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The is a good looking TV, in the tradition that Sony designers have established for the past few years. Clean lines, an ever-diminishing bezel, and a remarkable thinness are the hallmarks that continue to improve with each new generation. This particular model does not offer the Sony-branded "monolith" design that features a single sheet of glass across the entire facade, but we don't feel that there's a huge aesthetic gap here. We like this just as much.

Front Tour Image
Back Tour Image
Sides Tour Image

The 's stand allows the panel to swivel back the forth, aiding in both viewing angle and access to the rear ports. The stand also feels plenty sturdy, though if you live in earthquake country it never hurts to anchor the panel to a wall.

There are a series of hard plastic buttons on the back of the for controlling the TV's basic functions like power, volume, channel up/down, etc. We appreciate that Sony put these on the back of the TV as easy distinguished buttons rather than a series of flat, touch-sensitive "areas" on the bezel that function as buttons. Those are frequently hard to locate in the dark and leave fingerprints everywhere.

Controls Photo

The controls are well-positioned around the back of the panel

The 's remote control is an exemplary model of design. The feel of the buttons is just the right combination of shape and feel. The button layout is intuitive and you'll be doing no-look controlling after just a few minutes. New features this year include call-out buttons for key features like Netflix, Qriocity (unneeded, in our opinion), the i-Manual, and TrackID.

Remote Control Photo

A great remote control, for the most part

The comes with the stand, remote control & batteries, assorted documentation, and the "getting started" manual.

The produced a deepest black level of 0.07 cd/m2. By comparison, the three TVs we pulled in for comparison were all better in this test. We expected the Panasonic ST30 and Samsung PN51D6500 to produce blacker blacks because they're plasmas. It was a surprise that the Samsung UN46D6500, an LCD television like the , did so well. That's not to say that the was bad, in fact it was rather good, but outclassed in this regard. More on how we test black level.

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Black Level Chart

The has a tremendously bright screen, managing peak brightnesses upwards of 358.63 cd/m2. That far surpassed the three comparison TVs. More on how we test peak brightness.

Peak Brightness Chart

The contrast is simply the peak brightness divided by the black level, nothing more complicated than that. As we stated above, the black level was good but not great. The peak whites were extremely bright. In the end, we found a contrast ratio of 5123:1. That's quite good, if you look at how it stacks up against the competition. More on how we test contrast.

Contrast Chart

The had little trouble maintaining a consistent black level, even if the amount of black area on the screen increased or decreased. More on how we test tunnel contrast.

Tunnel Contrast Chart

The produced a perfectly even peak brightness even as the amount of white area on the screen varied. More on how we test white falloff.

White Falloff Chart

The has an LED-edgelit screen, which means the illuminating elements are arranged in a perimeter around the edge of the screen. The benefit of such technology is that the panel can be manufactured to be remarkably thin. However, it means that More on how we test white falloff.

The greyscale gamma test tells us how well a TV transitions from black to white within the greyscale. In the graph below, first we're looking at the smoothness of the line. Bumps in the line would indicate areas where we might see banding. Fortunately, the 's line in almost perfectly smooth. In the lower left portion, we see that the line goes flat for a short stretch. This area represents the shadows, and we can tell that for the very darkest shadows, the can't make out any detail. This is common in most TVs, so the Sony really isn't that bad.

Finally, we're looking at the slope of the curve. An ideal curve is between 2.1 and 2.2. The 's performance was about 2.63, which is steeper than ideal. The TV may be missing out on some of the finer gradations, but overall this is a good performance. More on how we test greyscale gamma.

Greyscale Gamma Chart

The produced a very steady color temperature throughout the signal range. What little variance there was should remain outside the range of perceptibility to your puny human eyeballs. More on how we test color temperature.

Color Temperature Chart

The gave a near-exemplary performance in our RGB color curve tests. Look at the chart below. The lines are very smooth and the red, green, and blue channels move in uniformity. None of the TVs we pulled in for comparison were as smooth or uniform. More on how we test RGB curves.

RGB Curves Chart

The strips below are digital recreations of the RGB color curve test, along with the performances of three similar TVs and an ideal response curve.

