The 52HX903's pictures are generally excellent. Particularly exceptional is the image's contrast.
Thanks to the efforts of one of the best local dimming systems we've seen, the 52HX903 is capable of producing both startlingly deep black levels and squint-inducingly bright whites, all within a single frame, which is something a standard LCD TV could never hope to do so successfully.
It's great to see, too, that the 52HX9032 delivers its superb black levels with impressive cross-screen consistency, with little to no evidence of uneven brightness or patches of clouding. Nor does the image's overall brightness level jump around obviously as the picture is asked to cope with mixed brightness content from a source, avoiding another common LCD failing.
Direct LED-lit TVs with local dimming can have a habit of losing shadow detail in dark scenes. But while it's certainly true that good plasma and some good edge LED screens can reproduce slightly more shadow detail, the Sony certainly doesn't leave dark picture areas looking excessively hollow.
Nor does the 52HX903 suffer too badly from LED's tendency to cause light halos around bright objects when they appear against dark backgrounds.
You can see a gentle cloud around things like the white MGM logo against a completely black background, but the issue is sufficiently contained that you only get a sense of it under really extreme image conditions; there's no obvious telltale cloudiness to normal pictures.
As is often the case with TVs that boast extreme contrast ranges, the 52HX903 also enjoys a superb colour response. The range of hues on show is immense, enabling the picture to look dynamic and subtle all at the same time.
And tones are mostly on the money, despite the lack of much serious fine tuning potential. The previously mentioned moments where tones can look a little unbalanced without the colour management tools to fix them are thankfully rare.
Motion reproduction is another palpable hit. This 52in set produces the cleanest, sharpest most natural motion we've seen on a Sony TV so far. In fact, its motion handling is among the very best we've seen from any flat TV to date.
You do have to be a little careful with some of the screen's settings to keep motion looking spot on; set the MotionFlow system too high, for instance, and shimmering noise appears around the edges of moving objects.
The Film mode can make small objects like tennis balls disappear momentarily, too, if you're not careful when you use it. But provided you're careful, pictures will remain blissfully free of both judder and blur/smearing.
Crisp image reproduction
The 52HX903's exceptional talents extend to its reproduction of the sharpness and detail with HD sources, leaving Blu-rays and HD broadcasts alike looking crisp and clean. We have seen some TVs make HD look even more defined, but we found the 52HX903's level of sharpness to be engagingly natural, especially as it doesn't emphasise source noise.
The 52HX903's standard-definition performance is good too, with the TV's Bravia Engine 3 processing clever enough to add detail to pictures during the upscaling process while also sifting out noise.
The all-important 3D performance throws up the first really significant picture problem. Pictures undoubtedly suffer from crosstalk, where you can see ghosting to either side of the edges of very defined objects.
As with its appearance on Samsung and LG's LCD 3D TVs, this can be very distracting at its worst, leaving images looking unfocused.
However, while there's clearly more crosstalk around than we witnessed on Panasonic's P50VT20 3D plasma set (which remains our 3D TV of choice), there also seems slightly less of it than we saw on the 3D sets from Samsung and LG. Indeed, there's sufficiently less of it to leave the 52HX903's 3D pictures looking mostly rather enjoyable.
Especially since they remain impressively bright and colourful even with the (unusually comfortable and light-shielding) 3D glasses on, aside from a slightly creamier look to peak whites.
Sony's 2D to 3D conversion system is rather less aggressive than Samsung's, with its 3D effect really being very limited in depth. But on the plus side, this does mean it produces precious few unnatural depth effects.
One other smaller issue with the 52HX903's pictures is that, as with all direct LED TVs we've seen, it suffers a slightly limited viewing angle; watching from more than round 40 degrees results in a big leap in light haloing around bright objects, and a reduction in colour intensity and authenticity.