Sony XBR-X800D Series Bravia Review

Sony XBR-X800D Android TV Apps
Sony XBR-X800D Android TV Apps

Strengths

  • Awesome dark shadow detail and black levels
  • Excellent night¬ time (dark room) picture quality
  • Smooth upscaling with realistic color
  • Sound especially voice quality (after adjustments)
  • Android Smart TV operation is fast, quality, and voice search works well
  • Plenty of Preset Picture Modes

Weaknesses

  • Glitchy processor when operating many functions quickly
  • Menu Interface can be confusing at first
  • No included web browser
  • Some of the preset picture modes are no good

Neutral

  • Gaming input lag

Picture Quality

“The HDR enhancements are great if you can nab some HDR content to watch on it.”

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.

Uniformity/Grayscale/Color

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.

Triluminous Display

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-Conversion of HD to 4K

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.

Sony XBR-X800D Android TV Apps
A great shot of the X800D upscaling an HD signal from a Maroon 5’s YouTube

Side Angle Viewing

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).

PICTURE MODES

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.

  • Vivid – Completely blown out color and false picture
  • Standard – Also over-hyped unnatural color, contrast preset to 100, too much blue in neutral color temp preset.
  • Custom – This preferred mode gets you close to D65 and what we typically recommend for settings. Software related features under Clarity sub settings like: Reality Creation, Random noise reduction, and Digital noise reduction are all off under factory set. Under Motion the Film Mode (Cinemotion) is set to off.
  • Cinema Pro – This is a very nice setting for a low light or dark room – especially for movies.
  • Cinema Home- The increase in on-screen picture light is from the higher Gamma setting and moderately from the Live Color setting being in High. This is a good bright room and all purpose setting even for sports.
  • Sports- We did not like this settings for sports nor anything else. It created lots of conflict and unwelcome additions on the screen, over-hyped color, motion artifacts, and even some strobing effects. The Film Mode is set to High so you get the soap opera effect unless you adjust it down.
  • Animation– Did not test, but we can only assume animated movies look good on it.

(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.

Features Rating 93/100

Design/Appearance

“Sony does not seem smitten by the curved screen craze from Samsung and LG.”

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.

Smart TV/Android TV Operating System Features

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.

Touch Pad Remote / Android TV Search

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.

TV Menu and Smart TV Interface Navigation

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.

Film/Cinemotion Mode – Keep it Low or Off to prevent Soap Opera Effect

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.

Sound Quality – ClearAudio+ – Turn Off

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.

Wifi Connection

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.

Value Rating 84/100

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.

Overall Rating: 90/100

Quick Specs

  • 4K Ultra HD providing 4x the resolution of 1080p
  • 4K Processor X1
  • 4K X-Reality PRO picture engine for best picture from any source
  • TRILUMINOS Display reproduces highly accurate color and clarity
  • HDR Compatible
  • 60Hz native rehresh rate
  • ClearAudio+ Digital Sound Processing (DSP)
  • Audio Power Output : 10W+10W
  • Speaker Configuration : 2ch, Full Range (30 x 80 mm) x 2
  • HDMI 2.0 means 4K content at 60p is possible
  • Future proofed with HEVC codec for support of future 4K content
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Google Cast
  • Android TV 6.0
  • Dimensions
  • TV without stand XBR49X800D: 43.1″ x 25.3″ x 1.8″
  • TV with stand XBR49X800D: 43.1″ x 27.1″ x 8.6″
  • XBR43X800D without stand: 37.9″ x 22.3″ x 1.8″
  • XBR43X800D with stand: 37.9″ x 24.1″ x 8.6″

Sony XBR65A1E Review

Sony XBR65A1E Review

 

Through the gloss screen finish with excellent anti-reflective qualities the A1E produces an awesome OLED TV picture quality that is unrivaled by 4K LED TVs at the moment. Though the OLED panel is manufactured by LG, Sony’s processing chip sets and design are all Sony, and therefore make the A1E a bit different from their competitor.

