Sony KDL-50R550A Review (KDL50R550A)
50 inch, 120Hz, Passive 3D, 240 Motionflow
by Jack Burden, Senior Editor
In a size once dominated by plasma TVs, I never thought I would see Sony compete with an LED edge lit LCD. But that is the case with the KDL-50R550A. Many prefer the brighter peak whites of LEDs especially when visiting the showroom floor. The Sony KDL-50R550A 50 inch is a 3rd tier value offering for 2013 and early 2014. This is the first year Sony has produced passive 3D TVs, which with the KDL50R550A includes 4 pairs of 3D glasses. It has built in Wifi, Smart TV options, USB playback. The TV is also RVU ready for DirecTV and MHL ready for screen mirroring NFC smart devices. It has a more economical matte screen finish than the top models.
Picture Quality Rating: 8.2/10
One note about black level depth on the KDL-50R550A is that they look jet black on the top and bottom bars in a 16:9 format mode when directly viewed front and center. However colors can be a little more washed out on the picture itself due in part to the anti reflective coating on the screen of the R550A.
Colors rendition on these new Sony TVs is exceptional and not over-saturated. The fact that the TVs calibrate easily to D6500K speaks to their color accuracy. The backlight is extremely powerful and can overpower color in the R550A so keep it moderated.
Sometimes dark shadow detail could be better in the KDL-50R550A as the screen filter (matte screen) on this TV causes a hazy appearance with some programming on the screen. One quick fix is to turn up the Brightness setting some. This will cause better definition in dark areas but at the expense of less penetrating blacks.Color rendition is realistic and not over saturated and the TV calibrated near D6500K even though there is only a 2 point white balance control setting on this TV. The custom setting is set fairly close to D65 from the start. There are also only 3 choices of picture modes and no gaming mode on the R550A. Sony generally has great processors in their TVs. The video engines in the R550A does a competent job but there is definitely a significant improvement in the higher end Sony TV lines. The difference results in more motion artifacts in general, less defined lines, and more background noise in the R550A.
Picture SettingsVivid: Blows up the picture with too much blue, image enhancement and all kinds of false features. Backlight and contrast are set at peak settings.
Standard: Still too much blue push but definitely a saturated picture and OK for bright rooms if you turn off the other settings which interfere with picture quality (see Picture Settings).
Custom: Comes set near D6500 for a cinematic, film like picture. One of the most natural picture mode settings we've found.
This feature working in conjunction with the 120Hz panel can distort the natural background blur in the picture somewhat in movies or film-based content so use with care. It's great for sports programming though. Options within the setting are: Clear, Clear Plus, Standard, Smooth, Impulse. We recommend turning it off for movies, and using the Standard or Smooth setting for other programming.
Passive 3D Quality - Outstanding
Sony's and other manufacturers foray into less expensive passive 3D is proving successful. We like it better than the more complicated and controversial active 3D TVs on the market. The glasses are cheap, light and universal across brands and they produce no flicker even with oncoming light. But what we like best is the 3D picture quality with passive 3D on the R55A. Depth perception is great as is color richness and the involvement of the 3D image. On a TV this large, you'll love the 3D performance. Though the picture darkens a good bit with 3D content it adds lots of depth perception to this otherwise flat 2D TV picture.
Side Angle Viewing Quality
This is always an issue with edge-lit LED TVs and especially those with a matte screen finish. With the backlight tweaked way up, it's not bad with the 50R550A as the brightness helps with off angle viewing contrast. But at normal levels (which we recommend) you will see contrast and colors fade off center at around 30 degrees. The R550A is an average LED TV performer in this category. Color rendition also changes slightly from side angles. The inbuilt Clear Resolution Enhancer technology does help some, but not enough.
Features Rating: 8.1/10
Smart TV Options
Overall, we were not too impressed by the SEN (Sony Entertainment NEtwork). Internet choices are fairly easy to access and include Netflix®, Pandora®, HuluPlus™, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube™, Slacker® Internet Radio, Crackle and social networking through Facebook and Twitter as well as others like Yahoo! Broadcast Interactivity Widgets. This new platform allows one-click access to TV Apps which are related to the content you are watching on the TV. In other words, it's a convenient way for Sony to market their Apps to you if you are so inclined to use the feature. On the other hand, it does make it easy for you to know which Apps you might like. As far as additional and free Apps goes I really did not see a lot of value.
Here are a few of the included Apps that we have viewed and rated:
Yahoo!: Widgets Internet Apps Button on remote takes you there.
Blinkx: quirky videos, funny shorts videos rating 2.5 out of 5
Dr. Oz: Short tips on better health. One minute videos. Rating 3 out of 5.
Crackle: Has 220 free movies (with ads) but some pretty good choices 4 out of 5.
Slacker: Personal radio with lots of music choice. It gives some commentary on the tunes and you can set it to a genre and just let it roll – providing background music if you want 4.5 out of 5.
Sony Digital Concert Series: A limited selection of 7 live concert recordings from Creed, ThirdEyeBlind, and Chickenfoot – at least that's all they have at the time of this writing. Recording quality is average and is of the whole concert. Rating 3 out of 5.
Sony Video Unlimited: Paid movie service $5.99 for HD Movies
Apps can be slow loading. When I tried to load the NHL Vault App, the menu prompts me to go online from a computer to register for the service.
The inbuilt Ambient light sensor is there for your use if you want it but may be turned off through the menu system. It introduces a slight amount of flicker that the most pure picture-hearted will not want to tolerate, plus it can dim the picture at unexpected moments.
Appearance and Design
The gloss black plastic bezel frame isn't bad - it's certainly nothing special but at least it's a half inch in width. I like a matte frame better. The chrome strip on the bottom of the bezel is distracting and not attractive. Depth is pretty hefty at over 3.3 inches.
Value Rating: 8.8/10
A very good comparison for the KDL-50R550A is Sharp line with which Sony is trying to take some market share. The 50R550A sells for around $998 putting it very nicely in a value-plus area in the price per square inch category. It has a reasonable feature set to go along with the size and we particularly like the passive 3D. The Samsung UN50F6400 and LG 50GA6400 are good comparisons.
Overall Rating: 8.4/10
|Jack Burden joined the review staff of CEAG Inc. in May 2003 after finishing his graduate work at Harvard University. He has been reporting on consumer electronics and conducting product reviews for more than seven years... Read more about Jack|