Sony’s XBR-55HX950 has many good points to recommend it, including accurate color, strong contrast, clean standard-def video up-conversion, and a bright 3D picture with impressive depth.
Those qualities earn the 55HX950 its Certified & Recommended stamp, though I have to add that it just squeaked by. Reasons? The key one is price: At $2,999, the 55HX950 costs substantially more than the company’s own 2012 Editors’ Choice award-winning 55HX850 edge-lit model, which now sells for $2,000. Its $2,999 price is also the same as last year’s XBR-55HX929, a 2011 Editors’ Choice award winner that, to my recollection (I didn’t have it on hand in the lab here with me for comparison), performed better than the 55HX950.
Technology is supposed to get better and less expensive with each passing year, right? Though the 55HX950’s price ultimately seems too high for what you get, what you get here is undeniably good.
I started out my calibration of the Sony XBR-55HX950 in its Custom picture mode with the Warm 2 color temperature preset selected. Warm2 proved slightly too warm, averaging 6,036 kelvins from 20 to 100 IRE. After calibration, the Sony’s grayscale was fairly linear, averaging out to 6,473 K. Primary and secondary color points checked in close to the HD standard out of the box — a fact that effectively squelched my complaint that Sony doesn’t provide color-management system adjustments to fine-tune color. Gamma in Custom default 0 setting measured close to 2.4 throughout the full brightness range; changing it to +1 brought things closer to the 2.2 target. Post-calibration, the best-case contrast ratio measurements were generated with LED Dynamic control (local dimming) set to Standard. With that mode selected, black level measured 0.002 footlamberts (ftL), and a 100-IRE white window pattern measured 32.47 ftL to yield a contrast ratio of 16,235:1. With LED Dynamic Control switched to Low, contrast ratio was 8,138:1. Interestingly, these numbers were bested by Sony’s own KDL-55HX850, an edge-lit model that I reviewed in the October 2012 issue, as well as the XBR-55HX929, an earlier Sony model with a full-array LED backlight that I tested in 2011. With LED Dynamic Control set to Off, contrast ratio topped out at 2,090:1.
Picture uniformity was good, although contrast starts to fade precipitously beyond 15° off-axis (a spread that allows for an average 3-seater couch), and “blooming” artifacts from the TV’s backlight gradually become more severe. On-axis uniformity is excellent throughout the full grayscale range, though a degree of blooming can also be seen with white text on a blackground — film credits, for example.
Motion-resolution tests revealed something in the area of 300 to 600 lines with MotionFlow switched to Off; 1,000 lines with either the Smooth or Standard MotionFlow setting selected; and 1,200 lines with the Clear, Clear Plus, or Impulse modes selected. MotionFlow adds a smooth “video” look to 24-fps content at all settings, though, and the Impulse mode further creates an objectionable degree of flicker.
The set passed all high- and standard-def film and video deinterlacing tests. The TV’s various Noise Reduction settings proved effective at all steps, and they didn’t introduce any picture softening. The Smooth Gradation adjustment did soften pictures, however, with all but its Low setting active.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.