Strengths

  • Black Levels, Uniformity and Contrast
  • Sound Quality
  • Excellent Processing of motion content
  • Great Fast motion playback
  • Color Accuracy and Realistic Rendition
  • Side Angle Viewing
  • HDR performance superb
  • HDR Brightness
  • Appearance and Build Quality
  • Dark Shadow Detail
  • Good Selection of Preset Picture Mode
  • Android Smart TV operation is fast, quality, and voice search works well

Weaknesses

  • Gaming Input Lag
  • Price

Picture Quality Rating: 98/100

 

Why is OLED technology better than LED/LCD TV in Picture Quality?

If I had to answer this question in a word: Contrast.

A bit of design speak first:

First and foremost OLED TVs do not contain the “twisting” crystals found in all LCD based TVs (including LED TVs). Instead of producing color information by way light passing through these prisms of crystal glass as they turn at incredible speeds, color information in OLED TVs is produced from organic carbon based compounds, which emit green, blue and red lights in response to electric current. This is actually more akin to the way plasma TV phosphors work than the twisting crystals in an LCD. There are no additional light sources necessary to energize the organic color compounds than this small electric charge. Interestingly, a small part of OLED TV technology is taken from the CRT TV. OLED TVs have a cathode layer to provide the mentioned electric charge to the pixels.

Back to picture quality. Due to the backlight used to illuminate images on an LCD TV, there is less flexibility in producing black or very dark scenes. There must always be a flowthrough process from the backlight, through the LCD. There are various ways LCD panel manufacturers attempt to accomplish deep black levels but let’s suffice it to say that they all fall well short of the effortless and perfect black levels of OLED TVs. All the OLE has to do to present perfect black is cut the power to any individual pixels. Since there are over 8M pixels in the new 4K OLED models, you can well understand how vast the contrast ratio is even in small individual areas of the screen. Illuminated colors pop much more off of this platform, making them look more vivid and alive even when properly calibrated.

While there are some slight advantages of LED backlit LCD TVs in potential brightness, peak whites, and video processing, they easily eclipsed by the contrast, color and black presentation of OLED TVs.

“The saturation level of images on screen do not fade when viewing off center.”

A1E vs LED 4K

As expected the advantages to OLED TVs in general are pronounced on the AE1. The contrast is exceptional, as isblack uniformity and color reproduction. The only area that the A1E does not exceed a high end 4K LED is in bright room performance due to its average brightness not being quite as high. Another impressive area and one that I was really looking forward to with the A1E is processing…

Up-Conversion of HD to 4K

Up-scaling and conversion is the most important aspect of any 4K UHD TV for 2017/2018 due to the dearth of 4K content of the average viewer, and Sony is the best at it in my view. The reasons are the excellent combination of the 4K X-Reality PRO up-scaling Algorithm technology used with the new 4K Processor X1 Extreme engine. On the A1E panel a good HD signal just looks incredible. Movies are also excellent and we recommend a room light condition of moderate to low light for this TV to unleash its full OLED capabilities.

Side Angle Viewing

The old Achilles heal of LED backlit TVs cannot be fully remedied, but OLED lights evenly across the surface and so viewing angles are almost perfect. That is, the saturation level of images on screen do not fade when viewing off center. This makes the A1E more versatile for wider room conditions. Everyone doesn’t have to sit front and center to see a great picture.

HDR Wide Color Gamut Viewing

The second focus TV feature for 2017/2018 is HDR. HDR extends the range that a pixel in an TV can show. This applies to the brightness and luminosity of images. Contrast is enhanced by increased brightness rather than deeper blacks. Rather than just increase the brightness of the picture overall though, the real purpose of HDR is to increase contrast in various image areas of the picture. It improves the presentation in the brighter parts of the picture and this creates more contrast with surrounding darker parts of the picture. Since picture contrast is one of the primary features in improving perceived depth, HDR is considered a major picture quality improvement even though it may not increase the overall contrast of the panel a lot. Bright colors receive enhanced purity. A good HDR image (such as on the A1E) will show better shadow detail, and the scenes that you will notice the most are those with light illuminating images, especially outside sunlight effects, or a room that has sunlight coming in through a window and illuminating parts of the room. HDR content is and will be in short supply for a while. The A1E HDR images are exceptional as the combination of contrast, high HDR peak brightness, and wide color gamut work together to create stunning images.

