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Sony Bravia KDL-55HX750 Review

Sony Bravia KDL-55HX750 Review

Highs
  • Very good color performance
  • Suitable for bright rooms
  • Easily navigable user-interface
  • Decent on-board audio
Lows
  • Unimpressive black level performance
  • Lukewarm shadow detail
  • Poor smart TV response
  • Dodgy Wi-Fi performance
While we wouldn’t go out of our way to recommend this TV, we wouldn’t stand in anyone’s way of purchasing one, either.

Sony HX750 series information: The review below is based on our time spent with the 46-inch KDL-46HX750 TV. However, the observations made also apply to the 55-inch KDL-55HX750 in the HX750 series. Sony says the sets offer identical features (save weight and dimensions) and should offer similar performance.

Models in Sony HX750 Series

Size
Sony KDL-46HX750 (reviewed) 46 inches
Sony KDL-55HX750 55 inches

Though the Sony HX750 LED TV series was released almost one year ago today, you’ll still find it on store shelves. And, since Sony has just begun to ship some of its 2013 models, prices on this TV have been cut and will continue to drop precipitously over the coming weeks.

Considering the HX750’s position in Sony’s 2012 TV lineup (second from the top), and the savings that can now be had on it, we expect it will attract a lot of eyeballs in the coming months. After all, in 2011, Sony’s similarly-positioned NX720 was a knockout (our top pick for an LED TV in 2011).

But while it is fair to assume that the second in command of the Sony TV army would be a solid decision (especially when on clearance) you might be surprised to find out that the HX750 doesn’t exactly follow in the footsteps of its ancestors. We put a KDL-46HX750 through its paces and share our impressions below.

Out of the box

Fair warning: We’re going to flashback to our experience with Sony’s excellent NX720 several times over the course of this review. The way we see it, since it and the HX750 reviewed here are so similarly positioned, we can’t help but see the latter as a replacement of the former.

With that in mind, we must admit we were disappointed to pull the HX750 from its box and discover that it isn’t nearly as sexy as the NX720. While the NX720 bore Sony’s beautiful “monolithic” design, which essentially buried the set’s bezel beneath a solid sheet of Gorilla Glass, the HX750 bears a more traditional look, with a slim, plastic bezel, no Gorilla Glass and a slightly recessed panel.

The base isn’t as sexy, either. While the NX720 had a glass-plated stand, the HX750’s is plastic. It’s glossy and functional, just not as classy.

We don’t mean to suggest the HX750 isn’t a good-looking TV – it is. It’s fine. It just isn’t as handsome as we expect from the series.

In the box with the TV we found a remote control and some product literature.

Features and design

The HX750 is available in two screen sizes: 46 and 55 inch. As a Smart TV, these sets offer access to Internet apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Vudu as well as access to media stored on a local network. You also get a portal to Sony’s entertainment network, which allows you to rent or purchase movies directly through Sony.

To get at all of that online content, Sony provides both a LAN port on the back of the TV and a built-in Wi-Fi adapter. One of this TV’s more unique features is its Wi-Fi direct technology, which allows users to share pictures and videos from their mobile devices to the TV without having to log into a home’s wireless network. It’s great for those on-the-fly sharing moments. Just don’t try to stream copy-protected content – it won’t happen. The HX750 is a 3D TV, but you’ll get no glasses with your purchase.

The HX750’s user interface is one we like a great deal. Sony uses a scrolling horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen to let you roll through all the major sections, then expands the sub-sections along a vertically scrolling bar. It just makes sense, and you can see a lot all at once, which makes moving from one section to another easy.

To get 3D on this TV, you’ll need to access on-demand 3D movies, have a 3D Blu-ray player available or rely on the TV’s 2D-to-3D conversion feature (usually pretty underwhelming on any TV). You’ll also need to buy Sony’s active-shutter 3-D glasses, available for about $25 online.

