Sony KDL-55W950B Bravia Review (KDL55W950B)
55 Inch, Edge Lit LED-LCD TV, Smart TV, Passive 3D
by Jack Burden, Senior Editor
The KDL-55W950B is the best of the best LED from Sony in 2014 without going into 4K territory. The difference between this one and the W850B below is the TRILUMINOUS display and the X-tended Dynamic Range for a boost in contrast. The TRILUMINOUS display is more important as color reproduction really benefits and look fantastic. As far as features go, the W950B has passive 3D playback, the touchpad remote, and plenty of smart TV features. The speaker setup is quite good thanks to the Wedge design that allows for woofers to be placed in the cabinet as well. The 55-inch model starts at $1,800.
- Bright peak whites and strong contrast
- TRILUMINOUS display produces natural, lifelike colors
- Passive 3D looks great with Blu-rays and streaming content, 2 pairs of 3D glasses are included in the box
- Unique Wedge design makes space for built-in woofers which improves overall sound quality
- USB media player plays a large assortment of video formats and multiple file systems (NTSF, FAT32, etc.) for those with digital media libraries
- 4 HDMI, 3 USB inputs
- Subwoofer out on the TV is a very cool addition we don't see on many TVs out there
- Multiple positions for legs of the stand for any size TV stand is a big plus
- Updated Sony Entertainment network is slick and works better than last year
- Motionflow settings are not ideal for all content
- Side angle viewing suffers from typical LED contrast and color loss
- Camera for Skype is an additional purchase
- Higher price for smaller sized sets when compared to the W850B models
Picture Quality Rating: 91/100
The KDL-55W950B really steps up the picture quality when compared to the other LED TV models from Sony in 2014. The Truluminous display and X-tended Dynamic Range are the star features here and are the only thing to differentiate the picture. The X-reality Pro picture processing engine is standard for LED TVs this year and is the reason for rich and crisp images. The color rendition is realistic and we don't see the 'pop' of over-saturation present in many LED TVs this year. The TRILUMINOUS display takes color reproduction to the next level by providing an even wider range of color. This makes for very accurate color rendition and some of the best seen on LED TVs this year. We noted that background noise and motion artifacts are kept at a minimun as well.
Here you can see great picture depth rendition as well as strong color and contrast
14 different picture modes offer an astounding amount of picture quality choices to optimize the screen for whatever content you are watching. It's true that many of them won't be useful for all situations, but it is nice to have 4 different Photo themed modes for viewing your pictures on the big screen. Once calibrations are made the picture quality on the W950B is excellent with HD and standard definition sources.
Side Angle Viewing
The biggest problem with side viewing angles here is contrast and color saturation degradation. It happens pretty quickly once the viewing point hits 20 to 25 degrees off center, they get much worse the further to the side one goes. This is the case with all matte-screen LCD TVs that we have tested. Front and center, you will see a very good colorful and accurate picture, but from the sides you will be disappointed.
Excellent contrast and bright colors of the W950B are demonstrated in this shot
Motionflow XR 480 and Other Settings
The KDL-55W950B has an ambient light sensor included which automatically adjusts the TVs light output to in-room lighting. These days LED TVs use so little power we recommend leaving the feature turned off. Or rather, finding it and turning it off. The picture can turn dark on you before you know what happened.
Cinemotion: Off, Auto 1 and 2. Feature does not distort background blur too much.
Motionflow: We recommend turning this feature off for film and normal content and leaving on for live sports action or 3D programming. The Standard or Clear settings are good when on. The feature does decrease judder and jerky camera panning somewhat and this may be especially useful for sports programming. Fluidity in the picture during fast action or camera panning is the objective of the Motionflow XR 480 feature. The 480 specification is to alert you to the fact that the backlight is helping to make the native 240Hz panel process faster. Results are usually quite mixed on these features with fast action sports looking great and movies and other film based material having some unwanted complications.
