Pros Superb black levels, excellent shadow detail and color, gorgeous design, solid internet content, plays well with connected devices
Cons Price (though that has been getting better), no 3D glasses included, off-angle blooming is significant, viewing angles limited (mainly an issue with darker content)
Summary As of 9/25/11, I've had the Sony XBR-55HX929 for just over 2 months. Nothing I have to say differs significantly from what other (positive) reviews have said, but I thought I'd contribute to the collective wisdom.
Let me begin with a bit of context: I have had, at least briefly, five HDTVs since March 2011: a 62" Mitsubishi WD-62525 (a rear projection TV with 720p native resolution), a Panasonic TC-P55ST30 (plasma), a Samsung PN59D6500 (also a plasma), a Samsung UN55D6900 (an LED edge-lit LCD), and the Sony XBR-55HX929 (LED backlit LCD with local dimming). The Mitsubishi died in late March and I've been searching for a replacement. As you can see, I've tried just about the full array of TV tech. My search has ended with the Sony XBR-55HX929, and I'm very happy with it. I'll compare it to some of the other sets I've had below.
There are several concerns owners or prospective owners of the Sony have had, so let me address those. First, the build date: March 2011 (in Mexico). I ordered my set from Amazon.com on July 9, it shipped on the 13th and was delivered the 20th.
The dreaded "crease": Yes, mine has it (a slightly darker "line" that appears along the sides of the image on many of these Sonys, usually on the left and right, but sometimes along the top and bottom edges, about an inch in from the bezel). I have faint creasing on both the left and right sides. It seems a bit darker towards the bottom of the screen.
However: I agree with many owners and contributors to discussion forums that under normal viewing circumstances--when you are watching "real content" rather putting up a uniform (or nearly uniform) field of color for inspection purposes--I never notice it. My wife has never noticed it, nor has anyone who has come over to see the set. If I look for it, I can see it on the PS3's home screen, but that hardly bothers me. It surprises me a bit to say this, since I'm quite picky and minor imperfections often irritate me to no end (one reason I've gone through all the sets mentioned above!). If I could see it when I viewed typical content, I'd return it. But I don't. As it is now, I wouldn't dream of returning the set.
So, my view is that the "crease" issue should not deter you from getting the Sony XBR-HX929. If you don't need a new set right away, then wait a bit and perhaps there will be a reliable stream of crease-free sets (though a recent comment from Sony UK has me somewhat doubtful). If you must buy now, I don't think the crease should scare you away from this set. (I'm a bit torn about this actually: Despite what Sony UK has recently said, the crease is probably a manufacturing defect, and top-of-the-line items shouldn't have manufacturing defects. So, I sympathize with those who don't want to give Sony a lot of money for releasing a product with a defect.) Like some others, I plan to call Sony to report the crease. The more they hear about it, the more likely they are to do something. And if there is a recall, or an offer to replace sets with the crease, etc., I'd certainly be interested.
Picture quality: I'm using David Katzmaier's recommended settings. Viewed from straight on, front and center, at eye level, the picture is outstanding (4.5 or 5 stars). The blacks are truly black--deep, inky, and virtually indistinguishable from the bezel, especially when you view from a high-quality source like a blu-ray. It is the only TV I've owned with blacks as deep as the Panasonic plasma's. These deep blacks make for excellent contrast, which (along with strong shadow detail and good gamma) gives the image natural depth and that "pop" that impresses viewers so much.
Colors are rich and realistic. Shadow detail is excellent. Blu-rays I've watched on this set so far include Toy Story 3, Baraka, Master and Commander, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Rango. All looked absolutely fantastic (I give the overall nod to Toy Story 3). Best in-home theater experiences I've ever had. I am consistently "wow-ed" by the picture on this set.
Comparison with the Samsung UN55D6900 LCD. The colors on the Samsung were excellent (once I got the user-adjustable settings right--which is relatively easy on the Samsung thanks to its RGB-only mode: one thing I like better about Samsung than the Sony). Still, the Sony's are at least as good (I didn't do a side-by-side, simultaneous comparison, so it is difficult to say for sure which was better). However, there is one area in which the Sony clearly and, in my view, crucially bests the Samsung: uniformity. The Samsung is an edge-lit LED-LCD (as are all of the upper end Samsung LCDs), which means that the LEDs that provide the light for the TV's picture shine in from the edges of the set--parallel to the surface of the screen/LCD. Like many owners of Samsung's LCDs (see user forums), I was really bothered by the flashlighting (when light from the LEDs bleeds into a corner of the image), clouding (areas of the screen that appear lighter than they should) and generally uneven dark-scene performance exhibited by this set. The Sony's full-array LED backlighting (in which the light producing LEDs are arranged behind the screen, shining light perpendicular to the surface of, or out through, the LCD/screen) with local dimming is superior in this regard, hands down. Using the PLUGE pattern on the DVE calibration disc, I could never get the 2%-above-black bars on either side of the central gray-scale bar to be equally visible on the Samsung--when the one on the left was just visible, the one on the right wouldn't be. To improve this, I had to crank up the brightness, which improved shadow detail, but (obviously) hurt black levels. No such problem on the Sony. Both +2% bars are equally visible while the blacks stay black and shadow detail is preserved.
