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Sony HX850 (HX853) review - FlatpanelsHD

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 (HX853) review


By Rasmus Larsen (@flatpanels)
11 May 2012





Sony HX850 review

Sony has released a gang of new 2012 TVs and HX850 (HX853 & HX855 in parts of Europe) is one of the new members. HX850 has been designed with the monolithic design philosophy in mind and a new tilting base. It has been positioned just below Sony’s 9 range and features the X-Reality PRO chip, active 3D, Sony Entertainment Network. It is also Sony’s first Google TV Ready product (a Google TV update will be posted later).

But can Sony keep up in the competition after the South Korean TV manufacturers have taken over as dominant forces? Has Sony improved picture quality? And is the updated Bravia Internet Video platform worth investing in? FlatpanelsHD will find out.

Sony HX850 will be available in 46 and 55 inch sizes in the US, and in 40, 46 and 55 inch sizes in Europe. In Europe the model is called either HX853 or HX855. The only major difference between the European and US version is the different base design.

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Size: 55" widescreen
Resolution: 1920x1080
Response time: -
Contrast ratio: -
Brightness: -
Viewing angles (H/V): 178/178
Panel type: LCD-TV with edge LED
Wall mounting:
Swivel stand:
Dimensions (HxWxD): 75.0cm x 127.4cm x 3.5cm (without stand)
Weight 21.7 kg
Built-in speakers:
Inputs
VGA
DVI (but possible to convert through HDMI)
Audio (type) (Audio in/out)
S-video
Composite
Component
HDMI (4 inputs, 1 HDMI 1.4)
Outputs
Audio (type) (1 output, headphones)
S/PDIF (optical)
Other

Price and retailer:

US retailerUK retailer


Our first impressions

Sony’s monolithic design was introduced a few years back and HX850 is the latest interpretation. Monolithic means “composed of material without joints” and that is exactly how the HX850 front glass looks. It is very clean and minimalistic.

Sony HX850 review
The European version, Sony HX853


The new base has a built-in speaker system that enhances sound quality. The base makes the TV tilt slightly backwards. You can also dismount the base if you want to wall mount the TV. When dismounted the TV is extremely “clean” and streamlined.

Sony HX850 review
The US version, Sony HX850


Most input and output connectors point either down or to the side. Only a few analog inputs point out towards the wall, including the cable connector for the speakers in the base.

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


Test tools

Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). We also have an analogue TV connection. Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done with DVD, TV, Blu-Ray and Media center/PC.

We use our own monitorTest. The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here on FlatpanelsHD.

Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.

All contrast measurements are based on the ANSI methodology.

Functionality

Sony’s TV remote has not changed much in the last few years and here it is once again. It feels as cheap as it looks. It has too many confusing buttons and it basically just feels awkward to include such as cheap, plastic remote with a TV this elegant. Sony’s effort in designing a good-looking TV set has, unfortunately, not been extended to the accessories.

Sony’s Smart TV platform has been redesigned again but the underlying engine remains the same. All the apps from last year’s TVs still work but the absence of an app store still makes us wonder if Sony will continue to support this platform in the future. You can customize the SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) home screen on the TV and select from the pre-installed apps but the selection is not very inspiring.

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


And to add to confusion Sony has also included Opera “apps”, which seems to be a very odd decision. If Sony were confident in their own app platform why would they want to include a second?

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


One of the new additions is the Entertainment Network (formerly known as Qriocity before Sony rebranded it). The Entertainment Network has been split into two called Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited. The Music service is subscription-based and gives you access to all the music you want right from the TV screen. This is certainly a welcoming addition and the Music service has potential. It naturally requires a monthly payment but then you can also use it on smartphones, tablets, PCs and many other devices. One could argue that Sony is a decade behind iTunes but with Music, Sony has created one of the first additions to their Smart TVs that makes sense. Let us see where Sony takes us from here…

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


We hope that Sony will introduce a similar subscription-based Video service; right now the Video Entertainment Network is rental-based. Picture quality also needs improvement before we can see it really taking off.

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


Sony was one of the first TV manufacturers to introduce “widgets”, and the widgets are still around. It is not a particularly useful widget platform; mostly due to the way it has been implemented, which is – like most other function – a bit confusing. The widget idea is good and the widget bar shown on the side of the screen has its moments but the implementation still feels unpolished. And I still do not follow the desire to add social media to a TV screen. For the most part a TV screen is a passive experience and that is how people use it. And why would you even want to have your Facebook or Twitter feeds show up when the entire family sits around the living room altar? It feels both wrong and confusing.