Sony makes an awfully big claim here by stating the the by bandying about the number "480." Of course, you need to read between the lines to discover that they're not claiming a 480Hz refresh rate. Rather, the states a feature ambiguously named "MotionFlow XR 480." The true refresh rate is actually 240Hz, which means the entire screen is refreshing 240 times per second. That should be impressive enough on its own, but the new MotionFlow XR 480 means that the TV is doing additional interpolation between frames in order to make the picture look smoother. We just want to make this clear.

To its credit, the MotionFlow feature does a great job of smoothing out the judder and fine detail loss you would otherwise experience if the feature was off. For sports footage, this can be great. However, film-based content (or video shot to look like film) is meant to have a certain blurriness. If you enable MotionFlow here, the picture becomes overly crisp and, welll... wrong looking for lack of a better term. Use it, but use it wisely. More on how we test motion performance.

The did show some problems with native 24fps content, like to what you'd get from a Blu-Ray movie. We noticed that certain high contrast, high frequency patterns created Moire and flickering. In most of the other Sonys we've reviewed recently, we simply located the Film Mode setting and played around with the options. No such luck here, as the TV continued to flicker no matter what features we enabled. It's not a huge problem, but we're surprised that the had any trouble at all. More on how we test 3:2 pulldown and 24fps.

The has a native 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution, but most of the content you'll be feeding the TV will probably be of a lower resolution. It's up to the TV's internal processing to figure out how to take that content and fit it to the screen. Overall, the TV is good at this task. More on how we test resolution scaling.

480p

When we looked at 480p content displayed on the , the screen loses 2% on all sides due to overscan, an unfortunate but frequent occurrence.

720p

With 720p content, the TV showed no overscan loss, but did produce Moires in high contrast, high frequency patterns.

The uses an active shutter technology to produce the 3D effect. This means that the glasses are electronically synced with the TV, alternately shutting off one eye, then the other, in rapid succession. At the same time, the TV screen is alternating rapidly between an image intended for one eye, then the other, in the a synched rhythm. Currently, active shutter technology seems to be more frequently employed for home 3D than the competing technology called passive 3D (a.k.a. "Cinema 3D" or "Natural 3D" depending on the manufacturer).

While the 3D experience has improved overall in the and the rest of its second-generation brood, we're still far from satisfied. While certain models have made huge leaps in the tolerability, the is not among them. We couldn't get past a disruptive and headache-inducing flicker. We're not sure if this is due to screen refresh rate, or the glasses, or some combination.

Thankfully, all other aspects of the 3D performance seem to have improved since last year. Read below for the breakdown.

The requires the use of glasses to watch the 3D content, like nearly every 3D TV on the market. Unfortunately, the glasses are tinted, which significantly reduces the amount of light getting to your eyes (they're sunglasses, in other words). As a result, the immensely bright peak whites of the 2D performance drop from 358.63 cd/m2 to 52.99 cd/m2. The black levels get a little darker too, which can be considered a benefit in way, but not enough to salvage the loss of contrast ratio.

3D Contrast Chart

The color performance remains largely unchanged from 2D to 3D, which is a real coup for Sony. Because the 3D glasses have a tint, the color processing of the display must be shifted to accommodate perceived changes in color. Clearly, they've done a great job at it.

The color temperature consistency was the most affected of our three tests in determining color performance, and even this was by a very minor degree.

3D Color Temperature Chart

The color curves are perfectly smooth and the red, green, and blue channels move in near-perfect unison.

3D RGB Curves Chart

In the color gamut tests, the red and green points remained largely unchanged. The blue point was severely undersaturated and the white point (those _E_s in the middle) warmed noticeably. Overall, though, the changes were acceptable.

3D Color Gamut Chart

A 3D TV works by sending two slightly different images to each eye. When information intended for one eye leaks into the other eye, that's called crosstalk and it's one of the chief causes of a breakdown in the 3D effect. We can measure the crosstalk pretty effectively and we found that Sony made big improvements over last year's models. The biggest problem is still any area of the screen with high contrast. White on black, green on black, and red on black all created a lot of crosstalk. To the casual observer, this will appear as haloing around objects.

By comparison, the plasma TVs that we reviewed (also using active shutter) all produced less crosstalk. This is the primary reason why we're comfortable saying that plasma 3D is more enjoyable to watch than LCD 3D, at least at this time.

No glasses actually ship with the in the box. In order to take advantage of the 3D, you'll need to pony up about $70 (go to the Sony Style store product page). Is it ridiculous that you spend all this money on a TV then have to pay even more for glasses? Sure, but no one ever suspected Sony of being a non-profit.

