Sony KDL-HX850 review:

Sony KDL-HX850

Check out my full writeup of Sony's 2012 Smart TV suite here.

Picture settings: If you're a Sony TV buyer, you're in luck because the TV comes with one of the most accurate out-of-the-box settings of any TV. Choose Cinema from Scene settings and you're ready to go. If you insist on tweaking, you'll find a simple two-point grayscale, a gamma setting, and two levels of local dimming, but the color management system and 10-point grayscale controls found on LG and Samsung go missing here.

Connectivity: There are no connectivity surprises, with four HDMI ports and two USB ports almost a prerequisite. Analog inputs come in the form of a composite, component, and PC. If you'd like to connect to the Internet, the TV comes with a choice of onboard wireless, in addition to the aforementioned Direct Mode, and an Ethernet port.

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Four HDMI ports are par for the course. Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive

Picture quality (How we test TVs)
We're more than a third through 2012 at the time of this review, and I've had my share of terrible and excellent TVs so far. This Sony skews toward "excellent."

While it can't match the best plasmas I've seen this year, like the Panasonic ST50 and the Samsung PNE8000, it accounts for itself very tidily in the picture quality stakes. It features 95 percent of the HX929's picture at about 80 percent of the cost, give or take a shekel. Black levels were very good, and while color may not be the Sony's strongest suit, it does share its family's rich and vibrant color palette. If you watch a lot of Web content, the X-Reality Pro engine will clean up a majority of blockiness.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-55HX929 55-inch full-array LED
LG 55LM9600 55-inch full-array LED
LG 55LM6700 55-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-P50UT50 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma

Black level: The Sony HX850 exhibited a very deep black with fine shadow detail. Its local dimming appears to work really well, and side-by-side with the much more expensive LG LM9600 there's no contest: the Sony is a winner in terms of both absolute blacks and shadow detail. The Sony is also able to handle complex contrast scenes without too much in the way of blooming. In comparison, the HX929 does have some blooming issues, but this could be simply because the overall black levels are deeper and bloom in the HX750 instead appears as irregular uniformity.

While the HX850 is not able to compete with the amazing ST50 in terms of pure black levels, no LCD we've seen in 2012 has been able to, either.

At 20:25 in the "Watchmen" Blu-ray, the Manhattan skyline stretches out from beyond the Comedian's apartment and its mix of intricate light and shadow detail proves a great test of a TV's ability to convey contrast. The Sony HX850 and HX929 gave the scene a 3D look, with each building separate from the next and the detail in the lit-up Empire State Building finely rendered. By comparison, the LG LM9600 was unable to render both the dark and light sections without blowing them out. "Star Trek" is another good test, with its alternation of lurid colors and shadowy murk, and the Sony was able to convey both very well.

Color accuracy: The Sony HX750 has a slightly colder look than the ST50 and the LG LM9600, and in this way it is similar to the other Sony TV we compared it with, the HX 929. The TV wasn't as talented at reproducing blue/green and defaulting instead to cooler blues. But elsewhere in the color spectrum, the TV was able to keep up with the others.

The Sony's advanced controls don't offer the same flexibility that rival LG does, but I'd give up not-quite-reference colors for much deeper black levels any day.

Video processing: Video processing has long been a Sony strong point, and thanks to the X-Reality Pro, the TV is able to make a lock on different types of video content without artifacting. The TV correctly replayed 24p content without shuddering, and 1080i film content was reproduced without any annoying moire lines.

Uniformity: Thanks to the local-dimming system, the TV is able to correctly identify light and dark areas of the picture and "spotlighting" issues (where the backlight bleeds through the corners) were almost nonexistent. Only on the letterbox bars on very bright scenes did some of the backlight peep through, but not in a distracting way.

I found that this TV has excellent off-angle response with less of the "purpling" on blacks that other LCD sets are prone to.

Bright lighting: The TV is mildly reflective but did reject most ambient light. I had no problems with seeing myself in the TV during dark scenes, but it can also depend on your seating equation. As a rule don't situate any TV opposite a window, but if you have no choice, at least pull the blinds.

3D: The Sony is one of the better LCD models for 3D with a more subtle 3D effect and less crosstalk than on its competitors. That's not to say it wasn't visible: in the first 5 minutes of "Hugo," we see him reach out his hand to steal a clockwork mouse and the hand did double up on every LCD TV in our lineup, bar the passive LG, but the effect isn't a deal breaker on the HX850. If you watch 3D a lot, you may want to investigate passive, but a movie on occasion is fine on this active Sony.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.000163444 Good
Avg. gamma 2.1984 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3128/0.3278 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3126/0.3291 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.313/0.3289 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6478.0655 Good
After avg. color temp. 6508.5965 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 3.6744 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 2.1809 Average
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 5.8222 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2319/0.3308 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3209/0.144 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4212/0.5133 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 320 Poor
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 pixels Good
Sony Kdl 55hx850

What you'll pay

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