Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sony KDL46HX853 Review

Sitting down here in the cellar with many hours to spare as twilight arrives you need a decent viewing device to spend your time enslaving yourself within other worlds, hence I recently began looking for a new television to add some modernity to the dark walls of the cellar.  Sony have always had a great name for televisions, a fact that's been eroded in the last two or three years by a series of lacklustre sets from the electronics giant. Admittedly most of the sets I've bought over the years have been manufactured by Sony, because generally I've found them to be reliable, and good performers. After reading a few positive reviews I decided to finally go for this one to replace my last set. I actually watch most films on a HC6000 Mitsubishi projector but a TV for occasional viewing of stuff is what I wanted in another room. Firstly the neatly packed TV is surprisingly light - around 19Kg for a 46" set with a speaker base is pretty good and a nice contrast to the memory of lugging a 50Kg 28" CRT set up the stairs to my bedroom! Setting it up takes 40 minutes or so and once unpacked involves bolting it to the sound base (unless you plan on attaching it to the wall - there are holes for this but you'll need to buy the bracket separately). The hardest bit here is laying it carefully face down (on something soft!) and then lifting it on to the base that you've just got ready - easier with two people but I did manage it alone. It must be said that the set looks fantastic and really stands out as a modern piece of kit in your living room (or cellar in my case) - the black glass screen looks lovely even switched off! While the slightly tilted angle serves to give it a contemporary edge as well as facilitating the viewing angle of the average sofa-seated human. I'd say it actually looks nicer in the flesh than it does in the publicity photographs you may see on line. The remote is neatly laid out and easy to use (it will also operate other equipment, such as a Sony Blu-ray player), and round the back of the set you'll find plenty of connections including several HDMI sockets, a Scart for your old video machine, audio outputs, USB, etc.
Switching on, initialisation is quick and you can be ready to go in minutes. The menus are attractive and intuitive, plus you'll find that you can connect to the internet to easily browse material there (albeit in lower resolutions).  There are many, many personalisation sliders for image and sound control, from the basics of brightness/contrast/colour through to gamma, 'reality-enhancer', noise reduction controls, etc etc. There are some pre-defined modes for those who don't want to mess, though some of them look awful. Make sure you set the audio to come through the sound base rather than the TV speakers - there's a noticeable improvement in quality and contrary to many flat screen sets, it actually sounds rather good. Of course it's no match for a proper 5.1 or 7.1 set-up but the audio quality surprised me nonetheless. One small gripe is that the more advanced side of the manual is actually on the TV itself, making it more difficult to read about settings whilst changing them - there is a basic hard copy manual to get you started, however, I can understand the ecological reasons behind the decision so I think it can be forgiven. Image quality with Blu-ray Discs is wonderful - extremely sharp, colourful, and vivid, whilst black levels are excellent (this is a LED set with local rather than edge dimming, and this blows away older LCD sets). Quite surprising though is the apparent detail of upscaled DVDs - I've never actually seen DVDs look this good and I found it a pleasure re-watching a few of my old discs as they looked better than ever. Of course one of the main selling points of this set is the fact that it's 3D capable, specifically the active shutter variety (i.e. you get a full 1080p image fired at each eye, rather than the half resolution of the passive format). It doesn't come with any spectacles (the price point of the set is already very good and I guess it helped keep the cost down if it shipped with specs) so I also picked up the TDGBR750 (I'm assuming you know that you will also need a 3D Blu-ray player - which are quite cheap nowadays - and a HDMI cable to connect the player to the set). Having watched a couple of 3D discs now I'm really impressed - you may need to give your eyes a minute or two to adjust to the effect but, once settled, the depth (depending on the film) is gripping and addictive to watch. Evident is occasional cross-talk (where one eye picks up the image intended for the other) but overall the impact is not a million miles off what you'd expect at a 3D cinema projection. In fact as soon as I'd watched one 3D Blu-ray I immediately went on line and ordered two more! It's incredible that we've got this kind of technology available in our homes these days.  There is a 2D-3D conversion mode for standard discs but, whilst there is the illusion of some depth I generally think modes such as this are a waste of time.

£1200 may seem a lot to pay for a TV but you're going to be living with it for a few years and probably getting a couple of hours viewing out of it each day on average, so I think it's worth paying when you get performance this strong. It's pretty much the best TV I've ever watched anything on, and to get a hike in quality beyond this you're probably looking at spending two or three grand on a set. Given the best balance of price versus performance, I think the KDL46HX853 is something you seriously need to consider if you're buying a new set.  It looks awesome, whether you're watching anything on it or not :)

*Update* It's worth noting that the LED control is switched off by default - switching this one (via the advanced picture menu) substantially enhances contrast and black levels. Also be aware that the settings for each input can be customised, but if the plugged-in Blu-ray player to a particular HDMI input also outputs a 3D signal then there are two batches of settings for the same input - one for 2D, one for 3D. Essentially if you've set everything up based on a 2D blu-ray disc then you will also need to customize the default settings for a 3D disc separately. You only need to do this once (i.e. not every time you switch on the equipment) and the TV chooses automatically, but thought I would point this out because altering the set-up for 3D separately is easily overlooked, but does yield significantly improved results if indulged.

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