The glasses are lighter and more well-balanced than last year's first-generation glasses. They still make you look like a complete dork, though.

3D Glasses Photo

The glasses are definitely an improvement from last year

The is a native 1080p (1920 x 1080) television, but can handle all standard NTSC content.

The is an LCD television, and as such, we don't expect much from the viewing angle, especially compared to plasma TVs. As you can see in the chart below, it didn't do so hot, measuring only 17 degrees from center (or 35 degrees in total).

Viewing Angle Chart

The , like many higher-end LCD TVs, has a special process to try and reduce the distractions caused by ambient light. When it's bad, a bright light in the room can wash out the darker areas of the screen and kill the contrast ratio. This TV defracts incoming light to reduce this type of washout. As a result, sharp ambient light (like a bare light bulb) will create a strange, rainbow-like reflection. If you can move the light a little, or turn the TV panel, this should go away.

There are so many video processing features on the that we needed to make two tables. Please forgive the odd formatting.

| Setting | Claimed Function | Our Impression |

| Auto Light Limiter | Reduces glare such as in scenes where the entire screen is white | Little noticeable effect |

| Clear White | Emphasizes white colors | Makes whites slightly whiter |

| Live Color | Makes colors more vivid | Oversaturates color |

| Detail Enhancer | Enhances the details of the picture | Sharpens picture |

| Edge Enhancer | Enhances the edges of the picture | Sharpens edges of objects |

The is easy to calibrate, as the Cinema preference mode hits it awfully close to the mark. We only had to make a few tweaks to optimize the picture quality. See the chart below for details.

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DisplayMate_Logo.jpg

All of our calibration is done in conjunction with the DisplayMate software.

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The has a number of video modes, but like so much of the interface, the choices are spread out across multiple menus to create maximum confusion (that's the only logical conclusion, based on how effective Sony has gotten at confusion). In the Picture mode submenu, you'll find the options for Vivid, Standard, and Custom. In the Preferences submenu, you'll find the rest of the choices, all listed below.

The is well-equipped for the modern home theater system, with an emphasis on "modern." The traditional AV inputs have been reduced to just one component and one composite AV input, along with four HDMIs.

Connectivity Tour Image 1

The more interesting options represent where TV is going, namely beyond your little wooden and glass shelving in the living room. The supports DLNA so you can connect to your local network via the LAN port and built-in WiFi. The TV extends out again to the internet, offering a huge collection of streaming content choices (see Multimedia & Internet for details).

Connectivity Tour Image 2

To round out the bevy of connectivity options, you'll also find two USB ports that can play music, movies, and photos from USB mass storage devices, as well as an RS-232C for controlling the TV from a computer.

The ports on the are arranged along the back and side of the TV. Those facing the side, like the USBs and one of the HDMIs, are there because you're more likely to swap the inputs more regularly. The ports on the back are intended for more permanent connections. Fortunately, the TV panel swivels on its base, so everything is easy to reach.

The produced a decent audio quality, but we've certainly seen better from Sony and it's a long way from a dedicated surround sound system. If you're not ready for that expense quite yet, the TV offers a number of options in the menu for tweaking the performance. There are four preset modes: Dynamic, Standard, Clear Voice, and Custom. If you choose the Custom mode, you can tweak several more settings, including bass and treble, a surround sound emulator, and a full equalizer.

Last year, Sony had the best menu interface of any TV manufacturer, but apparently a lot can happen in a year. Now in 2011, the menu has become a bloated mess. The root of the problem, as far as we can surmise, is that Sony has been very aggressive with its expansion of online streaming content. However, they haven't figured out the most effective way to organize all the new choices. The TVs are getting "smarter," but the interface is not. (See Multimedia & Internet for details.)

Menu Main Photo

The menu has taken a dive since last year, too cluttered and arbitrarily cut-up

Some of the submenus, like the Picture Adjustments menu you see below, is a return to simpler, cleaner times. Good luck trying to find it, though.

Menu 2 Photo

The submenus are easier to navigate

The actually comes with two manuals. There's a print manual that covers the exterior functions of the TV, like ports and buttons. Then there's an "i-Manual" that covers the menu-based features, including picture and sound quality controls. This is available in two ones, as a built-in feature of the TV itself and as a browser-based guide for your computer. The i-Manual is difficult to navigate, as there's no keyword search or easy way to move from page to page.

