Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 Review
Sony really loaded up on features for this high-end model, but the company missed the mark on 3D.
The KDL-46HX729 ($1709 MSRP) is a relatively high-end model in Sony’s line-up. Sony certainly didn’t skimp on the feature set: 3D display, a huge collection of streaming content, built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA support, and a super-thin profile. The TV held up extremely well in our tests, especially the color performance, but there were enough red flags in the 3D testing that we do not recommend this for avid 3D fans.
An attractive and stylish TV with a very thin profile
The Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 is a good looking TV, and perfectly in-step with what Sony designers established during the past few years; clean lines, an ever-diminishing bezel, and a remarkable thinness are the hallmarks that continue to improve with each new generation. This particular model does not offer the Sony-branded “monolith” design that features a single sheet of glass across the entire facade, but we don’t feel that there’s a huge aesthetic gap here. We like this just as much.
The Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 is well-equipped for the modern home theater system, with an emphasis on modern. The traditional AV inputs are gone, replaced with just one component and one composite AV input, along with four HDMIs.
The more interesting options represent where TV is going, namely beyond your little wooden and glass shelving in the living room. The Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 supports DLNA so you can connect to your local network via the LAN port and built-in Wi-Fi. The TV extends out again to the internet, offering a huge collection of streaming content choices.
Smart TV Features
A huge array of streaming content features, but poorly organized
Overall, our impression of Sony's smart platform is one of cluttered immensity. There are so many choices here, but it’s frustrating to sort your way through them. In one group there are A-list partners like Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and a handful of others. Secondly, there’s a huge group of second-tier partners all located in a submenu called Bravia Internet Video. The sheer number of video in here is kind of amazing, but navigating is slow and tedious.
Last year, Sony had the best menu interface of any TV manufacturer, but apparently a lot can happen in a year. Now, in 2011, the menu has become a bloated mess. The root of the problem, as far as we can surmise, is that Sony worked aggressively in its expansion of online streaming content, but didn't figure out the most effective way to organize all the new choices. The TVs got “smarter,” but the interface did not.
Oh the whole, Sony's high-end HX729 is a strong performer.
Our usual gamut of tests had good things to say about the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729. It tested with decently deep blacks, bright whites, and in turn, a solid contrast ratio—that's a very important aspect to any display device, but especially for TVs. Just as important was its color performance, and we found that the HX729 handles color production and integrity with very few flaws, which isn't as common as it should be. There are no real drawbacks to any aspect of this TV's core performance.
As for the ambiguously named “MotionFlow XR 480,” that contributed positively too. The TV's true refresh rate is actually 240Hz, which means the entire screen is refreshing 240 times per second. That should be impressive enough on its own, but the MotionFlow XR 480 means that the TV uses additional interpolation between frames in order to make the picture look smoother.
We want to make this clear, though: The MotionFlow feature does a great job of smoothing out the judder and fine detail loss you would otherwise experience if the feature was off. For sports footage, this can be great. However, film-based content (or video shot to look like film) is meant to have a certain blurriness. If you enable MotionFlow here, the picture becomes overly crisp and, well… wrong looking for lack of a better term. Use it, but use it wisely.
Sony improved its 3D technology since last year, but the flicker on this TV was more than we could handle.
The KDL-46HX729 uses an active shutter technology to produce a 3D effect. This means that the glasses are electronically synced with the TV, alternately shutting off one eye, then the other, in rapid succession. At the same time, the TV screen alternates rapidly between an image intended for one eye, then the other, in a synched rhythm.
While the 3D experience improved overall in the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 and the rest of its second-generation brood, we’re still far from satisfied. Certain models made huge leaps, but the KDL-46HX729 is not among them. We couldn’t get past a disruptive and headache-inducing flicker.
Aside from the poor 3D, the Sony Bravia HX729 is easy to recommend.
The Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 ($1709 MSRP) came out of our labs gleaming, though we expect no less from Sony TVs above a certain price point. The color performance was exemplary. The black level could be a little darker, yet the incredibly bright whites coupled with glare reduction make this TV a great choice for sunny rooms.
As for the rest, from the outside, the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 is a very attractive television. Once you sit down with it, though, you’ll probably notice was a total mess they’ve made of the menu interface. This becomes a distinct disadvantage when you try to wade through the immense amount of streaming content Sony has made available. The 3D performance, while clearly superior to last year’s first-generation models, is also a bit of a con. While color error is all but eliminated, there is still a noticeable amount of crosstalk. Also, a persistent screen flicker caused us eyestrain after a few minutes. To this end, we still recommend plasmas for avid 3D fans.
Overall, the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX729 is a strong contender and gets our recommendation (provided you’re okay with the caveats stated above).
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