Sony XBR-55HX929 55" 3D HDTV LCD TV?Fire up The Popcorn!
Phenomenal Picture, Feature Laden
Refresh Rate Overkill, Manual Read A Must
The Bottom Line:
The Sony HX929 is a videophiles dream that will breathe new life to the television experience!
Television shopping has always been an interesting and engaging experience, though nowhere near as involved as it has become of late. Today, you have choice of plasma, LCD, projection and it's all you can do but you sit back and watch, trying and learn about the differences between picture, refresh rates, features and frankly, at times it can be a bit overwhelming. Up until a few years ago, I had always bought Sony televisions, primarily because they had, what I considered, the best picture and they were extraordinarily reliable, lasting easily 15 to 20 years with no service issues; in fact I still have a 20" stereo model that we purchased in 1986 that I can't part with. Buying Sony was much like finding a shirt you liked in a store and buying one in every color without trying it on, it was always that dependable!
Since making the switch back I have owned Toshiba and Mitsubishi and slimmer Sony rear projection sets along with an LG , so when I recently put the Mitsubishi Platinum Series to pasture I decided to get back to what has always worked for me, so I went back to Sony and purchased an XBR 55HX 929 LCD flat panel.
After feature shopping we were sold on this model for a number of reasons. One was the stunning picture the XBR 55HX 929 delivered on the sales floor. Granted, the best conditions exist in the showroom and one is left wondering whether it will be as nice when connected to your equipment at home. Cable channels have come a long way over the years, though limited 1080i, capability in which cable systems transmit , may not reflect the full capability of your set at home, but it's still likely to be pretty impressive, especially on some of the HD channels. Connected to a Blue-ray, however, it delivers a full 1080p HD picture in both 2D & 3D as it does with our 3D compatible Blue-ray. We weren't really shopping for 3D, but the price of the set was reasonable and it came with two pair of active glasses, so 3D it was, a novelty we, oddly, soon found we enjoyed and are slowly getting into.
The rich blacks and true to life colors are benchmarks I've come to expect from Sony, a characteristic that seems to get better with each generation of production. Full array local dimming LED lights and dims the full panel on the Sony, not just the edges, which boost black levels, providing more contrast and extraordinary detail. Everything I had read in my research led to the fact that Full Array Local Dimming was the best backlight configuration available. After seeing examples of each type of LED backlight configuration, you can easily determine where your preferences lie; mine were determined by the way the picture just seemed to "pop" with lifelike detail clarity and color.
Featuring Sony's flagship X-Reality Pro engine is essentially a dual chip processor that analyzes your signal pixel by pixel, adjusting and optimizing High and Standard definition signals along with low resolution web videos by drawing on a vast library of film and video data collected from video content around the world. The processor then determines what each scene should look like, frame by frame, and adjusts accordingly. The result is sharper images, excellent contrast and life-like detail. Faint detail like branches on a tree, are more distinct with this technology revealing usually indiscerable elements of the picture like the bark or blades of grass opposed to a blur of brown or a suggestion of grass, making for a more natural presentation That Sony chose to go to a twin processor, leaves one wondering if they are either making a genuine effort to improve their picture or simply devising a catchy marketing strategy. If you A/B a Sony set with the single X- Reality Processor and the X-Reality Pro processors, there is a subtle difference, but is it enough to warrant the extra cost? After all, we all are subject to the limitations of our cable transmissions and just about everything looks great on Blu-ray. If you believe the marketing, this technology helps the XBR 55 HX929 reduce artifacts and increases noise reduction significantly over previous Sony processing technologies; that may be debatable. I was of a mind that, as with most new technology, it tends to improve over time as the company responds to consumer response and market pressure. The truth is, if I couldn't have afforded the XBR 55 HX929, I would have absolutely no reservation getting a set with the single processor! To my the eye, this technology obviously makes for sharper images especially of your internet video, such as You Tube and Netflix not to speak of your High Definition programming, DVD and Blue-ray content.. For instance, I subscribe to a number of musician sites on YouTube and have seen them played on a number of competing sets, including sets from Vizio, Sharp and Samsung and honestly feel, they actually spring to life on the Sony where even some of the more crudely produced videos are tolerable to watch.