Instruction Manual Photo

The included instruction manual (also available as a PDF) only covers the basics. The e-Manual covers all the TV's video quality features.

We've covered the streaming content options for 2011 Sonys in some detail in a previous review (note that the HX729 series lacks the internet browser found on the EX720 series). Overall, the impression is one of cluttered immensity. There are so many choices here, but it's frustrating to sort your way through them.

Internet Features 1 Photo

Some, but not all, of the streaming content options are located in this menu

The options are spread out into roughly three groupings. In one group they have their A-list partners like Amazon on Demand, Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, and a handful of others. But this isn't really just A-listers, because something like NHL Vault snuck in there, so we can assume that Sony has the ability to alter this list every time you refresh the content. Secondly, there's a huge group of second-tier partners all located in a submenu called Bravia Internet Video. The sheer number of video in here is kind of amazing, but navigating is slow and tedious. The third, and arguably least, of the categories is Qriocity, Sony's own streaming content service that gets a featured spot on the menu. What is it and why do you need to see it so prominently? (Answer: it's yet another Netflix/Amazon type service, and you don't.)

Internet Features 2 Photo

Just a few of the dozens of content partners, buried so far in the menu you may never find them.

Finally, Sony must have thought you needed even more streaming content, so it threw in the Yahoo toolbar. Basically a plug-and-play streaming content package for TV makers, it's easy for the manufacturers to claim they have a "smart TV" with little work on their part. Yahoo takes care of all content and apps for them. We really, really dislike Yahoo's tools. The interface is terrible and the speed is frequently an issue.

Internet Features 3 Photo

Why not throw in a Yahoo toolbar with a cute puppies app?! That oughtta round out this cluster&*#k.

The has two USB ports for connecting to USB mass storage devices like thumb drives. The interface is simple and straightforward (exactly the opposite of the internet content interface).

Local Media Playback 1 Photo

To play back local content, first choose a content type: photo, music, or video

There are lots of options for creating slideshows and playlists, be it movies, music, or photos. For a complete rundown of compatible file types, check the 's documentation.

Local Media Playback 2 Photo

Here you see the options for a creating photo slideshows

Power consumption continues to drop year over year, even at the inch screen size. If you look at the table below, you see that we test with the backlight at two different levels. For our picture performance tests, we raise the backlight to maximum. However, the has a very bright screen, so you can turn the backlight down considerably.

In the chart below, you can see how it compares to similar TVs. The top two on the chart are plasma TVs, which require dramatically more power to operate. The bottom two, including the , are LCD displays.

Power Consumption Chart

With each of these TVs, you're getting the same screen size, but for almost 100 dollars less the packs a better performance punch for your dollar. Not only does the Sony offer a wider range of ports and lower power consumption, but it matches up against the Samsung quite nicely in most other regards. The Sony offers more streaming content in sheer volume, but we like the Samsung's interface and approach to the "smart TV" concept so much better. If 3D is something that you think you'll be using more than occasionally, the Samsung has a slight advantage.

Here, the Samsung UN46D6500 slightly outperformed the , recording a lower deepest black, which helps it nab a wider contrast ratio than the . While it doesn't quite match the product:manufacturer/product:manufacturer's peak brightness, it does pass our unofficial threshold of 200 cd/m2 for viewing in brightly-lit rooms.

Contrast Chart

The easily outperformed the Samsung UN46D6500 here, as its RGB curves were able to net a higher score, and the Sony does not have the massive color temperature error towards the darkest end of signal intensity that the Samsung displayed.

Both TV sets handle motion extremely well, but the has the edge here. Really though, their performances were very close, and it would be difficult to notice a large difference between the two in this regard.

The has a slightly larger viewing angle than the Samsung, but both are fairly small, as is common among LCD HDTVs.

Though both sets have a sufficiently wide array of ports, each holds a well-defined advantage over the other. If you have an external sound system, you're going to want the digital and analog audio out options of the Samsung. If you want more composite video input options or onboard WiFi, you're going to want the .

The Samsung UN46D6500 lost a lot more contrast in 3D mode and the color performance also suffered a bit worse. However, the screen flicker on the was enough to make us avoid it. The Samsung had no such problem.

