Part 3

See Part 1 - Review: LG 55LM9600

See Part 2 – Review: Samsung Series 8


Sony HX 855 55 LED TV - Front

The final TV of the review trio is the Sony HX 855 55” LED TV. This is another huge imposing and rather good looking TV. Sony have a long and illustrious history in Television. They invented the unique Trinitron TV, and many of us grew up with these in the living room. Sony also dominated the high end of Tube TV’s for many many years. All this came to a slow and grinding halt as LCD TV’s became ubiquitous, and the Koreans and Chinese manufacturers made good quality products, at prices, as well as in volume, that Sony could not match. I am pleased to announce that Sony is back.

If quality, picture quality, that is, is paramount, the Sony HX855 is the TV to go for. The difference is not subtle. After unpacking the huge Sony display and figuring out the rather unusual inverted U drop in stand, the Sony HX 855 was powered up and from the first instant it was clear this TV was something special. In the words of a person who I truly respect, my wife. After she had watched the Sony for a few minutes, she categorically stated “You can’t send that one back”.

The entire front of the Sony is a single sheet of toughened Gorilla Glass with a special anti-reflective coating that really does work. The Sony HX 855 oozes quality and the single sheet of Gorilla Glass makes the TV look monolithic and architectural. The LG is still the best looking TV of the bunch and the Samsung has a futuristic look, coupled with a super thin profile that the Sony can’t match. The Sony does however look sleek enough that many commented on its good looks.

The Sony HX 855 has an edge lit LED panel with Smart features, along with a picture critical feature called local dimming. Local dimming allows the Sony to control dark areas of the TV picture, to give a deep and complete black effect. The Samsung Series 8 for 2012 does not have local dimming rather the Samsung implements something called Micro dimming, which tries to achieve the same effect in picture processing, and not in actually turning off small areas of lighting on the screen.

On the Sony HX855 the first thing that any casual viewer will notice are the deep and completely inky blacks. Black on the Sony is black, there was no visible edge lighting bleed, and I could discern no blooming or patchy lighting artefacts, even in very low light. Coupled with this deep black effect, was the ability of the Sony to create great detail in dark and or highly shaded pictures. This did not mean that the picture was not bright. On bright outdoor scenes the Sony HX855 never bloomed and managed to transition instantly to black or dark, without any hangover or ghosting effect.

Until you have seen a truly black black on a TV, you cannot imagine how much this affects the overall picture quality. With excellent black levels, which are very close to reference Plasma levels, comes amazing contrast. The Sony right out of the box has close to perfect colour accuracy and a colour temperature that was nearly ISF accurate. I did find the picture was a touch cool and a little blue overall, both well know Sony signatures. With minimal tuning the Sony was as close as I have come to a perfect picture.

Calibration was not needed on this Sony TV. Right out of the Box the colours were accurate and the blacks really black. The extensive setup menu and feature set was a little overwhelming, with options and settings for all manner of situations. I found the Sony was best left in its standard mode, with minimal changes to colour temperature and blue levels. This gave outstanding results.

The menu system and smart features are where the Sony is not at the same level as the Samsung or LG. The menu structure will be familiar to anyone with a PS 3 and is relatively easy to use, if a little slow and not really intuitive. Navigating the Samsung and the LG was far more intuitive. The remote supplied is also a real let down. Simply put it is a cheap plastic basic unit with no outstanding features. It does get the job done though. Sony really could have done a little better on such a premium TV.

The Media hub along with the new Sony Entertainment Network option worked reasonably well. I was able to browse my media server and the Web with relative ease. All the widgets and apps such as Skype were there, along with all the internet content you may wish. The Camera is a silly add on affair that perches on top of the TV and really looks a little clunky. It does work as advertised, and we were able to hold really good Skype chats on the TV. Overall the speed and simplicity of the Smart features were acceptable, but not in the league of the Samsung and the LG.

Watching 3D movies using the supplied active glasses was good. If 3D is critical then the passive setup on the LG is the way to go with the best brightness and lack of bleed. Overall 3D performance was good, there was a little crosstalk and bleed but the colour accuracy and black levels helped the 3D experience.

If features are what you want then the Sony is not for you. It is clear that Sony put all their efforts and technology into picture quality. The other two TV’s are a distant second when the picture quality is taken into account. The Sony HX855 presents a relaxed beautifully detailed picture on HD material as well as on Standard definition TV. The colour accuracy coupled with reference black level performance, makes the picture take on an almost 3D effect, even on non 3D material. All pictures have a feeling of depth, and the various technical picture enhancing features such as “Motionflow” and the sexy “X-Reality PRO engine” really do work. Motion artefacts are mostly absent, making watching fast moving sport a pleasure. In fact there was no content I did not enjoy watching.

The Sony HX855 was the most expensive of the test trio by about R3000 and can be had, with a little bargaining from around R35 000-00. This is a large amount to pay for any TV. That said this is a TV you can live with for a really long time, which makes the high price far more palatable. Quality never did come cheap. The smart features are upgradable, and the picture quality needs no upgrade. The Sony HX 855 is my pick of the high end TV’s. The Samsung has the best balance of features and a great sharp picture. The LG is the best looking, with great smart features, and a good picture. The Sony HX855, however takes the crown as the best LED LCD TV this year.

Outstanding Black levels and colour accuracy resulting in a reference picture
Excellent Build Quality
Gorilla Glass front making it a bit more WI remote proof

Adequate Smart features
No innovative control features
Remote is a cheap plastic affair

Steven Ambrose – Executive Editor, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting firm Strategy Worx and a major gadget geek. A chartered accountant by training Steven sports a history spanning from heading statups to divisions of major multinational corporations, he ran and wrote for from 2006 to 2010, and now consults on technology and its impact on business as the brainchild and CEO of Strategy Worx. For more immediate comment, views and discussion follow him on Twitter