Most helpful positive review
173 of 185 people found the following review helpful
A Jack Of All Trades And A Master Of One. (Suggested Settings At End)
on 25 November 2014
There is an old saying that goes something like "A Jack of all trades but a master of none ". It implies that those who turn their hand to a number of different crafts never become truly skilled in any one. Well, the Sony Bravia KDL55W829 bucks that trend in a big way.
Whilst this 55 inch Sony offers 3D , delivers reasonable sound, and has SMART functionality, these are merely the TV's second string jobs. Where it really earns it's corn is by serving up deliciously refined 2D HD pictures that are among the very best to be found . In this vital area of picture quality the Sony is truly a master craftsman and merits serious consideration from anyone seeking a new TV.
1. Stunning 2D HD pictures.
2. Fabulously rich, vibrant, and realistic colours.
3. Satisfyingly good contrast and black levels.
4. Crisp and detailed HD images.
5. Fantastic motion handling.
6. Class leading input lag.
7. Minimalistic design means frame takes up little space.
1. I have seen better 3D images.
2. Menu layout badly organised.
3. SMART functions not the best.
4. Remote badly designed.
5. Sound O.K. but can be improved by external equipment
At almost twice the area of a 40 inch, this is a large screen. However it's thin bezel and stand help to keep it unobtrusive. Sideways on the TV is slim but bulges out towards the base, where the speakers are, helping it to deliver reasonable sound.
The remote could be better designed. It's buttons are small and badly laid out, making it awkward to use. It also lacks any programmable buttons. I would have liked the option to assign a couple to select HDMI 1 and 2 . However, these are not major issues, just slight niggles.
This TV is well connected. There is a Freeview HD tuner, a Satellite tuner (but not Freesat), built in WiFi , 4 HDMI sockets, 2 USB sockets, Component connections, a SCART socket, an Optical Audio Out , an Ethernet port and a Headphone socket.
Set Up :
Tuning in and connecting to the Internet was simple. Obtaining the best pictures this TV can deliver was more difficult. Out of the box the images were over processed. Edges looked jagged , faces belonged to escapees from Madam Tussaud's (waxy and unreal) and bright whites had a slight green tint. Also the picture was a bit dull and sombre, more like a wet Monday than a sunny Saturday at the beach.
I disliked all the preset picture modes so decided on extensive configuration. I found it best to switch off everything that had been added to the mix in order to "improve" the picture and then to try each setting, one by one, to assess the effect on the resulting images.
The menus are somewhat scattered but, by pressing the Home button and navigating via Settings to System Settings and later to the Display menu, I found all the essential picture controls. First I turned off everything in Eco. Immediately the picture brightened, with no chance of dimming if the room light changed. Next I visited Scene Select and chose General , then to Picture Mode and chose Standard..
I then spent hours working out what the remaining selections did to improve the images . I decided that , often , any perceived improvement was offset by undesirable effects and most of the options were best switched off. I list my settings at the end, but I cannot claim that they will give you your perfect picture. Even if from the same production line TV's vary and are unlikely to give identical results. Also viewing rooms vary (light levels and viewing distances) and, most importantly, viewer preferences vary. You may prefer quite different pictures to me but, if you dislike the Sony presets, you could use my settings as an alternative starting point. This television will give you plenty of scope to find the right picture for you.
2-D Performance :
When the TV is reined in, by having the excesses of picture processing tamed , it produces truly majestic Full HD pictures by doing the most important things so very well. It brings to the screen all of the elements that must be present to make great images and fuses them together with a skill that delivers stunningly good results.
Any great TV picture must have expansive contrast. True blacks should be like a bottomless pit in a power cut but shadows must retain detail or risk looking flat. Also whites should be bright and punchy without burning detail out. To achieve this is no easy task but this Sony delivers across the range. Watching the tonally exaggerated black and white film "Sin City : A Dame to Kill For" puts strong whites adjacent to deep blacks. There is no smudging of one into the other and both retain oodles of detail, demonstrating just how well this TV handles the different brightness levels.
Colour is also a very important considerstion and here this TV really excels. What is so impressive is it's ability to handle the full spectrum, both like a Modern Spray Paint Artist, and also like an Old Master . This Sony takes both styles in it's stride and never falters, even in dark scenes, which can be a difficult test of accurate colour rendition.
Play a BluRay of Moulin Rouge and be treated to a riot of bright , punchy, saturated colour that is thrown at the screen in big dollops and which challenges your visual cortex to keep up. Through all of this ,though, the Sony never tips over into being vulgar or cartoonish. The colours look real and textured, vibrant and brash, but never plasticky or unnatural. You see a glorious display of bright primary colour, but always one that is controlled and well disciplined .
