Sony XBR-65HX950 review

At CES in January, Sony's TV announcements conspicuously omitted mention of a successor to the XBR-HX929, which the company continued to describe as "current" -- until now. The XBR-HX950 previewed here replaces the HX929, and according to Sony offers some improvements. We expect it to beat the 2012 HX850 in picture quality, at least equal the HX929, and perhaps challenge the 2011 Elite (Sharp has yet to announce any successor).

Full-array local dimming is the reason these TVs cost so much, and perform so well. Unlike most LED TVs (including Sony's 84-incher), which have their light-emitting diodes arrayed along two or four edges of the screen (making them "edge-lit"), a full-array model places them behind the LCD panel. In addition to improving screen uniformity, this arrangement allows small portions of the backlight to dim independently in different zones. Local dimming can, when done correctly, significantly improve black-level performance, a key picture-quality ingredient.

The Elite and HX929 did local dimming very well, but the Elite did it better, in part because it showed less blooming, or stray light in dark areas around onscreen objects. I suspect that's because it has more of those dimmable zones than the HX929. Sony doesn't divulge this number, but one report claims that the HX950 has 196 zones. I have no idea whether that's fewer or more than the HX929 has. As for the Elite, Sharp's reps didn't quote me an exact number but did allow that the 60-incher had more than 216 zones.

The sole picture-quality improvement Sony does tout is improved processing. Per the press release: "Sony's Super Bit Mapping technology incorporates 14 bit upscaling, processing, and pixel mapping to smooth gradation and improve the quality of low-tone pictures." The stand also tilts back and incorporates a sleek new circular design.

Otherwise the HX950 and HX929 seem quite similar. Both offer Sony's OptiContrast panel with Gorilla Glass, X-Reality Pro engine, Smart TV -- including the proprietary Sony Entertainment Network -- and 3D features.

If you've read all of the above and decided to buy this TV, Sony's list pricing might give you pause. The 55-inch XBR-55HX950 costs a cool $3,499, while the 65-inch XBR-65HX950 will run you $5,499. By way of comparison, the 55-inch HX929 can be had for $2,999 now -- it's a tough call whether there's $500 worth of picture quality difference between the two, at least until I can review the HX950. Unlike the HX929, the HX950 series will not offer a 46-inch size.


Manufacturer                 Sony
Part Number                  XBR-65HX950
Product type                  LED-LCD
Diagonal size                65 in
3D                                                         Yes
Instant internet streaming services    Smart TV
TV features                                           Corning Gorilla Glass panel
LCD backlight technology                 LED Backlight technology
LED backlight type                            Full-array with local dimming
Resolution                                          1080p
Refresh rate                                       240 Hz
Greenpeace policy rating (Nov 2011)      3.6