According to Sony’s relatively new CEO and President, Kazuo Hirai, TV is in Sony’s DNA. In fact, he stated during a speech on April 12th that he sees TVs as being ‘a central device for bringing Sony content to people’. Fine words. But words that come on the back of years of disastrous losses from Sony’s TV business along with what can only be described as consistently sliding Sony TV standards.
Things might just be changing, though. For starters, Sony felt bullish enough about its 2012 TVs to fly us and other key tech journalists to Japan in February for an in-depth introduction to them, during which the brand was both more honest about past failings and more savvy about the current state of TV play than we’ve ever heard it before.
As ever, though, the ultimate proof of the pudding can only be in the eating. So let’s tuck into the first of Sony’s 2012 models, the 46HX853.
This 46in model is Sony’s new flagship 46in TV. And despite costing an impressive £400-£500 less than Samsung's equivalent model, it sets out its high-end stall right away thanks to a design that can only be described as imperious.
In essence it follows Sony’s now well-established ‘Monolithic’ design platform, but it introduces some seriously appealing new embellishments. For a start, instead of just leaving the bezel a minimal black, there’s now a very pleasant glinting metallic outer trim. The bezel is slim too - barely and inch around three sides - and the whole fascia exists on the same level thanks to a gorgeous gorilla glass top sheet.
Stand out stand
And that’s before we’ve even started on its desktop stand. This solid-looking brushed aluminium beauty not only allows you to tilt the TV back slightly for a more elegant and user-friendly profile, but also contains an enhanced speaker system. (If you don’t use the stand, the TV reverts to normal downfiring speakers.)
Connections on the 46HX853 are up to flagship speed. The four HDMIs are all built to the 3D-friendly v1.4 standard, for instance, while the set’s reasonably extensive - though not exhaustive - suite of multimedia features come courtesy of two USBs, a LAN port and built-in Wi-Fi.
It's worth adding here, too, that we managed with minimal fuss to get the TV sharing its video with a Sony Tablet S.
Most of the provided connections are accessed from the TV’s edges to make wall hanging easier, though oddly this doesn’t apply to its component video or Scart ports, which face straight out. But then most people won’t likely use these analogue ports anyway these days.
The 46HX853’s 3D features use the full HD active system, as you would expect given its high level in Sony’s range. No pairs of Sony’s active 3D glasses are included, but at the time of writing there's an offer on whereby if you buy one pair (for around £60) you get another pair free.
X-Reality Pro goes 3D
Intriguingly, after suffering some disastrous 3D results last year, at least with its mid-range models, Sony has provided the option to apply the processing might of its X-Reality Pro video engine to the 46HX853’s 3D pictures, with a focus on increasingly their perceived resolution.
The 46HX853 creates its pictures using an edge LED lighting system, and this year the edges used are the left and right rather than the top and bottom, giving Sony more control over how it manipulates its lighting system to improve motion handling.
In fact, the 46HX853’s ‘Motionflow XR800 Hz’ processing engine claims to deliver an 800Hz-like effect through a combination of frame interpolation, a native 200Hz panel, and LED backlight blinking (or line blinking).
You also get a startlingly wide array of motion settings in the onscreen menus, including a brand new Impulse one. Select this option and the image frame is repeated four times (rather than new frame content being interpolated) before the backlight blinks at the very last 1/200sec of the video scanning period, as the last image on the LCD screen is at its most stable. This intriguing approach could offer a potential blurring/judder solution to anyone who hates the idea of frame interpolation processing. Obviously we’ll be checking this out.