Viewing angles: A weakness, and one of the reasons I don't give the set 5-stars. The Sony cannot compete with the Panasonic or Samsung plasmas on this aspect of picture quality. Still, the viewing angles are not as bad as I feared from reading reviews and some other user comments. The picture washes out worst as you move away from center when the material is dark, but from my usual viewing distance of about 10 feet, I can sit on either side of my couch (a three-cushion, 6.5ft couch) and notice very little change in the picture. Viewing angles are comparable to the Samsung LCD (though I didn't do extensive tests on this--my main concern was image uniformity when comparing these). For something like sports on ESPN, and most cable/ local broadcasts, I can walk from one side of the room to the other without any bothersome loss of picture quality.
Blooming (a "halo" of light that shouldn't be there surrounding a bright object on a dark background): It happens, but again, not as bad as I feared. (It's worth noting that some blooming is virtually unavoidable on LED backlit LCDs.) With actual viewing material (blu-rays, dvd movies), viewed from front center, I observe infrequent blooming. Blooming is really only apparent on end credits, and images like PS3 pause and quit screens, but that hardly matters to me.
Off-angle blooming is a different story. Not only does the screen wash out if you view from too far off-center, blooming becomes significant. Bad enough that it's another reason I don't give the set 5 stars. The moral: watch from front and center when you want that ultimate home theater experience!
The edge-lit Samsung LCD didn't exhibit blooming to the same degree, even off angle--but I'll take the off angle and credit-screen blooming over flashlighting and clouding any day. (They're related problems of course: all result when light from the LEDs shows up where it shouldn't.)
Plasmas don't (or shouldn't) exhibit blooming, so again, the clear advantage goes to the Samsung and Panasonic plasmas on this aspect of picture quality.
Dirty Screen Effect (uneven picture uniformity during pans that makes it look like there is something on the screen, sort of like a thin film of dirt): I notice it occasionally, but mainly on standard definition and pseudo-HD sources like Netflix streaming. I didn't notice it on any of the blu-ray movies I watched.
Video games/response time: My test material is Zen Pinball on the PS3. Good response times are important for this game (though not as much as for fighting games), since you want the "paddles" to move the instant you hit the shoulder buttons. Response time is good. Significantly better than on the Samsung LCD. I would say it is comparable or just slightly worse than the Panasonic plasma, though this is a memory-based judgment of which I am not terribly confident, so take it for what it is worth. Also: none of these sets were on Game Mode. I have local dimming set to Standard on the Sony. Response times are improved with local dimming set to Off and the set is in Game Mode. Nevertheless, I'm perfectly happy with the response times, even with local dimming On (the picture is better this way).
Appearance: I think this is an awesome-looking set. The monolithic design, with the single sheet of glass from edge to edge is really cool. It is better looking than either plasma (the Panasonic has the most boring design), no question. It's a tough call between the Sony and the Samsung LCD. I thought the Samsung was also very good looking. It's a toss up, and I could see someone going either way. The Samsung is a bit flashier, a bit sexier, with the super-thin bezel and clear strip of plastic around the edge, but the Sony has a more refined, sophisticated look to it. I do wish you could turn off the green "on" light though--I don't need to be told that the set is on when there is an image on the screen!
Reflectiveness: This was a pleasant surprise. CNET's review had me worried that it would be very reflective, but it isn't. It is less reflective than the Samsung LCD and similar to the Panasonic plasma. Can you see reflections? Yes, absolutely. But they're dull and muted, despite the fact that I have two fairly large windows on the south-facing side of my 12'x10' living room (perpendicular to the direction the TV faces).
Stand: Yes, the TV wobbles when it is on the stand and you swivel the TV. I think any "single-stalk" swivel stand, as is also used by Samsung, will allow the TV to wobble. Unlike some others, I have no significant "tilting" or "listing" of the TV on the stand. Use a level when you put the stand together, check it when you put the TV on the stand, and only tighten the screws when you have it level (have another person hold the TV in the level position). You should be able to get it very level this way. The stand is much better than the Samsung's stand (I did have tilting issues with the Samsungs, both the LCD and the plasma) and it is made of tougher material. The Panasonic's stand was the sturdiest of the bunch, by far (but it was not a swivel stand, so...).
Remote: I think the Sony remote is good. A little bulky, but the buttons are nicely arranged and on the whole it's very functional. The concave top really does guide your thumb naturally to the all-important central "enter" button. I like the dedicated Netflix button too. There's no easier way to watch Netflix: just two button pushes ("TV On" then "Netflix")!
