Sony HX753 (KDL-55HX753) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Will Sony's return to form continue with the HX753? We get our second look at the 2012 Bravia range.
IntroductionSony hit the ground running with the rather impressive HX853 we reviewed in May 2012 and scored a Highly Recommended for LED TV fans. The Sony KDL-55HX753 comes in at around £250 less than the 853, at retail, and we already considered that to be reasonably priced. Comparing the spec sheets would suggest the most notable differences between the two lay in a slight difference in image processing (and associated options in the Menu) and the fact that the 853 is equipped with ‘local’ dimming algorithms where the HX753 adopts a more simplistic, global dimming technique. If they can pull that off well then the lower tier model might prove an interesting alternative for those not keen on the slightly controversial speaker stand that ships with the HX853. Let’s see if Sony can continue their promising start to 2012 and deliver a slice of mid-range heaven…
Design and ConnectionsThe first thing that struck us about the Sony HX753 was how remarkably light it was for a 55 inch TV, we have a 32inch LCD that’s two years old weighing more. Not that we’re suggesting you should be lugging it around by yourself, owing to its bulk you’ll want two operatives, else fear the knock of ‘Elf and Safety’ at your door. From the publicity shots doing the rounds, pre-release, we were expecting the panel of the HX753 to be perched on top of a more exotic base than the one supplied but it seems the 55inch version isn’t compatible with the two footed stand found with the smaller versions; so it’s a bog-standard gloss black, swivelling rectangular number that forms the base and we’ve absolutely no problems with that, although it doesn’t half attract dust! The shiny black stand matches the bezel which measures 2.5cm in width - to the top and sides - and a centimetre more at the bottom. It’s all surrounded by an, in vogue, silver strip and the appearance is pleasingly simple.
The HX753 isn’t the slimmest flat panel out there and measures 6cm at its deepest and the fact there are proper connections for the analogue video sources (Component/Scart/Composite) facing outwards, to the rear, will mean it’s not going to look ultra-sleek when wall mounted. We’ve absolutely no issues with that, however, and if it makes for good panel uniformity, all the better. Along with the legacy connections there are 4 HDMI inputs – 2 down facing and 2 pointing sideways on the recessed connection plate. The side facing connections are located about 11cm from the edge of the bezel which will be enough for thinner cables. Also downward facing are the LAN port, digital audio out and an aerial connection for the Freeview HD capable tuner. The side facing inputs comprise a headphone jack; PC D-SUB in (with audio jack); a CAM slot and two USB ports, with one designated for PVR duties.
The Sony HX753 comes with the same, smaller and lighter new remote control we saw with the HX853 with the new SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) button that takes you directly to Sony’s online offerings. Button placement is well considered but, again, we’d prefer the exit button to be bigger, better placed and more effective. If you are more than one ‘layer’ down in the menus, a press will mean you just revert to the menu above. Exit should mean getting out of the menus altogether, you already provided a RETURN Button for skipping back Sony. The 55HX873 doesn’t ship with 3D eyewear, as standard, but we were provided a set of Sony’s TDG-BR250’s for testing which we’ll discuss in the 3D section later on.
MenusWe went in-depth on the Menus with the HX853 review so we won’t cover too much old ground here as the contents are largely the same between the two. The major omissions in the Picture Menu of the HX753 are the LED Dynamic Control and Reality Creation options but elsewhere it’s the same plethora of picture controls that, for the most part, you would want switched off for high quality sources. These largely extraneous controls include MPEG Noise Reduction and Dot Noise Reduction, in the main Picture Menu, and Black Corrector, Auto Light Limiter, Clear White, Live Colour, Detail Enhancer, Edge Enhancer and Skin Naturaliser in the Advanced Picture Menu.
Controls we will make use of are the usual Contrast, Brightness and Backlight sliders plus the White Balance and Gamma controls for more advanced display calibration. We’ve yet to mention Motion Flow, Adv Contrast Enhancer and Film Mode but they will all be discussed in subsequent sections. Before we depart from the Menus, we once again have to give mention to the embedded i-Manual that provides excellent support for the confused end user who will also probably benefit from using the OPTIONS button on the Remote Control rather than having to navigate through the XMB to find picture options. One important picture option that can only be accessed from the XMB is the setting of ‘Full Pixel’ for HD sources that necessitates entering the Display Menu not found from the OPTIONS button.
FeaturesAll of Sony’s online content is accessed directly from the SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) button of the remote control. The new interface is split in to four sub-sections – apps, video, music and favourites. The Video and Music tabs are portals to Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services. These are subscription based and give you access to lots of Sony Entertainment created content. The Music Unlimited service is akin to the likes of Spotify whilst the Video Umilimted is similar to the Netflix and Lovefilm apps already in place. The final tab, favourites, is simply a place to stick any of your favourite apps that don’t already appear on the front page.
