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Last year, we were mightily impressed by Sony's high-end televisions, with models such as the HX929 and the NX720 still some of our favorite LCD TVs. At CES in early 2012, Sony shocked quite a few pundits by only introducing a total of 10 models and in an almost offhand way -- a single slide in a presentation filled with celebrities and Olympic heroes. As the second from the top -- the queen, if you will, of Sony's new 2012 TV line -- the HX750 performs less like the next in line for the throne and more like a lowly serf.
Its picture quality behaves more like the EX720, which was halfway down last year's roster -- when for the price we would have expected it to perform like the Editors' Choice-winning NX720. While the HX750's colors are good, black levels are lacking for a TV in this price range.
The Panasonic ST50, for example, is available for $500 less and has a picture that's significantly better. The Sony does offer a few features that the Panasonic lacks, such as Wi-Fi Direct and Track ID, but these are really window dressing. Thinking about this TV causes my shoulders to involuntarily shrug, and wonder whether the step-up HX850 can go some way to restore the level of quality the company achieved last year. (Update: it can).
Editors' note: The CNET Editors' rating above factors in a new Value score that joins Design, Features, and Performance in our ratings calculations for TVs. In the case of the Sony KDL-HX750 series, the Value score is 5.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch KDL-55HX750, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Sony KDL-55HX750 (reviewed)||55 inches|
|Sony KDL-46HX750||46 inches|
In 2010, Sony debuted its striking Monolithic design concept with a "one-sheet" Gorilla Glass look and a distinctive 6-degree slant. While this concept will still feature in the HX850, the HX750 misses out on such fripperies. Instead it gets a more modest piano-black frame that's visually separate from the screen in the traditional way. You could call it bland, but I'd call it conservative. It's an edge-lit LED model but not noticeably slimmer than most other TVs on the market.
The panel is held on by a plastic stand which wobbles a little more than other TVs when touched, though not worryingly so. You may have seen it with a wire stand in CES previews but this isn't the case with the model we received.
The remote control should be familiar to existing Sony users and is friendly as ever with a dedicated Netflix button of interest to cable cutters. I'm glad to see the underside-mounted power button go, but am not convinced by the new SEN button, more of which you'll hear of soon.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
The TV features a LED edge-lit panel that we were originally told supported local dimming. That's not the case however; local dimming is only available on the step-up NX850 and HX929 among current Sony models.
Sony's MotionFlow, which is in my opinion the best among the numerous dubious dejudder/smoothing systems, gets the number "480" attached to it on this TV. Translation: it has a native 240Hz refresh rate augmented by backlight scanning (more info). It also offers the new Impulse mode, which "reproduces the original picture quality" to provide a "cinema-like picture which may flicker." It does flicker, and I don't recommend anyone use it.
Sony has done else little to enhance the feature set of its 2012 range with the only obvious addition being the Sony Entertainment Network interface. It's essentially a distilled version of the collected apps available on the XMB (Xross Media Bar) with a storefront thrown in.
In support of all of these Internet-friendly features is onboard Wi-Fi. Android users may appreciate the addition of Wi-Fi direct which is an attempt to emulate Apple's Airplay but bypasses your router completely. It sets up an access point that your phone connects to directly and lets you stream media between the two devices. In our limited testing with the Google Nexus we found it difficult to set up; instead it's a function we will explore at length in an upcoming Smart TV feature. Be aware that Wi-Fi Direct will only support phones with Android 4 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich).
Unlike Samsung and Panasonic, Sony's 2012 3D TVs like the HX750 don't support the Full HD 3D standard, so this set is incompatible with other makers' 2012 active glasses that do, such as the Panasonic TY-ER3D4MU ($55) and Samsung SSG-4100GB ($20). To watch 3D you'll need to buy Sony's own specs like the $50 TDG-BR250, which won't work with non-Sony 3D TVs.
Smart TV: I've personally been a fan of the XMB since it debuted on the PlayStation 3 and personally find it very easy to navigate. The HX750 has the modified version that appeared in last year's TVs and supports picture-in-picture. From here you can access on-demand apps like Netflix -- there's a superb selection -- and Sony's own Entertainment Network, which makes the inclusion of the next feature puzzling.
The SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) button on the remote brings up a second interface that lets you access the same features above but in a more condensed way. The headings are divided into Movies, Music and Apps (which you can already access from the XMB). Launching a separate application in this way is an unnecessary duplication -- who wants to leave a user interface for another interface that essentially does the same thing? The SEN is obviously designed to sell video and music content directly, but I couldn't see myself using it very often unless I had a SEN subscription.
Picture settings: The Sony offers a number of different picture presets for users, which includes the excellent Cinema mode. While we were able to tweak the TV using the few advanced calibration tools the default mode is pretty good already. If you want to tinker, the TV does offer limited grayscale controls and a few gamma presents but nothing as advanced as Samsung or LG.
Connectivity The four HDMI ports and two USBs are standard for a modern TV. There's also a component/composite port and a second for composite video only, along with an analog VGA input for computers.
Just as with the EX720 before it, the HX750 has very accurate colors in mid-to-bright areas and it was able to keep pace with our color reference, the 2011 Samsung D7000 plasma. Shadow detail was very good with little crushing, and contrast was also more natural compared with the Vizio M3D, which showed flattening of the white areas and too much punch. The HX750's good points were over- (under-?) shadowed, however, by lighter black levels than our comparison models, causing its picture to look somewhat washed out.
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.
|Sony KDL-55NX720||55-inch LED-based LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P55ST50||55-inch plasma|
|Vizio M3D550SR||55-inch LED-based LCD|
|Sharp LC-LE640U||60-inch LED-based LCD|
|Samsung PN59D7000 (reference)||59-inch plasma|
Black level: At what price can you expect superior black levels? Well, last year it was about $2,500 for the VT30, but this year inky blacks can be had for as little as $1,500 in the astounding ST50. So where does this leave the HX750? Well, let's just say that a boat without a paddle is involved.
Even when compared with the last year's Vizio -- also $500 cheaper -- the Sony can't get that eye-popping depth that deeper blacks can bring. Due to some color problems in the bottom of the color spectrum, some of the inkiest shadows are purple rather than black. But at least it doesn't obliterate details as much cheaper sets, such as Insignia and TCL, can do.
Color accuracy: The colors on the HX750 are some of the best we've seen on an LCD for some time. Flesh tones can be too rosy or washed out on some TVs, but here they're spot-on. Other colors looked natural especially in comparison with most of with the other TVs in the lineup. We had to do very little adjustment to give an almost reference-level performance in the mid- and bright tones, but the dark colors were another matter, with near blacks becoming slightly purple.
Video processing: The TV was able to handle itself well in our image processing tests with good showings in 3:2 pull-down and deinterlacing 1080i material. The MotionFlow Engine was able to remove judder from most material without artifacting and give a perfect 1200 on our motion resolution test. Our only issue was with the new Impulse mode: not only does it reduce the brightness significantly and introduce flicker, watching it is a little nauseating.
Uniformity: As an edge-lit screen, the television does have some issues with screen uniformity with lighter blotches in the corners, though less noticeable than on some recent TVs. Turning down the backlight helps a lot, but during dark movies they can become a little distracting.
Bright lighting: Not truly matte, the TV does have a slight gloss to it in comparison with the Vizio M3D550SR, but even in a lit room with some direct light we had no issues watching most program material.
3D: Sony has staked its recent reputation on the quality of its 3D, and while the HX750 is better than last year's NX720, it's not quite a market leader. Our test scene from the sumptuously photographed "Hugo" involves the child approaching the toymaker at his work bench and reaching out a ghostly hand for a toy mouse. The slow, deliberate movement gives most TVs a run for their money, as the hand is quite forward in the 3D viewing space and highly contrasting. The Sony wasn't able to render the scene without a little crosstalk, though it was muted and better than on the ST50, for example, and it's only on contrasting images that you will see any real issues.
While Sony is part of the official forum that supports a unified 3D standard, the TV also needs to support it, which unfortunately the Sony HX750 doesn't.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.02671||Poor|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2811/0.281||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3133/0.3305||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3124/0.3284||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6415.1543||Good|
|After avg. color temp.||6498.8826||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||2.9337||Average|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.3041||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||0.142||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.226/0.3232||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3214/0.151||Good|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4219/0.5095||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||1,200||Good|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||340||Poor|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Good|