Sony Bravia 55HX820 LED HDTV Review: Great Quality, Slightly Pricey
At a Glance
(Editor's note: This review of the Sony Bravia 55HX820 is based on our hands-on testing and evaluation of the 46-inch Sony Bravia 46HX820. According to the manufacturer, the image quality and features should be equivalent for each TV in this model line.)
The 46-inch 1080p Sony Bravia 46HX820 is one of the most attractive HDTVs I've ever seen. This ultrathin, ultraslick LED LCD television delivers excellent picture quality, good simulated surround sound, active-shutter 3D, and a wealth of Internet options. Plus, it's practically a work of art.
Design and Peripherals
Sony outdid itself in designing the Bravia 46HX820. The set's very thin black bezel almost disappears when the machine is turned off, thanks to a glass screen that extends to the bezel's edges. The LG Infinia 50PZ950 has a similar "bezel-less" design, but Sony's set pulls it off much more successfully because the turned-off screen is just as black as the bezel that surrounds it. At the bottom of the screen, a small Sony logo subtly lights up for a moment when you turn the TV on or off. The Bravia logo (located in the upper left corner) does cheapens the look just slightly.
A member of Sony's edge-lit HX820 series, the Bravia 46HX820 measures just over 1 inch thick and weighs approximately 37 pounds, two characteristics that make it easily to mount on a wall. In case you prefer a more traditional set-up, the TV also comes with a black, rectangular, brushed- aluminum swivel stand that can turn 20 degrees to either side. The stand also tilts up 6 degrees.
Sony moved all of the set's buttons and ports to locations behind the screen, so as not to disrupt the visual style. The physical buttons--including power, input, home, channel up/down, volume up/down, and an Energy Saving switch--are on the right side.
The 46HX820's ports are located on the left side of the screen, and all of them run parallel to the screen to preserve the screen's ultrathin profile. Though parallel ports are convenient for wall mounting, they can be difficult to access (especially when they face downward). On the port panel facing to the left, you'll find two USB ports, two HDMI ports, a headphone jack, an optical audio-out, a PC connection, and a PC/HDMI 4 audio-in. The downward-facing panel has two more HDMI ports, a video/component-in, a cable/antenna hookup, and an ethernet port.
The Bravia's backlit remote looks and feels like other Sony remotes we've seen, which means, unfortunately, that it's blocky, heavy, and a bit uncomfortable to use. The remote is flat and shiny on the back, with a power button, but the front is concave. I can only assume that Sony adopted this design so that users can lay the remote face-down (without inadvertently pressing any of the buttons on the face) and enjoy its attractive, minimalist look. This may be visually appealing, but it's kind of clunky to use.
Most of the remote's dedicated buttons are located near its top, while numbers, channel up/down, and volume up/down buttons are on the bottom. The dedicated buttons include various input buttons; multimedia controls; and shortcuts to Netflix, Widgets, Internet Video, and Qriocity. In the center of the remote is a directional pad surrounded by navigational buttons--Sync Menu, Display, Options, Home, Return, and Guide. You also get four programmable buttons, each one a different color.
Internet-Connected TV, Basic Setup, and Onscreen Menus
The Bravia 46HX820 comes preloaded with Sony's video- and music-streaming service, Qriocity, as well as with various Internet widgets and apps. The app selection includes Amazon On Demand, Hulu Plus, Netflix, NHL Vault, Pandora, Skype (though you'll need your own camera/mic), Slacker, and YouTube. Widgets connect to eBay, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Weather, Yahoo Widgets, and some weird thing from Cracked.com called the Daily Puppy (it shows you a picture of a puppy).
Sony also supplies a Web browser for connecting directly to the Internet. The browser looks excellent and uses the available screen real-estate to the fullest, but it's extremely tedious to work with. Sony uses number-pad typing for entering in text--a method that seems slow at first, but quickly becomes pretty easy. If you'd prefer to use a QWERTY keyboard, you can download Sony's free Media Remote App for iOS/Android.
Initial setup for the TV is nice and thorough, covering not the regular options (language, viewing environment, country, date/time, and channel scanning), but speaker optimization, wireless or wired network setup, and automatic downloading of firmware updates.
Sony's user interface is slick and easy to use. The onscreen menus look good: Transitions are smooth and easy to navigate, and they don't obstruct your current content. The menus are a bit too numerous (why are there three menus for Internet content?), but they are generally easy to get around in. Pressing the Options button on your remote brings up a different menu, depending on the content you're currently viewing: If you're looking at a Web page, the menu lets you choose favorites or enter a URL; if you're watching a YouTube video, it allows rating or favoriting the video; if you're watching 3D media you can adjust the 3D settings.
If you want to adjust picture and audio settings, press the dedicated Home button on your remote. In the Home menu you'll find all sorts of settings: Preferences, Sound, Picture/Display, Product Support, Network, Channels & Inputs, and an i-Manual (Interactive Manual). In the Sound menu you can adjust audio and turn off keytones and startup sounds; and in the Picture/Display menu you can adjust backlight, brightness, color, hue, temperature, and sharpness, as well as advanced settings such as gamma and white balance. The i-Manual is an excellent addition-- easy to navigate, very thorough, and easy to understand.
The Bravia 46HX820 performed very well in our jury testing. One reviewer commented that our 720p Wheel of Fortune clip appeared to have fewer artifacts than we usually see in that clip. The set also did a nice job in our DVD upconversion tests of Phantom of the Opera, which other impressive sets haven't handled so well. And the 46HX820 performed well in our horizontal and diagonal panning tests, though the picture on the screen looked a little too bright in our still-life image comparison test.
This 3D-ready HDTV ships with two pairs of active-shutter glasses--a nice touch, considering how expensive active-shutter glasses typically are. In our tests, 3D images showed excellent depth, but motion-heavy scenes were sometimes jarring and a little nauseating. The shutter glasses were a bit heavy, too.
Sony lets you adjust 3D settings while you watch 3D content. The 3D menu includes options for turning the 3D on or off, adjusting the depth (between -2 and 2), adjusting the brightness of the glasses, and turning on "simulated 3D." Simulated 3D involves attempting to transform regular 2D content into pseudo-3D. It sort of works--basically the entire picture ends up looking a little recessed, but there's no depth within the picture.
The Bravia 46HX820's audio quality is extremely good. The sound system consists of three rear-facing 10-watt speakers in a 2.1 configuration. The maximum volume is quite loud, sound has depth, and the virtual surround sound option replicates real surround sound effectively.
Sony's Bravia 46HX820 is a gorgeous 46-inch HDTV with superb picture quality, great sound quality, and plenty of Internet-connected options. The primary selling point of this set is obviously the design--as I said earlier, it's one of the sexiest HDTVs I've ever seen--but it does have some drawbacks: fewer (and less accessible) ports than other TVs, potentially confusing menus, and a big and clunky remote. But if you're looking for some HDTV eye-candy, this set definitely qualifies.