Sony NX813 (KDL-55NX813) 3D LCD TV Review
Steve Withers takes a look at one of Sony’s higher-end 3D capable LCDs
IntroductionAlthough the Bravia KDL-55NX813 is part of Sony’s 2010 line-up, it was only released in December of last year in order to meet the demand over Christmas. It is therefore still available and will remain one of Sony’s premium 3D displays until their new line-up is released later in the year. The 55NX813 incorporates Sony’s Monolithic Design and the NX prefix means that it is one of Sony’s lifestyle-oriented ‘network’ models and as such it comes with a number of built-in features including WiFi, internet and streaming capability, Freeview HD and LED side lighting. Unfortunately despite being 3D capable one of the things that isn’t built-in is the 3D emitter which you need to buy separately, along with any glasses. After reviewing 3D displays from Panasonic, Samsung and LG and after reading Mark’s recent review of Sony’s KDL-40HX803 and Phil’s review of Sony’s VPL-VW90ES I was very interested in seeing how the 55NX813 would perform with 3D material.
In terms of Sony’s 3D capable displays the KDL-NX813 sits between the entry level KDL-NX713 (at sizes of 40 and 46”) and KDL-HX803 (at sizes of 40 and 46”) and the flagship KDL-HX903 (at sizes of 40 and 52”). The KDL-NX813 only comes in one size but at 55” it is the largest 3D capable display that Sony currently produces.
Styling and ConnectionsAs you would expect from Sony, the 55NX813 is a masterclass in modern TV design and as such features many of the traits found on other displays in the Monolithic Design range. The front is a single sheet of non-reflective glass with a narrow black bezel and a glossy sleek appearance which is both attractive and contemporary. The 55NX813 has clean lines and a minimalist front, with only the word Bravia in the left hand corner and the illuminated word Sony at the bottom, which can be turned off. There are some very basic controls at the bottom of the right hand side, including on/off, menu, volume etc. The 55NX813 uses LED edge lighting which results in a chassis depth of only 3.2cm and whilst this isn’t as thin as some of the competition it is certainly a lot thinner than earlier Sony displays. The build quality is excellent and combined with the metal rear chassis the entire display has a solid and high-end feel to it. The downside to all this build quality is that the display is quite heavy, weighing nearly 27kg without even including the stand. The stand itself is made of black plastic and can be swiveled 20 degrees to the left or right as well as tilted back by 6 degrees. As with other displays in the Monolithic Design range you can buy an optional brushed aluminium TV stand that has built in speakers and positions the display at a 6 degree angle for use with low furniture.
In keeping with its higher end status the 55NX813 comes with a very comprehensive set of connectors, including 4 HDMI inputs, although strangely only two are at the rear with the other two being at the side. Also, at the rear is a SCART connector, a LAN port, an aerial socket, an optical digital out and a synch connector for a 3D emitter. In addition to the 2 HDMI inputs at the side there is also a component and composite video input using RCA connectors, stereo audio in with RCA connectors, a VGA connector with audio in, a CI card slot, a USB port and a headphone socket.
These connectors are arranged in two rows, one at the rear and one near the side and are positioned to allow the 55NX813 to be easily wall mounted. This is useful but I found the side connectors to be too close to the edge which meant that you could see the HDMI cables poking out of the side if you used either of the two side HDMI inputs. I would prefer that Sony had all the connectors at the rear or at least further away from the edge for tidier cable management.
The 55NX813 comes with the standard remote that Sony has been including with all their 2010 displays and unfortunately I’m still not a fan of its design. The remote has a cheap plastic feel to it and it has a concave front that actually makes it uncomfortable to hold. I’m not sure why Sony has chosen this design but I can only assume it is so you can place the remote face down, which is why there is a on/off button on the back (a button that I always forgot about). However far more annoying was the positioning of certain key buttons such as Options, Info, Guide, Home and Return right next to the up/down/left/right buttons which meant that whilst navigating the menu I would inadvertently hit one of the those buttons instead. Aside from its position the Options button is quite useful, giving you access to key menus without using the Home button to access the main menu system. Finally there is the Theatre button which brings up Sony’s calibrated cinema mode, which is meant to approximate industry standards.This was my first experience of Sony’s TDG-BR100B 3D glasses and in terms of their overall design I rather liked them. They were attractive to look at, with wide enough sides to block out ambient light and large enough lenses to see the screen properly. I found them to be light and quite comfortable to wear, even over regular glasses.
