Sony Bravia KDL-50R550A LED TV Review
This 50-inch LCD from Sony offers media and 3D, but lacks performance power.
Behind the Screens
This middle-tier Sony is a decent performer. From a dynamics perspective—black level and contrast ratio—it falls short of impressive, fostering an entry-level attempt at black/white differentiation. On the other hand, the R550A's color performance is quite good for a $999 MSRP. At the end of the day, however, the TV's overall performance does not justify its asking price.
A poor black level means a flat contrast ratio
Picture dynamics (black/white differentiation) are extremely important to the performance of any display, but especially to TVs. The R550A is an LCD, so I was expecting its black level to be less than stellar. The result of 0.25 cd/m2 was, unfortunately, even worse than I'd anticipated.
The black level we tested does not combat ambient lighting well, but is also not quite dark enough to look good in theater lighting. The R550A just barely offsets this poor showing with a peak brightness of 252.50 cd/m2, which is plenty bright for most spaces. The resulting contrast ratio of 1010:1 is wholly average, and wholly disappointing.
What this means for you: Don't expect super impressive images, everything looks a touch flat.
Staunch color integrity, excellent grayscale balance
For a TV lacking color management controls, the 50R550A produces fine colors. The two areas we value the most when it comes to color production are saturation (how much color) and colorimetry (which color). Setting the R550A to Movie mode produced the results you see below.
First and foremost, this Sony's color gamut, while imperfect, is quite good for an out-of-the-box result. We tested almost negligible error within its red and green, which ensures a perfect yellow. Unfortunately, the hue of blue favors magenta ever so slightly—but from a saturation standpoint, it's spot-on. The blue error won't be terribly noticeable, but will cause a slight undersaturation in cyan and a touch of oversaturation in magenta.
Concerning red, green, blue, and grayscale balancing, the R550A again impresses. Our testing process revealed that its grayscale describes a very ideal, gradual curve as it moves in luminosity from 0 to 100 IRE (black to white), and the RGB signal that makes it up does the same, resulting in a balanced palette in all scenarios.
Finally, the R550A's color temperature consistency was quite good, though it pushes a red signal around 30 or 40 IRE. This tapers off as the signal decreases, while the error continues to increase. The final result is a consistent temperature throughout, with a small, severe error nestling around reference black. Not bad.
I've seen some bad viewing angles in my time. I've seen vertical offset that shaded the picture beyond recognition, and intense off-angle color shifting that rendered greens a yellow-tinted mess at the wrong angle. However, rarely have I seen such a narrow horizontal viewing angle, even from an LCD.
This is definitely the R550A's biggest flaw. It doesn't mean it's unwatchable, it just means at wider angles, you're going to notice graying of the already overly bright blacks, and lessening of the light output intensity in high signal spots. The result is a very flat, marred picture. We tested a total viewing angle of 16°, or ±8° from center to either side. Heck, if you have a very wide head, you might notice contrast degradation while watching this thing straight on.
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