The Bravia KDL-55NX813 is Sony's flagship TV and features the company's flagship price tag too. Initially available for about £3,000, we're glad to see that this 55-inch, 1080p, LED-edge-lit LCD TV can now be obtained for a slightly more reasonable, but still insane, price of £2,500.
Among its key features are a design that makes it look like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a Freeview HD tuner, and 3D capability. It's also worth mentioning now that this set is not only huge but also incredibly heavy. Make sure your TV stand is up to the job of supporting this beast.
It's a looker
Although the decision to include a large panel of glass on the front of this TV is slightly daft -- the job could have been done by plastic, surely -- we still like the resulting appearance. When the TV is off, the glass panel makes for an impressive, eye-catching piece of technology. When it's on, the panel helps to improve contrast, albeit at the cost of reflections on the screen from light sources in your room.
Putting this TV together is slightly harder than usual. Instead of a screwdriver, you'll need to use a small Allen-style key with the KDL-55NX813. We find Allen keys incredibly frustrating to use.
Like all of Sony's current Blu-ray players and TVs, the KDL-55NX813 is endowed with one of the best online portals we've ever seen. It gives you access to video-on-demand services from the likes of the BBC and Channel 5, and lets you stream movies from LoveFilm. There are the usual options from YouTube and its ilk too, giving you unlimited access to amusing videos of cats.
Sony has also slapped its Qriocity service on the TV. Despite having one of the most irksome names in the entire universe, it's actually a very promising idea. Much like Spotify, it will let you stream music from a library of 6 million songs and you can watch both high-definition and standard-definition movies too. It's all very cool. The basic Qriocity music plan costs £3.99 per month, while the premium plan costs £9.99 per month. Movies are priced individually.
To help make accessing these online services easier, the KDL-55NX813 comes with built-in Wi-Fi, which we're pretty pleased with. It works well and, like all other Sony devices with wireless connectivity, it walks you through the configuration process. As long as you aren't using a non-standard wireless network, you'll be up and running in no time at all.
We didn't have high expectations for the 3D picture on this TV. Sony has, in the past, fallen foul of the cross-talk, or ghosting, problem that plagues 3D material on LCD TVs. The relatively slow response time of LCD panels -- compared to plasma technology, for instance -- means you'll often notice outlines around images with hard edges when viewing 3D.
But, surprisingly, this TV produces a largely ghost-free 3D image. In fact, it delivers a good overall 3D picture, with a decent amount of depth. Sony's glasses are also some of the best for avoiding reduced light and colour output. They're heavier than Samsung's glasses, but still comfortable.
It's not all good news, though. We noticed some flickering when watching the TV through these glasses. It's quite subtle and some people may not notice it at all, but we found it annoying and we doubt we'd be able to get through a whole film without the glasses irritating us in this way.
Sony's glasses are also the most susceptible to the effects of head movements. If you tilt your head to either side, you'll see the 3D image disappear rapidly. If you like lying down to watch a film, you'll have to position yourself carefully if you want to avoid this.
The problem with larger LCD sets is that they have a nasty habit of showing every flaw in Freeview images. Even Freeview HD channels don't look especially impressive on this TV.
Apportioning blame here is hard. Certainly, Sony can only do so much with the over-compressed channels we get in this country. But, at the same time, we've seen other TVs -- plasmas mostly -- handle the upscaling of SD material much better than this screen does.
That said, at a sensible distance from the screen, we don't have any major gripes with the TV's performance, and there are picture modes that can reduce blocking on Freeview pictures substantially, which is great news if you're sensitive to it.
Hooray for Blu-ray
The HD image quality from a good source, like Blu-ray, is stunning. Spider-Man 3, for example, looks solid and true to the director's vision. We're very happy to see this -- some recent Sony TVs haven't impressed us as much as we think they should have.
While the KDL-55NX813 produces clear audio, with distinct and understandable dialogue, we have to admit we weren't impressed by the overall sound quality. The small speakers can't produce bass well, nor do they seem to cope brilliantly with high-end sounds. This makes for a very flat-sounding TV. Its audio performance just isn't as good as we'd expect at this price.
Weak audio is a common problem but, with Sony positioning this as an all-round TV, it seems rather unfair that it produces such mediocre audio. You could use separate speakers, attached to a 5.1-channel decoder, but that's hardly the point when it comes to a £2,500 television.
While the Sony Bravia KDL-55NX813 produces good 3D and HD images, and decent standard-definition pictures, we have to question its value for money. We think Samsung's 55-inch UE55D8000 is a far better buy, offering better styling and more likeable picture quality for roughly the same price.
We still can't help but remember the Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090 either. Probably our favourite TV ever, its picture quality still puts this Sony set to shame. It's just a pity the PDP-LX5090 is rarer than hen's teeth.
Edited by Charles Kloet