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Sony Bravia XBR-55HX950 LED TV Review

55 in.

Sony's flagship may be pricey, but it's a quality performer all-around.

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Science Introduction

The Sony Bravia HX950 was a great performer. Its narrow viewing angle is one of its few drawbacks, and the star of the show is definitely the local dimming feature, which attempts to mimic the functionality of a plasma display.

Local Dimming

This television's local dimming feature creates a dynamic image, but there are some drawbacks.

Television enthusiasts who love large contrast ratios enjoy talking about screen uniformity—where you see those deep blacks and bright whites put to work. The Sony Bravia HX950 had a very good contrast ratio, yet it did not have the deepest blacks. This is visible with a completely black image on the screen: The picture looks blotchy and bright spots are visible throughout. So even though a completely white image looks flawless, a completely black screen still illuminates a dark room, disappointingly.

A completely white image looks flawless, but a completely black screen still illuminates a dark room, disappointingly. Tweet It

We should also mention Sony's inclusion of a feature called LED Dynamic Control, which—outside of Sony's marketing offices—is also known as local dimming. What does that mean? Well, the HX950 has a full array of LED backlights arranged in a grid behind the screen instead of just along the edges, like on lesser models. Local dimming lets the Sony light up, dim, or shut off certain "zones" of LEDs, depending on what's on the screen. We counted a total of 105 zones on the HX950.

To elaborate further, with local dimming on, a completely black image on this TV means that all of the LED backlights are turned off, which is very similar to how plasma TVs produce such dark blacks. Local dimming isn't perfect, though. For instance, I took a picture after pressing the mute button; the result is that the bottom-left corner, where it says “muting,” is illuminated, but the rest of the TV looks as if it is turned off. This effect is absolutely terrific for most of the screen, but it leaves an annoying halo of light around the word “muting.” That halo is the major drawback of local dimming.

That’s not to say that we don’t like this feature—it’s actually very desirable for most scenarios. For the purpose of keeping our reviews standardized, we don't test any televisions with local dimming on, but if you decide to spend the asking price of $3,499 on this TV, I would recommend using this feature.

Contrast

Without local dimming, the contrast is good. With local dimming, the contrast is incredible.

Brighter TVs, like this one and the LG LM9600, usually have less impressive black levels. We recorded a respectable black level of 0.10 cd/m2 and a scorching peak brightness of 397.93 cd/m2 on the HX950. This yielded a contrast ratio of 3979:1, which is very good, but nothing too shocking.

Next, we decided to turn on the HX950’s local dimming feature and run our contrast test. This time, the results were jaw-dropping: the black level registered at 0.02 cd/m2, which is darker than many plasmas, and the peak brightness was 404.15 cd/m2. The resulting contrast ratio? 20,208:1—easily the most impressive contrast ratio we’ve ever seen.

It's easy to see how the local dimming feature improves the contrast, yet there is a major drawback: Any bright object that appears on a very dark background will suffer a halo of surrounding light. More on how we test contrast.

Color

A proud peacock, the HX950 displays quite the range of colors.

The Sony Bravia XBR-55HX950 displays a great range of colors. The white point, which affects color temperature, is spot-on. The greens match up with the industry standard, called Rec. 709, but the reds and blues appear slightly more vivid. Lastly, the peak value for blue will display as slightly purple. More on how we test color temperature.

Other Tests

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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