Initial setup of the 55HX950 is easy — and not. Sony keeps things simple with only three picture presets: Custom, Standard, and Vivid. Custom, which gives you a relatively accurate out-of-box picture, is the best place to start. But the TV’s Full Pixel display mode, which lets you view 1080p content with no picture cropping, is buried layers deep within the setting menu’s screen submenu, and it’s only available when Auto Display Area is turned off. (The default is On.)
After selecting the 55HX950‘s Warm2 and Gamma +1 presets and adjusting the white balance settings (see Test Bench), I next switched on its Auto2 Cinemotion and Low LED Dynamic Control options. With LED Dynamic Control turned off, contrast is a fairly mediocre 2,090:1, so you’ll need to engage that mode to get anything resembling black. After I made a full calibration of picture settings, the Sony’s contrast ratio was 16,235:1 with the Standard LED Dynamic Control mode active and about half that number in Low mode.
The Sony’s accurate color made a shot of a Prohibition-era Atlantic City beach in an episode from Season 1 of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray look completely authentic. The hues of the umbrellas, blankets, and bathing suits came off looking as muted and period-specific as the show’s production designers likely intended them to be. And in a subsequent close-up of Margaret and Warren Harding’s mistress, Nan, there was excellent delineation between Margaret’s sallow and Nan’s porcelain-toned skin. The set’s ability to accurately flesh out the pastel hues of their embroidered cloaks also helped bring this scene to life.
With the set’s LED Dynamic Control at work in Standard or Low mode, images had strong contrast and good shadow detail. The Sony’s performance here gave night scenes in The Amazing Spider-Man a sense of solidity and depth, with details like the dark uniforms of the policemen pursuing Spider-Man standing in relief against the black background. However, while the 55HX950’s performance in this respect was good, it wasn’t necessarily any better than the Sony 55HX850 edge-lit model I tested in October. Also, “blooming” artifacts stemming from the 55HX950’s full-array backlight sometimes showed up on images with a stark combination of deep black and bright white — shots of Spider-Man hurtling above city streets, for example, or strobe-lit footage in a concert Blu-ray like Shut Up and Play the Hits. The effect here was to reduce contrast in portions of the picture, though I can’t say I saw too many instances where it created a problem. Off-axis was a different story: When viewed much beyond 30° off from center, the blooming effects described above became so pronounced as to make the picture nearly unwatchable.
The Sony’s 3D picture was for the most part satisfying due to the higher-than-usual brightness in that mode, but there were also plenty of crosstalk artifacts in movies like Hugo with aggressive stereo effects. For example, in a scene where the thieving Hugo and the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) do a silent-movie-inspired pantomime, both characters were trailed by a faint but noticeable ghost image.
Other, less dramatically three-dimensional 3D movies like The Amazing Spider-Man looked great on the Sony, mainly due to its extra brightness in that mode. There are only a handful of shots in Spider-Man that actually benefit from being in 3D, so I’m sorry if you paid extra for it in the theater. In one scene, Dr. Curt Connors gives Peter Parker a tour of the Oscorp facilities, and the image extends deep into the open office space, with rows of flat computer monitors and glass wall dividers creating a palpable sense of layering. Another is a shot from above of Peter balancing on the ledge of an office building by his fingers. Viewed in 3D, his feet seemed to literally stick out from the screen, while the effect of the street 20 floors or so beneath was realistic enough to create a sense of vertigo.
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