Packed with features, Sony’s latest top-line Bravia XBR 3DTVs are very well equipped (they currently offer two sizes in the HX929 series, a 55-incher and the 46-inch model tested here, with a third 65-inch version due to arrive in stores around Labor Day) and all three models provide 3D playback and 2D-3D upconversion, along with a broad suite of Internet apps, built-in Wi-Fi, and numerous video streaming content providers. What is more, the sets provide full array LED local dimming for optimum deep black reproduction and high contrast.
Consider this HDTV if: you’re looking for a top-performing LED 3DTV, as the Sony provides excellent picture quality that comes oh-so-close to the best plasma TVs out there.
Look elsewhere if: you’re looking for a higher value set, as this 46” XBR model carries a premium price tag that’s almost twice that of Sony’s same-sized and fine-performing KDL-46HX729 3D model, which The Perfect Vision recently tested.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced 3D HDTVs):
Overall picture quality (HD): 9
User interface: 8
As befits its top-line status, the Sony XBR 929 is pretty much loaded to the gills from a feature standpoint. With full array local LED backlight dimming, the set delivers excellent deep blacks, and compared to some earlier generation local dimming sets, this latest Sony doesn’t seem to suffer from halo effects. It’s a 3DTV of course and comes with a 2D-3D upconversion mode, but as with other 3D-capable sets out there, the upconverted 3D effect is very mild. It’s also an active (not passive) 3DTV, and the latest Sony 3D active shutter glasses (not included with the set) feature recharge capability via USB. The recharging time is pretty quick, with a three minute charge providing three hours of 3D viewing (a full charge takes a while longer, but delivers dozens of hours of 3D viewing). Sony’s new active 3D glasses are also priced at less than half of what the firm’s first generation non-rechargeable 3D glasses cost.
The set features built-in b/g/n Wi-Fi along with a wired RJ-45 LAN connection, and the set comes equipped with a generous array of Internet apps, including popular video subscription services such as Netflix, Amazon On Demand, Hulu, as well as Sony’s own Qriocity service.
From a video-processing standpoint, the set features fast screen refresh, which Sony refers to as MotionFlow 960. That suggests a 960 Hz screen refresh rate but that isn’t exactly the case, as the set combines interpolation along with black frame insertion. Still, with fast moving images, the processing provides a noticeable sharpening of fine detail, and the set includes a number of picture adjustment modes to enable tweaking things for optimum performance.
While the set’s remote control is fairly well designed, the Sony features compatibility with the popular Control 4 system remote control standard for easy operation via a touch panel setup. The set also includes Skype video calling capability, although you’ll need to spend some extra dollars for the optional video camera/microphone to take advantage of the feature (currently selling for $150 at Sony’s online store).
To keep the cabinet depth as slim as possible, the component video input requires a supplied dongle adapter. The adaptor can also be used as a composite video input, but it’s an either/or choice. That's in addition to a dedicated composite input. The four HDMI connections are split into lower rear panel and side panel pairs. There are two USB inputs on the side input panel, an RGB PC input and the wired LAN connection. A headphone output can be used to deliver audio to an external system, with fixed and variable output level options, and there’s also an optical digital audio output. As well, there's an RS-232C serial port for external automated control.
On Screen Display
Sony’s OSD design is about as good as it gets, and will be instantly familiar to anyone who owns a PlayStation game console. It’s easy and intuitive to navigate around the various sub-menus, and picture adjustments (of which there are many) are easy to access. The OSD also includes an onscreen operating manual, which is another plus.
Featuring soft blue backlighting, the remote control is fairly well designed. Large function keys surround the central cursor pad and the remote includes dedicated buttons for instantly accessing Netflix and Qriocity video streaming. The disc transport keys are on the small side however, and while the remote doesn’t feature dedicated input buttons, the source selector button is easy to find at the top of the remote, next to the power button. The remote also features additional power buttons for a DVD or Blu-ray disc player, audio system and a set-top cable or satellite box.