Last year, Sony’s Bravia line of 3D HDTVs was split into two distinct groups, with the upper tier models provided with 3D readiness features (built-in 3D infrared synchronization blaster), while lower tier models were only “3D capable,” and thus required the purchase of an outboard 3D IR sync transmitter to step up to full fledged 3D functionality. Thankfully, all of this year’s 3D models, including the KDL-56HX729 reviewed here, provide built-in 3D readiness features from the outset.
Consider this HDTV if: you’re looking for a well-performing 3D LED HDTV from a trusted brand and don’t mind having to shell out extra dollars for optional 3D active-shutter glasses.
Look elsewhere if: you want the largest 3D picture for about the same amount of money. Consider instead Panasonic’s TC-P55ST30 3D plasma, which at 55” is substantially larger than the 46” Sony, and is on sale at Panasonic’s web store for $1,610.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced 3D HDTVs):
• Overall picture quality (HD): 8
• Features: 8
• Connectivity: 7
• User interface: 8
• Value: 7
Although the carton box carries a prominent 480 Hz logo that suggests 480 Hz screen refresh, the fine print elsewhere adds that frame blanking (black frame insertion) is part of the process, which really qualifies the set as a 240 Hz model (the specs on Sony’s website also call out 240 Hz panel frequency).
Internet access is built-in via the wired RJ-45 LAN port along with built-in Wi-Fi (no USB adapter needed), and the set includes a full suite of Internet apps, including Sony’s own Qriosity subscription streaming service, as well as other streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Video on Demand. There are about two dozen other apps/channels as well, including a Skype app, which lets you make voice and video calls to other Skype users via an optional video camera/microphone adapter.
A media remote app is also available for iPhone and Android phone users that turns the phone into a remote control, including a QWERTY keyboard function.
Having built-in 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi is certainly a plus, as there’s no need to use one of the two available USB ports for an adapter, and for those who don’t have in-home Wi-Fi networks wired LAN access is provided via an RJ-45 Ethernet port. There are four HDMI inputs, but only one HD-compatible component video input, and only one composite A/V input. There’s an RBG PC input with a stereo 3.5mm audio input for PC gamers, and two audio inputs to complement the component and composite video inputs. An optical digital output is there for connection to an external audio system, which we always recommend, as well as a headphone output that can also be used to connect to an outboard audio system.
On Screen Display
New for this model is an improved OSD, which is similar to Sony’s cross media bar as found on other sets and most notably on Sony’s famous PlayStation products. The new layout features selection icons on both the bottom and right side of the screen, plus a large (roughly two thirds of the screen) viewing area showing whatever content is presently selected.
Picture adjustment options are split up into two groups, however, with the first group offering basic adjustment choices. To get deep within the full range of picture adjustments, users need to go to the toolbox section at the bottom of the Home screen to access them.
There’s also a fairly comprehensive on screen operating guide (i-MANUAL), which can be called up at any time.
While not backlit, the remote is fairly well laid out, with dedicated buttons for the i-MANUAL, as well as buttons for both Netflix and Sony’s Qriosity subscription streaming services. The cursor ring is surrounded by a sextet of buttons, but the cursor ring itself is a bit on the small side, and it’s all too easy to inadvertently press on one of the six buttons that surrounds it.
On the rear side of the remote, there’s a second power on/standby button, which I’ve seen on other Sony remotes before, and which similarly mystifies me as to what on earth it’s there for. Perhaps it’s for Martha Stewart Living aficionados, who can’t bear to see a remote control that has more than one button on it laying on the coffee table.