Review: Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929

The flagship of Sony’s 2011 HDTV line, the Bravia XBR-46X929, will probably sail into the end-of-life sunset at the end of this year. That’s actually a good thing, because you might be able to score one at a price that more accurately reflects its size and capabilities.

See, while this 46-inch LED-based LCD comes loaded for everything from 3-D to Netflix to, you know, television, it’s priced considerably higher than competing models. Even a supposedly pricier plasma like Panasonic’s TC-P55ST50 sells for $800 less, and it spans 55 inches.

But, hey, are you gonna let your checkbook stand between you and one of the most eye-pleasing LCDs ever to adorn your living room? Save for a few minor glitches, the 46HX929 is one seriously excellent TV.

For starters, it’s a looker, with a Gorilla Glass one-piece lending a sexy all-black façade to the front side. Skinny, too, measuring just 1.5 inches, except for an unfortunate wart that’s home to a barely necessary RS-232 port.

Sony throws around a lot of made-up-sounding specs to describe some of its imaging technology, words like X-Reality Pro, Intelligent Peak LED, and Motionflow XR 960. Here’s the real-world translation: ridiculously perfect color, spot-on local dimming (that is, area-specific automatic backlight adjusting), and super-smooth action scenes.

Note to Sony: If you need some marketing-speak for your ultra-deep black levels, which rival any I’ve seen on any TV ever, might I suggest: BlackTastic.

Less ‘tastic, however: the dreaded soap-opera effect, which bathes images in a painfully 2-D-looking veneer. Thankfully, it’s easily remedied by switching to Cinema mode or turning off the MotionFlow feature (one of many, many advanced video settings you’ll need the manual to decipher).

The 46X929 also stumbles on the 3-D front. Sony supplies no glasses, though its $100 Titanium active-shutter specs are the least dorky-looking pair I’ve ever seen. They’re almost stylish. Too pricey? Sony also sells a way dorkier all-black pair for $50. Either way, the TV’s 3-D images look decent so long as you sit totally upright. Tilt your head and the picture degrades horribly.

To charge the glasses, you’ll need to tap the TV’s two easily accessible USB ports, which commendably stay powered even when the TV is off.

Sony’s overstuffed menu system, which scrolls horizontally along the bottom and vertically along the side, connects you with enough internet services to make your head spin. Among them: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, and Netflix, of course, but also Pandora and Slacker, YouTube, Yahoo Widgets, the Sony Entertainment Network, Skype (with an optional webcam), a web browser, and plenty more. Roku box, shmoku box.

With an overall picture quality that’s second to none (well, few), it’s easy to overlook a couple less-than-perfect features. Assuming you don’t mind paying a premium, the Sony Bravia XBR-46HX929 makes a sweet addition to any living room.

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