Design & Features
Sleek, Sophisticated, Sony
The first few things which struck us about Sony's HX855 is the obvious care and attention devoted to its streamlined design. True, it is not as jaw-dropping gorgeous as LG's LM9600 showstopper, but the Bravia has its own fair share of merits. For one, unsightly and protruding bezels belong to the year 2005, and Sony acknowledges this fact with a single glass sheet on its panel as part of its Monolithic design introduced two years ago. The display is framed by a thin metallic border which adds some highlights to an otherwise all-black dress code. And instead of perpendicular lines, Sony has opted for rounded contours on the sides. As mentioned, this model touts Corning's Gorilla Glass and Sony's Opticontrast Panel also found in the HX925 as well. The only caveat is the reflective treatment on the glass face. It's still a minor annoyance under brighter lighting conditions. Sony's deployment of edge LEDs also ensured a fairly thin panel depth at 40mm, which makes it suitable for wall-mount solutions. The new D-shaped base is a nice change from Sony's traditional single-spine stands, and it swivels as well.
At the connectivity end, most of the digital connectors are lined up by the side or bottom, including four HDMI slots, two USB ports, and an optical audio outlet for your AV receiver. The composite and component inputs, however, are aligned in a rear-facing orientation, so do make the necessary concessions before you wall-mount the panel. There's also a proprietary port labelled "Speaker Integrated Stand", meant for the Bunchin Stand which carries its own sets of speakers and woofer built into its base. Sony has trimmed their remote as well. It is visibly shorter and more compact now. We would have liked it better, however, if the positioning for volume and channel controls were swapped with the numeric pad instead. Dedicated buttons like 'SEN' calls up the Sony Entertainment Network platform, while the Home button brings you to the main interface with options such as Favorites, Settings, Widgets, etc. Although the remote bears a functional design, its plastic housing does lack a premium feel to it.
Sony Entertainment Network
Before we touch on Sony's Internet TV platform proper, let us state that this HDTV has a zippy boot-up time. It powers on in three seconds flat from standby mode. Moving on, the new Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) is a positive shift compared to previous efforts with a more consolidated platform. Essentially, SEN is separated intro various zones. An active window for external AV inputs resides on the left, followed by a Twitter feed or Clock display (you may configure either) below. Popular apps are located in the middle window with a Favorites column on the right. To add apps to Favorites, click on the + sign and select the application from the list shown. Titles include Moshcam (with lots of live concert vids), Style.com, and Sony 3D World with its own pool of 3D movie trailers. Although the Internet TV's layout has changed somewhat, it seems like Sony's selection of apps haven't been updated by much. For instance, subscription-based services like Sony's Music Unlimited are, unfortunately, still inaccessible here though it's no fault of Sony to be fair. Another gripe we have is that the applications and widgets are still scattered across the NUX user-interface, and that's not going to ease the confusion for new Smart TV users anytime soon.
At this point, we also noticed that the presence of a Sony app store is lacking on the HX855. To confound matters further, there is an alternative Opera TV Store where you may download apps from. Frequently used apps can be registered to the My Apps tab, located just next to the Opera TV Store's main tab. Noticeably, Opera's selection of TV apps is still sparse at this moment, with main categories divided into Games, Music, Social Networks, and Weather. On the bright side, selected Bravia models are now equipped with Opera's HTML5-optimized web browser, after the two companies signed a pact last year to bring Opera's web browser to Sony's suite of Bravia LCD TVs and Blu-ray players. For social media acess on the HX855, you don't actually require a Sony portal account to login to Facebook or Twitter, as opposed to rival sets like LG or Samsung. You may access these social services directly using your personal Facebook or Twitter account.
Sony's Picture Presets
There are three main picture modes: Standard, Vivid, and Custom, plus enthusiasts would appreciate the comprehensive selections under the TV's Advanced Settings as well. Examples include Black Corrector, Adv Contrast Enhancer, Gamma, LED Dynamic Control, Auto Light Limiter, Clear White, Live Color, White Balance, Detail Enhancer, and Edge Enhancer. Active AV inputs are highlighted by an arrow over the blue boxy icon. On top of the three main picture modes mentioned, there are ten more Scene settings available under the TV's Settings option. Sony has included an "Auto 24p Sync" mode as well, which activates the TV's Cinema preset when a 24p source (film content) is detected. As mentioned in our previous reviews, Sony's scattered placements of their picture presets can be confounding at times.