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


Apropos confusing; Sony’s Smart TV platform is exactly that. Sony really needs to take a more user-oriented approach to navigation. Right now you can access apps from many different layouts and menus, and most of the time it requires you to click numerous times on the button on the remote. For example; apps are located in one menu, widgets in another and the Sony Entertainment Network services in a third. I consider myself fairly technical but I always appreciate a user-friendly interface, and I have to admit that I still found navigation confusing after many days of testing.

Sony’s MediaRemote app for iOS and Android has been updated to support the new 2012 TVs and new media functionality has been added, too. It lets users control the TV like a remote control and Sony has pretty much just moved all the buttons over to the touch screen. It allows you to turn off the TV but it does not allow you to turn on the TV. Sony has also added a cursor function and a “Catch and throw”. The cursor function works as a mouse for webpage navigation but it is not 100 % accurate. The Catch and throw feature lets you “throw” web pages onto the TV screen or “Catch” web pages from the TV screen to your smartphone/tablet.

Sony HX850 review
Sony HX850 review


It works as advertised but Sony does not take advantage of the large screen as seen in the picture below; too much white space and very small letters. Also, you need to browse web pages from inside the app to utilize this function and due to Sony’s menu bars at the top and the bottom 1/3 of precious screen real estate is lost. The MediaRemote app is free but Sony has seen it necessary to include ads, which is actually kind of sad. Sony promotes the ability to use catch and throw for images, videos and music as well, but it was not available from the latest MediaRemote app. It will be added in a later release, we have been told.

To sum up the Smart TV functions, I must say that I continue to see major issues that stand in the way of just a modestly useful platform. I urge Sony to either redesign the platform or to take a new approach. Maybe this was the plan from the start? Is Sony waiting for Google TV to take off? It is very plausible and Sony HX850 is also the first Google TV ready Sony model. This basically means that users can connect one of the two new Google TV boxes via HDMI and gain access to integrated menus on the Sony TV. The Google TV boxes will be out around September and we will take a look at the Google TV platform in Sony’s TV later this year – and update this article. You can get a sneak-peak at Google TV here. We certainly hope that Sony’s Google TV products will improve the user experience.

Sony HX850 also comes with DLNA and USB recording (in Europe). USB recording is a really nice addition as it also allows you to pause live TV shows and movies. For more information on USB recording, DLNA and the EPG (electronic program guide), see some of our previous Sony reviews. Sony HX850 also supports HbbTV.

Energy consumption

Compare power consumption measurements on different TVs and monitors with our interactive power consumption applet here.


Standby 0.0 W 0. W
SD+HD 87 W 98 W
3D 111 W 111 W


After calibration we measured power consumption to 98 W and it actually increased a few Watts after calibration. This is not common but happened simply because we activated the backlight scanning function after calibration that requires a higher level of backlight. And because the backlight unit is the most power-consuming element in a modern LCD-TV, power consumption increased a nod. It is still very decent for a 55-inch TV.

Calibration on Sony HX850

Below you can see an out-of-box measurement on Sony HX850 in the Standard picture preset without Eco mode.

Sony HX850 review


The graph says this:

The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two factors; here it’s the difference between the measured color on the panel and the actual color that is our target.

  • A delta value lower that 2 results in a visible deviation from the actual color.
  • A delta value over 4 or 5 results in wrong colors.
  • A delta value between 1 and 2 results in precise but not perfect colors.
  • A delta value lower than one results in almost perfect colors. The target is 0.
  • Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.


  • The Standard profile definitely leaves room for improvement but HX850 is more moderate than Samsung ES8000 and Panasonic DT50. The same tricks are used and Sony has made bright colors appear brighter and dark colors appear darker than dictated by the video standard. The color temperature is also too high and the same is true for brightness but we have also deactivated the Eco mode so it is not entirely the TV’s fault.

    We hope to see better picture quality in the Cinema 1 profile (found in the System Settings menu under Scene Select, not in the Display settings menu) and therefore took a new measurement.

    Sony HX850 review


    The Cinema 1 profile is much better and actually better than expected. Color deviations are lower because gamma is closer to our 2.2 target. The color temperature is now slightly too low, making pictures appear too reddish / warm but it is a minor deviation that we should be able to fix.