There is a tiny button at the bottom that turns the glasses on but they turn themselves off once the emitter stops sending a signal. Unfortunately I found that it was quite easy for the glasses to lose synch and they had almost no tolerance to tilting your head. If you tilted your head even a tiny amount you lost the 3D effect so I think you might have trouble using these glasses with all but the most sedentary of children. Given its price I was surprised that the 55NX813 doesn’t come with any glasses included but you can buy them for £99 a pair.
If I was surprised that the 55NX813 didn’t include any glasses I was staggered that unlike almost all their competitors Sony hasn't even included a 3D emitter. Sony’s view is that not everyone wants 3D but if you do there is the option to buy the emitter and glasses and add 3D capability. I could understand that view if the display was quite cheap but this is a £2,499 TV and given that the TMR-BR100 3D emitter only costs £49 it seems crazy not to just build it into the display. Aside from the additional cost, having to perch the emitter on the top of the display completely ruins the elegant design and you also have an unsightly wire connecting the emitter to the 3D synch connector at the rear. I wasn’t even sure how you were supposed to attach the emitter and I ended up resorting to a lump of Blu-tack - very high tech.
Menus and Set UpSetting up the 55NX813 couldn’t be simpler, you just connect the aerial to the socket and select auto tune on the menu. This process only took a few minutes and once it was complete you could access the Freeview EPG using the Guide button on the remote. I think that Sony’s EPG is one of the best, it is well designed, easy to read, simple to use and has the channel that you are currently on in a window in the corner along with the relevant audio. As you would expect from a more recent display the 55NX813 has a Freeview HD tuner which will give you access to all the standard and high definition channels available in your area.
With WiFi already built-in, connecting the 55NX813 to you local network was also very easy and once again only took a few minutes. Once set up you can access Sony’s two internet platforms, Bravia Internet Video and Bravia Internet Widgets. Bravia Internet Video allows you to stream online content to your display using your broadband connection. These features are being added to all the time but currently includes VOD by Qriocity, BBC iPlayer, Demand5, Sky News, YouTube and LoveFilm. Bravia Internet Widgets offer a range of live, constantly updated internet content including Ebay, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc. Of course the 55NX813 also includes USB playback and DLNA streaming of your photos, music and videos.
As I mentioned earlier, the remote has a button called Options which gives you a stripped down list of the key sub menus. I found this button to be very useful, especially during calibration when I wanted to access the Picture menu quickly. Aside from the Picture menu, you can also access the Sound menu, the 3D menu and other useful functions like turning the Motionflow on and off. As with all modern slim displays the size and positioning of the speakers results in fairly thin and unimpressive sound. I would recommend using the 55NX813 with external amplification or using the sound bar built into the optional stand I mentioned earlier.
The menu system is Sony’s Xcross Media Bar (XMB) which will be familiar to anyone who has a PS3 but might be initially confusing to anyone who is unfamiliar with it. However once you are used to it the XMB is fairly intuitive but without the PS3’s processing power I found the menu rather less responsive. Once you have become familiar with the menu layout it makes perfect sense and has options for Settings, Photo, Music, Video, Digital TV, Analogue TV, Inputs and Network. To access certain functions you don’t need to use the menu itself, there are buttons on the remote for picture settings as well as the aspect ratio and inputs.
