- Outstanding picture quality
- Superb value for money
- Excellent online service
- Could be easier to use in some areas
- SEN loads slowly
- Occasional 3D crosstalk
- Review Price: £1545.00
- 55in LCD TV
- Active 3D playback
- Online features
- MotionFlow XR800Hz
- Multimedia playback/DLNA
That such an emotional connection with a TV should be inspired by a set carrying a Sony logo was genuinely hard to comprehend given the numerous troubles we’ve had with various of the Japanese giant’s TVs in recent years. But no matter how much baggage the Sony 46HX853 might have been carrying, the simple, indisputable fact of the matter was that it was a ruddy fantastic TV. So not surprisingly we’re as happy as a pig in a truffle factory to be staring today at the 46HX853’s bigger brother, the 55in Sony KDL-55HX853.
The prospect of more of the same only bigger is truly mouthwatering, so long as the superb edge LED backlighting system that wowed us on the 46in model still holds good across a markedly bigger screen area.
Let’s start at the beginning, though – with the Sony KDL-55HX853’s design. Personally we are definitely fans, appreciating the way Sony has softened the impact of its previously ‘macho’ monolithic design by slimming the bezel down and adding a cute silvery outer trim. The application of a single sheet of ultra-tough Gorilla glass over the top of the screen and bezel doesn’t exactly damage its aesthetic credentials either, while the hugely distinctive silver ‘bar’ stand the TV slots into if you don’t want to wall mount it is lovely – especially as it allows you to angle the TV back by six degrees and contains extra speakers for an enhanced audio experience.
Nicely put together
Oddly we have to say that we weren’t quite as enamoured of the design at the 55in size as we were at seeing the 46in model; it just didn’t seem to hang together quite so well for some reason. But it’s still a beautifully-built bit of kit.
Connectivity is strong too. Its four HDMIs should be enough to satisfy all but the most kit-crazed AV nutcase, and its LAN/built-in Wi-Fi facilities ensure that anyone with broadband will be able to get online with Sony’s Entertainment Network platform. Or stream video, photo and music files in from a connected computer. And, thanks to Sony’s nice new Homestream software, you can play multimedia from Macs and DLNA PCs too.
On a slightly more disappointing note, you only get two USB sockets when three might have been nice, and the USBs are a little pickier than we’d like them to be in terms of the file types they’re willing to play. The lack of MKV support is particularly surprising.
You can use one of the USBs to record from the integrated Freeview HD tuner to HDDs. However, while handy this feature makes the lack of a third USB look all the more unfortunate.
The shift from 2011’s Bravia Internet Video online TV service to the Sony Entertainment Network, meanwhile, makes all kinds of sense, finally bringing all of Sony’s various online software ‘assets’ together. It’s a major relief, too, to discover that Sony has brought in a new interface to accompany the shift to SEN. Pressing a new SEN button on the remote brings up an attractive, graphically rich ‘hub’ for accessing online content that’s miles better than the previous tedious, list-heavy menus.
We won’t cover the Sony KDL-55HX853’a SEN content in detail as we did this in our 46HX853 review, but the highlights are BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, BBC News, Sky News, Skype, LoveFilm, Netflix, the Sony Entertainment Television Channel, Sony’s Video Unlimited pay per view platform, and Sony’s Music Unlimited subscription music service. You can also see your Twitter account feeds scrollling along under the TV picture that continues to play on the left side of the SEN menus.
Our only main problem with SEN, in fact, is that the main menus loads rather sluggishly.
It’s a shame Sony hasn’t also revamped its main setup menus. These still employ the tortuously over-complicated double-axis ‘XrossMediaBar’ system we disliked so much in 2011, making it just as well that the SEN button now removes a good deal of your potential interaction time with this frustrating older system.
No fancy stuff
We’re duty bound to point out that the Sony KDL-55HX853 only ships with a standard remote control, offering no gesture, voice or touchpad remote options like some of its rivals this year. Its online service also doesn’t trouble itself with the reams of small-scale game and infotainment apps rife on other online platforms. Which we guess could make the 55HX853 seem a touch ‘old-fashioned’ for a 2012 flagship TV.
However, the set does work nicely with Sony tablet computers, even being able to share video with them. More importantly, the 55HX853 is about as far away from ‘out of date’ as it’s possible to get when it comes to the small matter of its picture quality.
As with the 46HX853, our first response to seeing the Sony 55HX853 in action was to sit bolt upright with are mouths hanging open like some slack-jawed yokel. In fact, its impact is even more potent on account of its extra 9in of screen size.