    We moved on to calibrate the HX850 and took a new measurement after calibration was done.

    Sony HX850 review


    After calibration the color accuracy is excellent and better than on the majority of “LED” models out there. It is great to see that Sony still cares about accurate picture quality. Even though the out-of-box picture settings were disappointing, Sony provides the opportunity to adjust the picture and reach a level close to the best plasma TVs with THX modes today.

    Below are my calibrated settings.


    Viewing mode: Cinema 1
    Backlight 7
    Contrast 88
    Brightness: 50
    Color: 50
    Hue: 0
    Color temperature Warm2
    Sharpness 50
    Noise reduction Off
    Dot noise reduction Off
    Reality Creation Off
    Smooth gradation Off
    Motionflow Clear / Clear Plus
    Film mode -Off
    Black corrector Off
    Adv. Contrast Enhancer Off
    Gamma 0
    LED Dynamic Control Off
    Auto Light Limiter Off
    Clear White Off
    Live Color Off
    Detail Enhancer Off
    Edge enhancer Off
    R Gain 0
    G Gain -6
    B Gain -1
    R Bias -1
    G Bias -3
    B Bias -1
    Eco On/Off


    Note: Some picture profiles are enabled through the System Settings menu – not the Display menu. The Eco option (found in the System menu) is set to On/Off in the table because it depends on your preferences. Eco is the automatic brightness adjuster that adjusts brightness according to the surroundings. It is a practical setting if you watch TV during both daytime and nighttime but if you have a home cinema with controlled lighting, I suggest that you leave it off.

    Picture quality on Sony HX850

    In this section I go through picture quality with the calibrated settings.

    Sony’s Monolithic design demands a one-sheet-of-glass front, which obviously causes some reflections. Sony has moved away from the glass design found on some of their former NX models but HX850 still struggles with some reflections from windows and lamps. It might prove to be a problem during daytime depending on your living room layout and windows.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Color gradation is fairly good but not fantastic. We noticed some problems in the dark and semi-dark areas and even though Sony has managed to improve the dark tone reproduction in the last few years, Sony still has some running to do before they catch up with the best plasma TVs available today. Color performance is by no means bad and on par with the typical LED model today but we still hope to see further improvements in this area in the future. To put Sony HX850 in context it is on par with Panasonic DT50 but below Samsung ES8000.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    SD picture quality is still important to many users because even though we move to more and more HD channels and HD sources, a lot of SD content is still broadcasted. We have no real complaints in this area and Sony manages to reproduce SD with a fairly high level of detailing and a natural, not-to-soft-not-to-digitalized look.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    HD picture quality is beautiful and HX850 reproduced HD pictures with a high level of detailing. HX850 had some problems with the darkest colors at times but nothing worrying, and even though motion results in a reduction of detailing, pictures still look great for the most part.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Response time is important and even though most LCD-TVs have reached a level where response time is “good enough” for most users, motion blurring continues to be one of the LCD-TV’s weak points. Sony utilizes a backlight scanning backlight system like almost every other manufacturer nowadays and it helps to improve motion reproduction by reducing motion blur in movies and games. Some motion-blurring still occurs on HX850, and detailing is reduced in fast-paced action scenes but the issues are not critical in any way. We did notice one problem, though. HX850 revealed mild overdrive trailing (halos around moving objects); not enough to affect everyday use but it was visible a few times during action-paced first person shooter games, which is a shame.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Input lag was measured to 28-32 ms in the game mode, which is quite good for a LCD-TV. Plasma TVs are still faster and should be the preferred choice for gaming.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Below I have measured black depth and contrast.

    Black level 0.11 cd/m2 0.06 cd/m2
    Brightness 313 cd/m2 122 cd/m2
    Contrast ratio 2845:1 2033:1
    Contrast ratio +/- 50


    After calibration we measured black depth to 0.06 cd/m2, which is fairly good compared to the typical edge LED based TV, and only slightly higher than Samsung’s ES8000. However, Sony has not improved black level reproduction dramatically in the past few years.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Shadow detailing is fair after calibration. Before calibration Sony HX850 crushed most details in the dark areas of movie scenes but after calibration only the 2-3 grey tones closest to black were hard to distinguish. This is very common on LCD-TVs.