For around 400 dollars less than the , the Samsung PN51D6500 plasma TV offers five more inches of screen, deeper blacks, and a competitive array of streaming content. If its 3D you're after, a plasma is generally the better choice. If you plan on putting a TV in a bright, sunny room, we'd recommend the .

The Samsung recorded the deeper black level in our lab, but compared to the , its peak brightness falls short.

Contrast Chart

The is the clear winner here, too, as it scored a fair bit higher than the Samsung in RGB curves. It also displays less error in color temperature consistency.

The scored higher marks on motion performance, but both sets do a fantastic job here.

Here we see one of the inherent benefits of buying a plasma screen: its viewing angle. As you can see from the chart below, it absolutely dwarfs that of the .

If you want built-in WiFi and an extra composite video input, you're probably going to want to shell out for the . If these aren't so important to you, the Samsung provides a competitive amount of streaming content via its ethernet connection.

The Samsung PN51D6500 is a plasma TV. Since the inception of 3D in 2010, we've found plasmas to produce a more immersive (that is to say, "less terrible") 3D experience on the whole.

The Panasonic TC-P50ST30 is a good TV in its own right, especially if you're looking for affordable TV that can handle 3D adequately. The motion performance was an issue for us, and the streaming content lags far behind Sony. The may cost more, but that money goes towards a brighter screen, slightly better color performance, better motion performance, and a lot more streaming content.

The Panasonic ST30 has a far lower black level than the , but it lags seriously behind it when it comes to peak brightness. Despite the somewhat similar contrast ratios, the will perform better in a much wider range of lighting conditions.

Contrast Chart

There really isn't much of a contest here, as the displays much more even RGB curves, and far less color temperature error over most of the range of signal intensity than the Panasonic.

The trounced the Panasonic in handling motion, having no difficulty in keeping the picture smooth and relatively artifact-free. The Panasonic struggled greatly in these tests.

Plasma screens typically have much wider viewing angles than LCD-screened HDTVs, and the Panasonic is no different: its 152+ degree viewing angle absolutely dwarfs that of the .

The offers more analog audio and video input options, as well as one more HDMI port. Both sets have internet connectivity and both ethernet ports and WiFi, but the Sony's WiFi apparatus doesn't come as an external dongle that hangs out of the back of your TV.

The Panasonic TC-P50ST30 is a plasma TV. On the whole, we've found plasma TVs to produce less flicker and less crosstalk, two big obstacles to enjoying 3D.

The ($1709 MSRP) came out of our labs gleaming, though we expect no less from Sony TVs above a certain price point. The color performance was exemplary. The black level could have been a little darker, but the incredibly bright whites coupled with glare reduction make it a great choice for sunny rooms.

From the outside, the is a very attractive television. Once you sit down with it, though, you'll probably notice was a total mess they've made of the menu interface. This becomes a distinct disadvantage when you try to wade through the immense amount of streaming content Sony has made available.

The 3D performance is clearly superior to last year's first-generation models, but some problems linger. While color error has been all but eliminated, there was still a noticeable amount of crosstalk. Also, a persistent screen flicker caused us eyestrain after a few minutes. To this end, we still recommend plasmas for avid 3D fans.

Overall, the is a strong contender and gets our recommendation (provided you're okay with the caveats stated above).

The HX729 series is similar packs on the features like 3D display, built-in WiFi, DLNA support, and two USB ports for local media playback. There's also an RS-232C port for true AV enthusiasts that want to drive the TV from a computer (not to be confused with sourcing a video feed from a computer, which can be done with the VGA or HDMI ports on any TV).

This series also has some more dubious "features" that are more buzz words than performance-enhancing capabilities, though they certainly have their place. These include LED edge-lighting, which allows for a super-thin panel construction, but created an uneven illumination. There's also the "MotionFlow XR 480." It sounds like 480Hz, but it's really just 240Hz processing with extra interpolation thrown in.

Meet the tester

David Kender

David Kender

Editor in Chief

@davekender

David Kender oversees content at Reviewed as the Editor in Chief. He served as managing editor and editor in chief of Reviewed's ancestor, CamcorderInfo.com, helping to grow the company from a tiny staff to one of the most influential online review resources. In his time at Reviewed, David has helped to launch over 100 product categories and written too many articles to count.

See all of David Kender's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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