I’m glad that Sony has kept the X800 series similar to last years X830C with only a few upgrade touches. We loved this TV last year for its exceptional picture/price combination along with good solid features. The same applies this year with the X800D. One of the primary differences in last years model is the focus around HDR (high dynamic range) for 2016 and beyond. HDR is originally a camera feature, and in order to enjoy HDR on this TV, the content will also have to have been filmed in HDR. Essentially what you get with HDR is higher luminosity and contrast, and practically this feature enhances detail in shadows, and especially sun highlighted effects. The X800D model is pretty much the same as the X850D series except that it has a lower panel refresh rate of 60hz (240 Motion Flow enhanced). The smaller sizes of 43” and 49” do not warrant the need for the higher refresh rate.
Realistic color rendition is a staple of the high end Sony TVs. Colors are not over-saturated while grayscale uniformity is very good yielding a very smooth picture. We rarely see an LED back lit TV with such even back light uniformity – no clouding in blacks and no dark shadows in a mid-tone gray screen. Light flow-through is not as vibrant as some TVs but this depends more on content.
This wide-gamut color technology has been fantastic for Sony for a couple years. It produces much more realism and true-to-life color renditions than most of Sony’s competitors, and in general takes less calibration effort to obtain an enjoyable picture setup. Colors are not over-juiced as they are with some, but they still have plenty of pop and are beautiful.
Up-scaling and conversion is Sony’s bread and butter and it’s the best attribute of the X800D. The 4K X-Reality Pro engine is exceedingly good at up-converting and smoothing the HD signal to the native resolution of the panel. If this were not the case, why buy a 4K TV in the first place except to future proof? There still is not enough 4K content to be concerned with, so up-scaling has to be a preeminent consideration.
One of the best performances we’ve seen in this area for a mid-priced 4K TV although this is still a weakness of all LED-backlit LCD TVs.Color saturation and contrast begin degrading at around 15 degrees, they do not degrade noticeably until around 20 degrees off center. The screen is semi-matte and does a good job of not reflecting in room light. I like this screen and TV better at night in a low light room due to it not having as much light-flow from the LED backlights (as some other brands).
If you don’t have any time to make adjustments, try the Cinema Pro setting for nighttime viewing and the Cinema Home setting for daytime viewing. Otherwise, use our Custom picture settings.
(For HDMI inputs there are also Photo-Vivid, Photo-Standard, Photo-Custom, Game, Graphics) Of course, the Game mode is the preferred setting for gaming to cut down on input lag.
Sony does not seem smitten by the curved screen craze from Samsung. I agree with them. What’s the point? Sony’s design elements are simple and straightforward with the 2016/2017 selections with a very thin quarter inch frame and 2” or so depth on the X800D series. It’s basically the same matte black finish frame that looked good last year. The simplistic center mounted stand keeps the TV looking sleek. Overall it’s an almost frame-less, and very unobtrusive design allowing the picture to stand out.
The X800D gets the newest Google Android TV ops system 6.0. Android TV featured Apps include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Crackle and SiriusXM, and around 30 small insignificant Apps. Add HBO NOW, EPIX, Starz Play, Fusion, Pluto TV and a few more to the assortment this year. At first it looks like a limited selection until you delve into the Google Play Music, Games, Movies and TV options. Then lots more content opens up. What we really like is the operation speed combined with excellent video and sound quality of the Android/Google Play section of the Smart TV offerings. This is differentiated from the competition. The voice search function on the touchpad remote works exceptionally well and fast with You Tube and Google Play options.
Google Cast allows you to show movies, pictures, and TV shows from your IOS or Android based smartphone or from a laptop. We think the best use of Google Play is gaming.
The new jet black matte finish touch pad remote from Sony has a very nice fast responsive touch pad that definitely speeds across Smart TV Apps and also speeds up search considerably when typing on the on-screen keypad. It’s a swipe and click pad, not as good as the point and click remotes but an upgrade over a 5-way controller. The word recognition in the voice search function is extremely impressive. Even searching for peoples names in the You Tube App, the Android search picked up immediately. The voice search function is mostly useful for You Tube, and Google Play searches. The voice recognition search works even in a noisy room. The TVs response time on delivering results is fast and accurate.
The TV menu interface is clean looking (albeit confusing) and there are tons of preset picture options (7 not counting photo.) The Cinema Pro and Cinema Home settings are good right out of the box. But operation of the menu system is quirky and difficult and there are some mis-titled settings such as Brightness rather than Backlight. The processor also had a tough time handling commands given too quickly. The Smart TV layout is easily accessed by the Home button on the remote. This brings up all the Smart TV Apps and Google Play options.
The Film or Cinemotion (depending on software update) Picture Setting is located in the Picture Setting Adjustments menu, under Advanced Settings, under Clarity. The setting combined with the Motionflow setting has an impact on whether your picture is over-clarified by eliminating too much natural background blur. This creates the dreaded “Telenovela effect”. It’s easy to prevent on the X850D. All you have to do is keep the Motionflow Smoothness setting at level 3 and Clearness setting at level 2 and tune the Film/Cinemotion setting to Off or Low. The feature only provides frame compensation to remove judder at the top two settings of Medium and High. All of that said, The Telenovela Effect is not nearly as pronounced and distracting in the X850D as with many TVs on the market such as the Samsung’s.
The X800D comes preset with the ClearAudio+ feature set to on. There are too many unwanted side effects from this sound setting including a hollow echoing effect. We recommend immediately turning this feature Off. This is all we needed to adjust to get a very respectable sound quality from the TV. Voices were clearly separated from background noise and music. Both are nicely defined for a very good sound quality. Volume capability is adequate but not the best tested. It takes a 50% volume setting to fill a large room. Speakers are 10w each.
It takes 5 or 10 minutes to get connected the first time, but the connection capabilities are good. We were at least 40 feet from the router and received fast responses once we connected a couple times. It’s a little glitchy upon setup, so be patient. The next day should be seamless. You will likely need to update the software after connecting. We recommend doing this right away.
The X830C model predecessor to the X800D ended up being one of the best value models in the market after a few price drops late in the year. So do not be discouraged if the X800D starts out at a little higher price than you want. It will likely come down.
XBR43X800D – $698
XBR49X800D – $848
While these are certainly not bargain prices for the size, it is difficult to obtain a high quality TV in the 43” or 49” size ranges in today’s market. These sizes are dominated by off brands like TCL, Hisense, and Vizio. If you want a top quality TV you will use for many years, the X800D has all the future proofing you could want. And really, these prices are still quite reasonable.