Step one is going to the Custom mode, which essentially enables the Sony to defeat most of the various picture processing modes (not a bad thing) and also puts the set into the best picture mode of the available options. Even in the Custom mode, however, backlight level is still on the high side and needs to be trimmed back in order to achieve a reasonably bright picture in a moderately lit room while still providing the best blacks and shadow detail.
We suggest that you follow our recommended settings at first, and then—once you’re familiar with the set’s picture quality—experiment to see which (if any) of the numerous picture-processing options actually provides a picture improvement.
• Color: 45
• Tint: 0
• Sharpness: 50
• Picture Mode: Custom
• Backlight: 2 (provides ~44 foot-Lamberts)
• Color Temp: Warm 2
• Gamma: 0 (provides an ideal 2.2 value)
• HD size (pixel-to-pixel): Full Pixel
• NR: Off
• MPEG NR: Off
• Dot NR: Off
• Reality Creation: Off
• Smooth Gradation: Off
• Motionflow: Standard
• Cinemotion: Off
• Black Corrector: Off
• Advanced Contrast Enhancer: Off
• LED Dynamic Control: Low
• Auto Light Limiter: Off
• Clear White: Off
• Live Color: Off
• Detail Enhancer: Off
• Edge Enhancer: Off
• Presence Sensor: Off
3D Blu-ray Evaluation: Sony Hawaii Open Golf
Even though this clip was captured in 720p 3D (and only available on a Sony 3D Blu-ray demo disc), it’s great for evaluating picture detail. One would never know it was upconverted from 720p, as it’s as clear and crisp as any native 3D 1080-line video clip I’ve seen. The screen uniformity is very good, especially when the closing animated tournament logo is shown.
While the Custom picture mode provides a mostly good set of picture setting defaults, the color saturation is still on the high side. Bringing it down somewhat tames the color, enabling the set to produce lifelike and believable flesh tones.
When the backlight level is trimmed back from the Custom mode’s default setting, the Sony delivers excellent blacks, as is also evident from the animated logo at the end of the clip, which features a flowing ribbon of rich deep black, followed by Sony’s 3D animated logo consisting of moving stars set against a jet black background.
At the end of the clip, the tournament winner is shown with a golden trophy, and off to the left side in the shadows of the late afternoon the fans can be clearly seen.
Broadcast HDTV Evaluation: The Voice (NBC)
At the default screen size setting, there’s a fair bit of overscan, which can rob some very fine detail. When it’s set to Full Pixel, the screen delivers true 1920x1080 resolution, and this live show (shot in 1080i) looks just great, with especially crisp graphics.
On the test bench, the Sony delivers superlative colorimetry, but only when the Custom setting is chosen. Trimming back the color saturation a bit provides for very natural flesh tones, but retains the show’s color vividness.
It should be clear to all by now that the transition from conventional CCFL backlighting to LED edgelighting provides superior deep blacks, and here the Sony delivers rich blacks that rival plasma, as long as the backlighting is set to a reasonable level.
With the Custom mode’s too-high default backlight setting, shadow detail suffers somewhat. When it’s set at “2”, there’s still plenty of brightness, and the audience behind the four music celebrities in the shadows can be clearly seen.
Although not at the top of the Sony Bravia line of 3D LED HDTVs, the HX729 seems to strike a very good balance between price and performance. The next model up in the range, the HX820, adds only one key feature that I can see, which is an imaging panel protected by Corning’s “Gorilla Glass”, an extra strength glass touted for its superior resistance to bumps and shocks. That’s perhaps a nod to the gamer crowd who might be a little too exuberant with their handheld motion remote controls. Note however that 3D glasses aren’t included with the HX729, as they are with some competitive models.