Last year, we were mightily impressed by Sony's high-end televisions, with models such as the HX929 and the NX720 still some of our favorite LCD TVs. At CES in early 2012, Sony shocked quite a few pundits by only introducing a total of 10 models and in an almost offhand way -- a single slide in a presentation filled with celebrities and Olympic heroes. As the second from the top -- the queen, if you will, of Sony's new 2012 TV line -- the HX750 performs less like the next in line for the throne and more like a lowly serf.
Its picture quality behaves more like the EX720, which was halfway down last year's roster -- when for the price we would have expected it to perform like the Editors' Choice-winning NX720. While the HX750's colors are good, black levels are lacking for a TV in this price range.
The Panasonic ST50, for example, is available for $500 less and has a picture that's significantly better. The Sony does offer a few features that the Panasonic lacks, such as Wi-Fi Direct and Track ID, but these are really window dressing. Thinking about this TV causes my shoulders to involuntarily shrug, and wonder whether the step-up HX850 can go some way to restore the level of quality the company achieved last year. (Update: it can).
Editors' note: The CNET Editors' rating above factors in a new Value score that joins Design, Features, and Performance in our ratings calculations for TVs. In the case of the Sony KDL-HX750 series, the Value score is 5.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch KDL-55HX750, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
In 2010, Sony debuted its striking Monolithic design concept with a "one-sheet" Gorilla Glass look and a distinctive 6-degree slant. While this concept will still feature in the HX850, the HX750 misses out on such fripperies. Instead it gets a more modest piano-black frame that's visually separate from the screen in the traditional way. You could call it bland, but I'd call it conservative. It's an edge-lit LED model but not noticeably slimmer than most other TVs on the market.
The panel is held on by a plastic stand which wobbles a little more than other TVs when touched, though not worryingly so. You may have seen it with a wire stand in CES previews but this isn't the case with the model we received.
The remote control should be familiar to existing Sony users and is friendly as ever with a dedicated Netflix button of interest to cable cutters. I'm glad to see the underside-mounted power button go, but am not convinced by the new SEN button, more of which you'll hear of soon.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Wi-Fi Direct sharing with compatible Android smartphone|
The TV features a LED edge-lit panel that we were originally told supported local dimming. That's not the case however; local dimming is only available on the step-up NX850 and HX929 among current Sony models.
Sony's MotionFlow, which is in my opinion the best among the numerous dubious dejudder/smoothing systems, gets the number "480" attached to it on this TV. Translation: it has a native 240Hz refresh rate augmented by backlight scanning (more info). It also offers the new Impulse mode, which "reproduces the original picture quality" to provide a "cinema-like picture which may flicker." It does flicker, and I don't recommend anyone use it.
Sony has done else little to enhance the feature set of its 2012 range with the only obvious addition being the Sony Entertainment Network interface. It's essentially a distilled version of the collected apps available on the XMB (Xross Media Bar) with a storefront thrown in.
In support of all of these Internet-friendly features is onboard Wi-Fi. Android users may appreciate the addition of Wi-Fi direct which is an attempt to emulate Apple's Airplay but bypasses your router completely. It sets up an access point that your phone connects to directly and lets you stream media between the two devices. In our limited testing with the Google Nexus we found it difficult to set up; instead it's a function we will explore at length in an upcoming Smart TV feature. Be aware that Wi-Fi Direct will only support phones with Android 4 OS (Ice Cream Sandwich).
Unlike Samsung and Panasonic, Sony's 2012 3D TVs like the HX750 don't support the Full HD 3D standard, so this set is incompatible with other makers' 2012 active glasses that do, such as the Panasonic TY-ER3D4MU ($55) and Samsung SSG-4100GB ($20). To watch 3D you'll need to buy Sony's own specs like the $50 TDG-BR250, which won't work with non-Sony 3D TVs.
Smart TV: I've personally been a fan of the XMB since it debuted on the PlayStation 3 and personally find it very easy to navigate. The HX750 has the modified version that appeared in last year's TVs and supports picture-in-picture. From here you can access on-demand apps like Netflix -- there's a superb selection -- and Sony's own Entertainment Network, which makes the inclusion of the next feature puzzling.