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.