The HX750 sports Sony’s X-Reality engine, which is essentially an image processing chip designed to improve four key areas of picture quality: contrast, color, texture and outline. While the fancy name might seem like marketing blather, Sony’s X-reality engine is what makes Sony’s TVs look like Sony TVs instead of, say, an LG or Samsung.

The panel in this TV has a 120Hz refresh rate. Sony’s motion control engine can artificially inflate that to 240Hz or 480Hz, but everything you watch will look like a cheap soap opera, just as it does with any motion-smoothing feature on any TV out there.

Finally, this is an edge-lit LED TV which, according to Sony’s website, uses Sony’s “Dynamic Edge LED” technology. Based on Sony’s description, this set provides local dimming of the set’s LED edge-lights to improve black levels and contrast. The next step up from this kind of technology is full-array local dimming, which is significantly better and also significantly more expensive (and increasingly rare, since most people want the thinnest TV they can get, and full-arrays of LED lights make for thicker TV cabinets). With all of that said, the performance we observed would seem to indicate this TV does not provide local dimming of the edge lights.

Setup

To get the HX750 properly set up, we used a variety of calibration tools, including the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Blu-ray disc, THX’s Tune Up app for iOS, THX’s Blu-ray calibration disc, and the Spyder4TV HD colorimeter.

Sony provides a reasonable amount of picture controls in this set, allowing enough granular settings for a professional calibrator to provide a calibration slightly better than a user could manage on their own. There’s some color controls and some gamma adjustment available, but for a basic user-level adjustment, those settings are best left alone.

Thankfully, Sony provides a quick and direct path to the TV’s essential settings, making adjustments relatively swift. What we were less than thrilled about was how difficult it was to get the right brightness and contrast settings dialed in. As you’ll see in our list of recommended settings below, we ended up on settling for a brightness setting of 51 and a picture (contrast) setting of 47 with the backlight set at 5; but in reality, the ideal setting for brightness is somewhere between 51 and 52 and the contrast somewhere between 46 and 47. Because these one-point differences result in such dramatic changes, we couldn’t get to what we would consider the sweet spot. (We should note that we did experiment with bringing the backlight down, bumping up the contrast considerably and leaving the brightness setting in place, but ultimately subjectively preferred the picture with the settings published below.)

Sony provides a wealth of picture presets in this TV, and its Standard (for bright rooms) and Cinema 1 (for darkened rooms) were actually fairly close to ideal out of the box, however, the “Scene Select” feature Sony has integrated makes getting at the right preset a little confusing. For instance, by choosing “Auto” for HDMI 1, we were only allowed access to the Standard, Vivid and Custom presets. In order to get at any of the Cinema or Game presets, we had to back out to a menu where we could select Game or Cinema, then go back in and roll through the options on a the settings page so that fine changes could be made.

On a more positive note, we did appreciate that Sony thought to make it possible to apply one custom picture setting across all inputs or allow each input to be assigned its own, individual custom setting. That kind of flexibility makes sense for users who want to customize their picture to match their sources or typical viewing conditions.

Performance

Let’s start with the good: To the passive observer, the HX750’s picture quality looks really good. This set lived in our home for a little over two weeks, and not only did our family enjoy it the entire time, but visitors had nothing but positive comments to offer.

Subjectively, the HX750’s color output looked great, and, more objectively, our basic measurements reinforced that impression. The TV is also capable of impressive brightness which, when paired with a slightly matte-finished screen, made for easy viewing in brightly lit rooms.

With the lights on or sunlight pouring into the room, you wouldn’t likely notice, but the HX750’s black levels aren’t particularly stellar. Again, this is in stark contrast with the NX720, which offered some excellent blacks for an LED TV. With that said, we haven’t tested many other edgelit LED TVs this year that fared much better in the black-level department, save the LG LM6700, which provided some solid local dimming. To get much better, you’ll need to go to a top-end set with full-array local dimming like Samsung’s ES8000 series or a plasma like the Panasonic ST50.