Picture Settings

The A1E has excellent white balance as shipped. The Theater Pro setting is the preferred setting. Calibrating the TV did not produce a picture quality that was appreciably better than the Theater Pro which both unusual and very convenient for the buyer. HDR content is detected automatically and the Theater Pro is also the best mode for watching HDR content.

Sony XBR65A1E Review

Features Rating: 94/100

Design/Appearance

Sony does not seem smitten by the curved screen craze from Samsung, however they have gone on a tangent with the A1E with a takeoff on their previous monolithic design. There is no visible stand which looks good unless your table is high. The screen tilts up as well, which is great on a low stand but not on a medium or high table top. Your table will also need to be the width of the TV itself in order to look complimentary. Summary: You may end up wanting to purchase a low lying, cool looking new table for this TV. As an accessory to such an expensive TV, the Table purchase is deminimus. Did I mention that the design is attractive, modern and cool. It is. One drawback, however is getting to cable inputs in the stand if the TV is located in a tight space. The stand houses all the components so keep that in mind. It can be removed and mounted if the TV is to be wall mounted. One plus, it does a nice job of hiding the cables.

Remote Control

The new jet black matte finish touch pad remote from Sony has a very nice fast responsive touch pad that definitely speeds up scrolling somewhat across Smart TV Apps (over 100) and also speeds up search considerably when typing on the on-screen keypad.

But for this year if you’re searching on the Smart TV platform we’ve never seen a better voice search system than the Android TV search function enabled on the Sony 4K TVs. The voice recognition search works flawlessly, even in a noisy room. The TVs response time on delivering results is fast and accurate. Give it a try. It’s great for searching YouTube, and Google Play options.

Input Lag

Input lag is about double good 4K LED TVs at around 50ms.

Sound Quality

The Sony A1E has a new and very good sound system called AcousticSurface technology that uses vibrations from the screen to better direct sound toward the viewer. It creates an improved experience because the sound is coming from the mid point of the screen rather than bottom firing speakers included in most TVs. I was quite impressed. Total of 50w speaker power.

Smart TV/Android TV Operating System Features

“Rich and Realistic Color is one of my favorite traits of Sony’s newest TVs.”

The A1E 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.

Obviously, if you’re not content with the choices, you can always connect a Roku box, which still has the best offerings anyway. Then you get both.

The included remote control has plenty of keys and a voice search function as well.

Value Rating:84/100

XBR65A1E– $4999

XBR55A1E– $3500

XBR77A1E– $20,000

That’s right, you can get 4 of the 65” version for one 77 incher. Let’s confine the value score to the sane 65” and 55” models. This certainly will not be your most inexpensive option, buy Sony has become much more competitive price-wise over the last couple of years. The nearest competition with this Sony is the LG C7 which sells for around a grand less. Understandably, some will still prefer the Sony.

Overall Rating: 93/100

Quick Specs

  • Immersive 4K Ultra HD picture quality with four times the resolution and clarity of Full HD 1080p
  • X-tended Dynamic Range enhances HDR and non-HDR content
  • Live Color, Triluminous Display
  • 4K X-Reality PRO picture processing helps with upconversion
  • 4K Processor X1 Extreme (enhances 4K images)
  • TRILUMINOS Display accurately reproduces color, clarity and detail
  • Speaker Position : AcousticSurface
  • HDMI 2.0 and HEVC codec playback 4K content at 60p
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for Smart TV features
  • MHL 3.0-enabled for mirroring second screens
  • Acoustic Surface Technology
  • HDMI Inputs 4
  • USB 3

Sharp N4000 Review

Hisense-Sharp Takeover

Hisense, a large Chinese manufacturer licensed the Sharp name in June of 2015. Hisense is not a well known brand in the U.S., but it is in China, where the company has the number 1 market share in units sold. It’s also reportedly #3 globally in units sold with over 16 million TVs produced. Hisense is focusing on low priced models as well as high quality featured TVs all the way up to THX certification in its bid to gain U.S. Market share. Hisense purchased the Sharp brand and the Mexico assembly facility in a $23M deal. The Sharp models will purportedly still use the Sharp LCD panels in their production.