    Below I have examined Sony HX850 in a completely dark room to see if it has clouding, backlight bleeding or floating black issues.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Clouding / bleeding is always a difficult subject because we know from experience that it can vary a lot from one TV to another. Our Sony HX850 had very modest clouding and is one of the best edge LED based TVs we have seen to date but our experience tells us that the complete story is impossible to tell with only one test sample. Only when users start received their TVs, we can truly tell if the manufacturers has addressed the issue or not. But as said; our HX850 sample had no serious clouding issues and we did not notice any problems during everyday use.

    3D picture quality on Sony HX850

    We used the PlayStation 3 and a 3D Blu-ray player to test 3D movies and 3D games. In this test I want to examine 3D depth, 3D picture quality, 3D crosstalk and finally include a small comparison to some of the other 3DTVs on the market.

    Sony continues to support the active 3D system that requires active shutter 3D glasses but Sony has also developed a new lightweight variant for their 2012 line-up. The battery is located between the eyes and they feel a lot less clumsy than before. However, no 3D glasses are included – at least not in Europe.

    Sony 3D glasses
    Sony’s new 3D glasses


    3D picture quality has not changed much, however. Some crosstalk still occurs and even though Sony took a huge leap in 2011 compared to 2010, we still want more. If you seek a crosstalk-free experience you have to wait for a faster display technology to become mainstream, it seems. Plasma TVs still beat LCD/LED models when it comes to 3D picture quality but even plasma TVs are not crosstalk-free. 3D picture quality is fair for casual use and movie watching but during gaming, we still noticed crosstalk at times.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    To put it in context, HX850 is on par with most other LCD-TVs in this price range. 3D picture quality is fair but not great. Our main reservation with Sony’s 3D implementation continues to be that the 3D effect vanishes if you tilt your head only slightly to the side.

    PC and Media Center

    In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to select the aspect ratio called “Full" in the TV settings.

    Viewing angles

    The viewing angles are not particularly wide. We were unable to confirm but it looks like a Sharp panel inside the HX850. Sharp’s panels have some color washout issues and colors often look pastel from an angle. The same thing occurs on HX850 from 30-40 degrees angles or more.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    The black color also looks more greyish from an angle. See below.

    Sony HX850 review
    Sony HX850 review


    Sound quality

    Inside the base, Sony has implemented a speaker system. Unfortunately it does not really improve sound quality significantly. The bass feels weak and even the mid tones also appear to lack punch and intensity. The speaker system is not much different from other slim edge LED based LCD-TVs, unfortunately. We had hoped for a bit more.

    For movies, games and music I recommend separate speakers.

    Conclusion

    Sony has created an elegant TV with their Monolithic approach. The TV is minimalistic, clean and without any visible joints. HX850 is the first Google TV ready model but until Sony’s Google TV boxes arrive we only Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform is available. Unfortunately, it has not changed much and it still feels unpolished and incredibly confusing. The app quality is not very good and the few useful functions all seem to have limitations. The only value-adding services right now are Music and Video Unlimited and we hope Sony will continue to move in this direction.

    Sony HX850 is a great performer in many areas when it comes to 2D picture quality. It has very decent SD picture quality and HD pictures look great. We noticed some problems with overdrive trailing that might affect performance for gamers, though. Out-of-box performance was not very good but the Cinema mode provided us with relatively good color reproduction. Our sample had no real clouding problems, either. However, the reflective front may still cause some reflection problems in a typical living room, and we are still not pleased with Sony’s 3D implementation that makes 3D effects vanish if you tilt your head only a few degrees to either side.

    All in all, Sony HX850 is a great TV in many areas. We still cannot endorse the Bravia Video Internet platform so we hope things will improve with Sony’s Google TVs boxes later this year (we will update the review later) but when it comes to 2D picture quality, HX850 shows a lot of muscle for a LED model. It certainly compares to many LED models today, and I think HX850 is a great TV - one of Sony’s best edge LED based TVs to date – but the value-for-money ratio is not as competitive as on some of Sony’s closest rivals. Whether the design and additional features are worth paying extra for or not, we leave up to you.

    Price and retailer:

    US retailerUK retailer


    SD & HD picture quality Out-of-box color reproduction Living room
    Almost no clouding on our sample Overdrive trailing visible Home Cinema
    Music & Video Unlimited take shape 3D effect vanishes when you tilt your head
    Color accuracy after calibration Smart TV platform is confusing & unpolished
    Unique TV design Reflections
    Remote control


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