Sony KDL-50R550A

The big-screen Sony R520/R550 series offers the best value you'll see from the company this year.


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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury


While the R520/R550 may be in Sony's mid-range, it manages to outperform more-expensive TVs, such as Samsung's UAF7100. The Sony's black levels are pretty good and colours are pleasing, even if they're not super accurate.

Design

Our first impressions after unboxing and setting up the Sony were "nice". The company always has a knack for fetching design, even in a mid-level TV like this. With large screen sizes, a thin frame around the screen makes a TV seem even more impressively "all picture", and the R520/R550 accomplishes this feat with aplomb. The all-black, sharp-edged rectangle contrasts nicely with the rounded chrome ribbon stand. A pleasingly low profile completes the rakish look.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Sony's remote is quietly accomplished in its own right, with its trademark friendly ergonomic touches that lend it a premium air. These include the convex surface; the large, finger-friendly cursor control; and the distinct, logically arranged button groups.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The menu system is refreshingly basic. Instead of the animated, graphics-heavy interface found on step-up TVs, everything is accessed from a simple, text-based menu tree that allows you to see everything at a glance. Shortcuts abound in both the primary and the secondary Options menu, allowing easy access to major functions. Overall, the feel is well integrated and logical, if a bit plain looking.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The edge-lit LED backlight in the Sony R550A lacks the excellent local dimming and Triluminous technology on higher-end models like the KDL-55W900A and KDL-65W850A, so there's little expectation of similarly premium picture quality. It also doesn't have the so-called "dynamic edge" dimming of the W802A, although that TV didn't perform nearly as well as the W900A in our tests.

Performance

Sony's specifications use the term "Motion Flow XR200", but according to a Sony rep we spoke to, the panel has a native refresh rate of 100Hz. The R550A's 3D is of the passive variety, and like so many other so-equipped sets, they include four pairs of 3D glasses.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

In combination with your smartphone or tablet, the TV can perform all sorts of futuristic entertainment acrobatics. The R520/R550 can mirror any content on the phone's screen, for example, with the exception of some rights-protected material, via Miracast (Wi-Fi).


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

While the Sony comes with the usual Contrast controls, Picture and Scene selection modes, it doesn't come with any advanced colour or greyscale adjustments. As such, the TV was quite easy to set up, but this also means it isn't possible to get it as close to "reference" level as you can with more expensive sets.

For an inexpensive model, the company provides you with sufficient connections for most home theatre set-ups. First, is a generous four HDMI ports (one with MHL), followed by two USB inputs and a hybrid composite/component jack. Wired and wireless internet connectivity is also offered.

The Sony R520/R550 may not have the most accurate colour according to the graphs, but it had a very pleasing colour balance all the same, with the gentlest red push in skin tones. Black levels were good, but not spectacular, while shadow detail was actually quite good. Video processing was about where it should be for a TV at its price level, and bright-room performance was solid. Overall, this is a very good performer compared to its competition.

Via CNET.com

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