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Sony Bravia KDL-52HX903 - Key Features and Initial Picture Results

John Archer

By John Archer



Our Score:


Sony still stubbornly refuses to put an actual number on the 52HX903‘s potential contrast performance (though to be fair, such numbers are, of course, mostly pointless!). But it made us smile to see that while other Sony TVs that don’t use direct LED lighting are described as MegaContrast models, the 52HX903 is a GigaContrast model! Woohoo!

Another potentially hugely important finding on the 52HX903 is its MotionFlow 400Hz system. Actually a combination of 200Hz plus a scanning backlight, the '400Hz' engine could drastically reduce judder and motion blur from the 52HX903’s pictures - something that’s always important with LCD TVs, but doubly so when 3D is involved.

Talking of 3D, the 52HX903 joins Samsung’s 3D models in offering a 2D to 3D conversion system. There are a few 3D adjustments on offer too, if you can find them amid the rather oddly divided 3D menus.

Finally, the 52HX903 has a solid set of picture tweaking tools. These include various levels of the 400Hz setting, Sony’s Live Colour processing, noise reduction options, the facility to tweak the potency of the local LED dimming, and multiple white balance settings.

Sadly, though, there’s no true colour management system - something we would expect to be a given on any TV at anything like the 52HX903’s level. That said, the 52HX903’s pictures can look absolutely superb with only a little effort using the tools provided.

As we’d expect with a local dimming direct LED TV, the 52HX903’s single most outstanding talent is its contrast. For being able to effectively power down parts of the picture that should look dark allows the TV to produce something that really does look like a true black colour, with practically zero of the residual grey clouding we routinely see with LCD TVs - and even many plasma ones, come to that.

What’s even more startling about the profundity of the 52HX903’s black level response is that it doesn’t come at the expense of as much detailing in dark areas as we would have expected. Sure, a few very faint dark details disappear; this is inevitable with local dimming. But the system is strikingly astute at knowing when to leave a residual bit of light in an LED cluster if it’s necessary to keep dark scenes looking textured rather than hollow.

This same excellent control of the local dimming process also helps minimise the appearance of direct LED haloing. In other words, where a bright object appears against a very dark background, it isn’t surrounded by the tell-tale greyish aura as often or as much as usual with direct LED models.

Next to catch our eye on the 52HX903 is its immense crispness when showing HD pictures. There doesn’t appear to be a dot of film grain or pixel of texture missing from good quality Blu-rays. What’s more, this clarity remains pretty much unspoiled when there’s a lot of motion going on, proving the worth and ability of the 400Hz processing engine.

Once you’ve soaked these two strengths up, you’ll likely notice too the excellent vibrancy and generally believable tones of the 52HX903’s colour reproduction. Pictures look positively radiant, in fact, making them exceptionally eye-catching without going so far that they make things look cartoonish. Um, unless you’re watching a cartoon.

The 52HX903 inevitably carries Sony’s Bravia Engine 3 processing system, and as usual BE3 does a very likeable job of upscaling standard definition pictures to the screen’s Full HD resolution.


August 24, 2010, 1:16 pm

WiFi built into their BDPS570 Blu Ray Player (£175) but not this £3,449.00 TV.

WiFi USB dongle £70 extra.

One USB port (as stated - wholly inadequate if you use the WiFi dongle).

3D transmitter and glasses optional (expensive) cost extras.

Aluminium stand another cost extra.

Reads like the extras list on a new German car.

Features 9/10....hmmm?


August 24, 2010, 1:48 pm

I'd really like some form of photographic size comparison of these size of TVs. Even if it's a crappy cameraphone picture, just a shot of someone standing next to it would be nice!

ronesh amin

August 24, 2010, 2:30 pm

@ChaosDefinesOrder - I understand why you would want a picture comparison, but there really is no need for TR to do this, when you can walk into any high street retailer and compare it yourself. How would you determine how tall the people standing next to the TV were too - it would mean placing a tape measure there too!

