The Sony HX850 produces a terrific picture, and is as pretty to look at when it is off as when it is on. However, you'll also pay a pretty penny to get one for your home theater, and some popular extras -- 3D and Internet streaming -- don't impress some experts.
The Sony HX850 series includes two models: the 55-inch Sony Bravia KDL-55HX850 (*Est. $2,300) and the 46-inch KDL-46HX850 (*Est. $1,900). Both sets share similar specifications aside from screen size and should perform similarly.
Picture quality is stellar in most regards. While no TV is perfect, and no TV image escapes a little jabbing from a reviewer over one issue or another, the HX850 scores well enough with most to safely put it at or near the top of the 2012 class, at least for now. Blacks are deep, most say -- among the deepest of any non-plasma TV. Colors are also excellent out of the box, though there are some very small quibbles when it comes to the set's blue performance. FlatpanelsHD.com reports that those who crave absolute perfection in their color accuracy can calibrate their set and get it -- with Rasmus Larsen saying that post-calibration color accuracy "is excellent and better than on the majority of 'LED' models out there."
Like any edge-lit LED design, some uniformity issues are almost inevitable; however, just about all reviewers say that the HX850 does a better job than most TVs of its type in keeping those under control. Some reviewers say that the HX850 falls a little short in picture quality compared to last year's XBR-XH929 sets (Sony's flagship XBR TVs for 2012 had yet to be introduced at the time this was written). However, as CNET's Ty Pendlebury notes, the HX850 "features 95 percent of the HX929's picture at about 80 percent of the cost, give or take a shekel."
Feature packed, but some could disappoint. The HX850 lacks the cutting-edge magic of some of Samsung's high-end TVs, such as the Samsung ES8000. It won't respond to voice and gesture commands, for example, nor can you add new features and functions via a module. However, the more typical and expected features such as 3D and Internet streaming are present and accounted for.
We found a divergence of opinions when it came to the HX850's 3D performance. This set uses active 3D technology, which delivers 3D in a higher resolution than passive 3D, but is subject to artifacts such as ghosting (caused by crosstalk -- one eye seeing information intended for the other eye). CNET, on one hand, says that "The Sony is one of the better LCD models for 3D with a more subtle 3D effect and less crosstalk than on its competitors." TelevisionInfo.com is even more impressed.
However, other reviewers, including FlatpanelsHD.com, still find crosstalk to be too frequent to make the 3D experience anything but "fair," -- though adding that they find the same to be true with competing LCD TVs. Sony does not yet support the new standard that will let you use any maker's 3D glasses with any maker's 3D set, and no 3D glasses are included in the box, so figure on laying out an additional $50 or so per pair if you do want to watch 3D.
Internet streaming also comes in for some moderate to hard knocks. Content isn't the issue; though the line-up of partners isn't particularly broad compared to what's available via some other set makers, all the important bases are covered. Instead, it's the interface that disappoints a few. They say it's confusing, with content accessible through multiple portals -- such as Sony's familiar (at least to Sony users) Xross Media Bar (XMB) interface or the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) screen. Finding content often requires multiple remote clicks as you work your way through the TV's menus. "I consider myself fairly technical but I always appreciate a user-friendly interface, and I have to admit that I still found navigation confusing after many days of testing," says FlatpanelsHD.com's Rasmus Larsen.
Other streaming options include local content from a computer or other device on the same network (the HX850 is DLNA-compliant). There's also a built-in web browser, though nearly everyone says you won't really want to use it unless you are desperate. Wi-Fi is built in.
The monolithic design draws appreciation. Made of Corning Gorilla Glass, the screen is held in place by an edge band that presents just a sliver of silver to those viewing the set from in front. The screen sports a glossy finish and tends to attract fingerprints, but doesn't do the worst job of fighting off room reflections as long as placement relative to windows and lamps is reasonable. The stand does not swivel, but the twin arms arc up and their thin profile makes the set look like it's floating in space, some say. The edge-lit design makes a super-slim cabinet possible. The remote is undistinguished but very usable. Connectivity is ample.
Expensive, but a top performer -- and don't bother looking for bargains. There's no doubt that the HX850 is a pricey TV, and the value proposition is made worse because some of its jazzier features could be better executed. But few TVs in its price range offer picture quality that's quite as good. Shopping around is unlikely to save you much money, as the HX850 falls under Sony's Unilateral Pricing Policy (see this blog post for more information) that sets the lowest price at which the set can be sold by authorized dealers.
Other high-end TVs, such as the Samsung ES8000, leave the HX850 behind when it comes to cutting-edge features and how well their shared features perform. However, when it comes to core TV performance, you'll be hard-pressed to find a TV set for less that performs as well, and you'll likely need to spend a lot more to find one that performs better.
Review Credibility: Excellent CNET's HDTV reviews are testing based, well detailed and competently executed. In its tests the Sony KDL-55HX850 is not bobble free, and it is expensive, but it is also called a strong performer and a good-looker that should appeal to videophiles.
Review: Sony KDL-55HX850 Review, Ty Pendlebury, May 18, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Technophiles will love the detail-packed reports at TelevisionInfo.com. For the rest of us, there are clear ratings and conclusions that leave no doubt about whether a TV set is any good. Some pokes are taken at the Sony KDL-55HX850's Internet capabilities, and Josh Fields says that "it's definitely not the hands-down best TV on the market." But that's not to say that it isn't very, very good, and testimony that not all is lost at Sony when it comes to making top-shelf sets.
Review: Sony Bravia KDL-55HX850, Josh Fields, June 22, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Europe's FlatpanelsHD.com has established a reputation in videophile circles as a competent and reliable reviewer of display products, including HDTVs. When it comes to sets in Sony's HX850 series (and HX853 series in Europe), Rasmus Larsen finds the TV's core performance to be very good and the design elegant, but is let down by both the 3D performance and Internet features. Value is also a concern.
Review: Sony HX850 (HX853), Rasmus Larsen, May 11, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good PCMag.com is another reviewer that offers technically oriented reports on a variety of LCD sets. The Sony KDL-55HX850 has a few test-bench bobbles -- particularly a poor contrast ratio -- but still provides excellent picture quality. It is "a bit pricey," however, says John Delaney.
Review: Sony Bravia KDL-55HX850, John R. Delaney, June 25, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good ConsumerReports.org has stepped up its game of late when it comes to TV reviews. Though discussion is sometimes still dwarfed by other reviewers, it's greatly expanded from years past and free of the sometimes head-scratching jargon that could leave non-videophiles perplexed and confused. On the downside, testing, while assuredly competent, is not as well detailed as at many other sites. The Sony KDL-55HX850 is among the many current-year -- and many past-year -- TVs that receive reviews here, but the content is only available to subscribers.
Review: Sony Bravia KDL-55HX850, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
6. LCDTV Buying Guide.com
Review Credibility: Good LCDTVBuyingGuide.com provides competent reports, though the presentation isn't as accessible as with some other reviews. Picture quality is addressed but oddly not rated, even though it appears to be well liked. Features and value both come in for some criticism.
Review: Sony KDL46HX850 (KDL-46HX850) Review, Robert Wiley, Not Dated