Given the problems we recently had with Sony’s 60LX903 edge LED 3D set, we feared the 52HX903’s currently very sturdy house of picture quality cards would come crashing down when we switched from 2D to 3D. But while the 52HX903’s 2D to 3D conversion still feels dull and unconvincing, its playback of true 3D sources appears much more enjoyable.
The main reason for this is that there’s less crosstalk noise. Don’t get us wrong; we’re certainly not saying that the 52HX903 is immune to ghosting around some 3D objects. But for some reason, possibly the direct LED lighting, more likely the 400Hz Motion Flow processing, the crosstalk issues are neither as common nor as in your face as they were on the 60LX903.
In fact, with 3D Full HD Blu-ray feeds the 52HX903 is the best LCD performer we’ve seen to date. Though Panasonic’s plasma 3D TVs still rule the roost when it comes to suppressing crosstalk.
The 52HX903’s 3D pictures are also engagingly bright and colourful too, despite the inevitable dimming effect of the active shutter glasses you have to wear. In this particular respect, the Sony’s 3D images actually slightly better Panasonic’s.
The 400Hz system also helps motion in a 3D environment look fluid, clean and convincing.
So does the 52HX903 have any other issues aside from the (actually not nearly as bad as expected) 3D crosstalk problem? Yes - but nothing serious.
First, you do have to exercise a bit of caution with the 400Hz motion processing options. For if you try to run the system on one of its most intensive settings, it can generate distracting processing side effects like shimmering edges and haloes around moving objects.
Another issue is the occasional appearance of a slightly off-key colour tone. These really do only crop up once in a blue moon, and are generally restricted to skin tones during dark scenes. But we couldn’t help but wonder if we might have been able to correct even these rare rogue tones had Sony provided adequate colour management tools.
Finally, in keeping with every direct LED TV we’ve ever seen, you do have to try not to watch the 52HX903 from too wide an angle, for if you do the amount of haloing around bright objects increases severely.
Let’s not get too hung up on what the 52HX903 might have done better, though. For the fact remains that the balance of the set’s picture achievements is overall very, very much in favour of the good stuff.
The same can’t be said, sadly, of the 52HX903’s sound. For any sort of action sequence tends to find the set’s speakers wanting in both dynamic range and bass response. This means the soundstage is biased towards trebles, and as such can quickly leave powerful audio mixes sounding harsh and sibilant.
The best we can say about the sound is that it does at least pass muster for the normal, day-to-day fodder that will likely occupy the majority of your viewing time.
Despite the sense of expectation created by the 52HX903’s direct LED lighting system, as we started testing it memories of the 60LX903’s 3D problems were still nigglingly fresh in our mind. Thankfully, though, for whatever reason the 52HX903’s 3D images aren’t nearly as tiring and flawed as those of its bigger, edge LED sibling.
Which means we’re freer to concentrate on the set’s excellent 2D picture quality. Sony has clearly been extremely busy refining its local dimming direct LED system, and the results are pretty spectacular. So much so that in sheer performance terms, the 52HX903 comfortably deserves an overall mark of nine, despite the bland audio that accompanies the superb pictures.
However, try as we might, we just can’t ignore the 52HX903’s price. It is nearly £1,200 dearer than Panasonic’s P50VT20B TV. And this price gap grows substantially larger if you factor in the Sony’s optional 3D transmitter and glasses.
So with Panasonic’s 3D contender also being a terrific all-round picture performer, it’s hard to see how Sony can easily justify its own set costing quite so much.