Sony released its distinctive NX range early in 2010, and while we praised it for its design aesthetic and sparkling picture quality, we were mildly surprised to see it left out 3D support. Especially considering Sony's push for the format at launch time.
Fast forward six months, and the company has rectified this with the release of the NX710 and NX810 range — it only costs a little extra to add 3D, and the natty optional stands are back!
The 55-inch NX810 is part of the company's "Monolithic" range and features a slim, bezel-less design. The TV is quite glossy, but not too reflective, and looks good either on or off. However, like other piano-black gadgets you will have to watch out for leaving fingerprints on the screen when manually handling the TV. This is something you might find yourself doing often if you're taking advantage of the metallic swivel stand.
The remote control is easy to use — even if some of the functions are hidden at the top, and we're still perplexed by Sony's fascination with putting a power button on the underside.
The NX810 is an upgrade to the existing NX800 and Sony has not only added the 3D connector but got out the bicycle pump out and pushed the screen size up to 55 inches over the original 52. While the company has lopped AU$500 off the price, it seems the saving has been poured into the new tabletop stand with active speakers, which now costs a whopping AU$450 dollars. We'd still suggest it, though, to get the distinctive "sloped" look.
This 55-incher is a 1080p LCD panel and features edge-lit LED technology and comes with several picture-enhancing technologies including Bravia Engine 3 and the "sports-friendly" MotionFlow Pro 200Hz.
If you want to add 3D to this TV, simply buy a AU$70 adapter, which perches on top of the TV, and add as many glasses as you need (at AU$99 each).
While it's barely heard of now, IPTV is going to be big, much bigger than 3D, and Sony's Bravia Internet Video is one of the best systems available. Not only do you get catch-up content from Yahoo7, SBS and ABC's iView, but full concert films from Moshcam and dozens of other channels besides.
Finally, the NX810 boasts plenty of connectivity with both wired and wireless connections, four HDMI ports including two on the side, USB and a single component connection. On the rear of the TV you also get two composite inputs, an optical output and a PC input.
Unless something unforeseen happens in the next two months, it's likely that Sony will run away with our favourite TV of 2010. While the NX810 isn't quite as good as that television, it does share the family bloodline.
The Bravia Engine 3 (BE3) is a common element and it is very good at smoothing out a poor or noisy picture. We ran the NX810 through our usual suite of synthetic tests, and while it didn't perform as well as some competitors for Blu-ray movies or other video formats, it did very well at cleaning up DVDs.
Motion handling was very good, and movies in either Blu-ray or DVD format were smooth and free of any compression noise (blockiness). While the TV didn't perform very well at our synthetic jaggy tests it performed excellently in the real world. The opening of Chapter 11 on Mission Impossible III was without jaggies or distracting moire effects (buzzing of parallel lines).
Only on DVDs was the picture a little soft, but even then a movie like King Kong still looked simultaneously punchy and punchy. The Panasonic VT20 plasma may have better blacks, but the Sony LCD still acquits itself quite nicely in this area.
However, there is one caveat here: you will need to keep the backlight level low for decent blacks. LCDs need a separate lighting system for you to see anything at all, and in the case of the Bravia it uses a set of LEDs along the edge. Here, the default value of "5" is too high and looks poor when watched in the dark. At "1" the picture looked a lot better and without backlight clouding issues — ie, where blacks look blotchy — but we did find there was some "bloom" on white parts of the picture even at low levels.
If you like sport and hate the jerky "judder" effect of foreign TV and movies, then the Sony NX810 may just be the TV you're looking for. It features one of the best "motion compensation" engines we've seen, which helps to smooth out judder and make the fast plays of sport cleaner but without the unnatural animated effects of other TVs.
But it's IPTV where this TV is at, and we were delighted to find that web content was tarred with the same BE3 brush as other material. As music fans we were especially impressed with the Moshcam service as it included decent quality video with excellent artists. If you love music then Moshcam is almost a reason in itself to buy a Bravia. Catch-up TV is also very handy.
3D may not be a consideration just yet, but as we prefaced in the start it's a legitimate reason to choose this TV over others, and in this respect the NX810 performs tidily. Sony has one of the best 3D systems on the market and images were as free from crosstalk as we could expect. Only when we were watching 2D-to-3D conversion were images a little less convincing. This is not surprising, as we're not a fan of the technology anyway, but simulated 3D did introduce jaggies to images that weren't there before.
Last but not least, sound quality was acceptable for the Sony NX810, but we did find that it had an unusual sweetspot. Unless you sit directly in front of the Sony logo, you will only hear things come out of one side of the TV.