screen test in DisplayMate is where the 55HX925 really impresses. In a poorly lit room, there’s no difference between the blank screen and the bezel of the TV. And that says a bucket lot!
Sweeping colour gradients
In the colour scales test, where all the basic colours were lined along each other in blocks of increasing intensities, we noticed that almost all the blocks increased evenly. Only darker shades of blue appeared darker than the other shades. We also noticed some amount of blurring and an unclear thin crease or a line running along the bezel at the bottom edge of the screen.
Blu-ray movies are an absolute delight. The HX925 shines gloriously while viewing high-definition content. When one stops noticing flaws, gets completely absorbed and forgets the passing of time, then you know. Not because there are no flaws, but because they are too few and catching them becomes a very painful exercise.
Dark Knight Blu-ray for the dark scenes
Once calibrated correctly, colours appear natural and beautiful. And even though this is a large 55-inch display, there are little to no jaggies or pixelation visible to the eye, even at close proximity to the TV. In fact, one can point-out how the content quality drops while switching from one camera to another. The scenes shot on IMAX cameras in the Dark Knight are very visibly impressive compared to the scenes shot using the regular camera for the rest of the movie. As we said before, we kept turning on and off all the noise reduction and picture enhancements settings during the movie tests. In our experience, keeping Cinema Drive to Auto-1 and Motionflow turned off gave us the best results.
The local dimming feature has its drawbacks, if observed closely then you will see a bright patch move from side to side in the black-bands, if you’re watching the movie in the letter-box mode. You will also see it lag a bit, because the dimming is trying to catch up with the area that requires dimming or brightening up. These are things you will catch as you start viewing more content, and if you’re trying to catch such behaviour. It’s not irritating, nor is it visible from a slightly more than normal viewing distance, but it’s there if you want to see it.
Unfortunately, the consequence of seeing such phenomenal quality is that SD content looks pedestrian, and completely not worth viewing at all. We used Airtel’s digital TV HD service to gauge performance on an HD service. The DTH HD service is better, but it still does not do justice to the panel. To sum it up for normal viewing, we’d say it is no better than a Rs 50,000 TV when it comes to SD content, and probably a Rs 75,000 TV for HD DTH content. We highly recommend setting up an HTPC or subscribing to a Blu-ray rental service to really appreciate the TV’s performance.
A mix of action scenes and bright colours
3D performance was pretty average. The bundled active glasses are slightly painful to view through for long hours. The 3D menu is easily accessible and the real-time 2D-to-3D conversion can be enabled in a few seconds. The effect is pretty realistic, but there are issues when you tilt your head from side to side. The two layers become clearly visible. There’s also a reflection of the TV on the top of the glasses, which is noticeable and particularly annoying in the dark. Unfortunately, not the best 3D TV experience at all. If you’re in for the best 3D LED TV in the market, then the Sony will most certainly disappoint, and that’s mostly because of the tilting problem, even a minor head-tilt will make the effect go away. Keep your head straight-on and the effects are probably among the best, but try doing that for more than a few minutes.
Televisions rarely have impressive audio performance and it’s no different in the case of the HX925. The speakers are loud, but not necessarily clear beyond a certain point, and some level of distortion kicks in as you go up the volume bar.
No LED TV we’ve ever tested in the past has ever managed to wow us in such a comprehensive manner. Several instances during the viewing sessions are now perpetually etched in our memories and log-sheets, and will serve as reference points for every other LED TV that we will test in the future. We’ve compared it to one of the best plasma TVs in the market today, side-by-side. It’s not flawless, but it is certainly the best there is as far as HD quality is concerned, and one that you will cherish owning for a long time.
In our books, it is easily the best LED TV out in the market. It wins our Editors’ Choice award hands down, and we’d heartily recommend it if you are considering a big-ticket purchase.
Screen size: 55-inch Gorilla Glass enforced glass
Smooth Motion feature: Yes
3D enabled: Yes
3d glasses type: Active
Simulated 3D feature: Yes
Output: 30W (10W x 3)
HDMI: 4 ports
USB: 2 ports
Ethernet: Yes (1 port)
Composite video inputs (1 set)
Component video inputs (1 set)
Headphone out (1 port)
Digital Audio Output
Facebook / Twitter supported
Playback through USB support - video, music and photos
Wi-Fi enabled: Yes
Dimensions: 1278 x 803 x 308 mm
Weight: 31.6 kg