While we’ve frequently found ourselves bewildered by Sony’s seemingly wilfully complicated TV model numbering system this year, there’s always been one series that’s 'pinged' on our TV radar rather louder than most: the HX903s. Why? Because they combine 3D readiness with direct LED backlighting - a potentially dream mix.
Straight away, though, there’s a disappointment. For surprisingly, the 52HX903 only does 3D if you add an external 'kit'. This comprises a £49 transmitter and £99 for every pair of 3D glasses you want.
It really seems odd that at least the transmitter wasn’t built into the TV as standard, even if Sony didn’t feel like running to any glasses. And actually, now we come to think of it, with Panasonic’s excellent P50VT20B 3D TV going for just £2,300, which includes both its 3D transmitter and two pairs of (admittedly poor) glasses, we really wouldn’t have minded Sony chucking a pair of glasses or two in with the £3,449 52HX903. After all, if you want to add 3D and enough glasses for a family of four, you’ll be needing to add £445 to the already high price tag. That adds up to nearly four grand for a 52in TV. Ouch.
Just as well, then, that the 52HX903 wears a suitably opulent design. This is based on Sony’s 2010 Monolith aesthetic, which comprises a single-layer, glassy-fronted, black-bezelled fascia, given added drama by a screen that goes nearly totally black when the TV is switched off.
You can enhance the already striking design further, too, if you spend yet more money (£260) on the SU-52HX1 brushed aluminium Monolithic Stand, complete with slight back-tilt feature.
It’s also handy given the 52HX903’s high price that it’s fairly expansively connected. It carries four HDMIs, for instance, all of which are built to the v1.4 spec, allowing full 3D support from the latest Blu-ray players. Another highlight is the Ethernet port that lets you access Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform, which offers the most extensive and varied selection of video content available on a TV to date. Especially with the BBC iPlayer due to be added soon. The Ethernet port also enables you to stream files from DLNA-enabled PCs, and provides the mandatory interactive support for a built-in Freeview HD tuner.
If all this wired stuff sounds old school to you, then you can go 'Wi-Fi', via a USB dongle. However, this dongle isn’t included as standard, costing you yet more money - around £70, in fact. Surely built-in Wi-Fi or at least a free dongle wouldn’t have been too much to ask on a £3,449 TV?
Sony further blots its USB copybook by only providing a single USB port. So if you want to use the USB port to playback photo, music or video files but you’ve also invested in a USB Wi-Fi dongle, then you’ll have to unplug that dongle to insert your USB storage device.
Let’s return now to the key direct LED lighting aspect of the 52HX903. For as we’d expect at this set’s price point, the LED clusters behind the screen can be controlled individually, allowing some areas of the picture to look completely black while others within the same frame can be blasting out with full brightness.