I for one don't understand how Sony can justify charging £3,500 for a 2DTV, and not even add all the bells and whistles to go along with it. I've said this soo many times before, but there is a Samsung Plasma 50" 3DTV for as little as £1100 niw, and can't see why this TV can't be reviewed. Surely, a TV of that size with all the features straight out of the box (unlike Sony's) would garner more hits and would be more insightful for a potential purchaser of a new TV. How many people do TR Reviewers' know that would happily spend £3500 rather than £1100??

Geoff Richards

August 24, 2010, 2:44 pm

@Chaos: the dimensions are listed in the Features Table. You can mark it out on your wall at home (or maybe tape some sheets of newspaper together). TBH a 52-inch TV is a 52-inch TV - bezel width doesn't vary THAT much...

@ronesh: I assume it's a typo when you says "how Sony can justify charging £3,500 for a 2DTV" when it's clearly a 3DTV.

As for the Samsung you mention, I gather you are refering to the PS50C7000? I'm not aware of any special reason why it *can't* be reviewed, so I'm sure John will work his way around to it. He has a lot of different models from various manufacturers in the pipeline.


August 24, 2010, 3:14 pm

I may just be a thicko, but what is the point in the optional stand that you can get for these "monolith" TVs? Specifically, why would anyone want to tilt their screen backwards?


August 24, 2010, 3:40 pm


It's mainly about the stand's minimalist visual appeal - it's a unique look and some people will pay a lot extra for that.

ronesh amin

August 24, 2010, 4:39 pm

@ Geoff Richards - I did actually mean a 2DTV, because it essentially is unless you buy the 'add-on'; therefore the TV is not 3D Ready out the box.

And yes, i did mean the PS50C7000. I can imagine he has a lot of TV's to go through, but it's just frustrating when the TV's which are reviewed are generally ones which can't be purchased by an average consumer. I can imagine though this is more to do with the manufaturers more willing to hand over their flagship models to reveiew instead.

Geoff, are you aware of any reason why Samsung are reluctant to advertise their Plasma models as much as their LED models? from what i have heard (and this would also make a good feature!!) plasma TV's produce 3D content much better than LED variants, so confused as to why Samsung don't seem to give it the marketing push the LED's get. All i can think of is that Samsung must make an amazing profit off the LED's instead!


August 24, 2010, 4:44 pm

I get that, but the whole tilting the screen backwards just doesn't make any sense to me.


August 24, 2010, 7:13 pm

@ronesh - You're being a bit unfair to TR, as they have reviewed loads of TVs that are affordable to the average consumer. I just wish they'd introduce input lag figures, as quite a lot of average consumers play games. They mentioned input lag in a couple of recent reviews (without figures), but seem to have abandoned the idea. They have yet to comment on whether they intend re-introduce this in the future. TR, I bet you are so sick of me!

@Wildkard - I assume the tilting back thing is intended for low furniture. Just a guess.


August 24, 2010, 7:29 pm

Seconded Metalex. So they can be sick of me too.


August 24, 2010, 7:45 pm

@metalex - I gave up with this site for input lag figures

Bought a Sony 46 " HX503 last week strictly for TV viewing for my family, would not dare game on the thing though due to input lag (supposedly 40ms or so)

ronesh amin

August 24, 2010, 8:36 pm

@metalex - i don't feel like i am being harsh. Like i said in my previous post, it is most likely that the manufacturers are more willing to hand over their flagship models rather than the average TV's.

I imagine that TR would appreciate the feedback that people like us give (just like how u are asking for input lag comments). This is the only avenue TR have to get feedback from their readers, and my comments were not made to put down the site or the writers of the article.


August 27, 2010, 1:59 am

Are you able to pass on the settings after calibration John? Unfortunately I cannot use my THX disc as I cannot get the settings on screen the same time as the test pictures. Thanks

Jan Andersen

August 28, 2010, 5:49 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for the review - you wrote:

"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."

The answer is most probably, that this model is using the new Sharp UV2A panel technology, which is faster than the old conventional LCD technology.

Further - as to the majority of the reviews today, why use so many lines on 3D when 1% of the users sees 3D 1% of the time ?


September 5, 2010, 6:55 pm

will you review the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX903. thanks.

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