The 55NX813 comes with a number of picture presets or Scenes as Sony calls them and these options are Cinema, Sports, Photo, Music, Games, Graphics, General and Auto. Of these Cinema is clearly Sony’s attempt at a calibrated preset (much like the THX setting on some other displays) and is also the preset that is selected when the Theatre button is pressed on the remote. I would recommend using the Cinema/Theatre preset at all times because it provides the most accurate out of the box image.
Within the Picture menu itself there are the usual basic controls for the Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Hue and Sharpness. In addition there is a colour temp. setting which gives you a choice of Cool, Neutral, Warm1 and Warm2. There is also a Noise Reduction control which will reduce analogue background noise and a MPEG Noise Reduction control which attempts to address over compression in MPEG encoded material. The Film Mode option controls how film content inside an interlaced TV signal is converted to the progressive format native to the LCD panel. Finally the Motionflow control allows you to choose between a Standard or a High setting as well as giving you the option to turn it off entirely.
Within the Advanced Settings there is a control called Black Corrector which allows you to change the black level of the image just as the Brightness control does, Adv. Contrast Enhancer which varies the Contrast and backlight on-the-fly to try and boosts the dynamic range, gamma which adjusts between the bright and dark areas of the image, Auto Light Limiter which reduces glare in very bright scenes, Clear White which emphasises the colour of white and Live Colour which makes colours more vivid. As is usually the case with special settings on a TV if you want an accurate image I would recommend their lowest setting or if possible turning them off entirely. There is also a setting for the LED Dynamic Control (localised dimming) which allows the user to choose between Auto, Low, High or Off, I will address this feature the video processing section of this review. The final sub menu in the Advanced Settings is for white balance and allows for two point calibration of the greyscale.
Finally there is a 3D Menu which allows the user to turn the 3D function on and off, as well as adjust the 3D depth. There is also the control for the Simulated 3D Effect and selecting the particular type of 3D format (sequential, side by side etc.). Finally there is a control for adjusting the brightness of the 3D glasses.
Measured Results Out of the BoxFor these measurements I started with the Theatre setting and then adjusted the Backlight, Brightness and Contrast setting to suit my viewing environment. I left the colour and Hue controls at their middle settings, I turned off the Noise Reduction and Motionflow controls and I set Film Mode to Auto1. Using a test pattern I determined that the best setting for the Sharpness control was the minimum one, at this setting there was no ringing or softness. I also found that the most accurate Colour Temperature setting was Warm1 which surprised me as it is usually Warm2 on Sony displays. As I mentioned in the previous section I also turned off all the features in Advanced Settings and I left Gamma at zero.
The greyscale is very important because it forms the backbone of any image, if the colour of white and the transition from black to white is discoloured in any way this will impact on the rest of the image. As you can see from the RGB Balance graph above, green is tracking quite close to the target of 100 but blue is tracking 10% over and red is tracking 10% under. These errors are especially large from 50IRE out to 100IRE and hence there are large DeltaEs in that range. In fact the errors measure over 8 from 60IRE and this is obvious as discolouration when viewing a greyscale ramp test pattern. The gamma is measuring reasonably close to the target of 2.2 but overall this is a mediocre out of the box performance for greyscale.
As can be seen on the CIE chart the colour Gamut is oversaturated in most of the colours except red, which is quite under saturated. These errors are shown in the DeltaC side bar and there are also some errors in hue, shown in the DeltaH side bar. There are also some errors in DeltaL which represents excessive luminance or brightness in the colours. Overall these cumulative errors result in the primary and secondary colours measuring a DeltaE of over 3 but under 5 which is good but noticeable to the human eye. Much like the greyscale this is an average performance in terms of colour accuracy.
Calibrated ResultsFor the calibrated measurements I chose a Gamma setting of +1, this darkened the image and moved the gamma curve nearer to our 2.2 target. I also calibrated the greyscale using the White Balance control and moved the Colour control down a couple of notches.