3D: I haven't used 3D on this TV yet, so I cannot comment. Reviews such as CNET's suggest that 3D is not this set's strong suit, and user forums don't do much to refute this. I do think it is ridiculous that Sony doesn't include a pair of 3D glasses, especially given the price of this TV. Which brings me to...
Price: Prices have come down lately, and with the LG LW9800 and the Sharp Elite hitting the streets, it is no longer the most expensive consumer television in its category. But none of this changes the fact that this is a really expensive television. It is the most expensive I've had, and I never intended to spend this much. The Panasonic and Samsung plasmas offer much better value, in my opinion, while the uniformity issues with the Samsung LCD keep it from being a good value.
Other: Some folks have complained about the organization/ ease of use of the menu systems, but I actually find the menus pretty sensible (of course, I'm used to the basic set up since I have a PS3, so...). Internet content is solid. Unlike some others, I have been able to use the browser, but it is quite slow and I prefer to do my browsing on a computer or an iPad anyway. It would be nice if Sony added the vTuner Internet radio, as Samsung did, but this is a very minor complaint. Samsung offers the best suite of Internet options, in my opinion. But more importantly (for me), the Sony handles streaming video (e.g., Netflix) better than the Samsung LCD did. Streaming video often had significant "stutter" on the Samsung. To get rid of it I had to use motion smoothing, which resulted in the dreaded "soap opera effect", which I hate. True, I was able to tweak the settings to get it to look right, but the constant tweaking I was doing on the Samsung LCD was itself a problem. The Sony handles Internet content well in my preferred settings (and sometimes automatically shifts to a different setting, which also works well, then automatically returns to my custom setting when, for instance, I pop in a blu-ray).
I have been very happy with how well the Sony works with my AV receiver, a Pioneer VSX-1021-K. The HDMI ARC works flawlessly (it was hit-or-miss with the Samsung LCD), and the Sony automatically turns the AVR on when I turn it on (doesn't automatically turn it off though), which is convenient. I never had to do anything to get it to do that (other than connect the two devices via their ARC-capable HDMI ports).
I think that about covers it. Overall, the Sony XBR-55HX929 is an excellent TV. I initially wanted a plasma, but unfortunately I see "phosphor trails" when I watch plasmas (yellow after images/ flashes when I move my eyes or when a light object moves across a dark background) and I'm sensitive to the 60Hz refresh rate that Panasonic plasmas use, so no plasma for me. I'm happy to have found an LCD with a comparable, and in some ways better, picture, as long as you watch from front and center!
Is this TV for you? It depends. First, you need to decide whether you want to get an LCD or a plasma. Many plasmas provide comparable or better overall picture quality for much less money. The Panasonic TC-P55ST30, for instance, is nearly as good as this Sony on black levels and color, while being clearly superior with respect to blooming and viewing angles, yet costs about half the price. But if you have a very bright room, or don't want to take reasonable precautions to avoid plasma burn in, or insist on the most energy efficient devices, then an LCD is probably the way to go. In that case, if you've got the money, insist on top-notch picture quality, and you (and maybe one other person) can typically watch TV from front and center, then you will be very happy with the Sony XBR-55HX929.
Pros Outstanding black level, accurate color out of the box (Cinema Mode). Built in wireless, includes netflix, amazon, and a slew of other streaming apps. 3D emmiter built in, etc
Cons No 3D glasses included, a little overpriced. Tabletop stand is wobbly.
Summary Overall I love my 929. Just had it calibrated by D-NICE and it looks better than ever. Some people have complained about blooming when standing up or looking at it from the side (this is normal) all LED's do this. Just sit down and enjoy this set. Coming from a plasma that was plaiged with floating blacks and I am happy to say this TV has none of that.
Pros Deep blacks while keeping fine texture and detail in gray areas.
Accurate colour and skin tone, love the slim design.
Cons No glasses included
Summary Excellent TV, true colour reproduction, deep blacks and vibriant whites at the same time.
The detail and texture is remarkable, makes all other LED's look ordinary.
Very energy efficent especially when 3D is turned on.
Pros Design and Picture Quality in 2D and 3D
PS3 on it is great
Cons Speakers are okay but not great.
Internet browser needs work. Sony needs to transition to a qwerty layout.
3D viewing from an angle is not so great.
Summary It took me months of research to educate myself on the latest TV technology. Trying to understand the difference between edge lit LED/ Dynamic edge lit LED/ Full Array LED w local dimming/ refresh rate 480Hz vs 960Hz vs 600Hz for Plasma/ Gorilla glass...ETC. At the end it came down to two TVs: the Pioneer VT30 ( best plasma TV on the market) and the Sony HX929 ( best LED TV on Market). I felt that the xbr produced a clearer image, more brilliant/brighter colors and the image was less grainy than a plasma TV. I finally bought the HX 929 and will definitely recommend it to all my family/friends.
Pros Everythin'.....from the fantastic picture quality to outstanding 3D stuff.
Cons No cons for this one...seriously...it's the best of 2011...!!