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Sony BRAVIA XBR-46HX929 Review
46" Direct-lit LED LCD 3D HDTV, $2599
RedLine

Out of the Box

Except for the advanced video technology that I mentioned in the Introduction, the HX929 is very similar to the HX820 in form and features. Rather than constantly referring you back to my previous review of the HX820, I will repeat some of my comments here.

Sony XBR-46HX929

The HX929's frameless design relies on a Corning Gorilla Glass panel for its strength and durability. Underneath is a black bezel that is 1 1/4" wide on the top and sides and 2 1/4" on the bottom.

You can attach the TV on its stand leaning slightly backwards, (six degrees) which gives you a better viewing angle when the TV is placed below where you are sitting.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Also, the TV can swivel on its stand 20 degrees left or right, which gives more flexibility in locating it.

The front of the TV only has a few operational lights on the bottom left edge. The control buttons are located behind the screen along the right edge of the TV.

On the back of the left side, aligned vertically, is one of two connection panels. At the top are two USB ports for accessing photo, music, video files stored on a USB device.

Moving down the line, Sony furnishes two HDMI connections. Below them is an Audio Out mini-jack and a digital Audio Out (optical).

At the bottom is a VGA PC input (with a matching stereo Audio In minijack).

The second panel is aligned horizontally and its connectors are facing down, which makes them harder to see and reach.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Starting on the left is a LAN connection if you wish to attach this TV to your home network with an Ethernet cable. As I mentioned, the HX929 also has an integrated wireless adapter if you prefer the look-ma-no-wires solution.

The one RF antenna connector links to integrated ATSC/QAM tuners. Since the tuner system is Clear QAM compatible, you can attach your cable TV signal directly into the RF connector and tune in unscrambled cable stations.

With the ATSC tuner and the proper antenna, you also will be able to tune in digital signals broadcast over-the-air.

Next on the panel is a customized input that connects to a supplied adapter cable. With this setup, you can either plug in a component or composite video signal with stereo audio.

Rounding out the inputs are two more HDMIs, (labeled 1 and 4). The manual states, "If connecting a digital audio system that is compatible with Audio Return Channel (ARC) technology, use the HDMI IN 1 on the rear of the TV. If not, an additional connection with DIGITAL AUDIO OUT (OPTICAL) is necessary."

Sony has redesigned their multi-directional XMB (Xcross Media Bar) menu and navigation is easier. Their programmers are also constantly expanding and honing its lineup of content providers.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Currently, under the BRAVIA Internet Video banner, they offer 44 sources of streaming video, music and photos like Style.com which offers multiple short video clips.

Add to that, if you click on the Podcasts option, there's another 30 channels of content.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Of course, the big boys like Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Amazon Video on Demand are part of the lineup.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Social media apps like Facebook, twitter and Flickr are included as widgets that pop up over the screen. And other Yahoo widgets can open you up to all sorts of new interests.

The HX929 is also DLNA Certified. When attached to your home network, the TV can access videos, photos and music stored on your DLNA Certified computer or other compliant devices and play the content directly on to your HDTV.

The one major hiccup that I encountered was trying to display still images on this TV, either from an attached USB drive or through the home network.

Like the HX820, the HX929 would not display some JPEG images.

For example, I plugged in a flash drive full of JPEGs into the TV's USB port. The TV recognized the drive and identified the files, but when I tried to play them, the message "Image cannot be viewed" appeared.

I have played this drive with these exact images on a number of different TVs and Blu-ray players without a problem.

When I inquired about this situation with the HX820, Tech Support responded with a technical explanation and then added this suggestion, "Resave the original jpg to another file using a quality setting of 5 or lower (or half of the quality adjustment range) in the picture/photo editor of choice."

I took the advice and the images showed up. Of course, this is not a great solution for avid photographers who want to see their pictures displayed at the highest quality.

It's a shame because I like the slideshow interface. You can even apply a 2D to 3D conversion to the photos.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Two of the most notable other extras are Skype compatibility (with the purchase of a $150 camera and microphone) and a free Media Remote app for your iPhone or Android phone.

I actually downloaded it to my iPad and it worked as advertised. I find it especially useful when searching for piano playing cat videos on YouTube. Rather than fumbling with the TV remote to type in search terms, I can use the QWERTY keyboard on the iPad.

I will not rehash my misgivings about Sony's Distance Alert and Presence Sensor features. You can read about my misadventures in the HX820 review.

This BRAVIA TV is 3D capable and requires the 3D active shutter glasses. Thankfully, Sony has reduced their price. For example model TDGBR250/B, with a rechargeable battery, now costs $70 on the Sony site. Last year, glasses cost around $150.