By using the White Balance controls I was able to get a much improved performance in terms of RGB Balance with most of the colours tracking close to the target of 100. There were still some minor errors around 60IRE with red tracking about 5% over and blue tracking about 5% under but otherwise the errors were too small to be seen by the human eye. The gamma is also now tracking much closer to the target of 2.2 which is good. Whilst the greyscale performance was much improved, due to only being able to adjust two points (30IRE and 80IRE) I was unable to correct the errors at 60IRE. If Sony included a full ten point control like most of their competitors that error would have been easy to correct.
As I mentioned in the previous section the greyscale forms the backbone of the image and by correctly calibrating the greyscale there is an immediate improvement in the colour accuracy. This is just as well because like most Sony displays the 55NX813 does not have a CMS and as such making adjustments to the colour performance is limited. As it was by correctly calibrating the greyscale and moving the Colour control down a couple of notches I was able to get a very accurate colour gamut from the 55NX813. As the CIE chart shows white is now measuring at D65, the luminance errors are almost gone with the exception of red and the secondary colours are very accurate. In fact the majority of the errors are in red but the high luminance is offset to a degree by the under saturated colour so in actual viewing material red looked fine. Apart from red the other colours were quite accurate and the DeltaEs were all less than 2 which is indistinguishable to the human eye. To be honest in this case the addition of a CMS wouldn’t have made much difference as the main error is an undersaturated red and a CMS can’t add colour, only reduce it. However a CMS would have allowed me to correct the luminance of red, as well as the colour of blue and green and the hue of red and blue. Overall though this is reasonably close to the industry standard of Rec.709 which combined with the calibrated greyscale resulted in a pleasing image.
Video ProcessingThe video processing on the 55NX813 was something of a mixed bag much like the rest of the display, with the processing excelling in some areas but performing below par in others. The first series of tests are designed to see how well the display reproduces standard definition material, especially in terms of how much original detail the display can reproduce and how well it deinterlaces and scales the images up to its native resolution of 1920 x 1080. This is of particular importance because for the time being the majority of our viewing content will remain in standard definition.
Using both the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark DVDs the SMPTE colour bar test was reproduced correctly with the 55NX813 scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 55NX813 also managed to perform well on the detail tests, partly because these are relatively static images and managed to resolve all the fine brickwork in the tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs. Unfortunately the 55NX813 didn’t score as highly in the deinterlacing tests on both discs, with the processing showing mediocre performance. Both jaggies tests showed an average performance especially on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars showing slight jaggies. This mediocre performance was easy to see on the waving flag test which was full of unwanted jaggies on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
Whilst the deinterlacing performance was something of a let down, one area where the 55NX813 did perform better was with cadence detection. With these tests the display managed, after a slight delay, to correctly detect 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) cadence as well as 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence, along with a few more obscure examples. The 55NX813 was also able to correctly lock onto film based material in the film detail test as long as the Film Mode function was set to Auto. The final standard definition tests involve displaying film material with scrolling video text and here the 55NX813 correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.
The 55NX813 performed extremely well in the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as excellent resolution enhancement. The 55NX813 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material.
The 55NX813 has Motionflow Pro processing uses backlight blinking to increase the refresh rate from 50 to 200Hz and whilst there is an argument for using the Motionflow function when watching video based material such as sporting events I tend to find that it is best to just leave this function off especially if you are watching film based material. If you predominantly watch movies then it really is important to ensure that the Motionflow function is left off, unless of course you want film based material to look like video. With 24p material the 55NX813 performed very well, reproducing the content superbly with no motion artefacts or judder.
Using the Spears and Munsil test disc I was able to check the high and low dynamic range performance of the 55NX813. Both were very good with the 55NX813 showing detail above video level 235 up to video level 255 and also showing detail down to video level 17 but not below that. The 55NX813 has a localised dimming feature called LED Dynamic Control that can be used to improve the black levels of the display. I noticed that although the blacks appeared darker whilst using this function there was also a degree of haloing, although this wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen on other displays. However I noticed that when using localised dimming there was a loss of detail in peak whites which was easy to see using the Spears & Munsil test disc. So given that the native blacks of the 55NX813 are very good for an LCD display I would be inclined to leave the localised dimming off.
