High-end television sets are increasingly overrun with gimmicky hardware—gesture control remotes come to mind—that few people need and even fewer want. But Sony's latest Bravia flagship does only what a TV should do—and does it better than any other LED. Thank goodness.
What Is It?
Sony's latest iteration of its flagship LED TV line.
Who's It For?
People looking for an HDTV that focuses on performance rather than extraneous features. Videophiles that desire crystal-clear picture quality but are put off by plasma's price and power consumption.
In a word: svelte. At just 47 pounds and about an inch and a half thick, it's among the lightest LEDs we've seen this year. The screen is covered in a Wii-remote resistant layer of Corning Gorilla Glass and ensconced by an inch-wide bezel. The quad HDMI, dual USBs, and RGB ports are all flush-mounted on the rear of the set, allowing for easy hanging if you don't want to use the included black plastic or optional metal bar stand.
As with other LCDs we've seen this year, the HX850 is light enough to be set up by a single person. Initial setup, basically just connecting to Wi-Fi, was a snap. And while other manufacturers are engaging in an arms race of hardware and software extras—seeing who can pack more browsing, video conferencing, and motion controlling capabilities into a single television set—the HX850 is refreshingly minimalist. It's still got apps aplenty, but at its core it's a TV focused on performance rather than trying to be an all-in-one living room comm center.
The Best Part
The picture quality is fantastic, even straight out of the box. The LED edge-lit image is crisp and clear from wide angles with strong color reproduction and solid black levels. You'll see very little blurring and jittering during fast-paced action as well. A suite of image correctors (advanced contrast, detail and edge enhancers, and "skin naturalizer") are also available to help get the most from every pixel.
If there is one, it's the price. The HX850 isn't out of line with other flagship pricing, but you'd think the absence of bells and whistles could have translated into sticker savings.
This Is Weird...
Along those same lines, you'd think Sony could toss in a pair of 3D glasses if they're charging two grand. But no.
- Required virtually zero calibration straight out of the box.
- Skype-capable but requires separate camera
- Streaming apps include Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon Prime, and lots of things—like Twitter—that you shouldn't be doing on your television in the first place.
Should You Buy It?
At $2100 and $2600 (for the 46-inch and 55-inch models, respectively) the HX850 is on par with its LED competition in terms of price—it's certainly more affordable than Panasonic's WT50—while producing a picture that can compete with plasmas like Panny's VT50. That's a rare talent.