Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 Review

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-front-display

Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929

“Enthusiasts searching for the very best in cutting-edge, performance TVs give the Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 a serious look.”
  • Amazing black level and contrast
  • Super bright white levels
  • Slick, flat panel with darkened, anti-glare glass
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, plenty of Internet apps.
  • Quick network media access
  • Backlit remote
  • Oddly placed RS-232 jack adds unnecessary depth
  • 3D glasses not included
  • Expensive
MSRP $2,388.00

Sony XBR-HX929 series information: This review is based on our hands-on experience with the 46-inch XBR-46HX929 TV. However, our observations also apply to the two other sizes in Sony’s XBR-HX929 series of LED TVs, including the 55-inch XBR-55HX929and 65-inch XBR-65HX929. According to Sony, the three sets have identical specifications (save dimensions and weight) and should offer similar performance.

Models in Sony’s XBR-HX929 series Size
Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 (reviewed) 46 inches
Sony Bravia XBR-55HX929 55 inches
Sony Bravia XBR-65HX929 65 inches

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-review-side-viewThe Bravia XBR-HX929 LED-backlit 3D LCD TV series recently introduced by Sony features “local dimming,” a technology that facilitates excellent contrast and black levels that can match or rival that of plasma TVs. Though local dimming was introduced a few years ago, manufacturers seem to have favored less expensive LED backlighting options in order to drive prices down and attract consumers. It would seem that trend continues, since Sony has reserved local dimming for its three top-of-the-line models this year. Of course, premium tech usually demands a premium asking price, and that is certainly the case here. Still, while Sony’s XBR-HX929 line certainly isn’t bargain priced, its feature set and performance potential make them a pretty attractive option for those looking to get all the cinematic performance of a plasma in an efficient and super-slim LCD sized package. In this review, we take a look at the 46-inch model in Sony’s new line and find out if it delivers the goods for its relatively hefty price tag.

Out of the box

The Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 comes in a considerably smaller package and is just a bit lighter than the 46-inch Toshiba we recently reviewed – 42.8 pounds. Inside the box, we found the display, its table-top stand, a component video/AV dongle, power cord and user manual. Attaching the panel to the stand was a simple and quick process, though we felt ourselves worrying about stability as we tightened the last of the necessary screws.

Features and design

The displays in this series are stunningly attractive. The super-thin bezel on our 46-inch review sample may be a tad thicker than some of the “nearly edgeless” models from Sony’s competitors, but there’s something especially classy about the way this TV’s Gorilla Glass meets flush with the edging in one seamless piece, keeping the surface totally flat and “seemingly edgeless.” Aside from some barely noticeable status LEDs, only Sony’s moniker breaks up an otherwise squeaky-clean front surface.

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-back-inputsThe rear of the display is almost as flat as the front, save an oddly placed RS-232 “box” that single-handedly manages to add an unnecessary ¾” to the TV’s depth. It’s a cheap-feeling, out-of-place addition that looks like it was slipped in at the last second.

As for connectivity, Sony hit all the right points. We found two USB ports, four HDMI inputs (one with audio return channel, or ARC), PC video and audio inputs, coaxial cable input, Ethernet jack, optical digital audio output, headphone output and a space to connect the provided dongle for old-school component video and composite jacks, should those connections be desired. Ah, and the RS-232 jack, of course. The inputs are split up between the lower back portion of the back panel and the upper left side for discreet cable connections or easy access, respectively.

Jammed under the hood is a ton of processing and proprietary Sony extras as well as a suite of Internet content apps. We like Sony’s presence sensor, which uses a built-in “camera” to monitor the room and shut of the display if it is abandoned for a specified duration. It will also display a big warning sign should children (or adults, really) get too close for safe viewing. That same sensor allows the TV’s optional “Ambience Sensor” to adjust the display’s brightness according to lighting conditions and can adjust picture based on viewers’ positions in the room, too. What the camera won’t do, however, is work with the TV’s built-in Skype capability. To use Skype, you’ll need to pick up the CMU-BR100, which currently goes for about $100.