Gaming PerformanceInput lag is the delay introduced by the display’s video processor before it sends pixel data to the LCD panel and in its calibrated picture mode, the 55NX813 had an input lag measurement of around 100ms, which is very high. However if you enable the Game mode, then this figure is reduced to below 30ms which is a big improvement. I certainly wasn’t aware of any lag when playing in Game mode and this kind of performance should keep all but the most hardened gamers happy.
Energy ConsumptionThe 55NX813 is an LCD display and as such it should be capable of a reasonably uniform power consumption regardless of what is being displayed; in addition the use of LED edge lighting should result in a very energy efficient performance. The results seemed to confirm these assumptions and using the calibrated Theatre setting the 55NX813 consumed 45W when displaying a 0IRE window, 55W displaying a 50IRE window, 75W displaying a 100IRE window and averaged around 95W when displaying real world material.
Picture Quality - 2DThe picture quality in 2D was very much dependent on the source material and with high definition content the 55NX813 really excelled. When watching a Blu-ray or a high definition broadcast the combination of excellent blacks and wide dynamic range, along with an accurate greyscale and colour gamut resulted in some wonderful images. The opening montage on the Spears & Munsil disc looked spectacular with plenty of detail combined with accurate colours and solid blacks. With standard definition material the results weren’t as good with the poor deinterlacing revealing jaggies in the image, especially when watching DVDs This was less of an issue when watching standard definition broadcasts because the compression artefacts were far more obvious and tended to mask the issues with deinterlacing. Having said that he Freeview tuner on the 55NX813 was actually very good and any limitations in the image were more the fault of the broadcaster than any failure on the part of the display.
Unfortunately even with high definition content the wonderful images were compromised because of two major issues with the 55NX813. Firstly the use of LED edge lighting results in an uneven backlight that is especially obvious during darker scenes. It would seem that the uniformity of the backlight is something of a lottery with some being very poor and others being tolerable. To be honest the backlight uniformity on my review sample wasn’t too bad and I have seen worse with other manufacturers because it is largely a limitation of the technology but it is still something to be aware of. The use of LED edge lighting is designed to enable manufacturers to produce very thin displays and obviously picture quality is being compromised to meet marketing demands but you wonder why Sony bothered when the 55NX813 isn’t even that thin when compared to some of the competition.
The second problem relates to off-axis performance and here the 55NX813 performed very poorly. The 55NX813 uses Sony’s OpiContrast Panel which is designed to minimise reflections and improve perceived contrast, and I found this to be the case as long as you are sat dead centre. Unfortunately, if you weren’t sat dead centre or if you moved your head even a foot or two to either side, the blacks turned a deep purple and I’m not referring to the band. Given that this is a reasonably large screen at 55” - even with two people watching you could see a loss of black at the opposite side of the screen to where the viewer was sat. This totally destroyed the dynamic range for anyone watching in an off-centre position and given this is a large screen aimed at family viewing Sony should really consider using an IPS panel.
Picture Quality - 3DThe 3D was a definite disappointment and it is difficult to decide where the problem lies. Certainly the glasses are an issue and as I’ve already mentioned they have a tendency to lose synch easily. In addition their tolerance to tilting your head is almost non-existent, if you move your head even slightly the 3D effect is lost so Sony really need to address this. As I mentioned earlier there is an option in the 3D menu to adjust the brightness of the glasses by changing the amount of time that the shutters stay open. However this is really designed to address the dimness of Sony’s 3D projectors and brightness in 3D mode wasn’t a problem for the 55NX813. For this reason always make sure that the shutter control is set to the fastest (dimmest) setting because the longer the shutter is open the brighter the image but the greater the crosstalk and frankly there is too much crosstalk already.
