Also mesmerising is how crystal clear and sharp pictures look. This is especially true with HD, naturally, but the X-Reality Pro processing engine also helps the 46HX853 produce possibly the sharpest, cleanest and most natural-looking standard definition pictures we’ve seen. Hell, even rough, highly compressed fodder from YouTube is made to look half-decent by X-Reality Pro.
Matters of movement
The terrific sharpness of the 46HX853’s pictures does not disappear, moreover, during action scenes or sports events, thanks to an exceptionally successful combination of a speedy native response time and Sony’s latest motion processing system.
Messing around with the different Motionflow options, the exciting-sounding Impulse mode turns out to be a disappointment, thanks to the high level of flicker it produces. But the Clear and Standard Motionflow settings both work well, removing practically all unnatural judder and blur without making the picture look artificial.
Next on the excellence list are the 46HX853’s colours. Tones are vibrant and punchy, but also wonderfully natural. They’re also exceptionally subtle, delivering a dazzlingly wide range of tones with so much finesse that there’s no trace of the striping and banding you get with lesser screens. In fact, so clever is Sony’s X-Reality Pro that it even removes such striping when it’s present in a low-quality digital source.
With the 46HX853’s 2D pictures appearing almost flawless, it’s heart in mouth time as we start testing its 3D efforts - especially given previous Sony problems in this area. But while they’re not quite as perfect, they’re still very good.
3D gets good
Right away, for instance, it struck us how much brighter and more colourful 3D pictures looked than those on 2011’s Sony TVs. And those colours are startlingly natural in tone and still contain plenty of blend subtlety.
The motion handling holds up superbly with 3D too, joining with some excellent sharpness and detailing in delivering a very satisfying and natural sense of depth.
Actually, the sharpness of the 46HX853’s 3D pictures becomes arguably the best we’ve seen if you use the Reality Creation option. Toggle the feature on and off and you’ll be amazed at just how much softer 3D images look without the feature active. In sharpening the edges of objects in the 3D frame, the processing can make the 3D space look slightly more like a series of layers rather than an organic 3D space. But personally we found the processing’s strengths outweighed this weakness.
The Sony 46HX853’s 3D pictures do suffer a little crosstalk. Before anyone gets panicky, though, the 46HX853’s crosstalk is massively reduced from the horror show witnessed on some of 2011’s Sony 3D TVs. It only appears over distant objects rather than foreground ones, and so doesn’t dominate or grab your attention. You can reduce it, too, by selecting the ‘low brightness’ setting for Sony’s 3D glasses - an option which doesn’t stop pictures from still looking punchy.
As if all the 46HX853’s picture glories weren’t exciting enough, it also sounds better than the vast majority of its peers, at least when on its speaker-containing stand. Because this fires its sound forwards rather than down, there’s more attack and dynamism to the soundstage, while the relatively large space available for the speakers versus those squeezed into a normal TV allow it to produce an unusually rich sense of bass and a relatively open-sounding, uncluttered mid-range.
The last hurdle the 46HX853 could fall at is input lag. But it sails over, delivering a figure during our tests of just 34ms, which shouldn’t affect your gaming in any significant way. Just make sure, though, that you've selected the Game option in Sony's slightly confusing Scene Select menu, and that you've turned off edge enhancement and the auto light monitor.
The word that best sums up our time with the 46HX853 can only be ‘wow’. Sony may have left it late, but just when we were seriously starting to fear for the brand’s TV future, it’s stormed back with what might honestly be the best LCD TV we’ve ever seen.