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-component-dongleAs for Internet content, the Sony offers most of the usual suspects and built-in Wi-Fi to get at them if an Ethernet cable isn’t available. Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora and plenty others are present but, unlike Sony’s Blu-Ray players this year, this TV doesn’t offer Vudu, thus missing out on much of the service’s excellent HD content.

We like the remote control Sony offers with this series of televisions. A power button located a third of the way up on the back of the remote ended up being a nice convenience, as did the large navigation wheel on the front. Most of the critical buttons are illuminated by the remote’s blue back-light, but the button that engages the backlight isn’t all that well placed.

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-remoteThough this set is capable of delivering 3D images at 1080p resolution, the active-shutter glasses needed to enjoy it are not included. At this price, we’d expect to see a couple tossed in — and perhaps that’s just a promotion away — but for now, expect to shell out about $70 per pair. On the plus side, the glasses are USB rechargeable.

Performance

To test the 46HX929 we connected a Sony 1700ES Blu-ray player, Xbox 360 and an HD antenna for some terrestrial HD reception. For video content, we chose the 2D version of Avatar on Blu-ray, the 3D version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and dusted off Titan A.E. for some up-converted DVD action. We also spent some time streaming YouTube and Netflix videos, as well as video and music stored on a networked computer.

sony-active-3d-glassesWe did enough calibration work to determine this Sony model performs very well right out of the box, though its “standard” picture setting was a little on the bright side and colors were intense enough to make us wonder if a “vivid” setting was even necessary. While we found that the display’s “cinema” setting offered a picture very close to our own manual calibration, we preferred some of the set’s brighter settings during our tests in rooms with lots of windows and sun exposure. We did play around with the ambient sensor, but didn’t find it making a considerable difference at night when less backlight would have been appropriate.

This TV offers a knock-out picture. The black levels on the 46HX929 are truly impressive, as is its high contrast ratio. Color accuracy is among the best we’ve seen, pulling off fine gradations between oranges and browns in some of our familiar testing material that we’ve not noticed before. We also felt the Sony’s treatment of reds is some of the best we’ve ever seen, rivaling that of many high-end plasma sets. We spent plenty of time ogling this TV and were consistently impressed, hour after hour, at just how engaging and satisfying the picture was.

3D performance was well above average, too. Whereas we’ve noticed some significant flicker with other 3D systems that rely on active shutter glasses, this TV remained largely flicker free and the image, beyond the 3D magic, was still razor sharp with excellent color and contrast. We’ve made pretty quick work of our 3D evaluations in the past, but we actually enjoyed the effect this time and found ourselves lingering on Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 3D a little longer than we needed to.

Sony-Bravia-XBR-46HX929-display-standThe XBR-46HX929 was pretty quick to load networked music and video, though noticeably faster when hard-wired to our router than when using the built-in Wi-Fi. HD content from Hulu Plus and Netflix both looked very good, and we were pleased to see these interfaces have been improved over prior years.

Off-angle viewing on this set is better than average but, as expected, we achieved the best results when seated with the display directly in front of us.

We liked the icon-driven menu interface the 46HX929 offered. Major subsections are navigated through a horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen while a vertical column toward the right exposes more specific choices. It was an easy interface to get used to, and will probably be met with appreciation by those not used to so many options built into a single piece of electronics.

Conclusion

Sony is certainly charging a premium price for the HX929 series but, to its credit, the sets deliver excellent picture quality, great 3D performance, useful features and plenty of other bells and whistles in a very smart-looking display. Enthusiasts searching for the very best in cutting-edge, performance TVs give one of the HX929 series’ three sizes a serious look.

Highs:

  • Amazing black level and contrast
  • Super bright white levels
  • Slick, flat panel with darkened, anti-glare glass
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, plenty of Internet apps.
  • Quick network media access
  • Backlit remote

Lows:

  • Oddly placed RS-232 jack adds unnecessary depth
  • 3D glasses not included
  • Expensive

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