In fairness to the 55NX813 crosstalk is always going to be something of an issue because as an LCD display it will struggle to refresh the image fast enough, especially when compared to a plasma. In addition, there appeared to be another issue which was a loss of depth in backgrounds which might be a manifestation of the crosstalk issues. However even when watching a reference disc such as Avatar I found that whilst the foreground images had plenty of depth and very little crosstalk the background was flat and devoid of dimensionality. No matter what 3D disc I tried I kept seeing a loss of depth in the backgrounds and if I tried to use the depth control I just screwed up the foreground instead. This issue was especially obvious at the start of the 3D game Super Stardust where the background star field just looked wrong.
On the plus side, the 55NX813 didn’t have any problems detecting the different 3D formats, be it the sequential method found on 3D Blu-rays or the side by side approach used by Sky 3D. Sony also includes a 2D to 3D feature that they call Simulated 3D effect but as with all these features it only produces an approximation of 3D and it soon becomes confused and uncomfortable to watch. Let’s be honest, if the studios can’t produce believable 2D to 3D conversions of movies when they can spend months and millions of dollars, do you really expect a TV chip working in real time to do any better?
- Theatre mode button provides a reasonably accurate preset
- Black level and contrast are superior to many other LCD TVs
- Very good calibrated greyscale and colour gamut
- Correctly detected 2:2 and 2:3 cadence
- Good 2D performance, especially with high definition material
- Bravia Internet Video and Widget functionality
- Extensive networking and connectivity options
- 200Hz Motionflow feature can be disabled
- Attractive design
- Built-in WiFi
- Built-in Freeview HD tuner
- Poor backlight uniformity
- 3D emitter not built-in
- 3D glasses lose synch easily
- Mediocre 3D performance
- Poor off-axis performance
- Diagonal interpolation (smoothing of jaggies in video material) is poor
- Lack of a colour management system
- Lack of 10 point white balance controls
- Side inputs could be better positioned
- Menu is slightly unresponsive
- Expensive compared to the competition
Sony NX813 (KDL-55NX813) 3D LCD TV Review
For too long now Sony has been resting on its laurels and relying too heavily on brand recognition, attractive design and aggressive marketing to sell displays. The Bravia KDL-55NX813 is a good example of this approach, it isn’t that it’s a bad display it’s just that at this price point it isn’t good enough.
As you would expect from Sony the design is excellent with the 55NX813 sporting an attractive single glass front and solid build quality. In addition the features are also very good with built-in WiFi and Freeview HD, along with excellent internet and streaming functionality. So it is amazing that Sony haven’t bothered to build the 3D emitter into the display, especially when all the other manufacturers do even on their cheaper displays. Aside from the additional cost you also ruin the sleek lines of the 55NX813 by having to stick the emitter on the top of the chassis.
This slightly schizophrenic approach towards design and performance applies to other areas too. For example the black level, contrast ratio and dynamic range on the 55NX813 are all very good for an LCD display but the off-axis performance is so bad that if you move your head even a couple of feet to the left or right the blacks turn purple and the contrast performance is destroyed. The 55NX813 also utilises LED side lighting, yet the chassis isn’t as thin as you would expect and their use results in some poor backlight uniformity that is noticeable in dark scenes.
Thanks to a reasonably accurate greyscale and colour gamut the 55NX813 performs very well with 2D high definition material but when it comes to standard definition content is let down by some very mediocre video processing. The 3D performance also wasn’t as impressive as it should have been and suffered from poorly defined depth and an excessive degree of crosstalk.
Other areas were also a little hit and miss, especially the menu system which whilst being Sony’s familiar Xcross Media Bar (XMB) was rather sluggish in performance. The same was true of the rear connections, which whilst comprehensive suffered from some being too close to the edge of the chassis which means that if you use these inputs there are unsightly cables at the sides. Finally the remote control looked attractive but was actually rather uncomfortable to use and had some poorly positioned buttons.
Ultimately the 55NX813 is something of a missed opportunity that fails to deliver the necessary performance that I would expect from a display at this price point. The simple fact is that there are better displays available for less money and I can only hope that Sony takes the opportunity to raise their game in 2011.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,499.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money6
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