There are so many other picture adjustments like an Auto Light Limiter, Clear White adjustment, Live Color, Advanced Contrast Enhancer (automatically adjusts contrast) and an Auto Light Emitter (adjusts backlighting for bright scenes. There is a ton of picture technology in this TV. Most, unfortunately are better left off, from our testing experience.
Passive 3D Viewing
We have really been loving the Passive 3D technology in out latest tests. We are happy to see that the top tier LED TV from Sony this year is implementing it. No, there isn't a full resolution image being projected to each eye, but a deep and immersive picture still remains. Also, we didn't see a lot of dimming when viewing 3D content like we see in many active 3D TVs. Crosstalk is also not an issue and even without 1080p to each eye the 3D picture looked very defined. 2 pairs of 3D glasses are included in the box, but picking up more won't be an investment as passive 3D glasses are much cheaper. Sony's TDG-500P can be picked up for less than $10 a pair.
Features Rating: 84/100
Sony Entertainment Network – Sony Social View
All of the standard go-to apps are here: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Instant Video, and more. You'll also find your fill of news and sports apps. We did notice that apps can be slow loading and small frustations with sign-up forms. When I tried to load the NHL Vault App, the menu prompts me to go online from a computer to register for the service.
This is the TV page that displays what is on air now and will be soon. It is a nice feature, but it may not be a replacement for cable and satelliet box guides
The Social View feature can be used with an optional camera. Viewers are now able to watch live programming with friends and family even if they are not in the same location. Sony's camera technology allows for a clear image in a dim room and eliminates background noise and echoes. Twitter integration takes the social aspect even futher by connecting viewers to everyone else watching and tweeting about the same program.
This is the layout of the Soical View feature. The program in the largest window with a webcam feed on the left and live Twitter updates on the bottom of the screen
Design and Appearance
The KDL-55W950B design differs from the TVs lower in the 2014 Sony lineup. This one features the "Wedge" design. From the side, the base is wide and slopes in toward the top of the screen. The best part about this design is more room for speakers. Two woofers in addition to the two speakers can fit here. Standard wall mounts still work on the W950B as well. This also has the two legged stand we have been seeing so much of too. Sony really thought this one through and implemented multiple mounting locations on the bottom of the display to accomodate large or small TV stands. The black bezels are as thin as expected to be on a top tier TV and the deepest part of the cabinet is 3 3/4 inches.
The sleek Wedge Design of the W950B aims to address the lacking sound typically associated with flat panel TVs (There is not a pop-up camera on the W950B)
Value Rating: 86/100
As far as value goes, the KDL-55W950B is pretty average. You get the reliability and picture quality associated with the Sony name and a standard feature set with strong passive3 3D viewing. Sound quality is a big plus here that the W950B has over the competition. The Sharp LC-60UQ17 sells for a similar price with some added future-proofing when it comes to native 4K signals, but picture quality is not as strong. The Samsung UN55H7150 has a similar feature set with a stout Smart TV platform for a few hundred less.
Overall Rating: 87/100
- Screen Size (measured diagonally) : 54.6"
- Full HD (1080p) with the new X-tended Dynamic Range feature
- Edge LED array delivers a bright picture
- X-Reality PRO picture processing engine ensures the best color reproduction and picture clarity
- TRILUMINOS Display for breathtaking color, clarity and detail
- Motionflow XR 480
- New, iconic Wedge design accommodates large speakers for deeper, powerful sound in a smaller footprint
- ClearAudio+ Digital Sound Processing (DSP)
- Built-in Wi-Fi for access to Sony Entertainment Network Smart TV features
- Screen Mirroring through NFC OneTouch Mirroring
- MHL ready for mirroring second screens (smartphones, laptops, etc.)
- 2 pairs of 3D glasses included in the box Dimensions without stand (W x H x D): 48 7/8" x 29 3/4" x 3 5/8" Dimensions with stand: 48 7/8" x 31 1/4" x 10" Weight without stand: 43 lbs. Weight with stand: 44.5 lbs.
|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|