The last Sony TV we reviewed with superb picture quality was the ultra-expensive KDL-55XBR8 from 2008, which also and not coincidentally featured the company's last example of a full-array local dimming LED backlight. That TV's spiritual successor, equipped with a similar backlight, is the ultra-expensive XBR-HX909 series, but all told its picture quality fares less favorably against the competition. It does deliver deliciously deep black levels but they come with too many compromises, including issues with blooming and color accuracy, for a TV at this price level.
If you extend your investment to include a pair or more of 3D glasses, an IR emitter, 3D content, and a device to play it, the Sony XBR-HX909 will deliver that third dimension to your brain. Many other 2010 TVs at this level are also 3D compatible, and compared to the two we've tested, the HX909's 3D image quality falls squarely in the middle. Its other notable attributes, including best-in-class design and oodles of streaming video, will appeal to many of the buyers able to afford it, but those seeking the best-available home theater picture quality will probably want to look elsewhere.
While the number of HDMI and component-video inputs on the HX909 is standard at this level, we'd like to see an extra standard-def input here. The RS-232 port is nice to have for custom installations, but seems physically glommed on since it sticks prominently from the back of the TV. Sony offers just one USB port, so if you buy the USB Wi-Fi dongle, there's no extra port for USB-based streaming files.
Sony includes one of the best remotes we've ever used. The logically sized and placed, flush-yet-still-tactile keys emit a satisfying low-pitched click. The concave shape along the clicker's length seems to send the thumb to the Home key and the middle of the big cursor control. We like the ability to control other devices via infrared or HDMI, but we wish the blue backlight also illuminated button labels other than "Home."
In its favor, the XBR-HX909 delivered some of the deepest shades of back we've seen on any display, darker than the other local dimming sets and nearly as dark overall as our reference Pioneer plasma. It also handled 1080p/24 sources well. Its other issues however, namely excessive blooming, color drift over time, and a bluish cast to the image, spoiled its chance to unseat the best LCD and plasmas available.