One of my concerns was refresh rate. After hearing the term I was curious to see examples of it and I did, on my old Mitsubishi projection set. Watching any football game or action movie, I could see the trailing blur on the moving images edge. Once I discovered what refresh rates were all about, it's almost as if I looked for them on every action sequence or sporting event. While source footage, any of it, is generally never greater than 60Hz, and you can't add any more detail than is in the original content, there are limits as to just how good a picture can be improved upon. The XBR 55 HX929 addresses refresh rate by assigning a 240Hz refresh rate that is capable of up (60Hz as needed. The problem here is that while your eye can see the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz, 240Hz and beyond is imperceptible to the human eye. Most television broadcasts at 24Hz, no where near the capability of some of the oldest sets on the market. That Sony's Motionflow XR 960 technology touts a constant 240Hz refresh rate capable of reaching 960Hz, if needed, is indeed overkill, but a great selling tool if you haven't performed your due diligence. However, the issue here is providing a better picture by eliminating blur and the XBR 55 HX929 is quite capable of doing just that, admittedly with a little extra in the tank, if the broadcast industry ever decides to move into the 21st century. Since faster refresh rates don't translate into a better picture quality, 240 Hz is about as far as I'm willing to spring for at this time; okay, so I have Motionflow XR 960 technology; will I take full advantage of it, not likely, but it's reassuring I won't be haunted by motion blur and frankly, that's all I really care about.
While the set offers many technological advances, I'm inordinately impressed by perhaps one of the simplest creature comforts afforded by the X-Reality Pro engine: the impressively quick start up, which gets your picture up and running in seconds making the quick run between downs to another room possible; now this is technology I can use!
If the experience hasn't been daunting enough, the XBR 55HX 929 is laden with a host of features too numerous to detail in this article. Suffice it to say the Corning Gorilla Glass with Optic Contrast panel makes for a rather impressive viewing experience while protection your set from errant Wii controllers. That the set will also turn off when no one is present or adjust the picture and sound according to where people are seated in the room or even light the panel according to room lighting present is an equally convenient and while energy saving feature and Energy Star rating. USB connections afford you the ability to share music and video content while WIFI capability enables online content and internet streaming. You can take advantage of Netflix, Hulu. or host of 35 subscription and free services alike. Do you want to speak to relatives abroad and see them on the 54.6" diagonal screen? Skype is an added feature, but would require an outboard camera. Monolithic design with piano black frame as well as a tilt and swivel stand provide additional user options, while, 5.1 channel out and a host of other audio and video features make for an interesting and informative manual read, a necessary exercise if you really want to know what this most impressive set is capable of.
The HX929 can coexist with most outboard devices and is equipped to do so providing 2 analog audio inputs, a component video, 2 composite video, 1 digital audio output, Ethernet, 4HDMI, Headphone output, IR input, PC In (D-Sub) + Audio In (Stereo Mini) : D-Sub 1(Side), Mini 1(Rear), 1 RF connection, 1 RS232C, 2 USB connections which are either side or bottom mounted for convenient wall mounting.
Well now, it was perhaps too good to last now, wasn't it? The fact of the matter is the Sony HX929 is a videophile's dream machine and deserves to be set up with an equally impressive sound system, which is not to say that the non-audiophile cannot enjoy the experience with the onboard audio system, but flat panels sets today aren't notable for their onboard sound capability. The 2.1 rear facing speaker configuration, however, is capable of delivering 10W + 10W + 10 W audio output but it just lacks definition and the spacial dispersion this phenomenal set deserves. It's much like using an Aston Martin to out to take the kids to school, but as they say, "different strokes...."
Over the years, we have come to expect more from our remote controls opting for smarter more versatile remotes. For those looking for the bell and whistle-like carnival light show of past remotes, you may be in for a bit of a letdown. This is a functional, utilitarian remote with a busy interface, that is functional with few menus and pull downs to interrupt the quick flow of function selection. In fact this was a selling feature for me as I have come to object to the tedious sequential menu navigation of electronics past.
VIEWING EXPERIENCE AND CONCLUSION
New is always great; you notice the improvement over old and enjoy the accoutrement of fresher technology. Granted, there are leaps taken when you bring a new television into the home but this is a significant improvement over technologies past. The vast capability the Sony XBR55 HX929 is easily adaptable to anyone's viewing preference from color and picture detail to how you want the signal processed, or not. The range of adjustments is daunting while impressive; I would find it difficult to believe one couldn't find a setting that suits them, which perhaps, might be one of the negatives as there is so much to get acquainted with, though once you achieve your own nirvana, you can lock in the settings, nice.
We have the Sony XBR55 HX929 hung in a room that measures 16'x 27' and we find it suits us just fine, considering our seating configuration. We have had friends remark of the picture clarity and they always stop a moment to take it all in; the quality does take you by surprise. The Sony XBR55 HX929 makes you want to throw in a great movie and sit back and enjoy some "you" time.
I'm glad we took the plunge and got the set we wanted vs. the one that was good enough. Nothing is worse for me than walking away with regrets from a purchase that I'm going spend a bit of time with; experience has been that judge time and again. No, I am 100% completely satisfied with this purchase and may pull the trigger on a new set for the bedroom, and this time will stick to what I know works, Sony!