Sony XBR-46HX929

The multi-function remote control is one of the longest, most capacious that I have handled.

I like the dedicated buttons that take you directly to menus like Internet Video and Qriocity. For those of you that aren't ticked at Netflix for their new pricing, the remote has added its own button.

One of your best friends is the multi-purpose Options button which provides a quick shortcut to context sensitive menus.

If you punch the Light button on the remote, a blue backlight glows around all the buttons.

The designers also added an uncommon twist. They put a second On/Off button on the back of the remote - there's still the traditional one on the front.

For more information on all of the TV's functions, Sony offers an on-screen i-Manual that you can access by hitting the i-Manual button on the remote.

It's still not highly detailed, but it does a reasonable job of giving most consumers all the knowledge that they need to get up to speed. Sony on their website also posts the i-Manual.

Power Consumption

The EPA is now publishing a list of ENERGY STAR qualified TVs. (You can find it here.) The Sony XBR-46HX929 is on the list.

Energy Star Logo

The EPA states that this Sony's On Mode Power is 74.4W and Standby Power Consumption is .1W. Based on the formula that the TV is on five hours a day and in Standby for the other 19, the Estimated Annual Energy Use is 143 kWh/year.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) now requires those yellow-and-black labels that show the product's estimated annual energy cost to be attached to all TVs.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Sony displays that label on their Sony site. You can see that the 46" HX929 is actually below the range of its similarly sized competition, making it a true star in the energy sipping constellation.

In addition, on the right side of the TV is an Energy Saving Switch. As you can see in the ratings, even in Standby Mode, the TV is sipping a little bit of energy, which if you multiply by millions of TVs can add up.

If you flip the Energy Saving Switch, the unit totally powers down and draws no electricity. You need to flip it back On before you can power up the TV with the remote control.

Setup

The basic setup of the 2011 HX929 has not changed significantly from last year's models. In the Initial Setup, you will answer basic questions like what is your zip code and then set up your TV channels and your Network connections.

Sony does a good job of making this process automatic and unless you have some unusual network configuration, you should be connected in a matter of minutes.

As a matter of fact, I plugged in a network cable to the LAN port and before I had a chance to deal with network setup, the TV was already connected. If you go wireless, the process may not be as automatic.

After you are hooked up, you still will have some housekeeping chores. To take full advantage of all the available Internet content, you should go into the Settings menu and then the Network sub-menu and Refresh the Internet Content.

You will also need to register your TV on the Sony site. The onscreen directions will give you the exact URL.

And if you wish to tap into Netflix or Amazon Video on Demand or some of the other Internet content partners, you will need to set up an account with them. For example, with Netflix you need to subscribe to their service and register your HX929 at their site.

Sony XBR-46HX929

If you plan on accessing your DNLA computer, you need to set up permissions for your TV in Windows.

As for calibrating the TV, I suggest that most of you will be satisfied with simply turning the TV on, setting the Picture Mode to Standard and forgetting it.

The Sony engineers have done a fine job of presetting the Picture modes to display a highly respectable image.

If you are more venturesome or just wish to explore more options, then go into the Scene menu and try the different choices, paying particular attention to Cinema.

Believe me, after running through my standard setup procedure with three calibration Blu-ray discs, my final settings mirrored Cinema very closely.

Sony XBR-46HX929

The HX929 offers two Cinema presets. You can pick one or the other in the Picture Adjustments menu. I prefer Cinema 1 because it doesn't turn on Live Color and a few other Advanced Settings.

Personally, I not a big fan of "Improving the vividness of colors," but this is definitely a decision that you must make in the privacy of your own TV room.

Sony XBR-46HX929

Speaking of Advanced Settings, I suggest that you turn on LED Dynamic Control, which is the backlight local dimming feature. I also like to experiment with Gamma.

And as you explore the Picture Adjustments menu, you will discover a treasure trove of tweaks that you can keep you entranced for weeks.

But for many of you, your time will be better spent exploring the various Internet content apps and widgets that this Sony has to offer.

I will not try to explain the details of how the Sony engineers blink the backlight with their Motionflow XR 960 technology. But the theory is that generating the extra frames will smooth out fast action.

In practice, to my eye, the increased frame rate has a tendency to make the image too sharp. I prefer the softer image, especially when watching movies, that the TV produces when Motionflow is turned off.

I suggest that you experiment with different combinations of Motionflow and CineMotion to see which you prefer. I tend to leave Motionflow off and CineMotion at Auto 1.

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