Sony KDL-NX800 series overview

As the first official 2010 HDTV reviewed by CNET, and the first mainstream edge-lit LED-based LCD produced by Sony we've tested, the KDL-NX800 series arrives with plenty of anticipation. However, before you equate "LED" with "awesome picture quality," it's worth reiterating that the backlight technology comes in a bunch of varieties--and not all are created equal. The Sony NX800 performs on a par with other like-equipped LCDs that we've tested, such as the UNB7000 series from Samsung, so people seeking a premium home theater picture might be disappointed.

In other areas, the NX800 shines. Sony completely redesigned the exterior of its higher-end 2010 models in what it calls a monolithic style--and this TV would be at home near the Tycho crater or orbiting Jupiter. Sony also kept the superb selection of Internet services found on 2009 models, but adds built-in Wi-Fi to make them easier to use. All told, this svelte Sony feels more thoughtfully put-together than any TV we've tested in awhile, and it will easily find a niche in design-conscious living rooms.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series corner detail

A pane of glass covers the entire face, edged by a thin strip of metal.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series profile view

The TV's notched profile measures 2.5 inches deep at its thickest point on the bottom, narrowing to an inch on the thinner section toward the top.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series back panel inputs

The back panel has two HDMI inputs and a smattering of other jacks.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series back panel

Removable panels let you hide cabling.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series side panel inputs

The side panel offers a pair of HDMI ports as well as one PC and component-video input.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series stand detail

Sony finally adds a swivel to its stand.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series back of stand

The power cable gets its own channel out the back.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series remote control

Sony also gave the TV's remote control a significant makeover. It's one of the best remotes we've ever used, aside from the weird duplicate power button on its backside that caused us to shut off the TV once. The company kept the excellent button arrangement from last year's remote control, preserving the logical size and placement differentiation. However, this year's keys are more flush and sleek, improving the pressing action--now they emit a satisfying low-pitched click. The remote has a concave shape along its length that seems to send the thumb to the Home key and the middle of the big cursor control naturally. Completing the package, Sony added blue backlighting as well as the cap ability to control other devices via infrared or HDMI.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series video services menu

Netflix is the most important among the NX800's numerous video services, and gets a prominent place in the menu system.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series Netflix queue page

The Sony Netflix queue page differs from standard issue, showing a thumbnail view instead of the familiar horizontal row of cover art.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series Yahoo Widgets

Yahoo Widgets can be moved around the screen, and Sony include a new widget called FrameChannel.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series YouTube client

The Sony TV also offers YouTube but, like other so-equipped TVs we've tested, can't access the service's HD video section.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series options menu

The Options menu allows quick access to often-used items.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series Favorites screen

A handy Favorites menu lets you manually add services and other items for easier access.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series on-screen manual

Sony's onscreen manual is unusually well done, and even includes relevant graphics.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series Motionflow menu

Sony's MotionFlow dejudder mode gives you just two options.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series main picture menu

The main picture menu now includes an option to apply settings from any mode to all inputs (Common) or individually.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series advanced picture menu

The advanced picture menu gets its own Reset button.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series white balance menu

As always we appreciate the user-menu white balance controls.
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Sony KDL-NX800 series picture quality

This year's set is Sony's first foray into the world of edge-lit LED-based LCD since the underwhelming KLV-40ZX1M. The KDL-NX800 certainly improves upon that model, but still won't be counted among the best-performing HDTVs of 2010. Its black level performance fall short of most other TVs in its price range, and its trade-offs in uniformity are typical with other edge-lit displays we've tested, although its overall color accuracy is solid. Aside from its capability to make backlight fluctuations an option rather than a necessity, the KDL-NX800's picture is roughly equal to that of Samsung's edge-lit LED sets from last year, complete with the glossy screen.
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