Switch to a BluRay of The Physician and see the gentler side of the Sony's colour management skills. The Old Master is at work and performs a masterclass on the use of rich but muted autumnal pastel shades. The light and the pigments that make up the scenes appear to have been lovingly dripped into place, drop by precious drop. This results in truly immersive and engaging pictures that become quite hypnotic and distracting from the story line as they gently draw you in.
Sharp and detailed pictures are crucial. This TV can deliver but a lot of experimentation was needed to achieve the results that I wanted. The problem is that there are no less than four picture controls that are directly involved with sharpness (Sharpness, Reality Creation,Detail Enhancer and Edge Enhancer). You must find the best balance between these or risk a picture that is soft, at one extreme , or worried by jagged over stressed lines at the other. I found that Sharpness was fine left at 50 . If reduced the image increasingly softened until it eventually became unwatchable. Edge Enhancer was best turned off as it can ruin detail and then it is a balance between Reality Creation and Detail Enhancer. Both should probably be used sparingly or risk artefacts along edges.
I mention some less obvious controls affecting sharpness and detail in the settings section. These also need consideration if you want the crispest of pictures.
Also a bright enough picture is vital. No problem, this TV can be set to burn brighter than the center of the sun if you so wish. Personally I like a bright picture but realise that you can have too much of a good thing with contrast, detail and colour saturation all suffering if you drive the panel too hard. It is, however, easy to adjust the overall brightness by use of the backlight until you reach the best level for you and your room.
The way a TV handles motion has become a major marketing point and the good news is that this Sony handles motion stutter well, even without using any extra Motionflow processing. However, there are six different settings for Motionflow to choose from if you wish. I don't use it because Motionflow can cause issues such as screen dimming and possible image softening and the TV does well enough without it.
Thinking about motion, this TV has class leading low input lag, making it a great choice for gamers.
Regarding picture quality, you wouldn't buy a thorough bred race horse and feed it mouldy hay, would you? The same goes for this TV. Feed it top class signals and you will see top class pictures but anything less is revealed for what it is. A good 1080p HD signal from the TV's tuner will yield mouth watering results but take a step down to standard definition and the difference is plain to see. The good news is that this Sony loves BluRay and other 1080p signals.
I was pleasantly surprised by the sound output. It is clear and detailed with a good mid range, which is important for voices. It's also gutsy enough to do action scenes fairly well. It doesn't have really low down bass but nor is it tinny. To help you to set it to your liking the sound menu has several preset modes and a graphic equaliser.
I would rate the TV's sound as reasonable and if I only used it for watching TV and videos then I would have no objection to using it unaided. However, I play music from my PC via my TV and for that I want a higher quality and so I connected it to my stereo system via the Digital Optical Out. This gives fantastic results. You can also connect to an analogue sound system from the TV's headphone socket using a 3.5mm Jack to 2 x RCA Phono Stereo Audio Cable. Of course a Soundbar could also be used.
3-D Performance :
3-D is not the TV's strong point. Sometimes there is crosstalk evident (two overlapping 2-D images instead of one 3-D image) causing blurred and indistinct pictures. Also contrast is reduced and some detail is lost.
However it produces very good colours and so the images can look quite appealing. Overall it does passably well for an occasional change but I do find myself wanting to return to the stunning 2 D images that the TV can deliver.
SMART Functionality :
The Sony has a wealth of apps if you fancy going on the net , but it lacks some basic catchup capabilities, namely ITV and Ch 4 , and it is slow. Personally I am waiting for the day when I can truly use my TV like I use my computer. Until then I will continue to link up my Full HD laptop to the TV with an HDMI cable.
Maybe one day I will fully explore the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN on remote) but last time I tried I found the picture quality poor and so I abandoned it in favour of some luxurious HD.
The Media Server default is Folder-Less View. So, if you attach a hard drive with files in folders, the folders are removed, leaving a multitude of files to search through. Not very SMART in my opinion.
To retain the folders you must attach the drive, press Home, select Media Server and then choose the drive. Then press Options, scroll upwards to Folder-Less View, which initially may be off the top of the screen, and select it. This changes it to Folder View, which is much easier to navigate. It's no wonder a lot of people don't find this setting, it's another example of a poorly structured Sony menu layout.
This TV does one thing extremely well, that is, it delivers 2-D HD picture quality of the highest order. It also offers several other things such as reasonable sound, 3-D and Smart capabilities but these are not of the top tier . If you put a high value on these other attributes then possibly look elsewhere. If, however, your priority is beautiful pictures on a large screen then this Sony should be on your short list. The acreage of quality panel that you are getting for your money is good value.