The apps section boasts BBC News and iPlayer, Demand 5, Facebook and Twitter as well as dozens of other video on demand services including Love Film, EuroSport, You Tube and Netflix. For Netflix users, it’s disappointing that picture options can’t be changed when using it and Motion Flow seems locked in to the Smooth, i.e. most aggressive setting. It doesn’t seem to be the case for other VoD services so we hope that can be fixed. Sony’s 3D Experience streaming service has added quite a bit more content since we last checked in and there’s a decent variety of sports, video games and nature clips to see plus some music videos, Harry Potter, Travel and ‘World Heritage’ material. Along with Panasonic, Sony have an advantage here in that they are involved with the production of 3D as well as the manufacturer of equipment to film it.
The Bravia app for mobile devices (smartphones/tablets) makes using the built-in Browser a far more palatable experience than with the conventional remote, particularly as it includes the ability to ‘catch and throw’ it between the two devices and although it’s no real substitute for using a decent Tablet or Smartphone independently, big screen browsing does have its benefits. There’s built in Wi-Fi allowing DLNA streaming but of course you can do it wired too. File support is reasonably generous but we found we needed to use a transcoding media player to get MKV’s to run. The manual lists AVCHD, MPEG2, MPEG1, MP4 (AVC), MP4 (MPEG4), DivX, WMV for video. Photo’s are limited to JPEG over the network but USB connected devices will be able to display 3D MPO files, whilst MP3, linear PCM, WMA are the possibilities for music.
The newly launched Homestream service, a piece of software you can download to Mac or PC that is specifically designed to act as a media server to Sony Bravia TVs, Blu-ray Players and the PS3 console is based on the Servio platform with some tweaks for compatibility with Sony products and has just received a 1.1 update. Both Homestream and Servio provide a very nice interface and excellent indexing of content but we had better performance using the unofficial PS3 Media Server software for transcoding files. During the review process Sony added the BBC Sport App to the portfolio but, for now, it can’t be accessed via the SEN Button and is only accessible from the XMB under INTERNET VIDEO. We've said before that Sony’s content delivery feels a little fragmented and this kind of thing just underlines that. We say do away with the XMB Sony, there has to be a better solution!
Test ResultsBy selecting the Cinema Scene from the either the XMB or Scene Select from the OPTIONS Button on the remote, owners can quickly access the most accurate pictures against the industry standard. Sony tend to favour having an excess of Blue in the greyscale which has the knock-on effect of making everything look a little cool. To be fair, we’d prefer an excess of blue over red and green as it’s less noticeable to the eye and the errors here are fairly small in any case. Gamma tracking is also very good and extremely close to our 2.2 target for a moderately lit room. Moving on to colour reproduction and the Sony HX753 was also producing very creditable results indeed when measured against the Rec.709 HDTV standard. With overall Delta Errors all below the perceptible level of 3, there’s very little here to trouble us, thankfully, as we’ve no Colour Management System to make significant improvements.
Sony’s White Balance controls are not particularly flexible and nor very accurate at the darker end of the greyscale but that normally doesn’t mean we still can’t extract excellent results, and so it proved again here. With just a few alterations to the high end controls we were able to flatten out the response to well below the threshold where we can see imperfections. To mitigate the clouding problems we elected to use the global dimming, Adv Contrast Enhancer control which resulted in a gamma value just slightly above our target but, on balance, doing so provided the better images. So it’s a great result but comes with the caveat some detail will be lost in very dark scenes. As expected, we saw little to no improvement in colour performance but then we were starting from a very good position!
In terms of the base video processing, the 55HX753 performed exactly as the 55HX853, that is to say very well indeed. With Film Mode set to Auto 1, we had no issues with the common PAL 2:2 and NTSC 2:3 cadences. Scaling of standard definition signals was excellent with all the fine detail in the SMPTE 133 pattern resolved without undue artefacting. Deinterlacing performance was also excellent in both high and standard definition. With Blu-ray player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided the Full Pixel option is enabled. The location of this setting is a bit obscure, Sony really should provide a Full Pixel option from the Aspect Ratio options presented when the appropriate button of the remote control is pressed. To avoid scaling, the user will need to enter the XMB, scroll to Settings – Display – Screen and then switch off Auto Display Area and then enable Full Pixel.
Like the HX853, the 753 has the new Impulse option under the Motion Flow settings in the Picture Menu. The first thing most will notice is the immediate dimming of the picture and then it’s likely they’ll notice a major increase in flicker. We think that Sony really must only be intending for it to be used with 24p content as it uses a black frame insertion technique at 48Hz when fed a 1080p Blu-ray disc, similar to the technique used in cinema projectors; so it pulls down two frames inserts a black frame pulls down another two frames and so on, ad infinitum. With the lights down very low it works quite effectively but since, without any Motion Flow settings engaged, the HX753 copes perfectly well pulling down 4 frames at 96Hz we can’t really see the point. So whilst it’s interesting, it’s not something we’d elect to utilise ourselves, although some will like it.
