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Sony Bravia HX903 (KDL-46HX903) review: Sony Bravia HX903 (KDL-46HX903)

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The Good Looks super; great Internet functionality.

The Bad Too expensive; need to buy an add-on pack to view 3D content.

The Bottom Line The Sony Bravia KDL-46HX903 is a good, but not great, TV. It's overpriced for what it is, and we'd pick Panasonic or Samsung's 3D models over this one every time

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7.5 Overall

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Sony has been at the forefront of pushing 3D uptake in both cinemas and the home. The reason for this is simple: it has a massive investment in both a major movie studio and consumer electronics. If everyone upgrades to 3D, Sony stands to rake it in. Even so, Sony wasn't the first company to put a 3D telly on the UK market -- we saw models from Samsung and Panasonic before the 46-inch, 1080p Bravia KDL-46HX903 LCD TV.

Still, as people who post comments on the Internet all too frequently prove, being first doesn't always mean you've got anything useful to say. So let's see what the LED-backlit KDL-46HX903 is made of. It's available now for around £2,500.

Update: Now that Sony's provided us with the 3D add-on kit, we've updated this review to take into account the TV's 3D performance. The score is unchanged.

Gives you a hernia

The KDL-46HX903 has what Sony calls a 'monolithic design', with an enormous glass panel adorning its front. It's heavy enough to cause several hernias if you pick it up. As stylish as this TV looks, and as helpful as glass can be for increasing contrast performance, we really don't understand why Sony couldn't have used a lighter material.

But this TV does look cool, even when it's turned off. In fact, it looks cooler when it's off than when it's on. Combine this appearance with an LED backlight and a decent selection of inputs for your video equipment, and you have yourself a well-designed TV.

We also love the remote control, although it is quite large. The curved surface is aesthetically pleasing, and there's a good selection of genuinely useful buttons to be found on its surface.

Internet content aplenty  

Sony excels in its provision of Internet video services. All of its high-end TVs now feature the Bravia Internet Video service, which allows you to watch movies via LoveFilm, catch-up TV from the likes of the BBC and Five, and short videos from Dailymotion and YouTube.

We like this feature a great deal, and Sony has gone out of its way to make its service as useful and user-friendly as possible. The quality of streaming video from these services varies wildly, and none are high-definition. In particular, LoveFilm looks rather ropey. That's not Sony's fault, though, and we're really happy that it's providing such a good selection of services, with more promised.

3D ready, sort of

This TV is ready for the 3D revolution, but not out of the box. To tease 3D video out of it, you must first purchase an add-on pack, including spectacles and a 3D transmitter that attaches to the screen and synchronises the glasses with the alternating on-screen frames. Considering the price of this TV, not having built-in 3D capability is something of a cheek. After all, Panasonic's 50-inch Viera TX-P50VT20B plasma TV costs roughly the same amount, and does include everything you need to immediately float your 3D boat.

This TV looks like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but don't feel compelled to hop around it, making monkey sounds while brandishing a bone

We're told that it's possible to get a 3D pack with a sync transmitter and two sets of glasses for a reduced price. Separately, the transmitter costs around £50, and the glasses are £100 each. However you look at it, spending £2,500 on a TV and then having to purchase glasses for the whole family, as well as a transmitter, is a galling prospect.

Sony's 3D glasses are quite comfortable. They aren't as pleasant to wear as Samsung's (our favourite specs so far) but they comprehensively beat Panasonic's offerings. They also feel like the sturdiest glasses we've seen so far. After we wrecked a pair of flimsy Samsung ones, that's good news.

Setting up the TV for 3D

Once you've got the 3D add-on pack, setting the TV up is a doddle. Plug in the sync transmitter, and the TV automatically detects that you can now see 3D content. Upon receiving a 3D signal, it switches into 3D mode. The glasses will also turn themselves on when the transmitter fires up, so, assuming you have HDMI-1.4a-certified hardware, you shouldn't have to do anything to see 3D material.

3D pictures

There's much to like about the 3D portion of this TV. Firstly, this telly scores one over the Samsung UE55C8000 that we reviewed recently by not exhibiting any significant ghosting. Ghosting occurs when a 3D TV doesn't have a sufficiently fast response time, with the result that you can see with your left eye, for example, traces of a frame intended for the right eye. 

The KDL-46HX903 also beats Panasonic's 3D offering in terms of brightness. Plasma technology isn't especially well suited to producing super-bright images, and that can be a problem, since 3D glasses reduce the amount of light that reaches your eye. A 3D image really needs to be bright to work well, and Sony's set certainly wins in this regard.

Nevertheless, we still found the Panasonic TV's 3D images to be the easiest to watch, even if the overall effect isn't quite as powerful as that of Samsung and Sony's sets. The KDL-46HX903's 3D effects are still good though, and it's a very capable 3D TV. One word of advice: watch 3D movies in the dark, because reflections on the all-glass screen can be a real issue.

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