“We noted no motion blur during fast motion NBA action”

Positives

  • Roku Smart TV options and Interface
  • Price/Value
  • Bright Colorful Picture/Peak Whites
  • Not much Judder noted
  • Light flow through

Negatives

  • Glare/Reflection from the TV screen
  • Side Angle Viewing Contrast Degradation
  • Lack of Depth from Matte-type screen finish/Flat Picture
  • Limited picture setting adjustments

Neutral

  • TV Menu control options and Menu Interface operation
  • Appearance/Design

Picture Settings

There are limited picture settings and they vary depending on whether watching streaming, broadcast/cable, or player based content.

PICTURE MODES

  • Vivid – oversaturated color
  • Eco Save – TV preset to this mode. Oversaturated
  • Normal – not bad but too much blue push
  • Sports – oversaturated
  • Movie – the best mode to calibrate from
  • Game – Accessed through the game control button on the remote control.

PICTURE SETTINGS/CALIBRATIONS

  • Picture Mode: Movie
  • Dynamic Contrast – Low
  • Backlight – Cannot be adjusted when viewing Streaming Content
  • Set to 60 otherwise.
  • Contrast – 46
  • Brightness – 50
  • Sharpness -10
  • Color – 54
  • Tint – 0
  • Color Temperature – Warm

A TV Brightness setting allows for quick changes in the backlight to accommodate various room light conditions. In very dark scenes from Noah, I could not get enough brightness to see the picture or shadow detail well.

Picture Quality

The LED backlighting in this little Sharp TV are impressive and black levels are well saturated. Once calibrated, color rendition was good though not of the best caliber when we tested with our standard Fifth Element BluRay disk. Light flow through was also a very strong element of this TV. For a TV in this price, I was very pleased with contrast. Dark shadow detail during Noah needed some work during several very dark scenes. There was some false contouring noted during Fifth Element when some dark areas looked splotchy.

“Side angle viewing and a flattish picture were negatives”

Drawbacks are typical Sharp LED TV negatives, starting with a flattish picture with little depth, side angle viewing contrast reduction noticeably starting at around 20 degree off center, and some backlight uniformity issues.The picture is better than almost anything in its price range though with competition only from Vizio as a reliable alternative.

There is no adjustable judder reduction feature however we did not note much judder when viewing programming. There may be some motion lag with fast sports.

Features

Smart TV, Wifi, Roku

“Both the interface and Apps options of the Roku TV platform are excellent”

This is obviously the highlight of the Roku TV. It’s the best Smart TV package available with great Apps choices and even cable TV upgrades. They say there are 2000 options. The wifi connectivity impressed me, was very good even from long distances from a router. It is also fast.

Remote and Menu

The Sharp Roku Remote is really a Roku manufactured remote. Roku is good at operation, and I like the speed with which the small simple remote controls everything. The audio/volume buttons are located on the right side of the remote. It’s easy to accidentally press the mute button. The picture and other menu settings are accessed from the asterisk wheel button. Conveniently, there are buttons for Netflix, Amazon instant, Mgo, and rdio on the remote face.

Sound Quality / Audio

There is plenty of volume- a positive. A setting of 19 out of 100 is all we needed to fill a large room. The quality is somewhat hollow and definitely not robust and full from the two 8 watt speakers. Voice definition isn’t bad.

Gaming

Gaming was surprisingly decent, especially for the price of the TV. We recommend the dedicated Game mode. We tested the unit at around 35 milliseconds.

Value

The 32N4000U is a steal at only $249 when you consider the cost of a good Roku box. Same with the 43N4000U at $349, and the 50N4000U at $479.

(A note about our reviews. Our professional reviewers begin our reviews with our initial impressions about quality of picture and features inclusion, then we add specifications, then value and pricing information, and finally strengths and weaknesses and ratings. When our reviews contain an overall rating, you know they are complete. Thank you for reading!)

Quick Specs

  • Inputs: 3 HDMI, 1 USB, Composite
  • 1080p Resolution
  • 60Hz Refresh Rate
  • Built in Wifi
  • Speakers 2 X 8W