Design of the Sony Bravia KLV-46X350A
The KLV-46X350A is a near-clone of the original X series. You will still get a floating glass design synonymous with the flagship Bravia as well as other fine touches. For example, there is the illuminated Sony logo, shiny aluminum rims and interchangeable bezel. The latter now comes in six contrasting hues to better match your home deco. On top of the usual selection of black, blue, red, white and silver, you will also have a choice of gold. Other cosmetic variations are a stain-resistant brushed metal finish and a slightly wider form factor primarily due to a pair of side speakers.
The onboard dials and sockets are right where they ought to be, conveniently located on the left for side A/V inputs and corresponding right for TV controls. The selection for the former includes a handy HDMI for the latest HD camcorders and USB for JPEG playback. Given a choice, we would like to have inbuilt provision for swivel options, though there is little to nitpick when it comes to the build of the sturdy L-shaped stand. For the minimalists, a simple hook and a sizeable clip are available on the rear to route and tidy up the usual bundle of snaking cords.
Sony has upped the ante by shipping a matching backlit remote for this Bravia. Most of the critical keys such as Volume and TV Channel adjustments are adequately covered here. That said, the implementation could benefit from an auto illumination rather than manual activation. Another interesting bit is its five-way navigation control. This has the same look and feel of its counterpart found in the PS3's controller. Multifunction capability compatible with various brands is another strong pro, though dedicated input keys are still very much a pipe dream.
Faring equally well is the comprehensive software menu. Here, there are more than sufficient advanced video configurations to keep enthusiasts busy. The roundup includes a handful of Bravia Engine functions and SpyderTV Pro-friendly grayscale cuts and gains. Apparently first-time owners are not forgotten, too, as an onscreen guide is on hand for quick references. If that's still not enough, you can always fall back on the well-written manual to decipher the technicalities. Nevertheless, navigation could have been easier if the menu was less structured.
Features of the Sony Bravia KLV-46X350A
The Bravia X incarnation is more than an incremental upgrade of its predecessor. Besides the customary native 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution, Sony has also beefed up dynamic contrast by a two-plus-fold leap to 18,000:1. Matching this ultra-high rating is a set of competent specifications at 500cd/m2 brightness, 8ms response time and an industrial-leading 178-degree viewing angle. To further boost motion reproduction, there is 100Hz Motion Flow which interpolates and inserts intermittent extra picture frames for smoother action transition.
New and exclusive to the X-series is the Bravia Engine Pro, its most advanced video processor to date. It shares many features such as advanced noise reduction of the EX iteration plus enhanced function which improves HD signals. Speaking of which, Sony is extending the HDMI input handling with film-oriented 1080p24 support. Dubbed 24P True Cinema, it eliminates unnecessary frame-rate conversion for judder-free visuals. To top it off, hue vibrancy is reinforced with its Live Color Creation technology and second-generation wide color gamut backlighting.
For the shutterbugs, its designers are throwing in value-added onboard photo playback. This accepts JPEG files through a high-speed USB port, capable of accepting a variety of storage media. The spread ranges from inexpensive thumbdrives to card readers and digital cameras. Operating the PhotoTV HD function is a no-brainer on the whole, manually activated through the software menu. The interface is straightforward with preview thumbnails presented in a 5 x 4 grid, plus additional options for image rotation and customizable slideshows.
Connectivity-wise, the KLV-46X350A has been updated with three HDMI sockets: One by the side and two on the rear. These are Bravia Link-enabled (HDMI-CEC) for one-touch control of all compatible Sony A/V products. Take, simultaneous powering up and shutting down of your Bravia TV and HTIB. Factoring in the dual sets of component-video and PC input, we have a total of six 1080p-ready sockets which are more than adequate for an average setup. Missing, though, is a digital audio output, increasingly common on its competitors' offerings.
Performance of the Sony Bravia KLV-46X350A
Color calibrating the Bravia went relatively smoothly except for a grayed-out hue setting. The review unit was hooked up to a PlayStation 3 console and our reference Pioneer DV-S969AVi DVD player via Monster HDMI cables. We were able to tune into the local MediaCorp TV stations after a quick scan and were greeted with pretty clear pictures onscreen. Fiddling with DRC or Digital Reality Creation function further boosts sharpness without the side effects of amplifying background noise. Light dot crawl, however, was visible especially for weaker receptions.
Moving onto our standard Avia synthetic test patterns, the KLV-46X350A was able to tackle the challenging grayscale tracking convincingly, resolving the deepest shade of black with ease. The same went for color decoding with near-perfect accuracy except for an extremely minor dip in red. To countercheck the black levels, we fired up a DVD copy of Blade 2 and were impressed with its revealing shadow details garnered in the dark warehouse ninja assault scene. For those with a huge library of DVDs, you will not be disappointed with the set's sharp and clean upscaled video.
Having said that, the real deal-breaker was its brilliant showing of Casino Royale in Blu-ray. Unlike the X200, the new X-series exhibited a subtle balance of sharpness and film-like attribute. This when combined with its warm saturated colors and solid depth of field delivered realistic and less fatigue-inducing viewing experience. Nonetheless, it was the HQV HD benchmarks which revealed two minor flaws. The panel had problems rendering some 1 pixel-thick bars in Video Resolution Loss Test, while strobbings were picked up during our Film Resolution Loss Test.
As a testimony of the Motion Flow effectiveness, the opening Bond Madagascar chase scene was reproduced in smear-free fluidity. Switching over to the video-centric PS3 Ridge Racer 7 turned out similar results with very little signs of ghosting. We weren't exactly expecting high text quality from the analog PC input, but Sony proved us wrong by displaying razor-sharp fonts at its native 1080p resolution. This was matched by a pleasantly smooth gradation when we put up a color-banding test pattern through an HP 6910 laptop onto the big screen.
For the record, photo preview was reasonably fast after PhotoTV HD was activated. On the average, it took another 5 seconds to load a 5-megapixel JPEG from a thumbdrive, which isn't blazing fast by today's standard. Fortunately, the pictures were crisp and detailed, and presented in original aspect ratio. Rounding up the positive critique was its audio subsystem. This had plenty of mid-bass, extended treble and respectable stereo imaging. As a matter of fact, spatial effects were audible when S-Force front surround was engaged, but at the expense of vocal imaging.
Supposedly, if there was a wishlist, the Sony Bravia KLV-46X350A would probably have most of the checkboxes ticked to reflect its wealth of features and wholesome A/V performance. The only issue we had with this competent all-rounder was its high S$7,999 (US$5,262.50) price tag. However, since the price differences are not vastly huge and within 20 percent of its peers, we felt it difficult not to award this Bravia a hardearned Editors' Choice. To take into consideration the value proposition, we have decided to give the set an "8" instead of "9" for features.