In attempting to dissect the multiple elements that make the 55HX853’s pictures so special, let’s start with something simple: namely that images look superbly bright – much punchier than the images from last year’s equivalent Sony models.
Crucially, though, this brightness isn’t just thrown onto the screen wantonly as it quite often can be with LCD TVs. For instance, rather than ‘drowning out’ colour subtleties or forcing the colour palette to look pumped up, the brightness is simply used to bring out an almost infinite degree of subtlety when it comes to colour blends, and for allowing the colour gamut to stretch well beyond what you can see on the vast majority of rival TVs.
Also outstanding – ground-breaking even – is the Sony KDL-55HX853’s motion handling. Watching the second England/West Indies test match revealed the set’s reproduction of motion to be near flawless, even with only the most gentle of the many provided motion processing options in play.
The usual judder and motion blur issues associated with LCD TVs are almost completely eradicated, leaving a sense of purity and clarity that combines with scintillating HD detailing and the aforementioned colour rendering to leave our favourite summer sporting spectacle looking perhaps more engrossingly natural than it ever has on an LCD TV.
Dragging ourselves away from the cricket to check out a few Blu-rays, our already extreme enjoyment of the Sony KDL-55HX853 merely grows stronger – chiefly because we’re able to add to the picture talents we’ve already mentioned an absolutely superlative black level response.
Dark scenes have simply never looked better on an edge-lit LED TV, for three reasons. First, the depth of blackness really is profound, getting remarkably near to plasma levels at times. Second, despite this black depth, dark scenes always look detailed and natural, avoiding LCD’s tendency to leave dark scenes looking hollow. And third, all this is achieved while suffering remarkably few of the backlight inconsistencies that usually trouble even the most accomplished edge LED TVs to some degree.
Corners don’t suffer with the jets of extra light still quite commonly seen on edge LED TVs, and other cloudy patches only appear under very extreme circumstances – such as when a white logo appears against a black backdrop in the centre or a corner of the screen.
At these moments it did seem that the backlight clouding was slightly more obvious than it was with the 46HX853 – most likely because the edge lighting is having to work harder to cover a larger expanse of screen on the 55in model. But so rare is the sort of video content that gives rise to these backlight clouding issues and so prevalent by comparison are the exceptional strengths of the 55HX853’s lighting system that we ultimately struggled to comprehend how Sony has managed to pull off such a logic-defying feat of light management.
The 55HX853’s 3D pictures aren’t quite as triumphant as its 2D ones. But they’re still mighty fine overall, thanks to their much greater vibrancy, dynamism and sharpness versus previous Sony 3D TVs. The sharpness is particularly startling if you engage Sony’s newly 3D-capable X-Reality Pro system; so much so that we found ourselves using this system pretty much all the time, despite it sometimes making the edges of mid-to-distant objects sometimes look a little over-stark.
The only significant issue with the 55HX853’s 3D pictures – aside from Sony not including any 3D glasses for free with the TV – is that they’re not quite as free of crosstalk as those of one or two rival sets. But the crosstalk is predominantly restricted to distant objects and is also mostly subtle even when it does appear, so even if 3D is important to you we wouldn’t consider the crosstalk anywhere near troubling enough to put us off buying a TV with such outstanding 2D talents.
It almost goes without saying at this point that the Sony KDL-55HX853 is a stunning screen for playing games on. But we should certainly add that it seals its gaming deal with an input lag of under 35ms, which will hardly ever be sufficient to negatively effect your gaming skills.
As if all the 55HX853’s picture achievements weren’t already reason enough to persuade you to cough up the actually very reasonable sum of £1545, then maybe its excellent audio will finally tip the balance for you. Attach that fancy silver bar stand and the power and dynamic range of the soundstage is little short of revelatory by the thin, hissy, muddy audio standards of your typical thin TV. If you don’t use this stand the sound from the speakers built into the TV itself isn’t actually bad, but it has to be said that it’s no match for what you get with the stand in play.
Given the sheer scale of Sony’s problems right now, it’s probably too much to hope that a couple of genuinely brilliant TVs will be enough in themselves to turn the ship round overnight. But as first steps to financial salvation go, the 46HX853 and now 55HX853 go beyond anything even Sony’s most ardent fans could have hoped for.
Score in detail
3D Quality 9
2D Quality 10
Sound Quality 9
|Max. Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||800Hz|
|Digital Audio Out||1 (optical)|
|Charging/Computer Connection||2 (2.0)|