Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 Review
For approximately $2,500, you should be getting a gem of a television out of the Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929.
For approximately $2,500, you should be getting a gem of a television out of the Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929. It has an amazing list of features: online streaming video, apps, a web browser, strong 3D imaging, two multimedia ports, a stunning design, and a versatile remote. Running it through our tests, this high-end Sony model put up some impressive stats in almost every category. This all sounds great, but there are a few detriments that may make the whole package not worth your investment.
Sony knows how to craft a handsome TV, as proven by the HX929.
It’s hard to see from the vanity shot we have here, but there is a beautiful piece of Gorilla Glass—the front piece of many modern media devices like iPads and smartphones—that fits over the screen and the bezel. Gorilla Glass is more transparent and much stronger than typical screen coverings. When this television is turned off, it appears to have no bezel, being one solid piece of shiny black material. When the bezel is visible; about an inch of black wraps around the picture underneath the Gorilla Glass. It looks great, much like the awe inspiring Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
When it comes to connectivity, Sony has declared analog to be obsolete. There are no analog connections to get in the way of four HDMI ports, a PC connection, and two USB ports. The shedding of the analog ports makes this set of connections sleek and accessible. It is a bold move to do away with analog, but it is the next logical step. There is an adapter port that connects to both a composite and a component video input, but only one at a time. If you have older devices, you will need to throw them out immediately. According to Sony, you live in the stone age.
Smart TV Features
The menu system is half-baked, but there is some decent streaming content to find.
Since last year, Sony has gone from winning awards for menu interface design to this unwieldy collection you see here. Our guess is that with the massive increase of online content coming to TVs, Sony hasn’t yet figured out how to present it all coherently. We imagine next year will show some improvements; hopefully by way of a simple software update, rather than buying a new set. That sounds too good to be true, though.
As far as smart TV content goes, Sony is equally lost. At first glance, online content seems to be a collection of all the premium streaming partners, like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video, but the Billabong Network and the NHL Vault are definitely not at the forefront of streaming popularity.
All of these options work rather well, so if the confusion of where to find them doesn’t bother you, a strongly capable smart TV awaits. The one exception to this is the internet browser. It just isn’t worth anyone’s time. It is slow and relies on the use of the arrow buttons on the remote to type in URLs or select any link on a page. You probably have a smart phone or an iPad handy if you are trying to buy a $2,500 television, so use those to get on the internet instead.
The Sony Bravia HX929 displays an above-average picture… but horrible screen uniformity.
The Sony Bravia HX929 was adept at showing accurate colors. Black and white detail was excellent: The HX929 was able to produce a decent black level and brilliant peak white level. Unfortunately, the peak brightness was so bright that it caused the screen uniformity to suffer.
When the screen goes dark, and not just between commercials, but in a dark movie like a Batman flick, you will see four huge halos emanating from the four corners of the screen. This is a defect called flashlighting, caused by the LED backlighting shining right through the display, completely detracting from what should be an intimate or quiet scene. Its extremely pronounced on the XBR-46HX929—we have never seen anything like this.
At least this Sony display has an impressive starting refresh rate of 240 Hz. Additionally, there are two motion processing modes on the HX929: CineMotion and Motionflow. With these combined, Sony claims refresh rates up to 960 Hz, which is a bit deceptive. The baseline refresh rate of 240 Hz is strong, and with these extra features interpolating frames between frames, the refresh rate is artificially enhanced. We turned both of these modes on to test motion and we saw a strong performance.
Sony delivers a very good 3D performance with the HX929.
We tend to notice that 3D images these days are either unwatchable or substandard. Some images suffer from crosstalk. Other times, the difference between the plane of the television and where we are supposed to focus our eyes contradicts enough to cause severe eyestrain. The alternative is that the 3D depth is reduced, free of physical pain and brain confusion, but just not that 3D.
With our subjective judgment, developed from having experienced all the 3D systems across the television market, we would like to say that the 3D on the Sony Bravia HX929 was impressive. The X929 uses active shutter 3D glasses to display full HD 3D images. These images fell in the less depth category, and we think this is the best option of the two. Crosstalk was noticeably absent from most images and we did not experience the discomfort that we expect to endure when testing 3D. The lack of depth was disappointing, but objects were certainly arranged in front and behind one another in space.
A great overall TV is hampered by screen uniformity issues.
The Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 (MSRP $2,499) had a lot going for it. The contrast ratio was grand, stemming from one of the highest peak brightnesses we have seen on a TV. The color accuracy was near exact, matching up reasonably with any other top model from this year. The motion processing was also strong, using two different processing modes to achieve refresh rates of 960Hz, according to Sony. The 3D didn’t make us immediately sick and the online offerings were vast.
Here is the part where we undercut all of the benefits, phrased as a message to Sony: If you are trying to make a great television, you should ensure that the simplest aspects are taken care of first. Then, you can put in the high end performance that will make it top-of-the-line. If you have a great contrast ratio and spectacular colors, it doesn’t matter much if there are giant cloudy halos shining through all of the corners of the screen. Seriously, the flashlighting was egregious and inexcusable. Consumers will be upset about spending this much on a TV, only to come home to see large and obvious cloudy patches taking up much of the picture. Furthermore, if you want to provide all of the most advanced processing and online features, start with an intuitive menu system. Plenty of content that is hard to access is the same as a great picture you can’t see.
We can see serious gamers enjoying this television for its motion, color, brightness, and contrast performances. But if these gamers ever wanted to watch a movie that utilizes heavy shadows, they will bemoan the day they spent a small fortune on this Sony.
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