Off-angle viewing isn’t particularly excellent with this TV, but it isn’t deplorable, either. We often do some TV watching from our kitchen while cooking up dinner or washing dishes, and found the HX750’s image quite a bit more washed out than the el-cheapo 37-inch Vizio that normally occupies that space. However, Sony’s TV stands allow enough swivel that we were able to circumvent the lackluster off-angle viewing and still enjoy TV while slaving over domestic duties.

So far our complaints have been pretty minor, but we do have a couple of major gripes to tender. The first is in regard to the HX750’s smart TV interface. First, gaining access to any Internet-based media requires that you jump through more than the typical amount of hoops. Sony requires that you register the TV at its website before it will grant access to any of the apps on board like Netflix or Hulu.

Once this was taken care of, we ran into some trouble reliably accessing Internet media apps. First, though the TV indicated it was receiving our wireless Internet connection at full strength, we were unable to access any Internet media whatsoever. It wasn’t until we hard-wired the TV to our router that we were able to get in and, even then, access was inconsistent at best. It appeared as if the apps wouldn’t load unless they got the response they wanted from the Internet (whatever that was) – as if the apps weren’t really installed on the TV, rather in the cloud where the TV would download the necessary information and let you navigate from there. Also, the Sony Entertainment Network interface seemed a little redundant to us. In addition to all the proprietary Sony stuff, there were all the apps we had trouble getting at: Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, etc.

Our other major complaint has to do with what happens when you do finally access one of those streaming-video apps. Once we managed to break into Netflix and start watching video, we noticed that the picture was suddenly much brighter, indicating the picture settings we had made were no longer in effect. The other clue that our preferences were not being applied was that the TV’s motion smoothing feature was clearly turned on. Even animated shows like Family Guy suddenly looked like a poorly produced soap. You can imagine, then, how frustrated we were when we learned that we could do nothing to change the picture settings. The options to do so were locked out. Everything we tried failed.

Ultimately, we ended up contacting Sony to find out if there was some sort of hidden lock we could defeat in hopes that we could control what the picture looked like when we watched movies on Netflix or TV on Hulu. We were dismayed to learn that it isn’t possible. You simply have to live with it.

That’s not OK with us. But, maybe it doesn’t matter so much. Since the experience accessing apps through the HX750 was so poor anyway, we’d recommend using a Blu-ray player, game console, or over-the-top box like a Roku or Apple TV instead. This way, whatever picture settings you make will be applied.

Conclusion

After falling in love with Sony’s NX720 in 2011, we wound up generally disappointed with the HX750 – it just doesn’t hold up. If we stop making that comparison, however, what we end up with is a handsome TV with a very solid picture, a wide range of features and a generally pleasant user interface. The only aspect we were severely disappointed in was the HX750’s smart TV performance, which, for us, was just terrible.

Had we reviewed this TV a year ago, it probably would have received a lower score. But, because this TV can be had a much more reasonable price, its value proposition moves up and, therefore, keeps the score at a 7. With the money saved, you can get yourself a Roku 3 box and waylay most of this TV’s woes. While we wouldn’t go out of our way to recommend this TV, we wouldn’t stand in anyone’s way of purchasing one, either.

Highs

  • Very good color performance
  • Suitable for bright rooms
  • Easily navigable user-interface
  • Decent on-board audio

Lows

  • Unimpressive black level performance
  • Lukewarm shadow detail
  • Poor smart TV response
  • Dodgy Wi-Fi performance
DT
Caleb Denison

Caleb is a professional musician, amateur chef and A/V electronics guru. Growing up, Caleb was the guy you would find in the garage tearing apart vintage electronics while other kids rode bikes or played football. His early immersion in consumer electronics has led to countless car stereo, home theater and live audio installations which laid down the foundation for his current work as A/V Editor and reviewer at Digital Trends. Contact him on twitter (@caleb_denison) or via email (cdenison@digitaltrends.com).

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