Subjectively, the Sony HX753 provided a very decent gaming performance as far as we were concerned and our current diet of Dirt 3 and FIFA 12 never felt compromised by latency, although we don’t play online and, in the case of the former title especially, we don’t profess to be any great shakes! Donning the white coat for a split second and calling upon the services of the lag test device revealed a measured lag of 43.5 milliseconds which is less than a millisecond more than we measured with the 853.
The most remarkable thing here was that the HX753 seemed to use less energy in 3D mode than it did in 2D. We have no good explanation for this but the averaged 2D draw was around 80w in calibrated Cinema Mode (Backlight 5) and Cinema 3D Mode (Backlight 10) averaged nearer 60w.
Picture Quality - 2DWhilst the 55HX753 shares a lot of the same qualities of the 853 we looked at, it’s not quite a facsimile and the less rapid backlight modulation of the model reviewed here results in a more typical LED/LCD TV type picture, which makes the 753 appear a little more digital than the more expensive model. Black levels were very decent with the 753 measuring at 0.052cd/m2 on an ANSI checkerboard pattern which is almost exactly what we noted with the 55HX853, using the same Klein K-10 meter, in the same conditions so contrast levels are good and hold up well in bright conditions owing to the use of a very effective filter. As a point of interest, engaging the Adv Contrast Enhancer didn’t really make a difference to the measurements.
Though the black level is impressive, the sample supplied did suffer with some clouding problems that intruded with darker scenes, although this could be improved by utilising the control labelled Adv Contrast Enhancer. This is, in reality, the global dimming control where Low is actually the most aggressive setting, rather confusingly. Users will need to balance the use of the control with the fact that it will lose detail in very dark scenes owing to the imprecision of the system; in a perfect world we would prefer not to have used it but given the clouding issues it was preferable to lose a bit of detail rather than suffer unduly with them. While we’re on the subject of screen uniformity, the Sony 55HX753 did show up some panel banding under panning shots, especially with bright or pale colour tones but we’ve certainly seen worse examples of this with other LED TVs but (on a topical note) we did see a fair amount when Andy Carroll came on in the England Vs Italy game at Euro 2012.
Uniformity issues aside, we were generally impressed with the quality of pictures which offered a very nice sense of accuracy and no little detail. As with the 853, panel response doesn’t seem the swiftest so some may find the need to engage Motion Flow on one if its more conservative guises for fast moving action shot on video but, set up right, the Sony is a very good all-rounder.
Picture Quality - 3DWe were glad to see Sony had pulled their 3D socks up with the HX853 and fortunately they’ve not let them slip as we move down the ranges. If you’re not blighted by flicker, the KDL-55HX753 will provide an excellent 3D experience with all the depth and pop-out one would expect. We did see some crosstalk, from time to time, but motion handling is good and, provided you keep your head in the right position, colours look quite natural in the default Cinema Scene settings. The 3D eye-wear, alas, maintains the issues of the last gen glasses where colour fidelity is lost and massive crosstalk induced when they are not kept dead straight, which doesn’t help with the immersion and is the scourge of the 3D watching, sofa lounger. No names, no pack drill.
- Excellent contrast
- Rich blacks - with dynamic contrast enabled
- Very accurate colours out-of-the-box
- Reference greyscale and colour when calibrated
- Plenty of Video on Demand content
- Price is realistic
- Cloudy blacks - with contrast enhancer off
- Panel banding evident on light colours
- 3D glasses need to be kept totally level
- SEN content/apps need to be unified
Sony HX753 (KDL-55HX753) 3D LED LCD TV Review
There’s nothing fancy about the Sony 55HX753’s. It hasn’t got a distinctive stand, it’s not particularly thin and nor is the bezel of the micro variety but it does nothing to offend and the silver trim on the outer edges of the chassis gives it a hint of topicality. The remote control fits in to that category as well and is none the worse for it. Thankfully there’s less reason than ever to use the clunky XMB menus as almost everything you will need can be accessed from the OPTIONS button – for settings – and the SEN button for ‘smart’ content. That said, Sony really need to organise their features in a more consolidated way so it’s all easy to access from the same place.
Out of box colour accuracy was impressive and once we’d calibrated the greyscale, images were very convincing. The 3D presentation is a big step up from that we saw from most of the 2011 Sony’s with little in the way of crosstalk to spoil the immersion. Gamers will likely be satisfied with the HX753 too, with a measured latency in the low 40 millisecond range that puts it on a, more or less, equal footing with the best we’ve seen since using the new, more accurate testing methodology.
With some careful set-up the Sony KDL-55HX753 is capable of producing very pleasing pictures that rival those of the more costly HX853 we recently reviewed. Were it not for the more visible and frequent reminders of the shortcomings of LED TV technology – namely panel banding and clouding – we would likely be looking at a more prestigious award than the Recommended Badge awarded here. As it is, the excellent colours, more than capable video processing and very decent intra-scene contrast are enough to ensure the HX753 is another solid candidate from Sony’s 2012 Bravia line-up; although you may well need to tinker with the controls to bring out its best.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,549.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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