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Editor's note: This review of the Sony HX800 series is based on our hands-on testing and evaluation of the 40-inch 40HX800. According to the manufacturer, the image quality and features should be equivalent for each TV in this model line.
The Sony Bravia HX800 series is a family of 3D-enabled, 1080p LED HDTVs with a 240Hz refresh rate and a slew of Web apps.
The Sony HX800 series sports a thin, shiny black bezel with sharply squared-off corners, and it sits on a large, rectangular stand. The HDTV sits very close to the stand, with barely any space between the bottom of the set and the tabletop. Button controls for Power, Channels, Volume, Input, Home, and Energy-Saving (which toggles an eco mode) are hidden on the back of the television.
Most of the HX800's ports are located on the back of the TV and are situated so that most of the wires you attach will stick out perpendicularly to the screen. Sony provides two HDMI ports, one USB port, and one video-in port on the front left-hand side of the TV in case you want to mount it on your wall. On the back are a LAN port, two component ports, an audio-out, a digital audio-out, an audio-in, a cable/antenna plug-in, a 3D Sync port, a PC-in, and two HDMI ports.
The remote is flat on the back and concave on the front—an interesting design, but one that isn't great for flipping through channels or menus. The remote provides an unnecessary power button on the back to complement the one on the front. Surrounding the central joypad-style controller are dedicated buttons for Guide, Favorites, Display, Return, Home, and Options. If you watch a lot of TV, you'll appreciate the Favorites button, which automatically places recently viewed options in the menu. You can add anything you like to the Favorites menu, including music files, channels, and pictures.
The initial setup process leads you through a 22-step startup wizard that is surprisingly quick and painless; most of the steps take only a couple of seconds each to complete. In the startup wizard you can program language, viewing environment (home or retail), country, zip code, date/time, and network, and you can automatically tune your cable/antenna input.
Sony's on-screen menus are much more in-your-face than other television menus. Instead of popping up subtly on the side or at the bottom of the screen, the entire picture dims and the menus take up the entire screen, which can be annoying when you're just trying to adjust the TV's color or contrast.
The menus let you choose options to browse Internet applications (music, movies, and pictures), use Sony's video-on-demand service Qriocity, browse the on-screen manual (an in-depth supplement to Sony's measly 21-page physical manual), and view other media.
Sony's extensive Web app offerings are sorted into music, video, and photo categories. The apps include Amazon, Blip.TV, Concierge.com, Crackle, Dailymotion, Dr. Oz, Epi, Fearnet, FIFA World Cup Collection, Golflink.com, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and YouTube. Qriocity, Sony's own video-on-demand service, requires you to create a new user account on Qriocity.com and then link your account to the television. Thereafter, you can rent newish movies for about $5 each.
The HX800 series lacks a dedicated menu for USB media, so you have to find your drive in one of the other menus (picture, video, or music). And it shows up in these menus (as the last option) only if the drive has supported formats on it.
The video settings menu provides two preset picture modes (vivid and standard) and a custom mode. You get plenty of basic image tweaking options: brightness, white level, hue, color, temperature, sharpness, noise reduction, and MotionFlow (for smoother fast-moving scenes). Advanced options include a black corrector, an advanced contrast enhancing option, gamma adjustment, LED dynamic control, and white balance.
The HX800 series did fairly well in our juried testing. It ran into difficulty with fast-moving scenes and panning shots (where it had slight flickering), but it was also the only TV in our test group to play scenes from The Dark Knight without glaring faults.
The HX800 series' picture generally showed good dimension and depth, but the color and contrast were a little off. Whites looked a tad warm (a white scene took on a pinkish tinge) and the contrast was dialed up a bit high. Luckily you can tinker with the white tones and the contrast, and I was eventually able to find a good balance for both. The slight judder in the horizontal panning scenes was still noticeable after I turned on MotionFlow, but it wasn't as distracting.
The built-in speakers are decently loud and you can adjust the audio settings for treble, bass, and balance. The set also offers a pretty convincing surround-sound simulation and a sound enhancer (which adjusts high frequencies for clarity). There are three audio presets (dynamic, standard, and clear voice) and a visualizer for playing music.
The HX800 sreies is 3D-capable, so all you need is a couple of Sony 3D glasses and a 3D transmitter to experience Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in its full 3D glory. Neither the transmitter nor the glasses come bundled with the set, however.
Setting up 3D on the HX800 is fairly pain-free. You plug in the transmitter, turn on your glasses, and make sure that you have a 3D-capable Blu-ray Disc player (we used a PS3 and ran into a couple of firmware-related anomalies, but they were the only setbacks). The picture is acceptable—think 3D movies but with a smaller screen and thus more boundaries. Objects don't tend to pop out at you, but you get a reasonable amount of depth. The only real problem we noticed is that unless you turn off every other light source in the room, the glasses may give you a bit of a headache.
In case you don't have a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, the HX800 has an option for translating a regular 2D picture into 3D. This translator has the effect of making your picture suddenly look as though it's a couple of inches behind the screen, and that's about all the depth you get.
The Sony Bravia HX800 series is a serviceable 3D-enabled HDTV line that lives up to the Bravia name, with good but not great picture quality. However it's still a strong candidate for many homes.