There is, however, a caveat to receiving these gorgeous pictures, namely that you should be prepared to invest more than just the TV's purchase price and also put in some time in order to obtain the very best possible results, or consider paying a professional to calibrate the TV. Either way this TV will pay you back handsomely with the full and rich images that it will lavish upon you.
These settings work well for me , on my TV, and in my room. They may not suit you but may give you a different starting point from the Sony presets, which I found to be over processed. To see all the detail of Full HD I sit just 6' from my TV but the further away you sit then the less obvious picture artefacts become and the better standard definition looks. Please do not believe the old wives tale that sitting too close to the TV damages your eyesight, it is pure myth.
I use a bias light suspended on the back of my TV to improve dark room viewing(under cupboard daylight fluorescent strip light, 18 Watt, 730 mm length.- Amazon) . This increases perceived contrast by deepening blacks, smooths out variations in light intensity and so helps reduce eye strain, and conveniently allows one backlight setting for both day and night.
Pausing a BluRay and experimenting with the settings can be helpful in seeing some of the effects of the picture options.
Note that the XReality Pro Engine is always switched on and cannot be switched off. Don't confuse it with Realty Creation, which is optional.
In Eco Settings (Home/Settings/System Settings): Power Saving - Off......... Scene Select Sync - Off ......... Light Sensor - Off
Scene Select : General
Picture Mode : Standard.... .(Many choose Scene Select: Cinema ........Picture Mode : Cinema 1 - Brighter than Cinema 2 )
Backlight : 7...( I have tried from 3 [Night] to 8 [day] but 7 seems a good day/night compromise whilst using bias lighting at night)
Contrast : 80...(At this level I get all the highlight detail and whites are punchy enough for me. Much higher and faces can look glossy )
Brightness : 50
Colour : 50......(much higher and some faces can look sunburned )
Hue : 0
Colour Temperature : Neutral......( I also like warm2 but prefer the slightly cooler , clean look of neutral)
Sharpness : 50
Noise Reduction : Off
MPEG Noise Reduction : Off
Dot Noise Reduction : Off.......(I don't like to use any noise reduction unless essential as it can soften the image)
Reality Creation : Off (For BluRay) / Manual (For DVD and TV Aerial- With Resolution 20 and Noise Filtering Min)..( Tricky one this as Reality Creation can improve some pictures but there is a danger of stressed edges and overdone detailing. It is useful for anything that is not true 1080p but has been upscaled (DVD/SDTV) or for heavily compressed signals (HDTV). It is not good for BluRay due to the undesirable Noise Filtering which cannot be turned off. I find the Auto setting may improve some images but can be way too aggressive for others. Experiment !!)
Smooth Gradation : Off......(If on it can soften the picture and I have never noticed a benefit)
Motionflow : Off......(Perhaps Standard for fast sport such as football but due to how Motionflow works it can cause some slight double imaging and softening so you may want to leave it off at all times, as I now do.)
Film Mode : Auto.......Sets the correct cadence for films so should be set to auto.
Black Corrector : Off......(Can rob shadow detail)
Advance Contrast Enhancer : Off......( Not needed and may rob shadow detail and overcook the whites and so lose highlight detail as well)
Gamma : Minus 1
Auto Light Limiter : Off......( I am happy for bright parts of a scene to look bright, having set my contrast and backlight how I want them)
Clear White : Off......( Just tints the whites with blue)
Live Colour : Off ......( If On colours look artificial to me but maybe try low if you want more intense colours )
White Balance : Gains = Red -3 Green -8 Blue 0 All bias values at 0...( These values are to reduce green a little but raise blue in relation to the others . It had to be done by reducing green and red because there is no option to directly increase the blue value. Skin tones are a good test of colour. If these appear too red at this setting try nudging the green back up.)
Detail Enhancer : Medium......( Experiment with Reality Creation and Detail Enhancer but watch for stressed edges if they are set too high)
Edge Enhancer : Off......(Can actually destroy detail)
Skin Naturaliser : Off......( Whilst smoothing out skin texture it does remove detail.)
A bit more about Reality Creation and Detail Enhancer : I have found with DVD/SDTV/ HDTV a good combination is Reality Creation set to Manual (Resolution at 20 and Noise Filtering at Minimum) coupled with Detail Enhancer on Medium. For BluRays via the HDMI input I set Detail Enhancer to Medium but Reality Creation Off, because with Reality Creation On there is always some noise filtering which cannot be turned off. This is really unwanted with BluRay as it can cause film grain creep and fizzing (due to temporal averaging) as well as destroying fine detail.