Sony KDL-55W829: Picture Quality
Sony has delivered a fairly dizzying mix of brilliant and disappointing TVs this year. So it’s a relief to find the 55W829 slotting comfortably into the brilliant zone.
The star of the show is its outstanding contrast performance. Dark scenes enjoy exceptionally inky black colours by LCD TV standards, with hardly any of the grey mist hanging over dark scenes you see on many rival screens, and also none of the LCD world’s unnervingly common and relentlessly distracting localised backlight clouding. This is a superb achievement when you’re talking about an edge-lit LCD TV as big as this 55-inch one.
Even better, this outstanding black level response appears to be produced almost effortlessly. By this we mean the TV doesn’t have to work so hard with its auto backlight adjustment that brightness levels look unstable, and it doesn’t have to take so much brightness out of dark scenes to achieve a decent black level that shadow details get crushed into oblivion.
In fact, the 55W829’s ability to show every last shadowy detail in a picture is every bit as important to its prowess as the naturalness of its black tones – not least because it makes sure dark scenes enjoy the same sense of depth and space as bright ones.
Great contrast usually leads to great colours, and the 55W829 doesn’t let us down. It delivers just the right balance between vibrancy and naturalism we look for from really premium TV performers, helping to create images that both immediately grab your attention but also reveal endless subtleties the more you watch them. You’ll be hard pushed to spot a colour ‘band’ or blocky skin tone on the 55W829 – especially if you use the subtly effective Smooth Gradation feature.
The 55W829 continues to hit it out of the park with its fine detail reproduction. Images look sharp, textured and clean without the sharpness appearing forced and without source noise being exaggerated. On the contrary, arguably the single greatest strength of the X-Reality Pro system is the way it’s able to identify noise levels in pictures and gently massage the final image’s sharpness accordingly.
Put all the 55W829’s picture pieces together and you’ve got images that are more consistently beautiful than those of any other TV around this year at anything like the same sort of price point.
Pretty much the only complaint we can make about the 55W829’s pictures is that they don’t support a very wide viewing angle. Move just 30 degrees off axis and colour and, especially, contrast start to reduce. While this is obviously something to consider if you’ve got an unusual room layout or exceptionally large family, though, for most viewing situations you should be able to avoid this viewing angle limitation.