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Sony TV 2016 Review and Price – The Ultimate Guide to Buying 4K Ultra HD TVs from Sony

 

Overview

For the most part Sony’s 4K ultra HD TVs, both older 2014 models and the editions released in 2015 and now 2016 are some downright excellent or at the very least great pieces of technology. This applies across the board for Sony’s models and while the premium TVs produced by the brand are truly superb, even some of the most economical options offer some great features and even what would normally be premium technologies.

Sony’s Android TV smart platform isn’t the best on the market today but it is definitely among the best and offers some fine and easy to use smart TV and apps access features which deliver great user friendliness and even some features not found in many competitor smart TV systems.

In terms of both pricing and overall quality, Sony’s 4K ultra HD TVs from both 2015 and 2016 are very similar to those of Samsung and at least for 2015 were distinctly superior to the offerings from LG’s selections of non-OLED 4K TVs (All current Sony 4K TVs still do not include OLED technology). In other words, While no Sony 4K TVs are downright cheap, there are enough different model types on the market for a very wide range of budgets and many of the lower-priced models are indeed very affordable for the technology and quality they offer.

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Sony X930D 4k TV at CES 2016

The Sony 4K TV Lineup

Sony’s 4K UHD TVs all fall under what Sony calls their X-Series model category. These are also often known as “Bravia” TVs and are the only models in Sony’s lineup which come with 4K ultra HD display technology and many of the specs and features associated with that type of display.

The XBR-C-Series TVs for 2015 consisted of the following models:

  • X810C: Sony’s base and most affordable 2015 4K TV model. This particular television lacks the high end HDR and Triluminos Display/Wide Color Gamut features of the premium 2015 models from the brand but nonetheless delivers a remarkably high picture quality, great black levels and solid motion control specs.

 

  • X830C: The second most affordable of the 2015 Sony TVs, the X830C has a reputation for rather unimpressive display quality, terrible contrast and poor black performance. This is odd considering how well the cheaper X810C performs but it seems that Sony hurried through development of this least recommended of all the 2015 and 2016 Sony 4K TVs.

 

  • X850C: One superb performer overall, the X850C is Sony’s most affordable HDR 4K TV with Wide Color Gamut and delivers some excellent display specs, solid color performance and great motion control specs in our opinion.

 

  • X900C: Sony’s second best 2015 4K HDR TV, the X900C not only comes with a rather unique ultra-thin display design, it also performs quite well at HDR delivery and color as well as motion control, which has always been Sony’s strength in 4K TV design. That said, the X900C is in some ways inferior to the X850C (particularly in contrast deliver) despite its higher price.

 

  • X930C/X940C: Sony’s 2015 flagship 4K TVs are the edge-lit X930C and the absolute top-shelf 75 inch X940C, both of which offer superb black levels, excellent wide color gamut performance, HDR and some of the best built-in sound technology we’ve ever seen in any 4K TV. The X940C in particular is a stellar 4K TV by any measure, even when compared to many 2016 flagship LCD TV counterparts.

The televisions with higher numbers denote higher prices and superior specs. A similar categorization was the case with Sony’s X-Series from 2014, which were denominated as B TVs instead of C TVs. Thus, X900B, X950B and so on.

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New Sony 4k TV at CES 2016

For 2016 4K ultra HD TVs from Sony, we have many of the same model numbers as those that were the case with Sony 2015 4K models but now finishing in a D and with further enhancements in HDR technology, color rendition and smart TV features.

The current known crop of 2016 4K UHD “Bravia” TVs from Sony consists of the following:

  • X940D: Sony’s 2016 flagship 4K TV is the 75 inch X940D and this single model serves as the largest size in the X930D series, with its larger display size and full-array LED backlighting being what mostly distinguish it from the edge-lit 55 and 65 inch X930D TVs. While the X940D lacks the massive side-mounted speakers of its X940C 2015 cousin, it offers better peak brightness, deeper black levels and superior motion control specs. Color quality is, oddly, slightly inferior to that of the 2015 model but to a barely perceptible degree.

 

  • X930D: The X930D delivers nearly the same specs as the X940D but with slighlty lower DCI P3 color space coverage and slightly lower peak brightness than its full-array LED X940D cousin.

 

  • X900D: Sony’s X900D is the “mid-range” 2016 HDR 4K TV from Sony and delivers specs that are highly similar to those of its 2015 X900C cousin, though the physical design is quite different and comes with a much less powerful sound system. On the other hand, the X900D delivers better color performance and higher peak brightness than the X900C.

 

  • X850D: The 2016 X850D is an all around great performer with excellent color delivery, superb motion control specs, great judder control and some wonderful upscaling technology (like all Sony 4K TVs). On the other hand, it delivers a quality of HDR performance, peak brightness and contrast ratio which are all much weaker than those of any 2016 Samsung SUHD 4K TV.

These four models are the main successors to their 2015 counterparts, with many of the same features and specs but also a number of enhancements over 2015 models.

Key Features

The Sony X-Series Bravia 4K ultra HD TVs come with a number of key features which are integral to their display and smart TV functionality. Not all of the following are found in all X-Series models since some are premium technologies reserved for their higher-end TVs in the series but the majority of the X-Series come with most of the technologies presented below.

  • HDR and the “4K HDR” label

Sony’s 2015 Braiva TVs from the X850C on upwards were all HDR televsions and the company has taken that design strategy and brought it into all of the 2016 Bravia TVs they’ve released so far. However, the 2016 version of Sony’s HDR technology now goes under the label of “4K HDR” certification (from none other than Sony itself) and comes with notable improvements and standardization for superior peak brightness, deeper black levels and a higher caliber of 10-bit color where possible.

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While the new 2016 HDR technology of the Sony 4K X850D, X900D, X930D and X940D TVs is definitely an improvement over what we saw in 2015, it’s also oddly lackluster in many ways. The X850D in particular falls far behind Samsung’s 2016 SUHD HDR 4K TVs in terms of contrast ration and maximum brightness and the X930D, while much better in this regard, is also not as sharp a high dynamic range performer as we’d expected it to be. So far, only the X940D full-array LED backlit flagship 2016 television from Sony really lives up to the full hype of what Sony has promised and other brands like Samsung and Vizio have firmly delivered.

  • 4K Processor X1

Sony’s 4K Processor X1 is the core processer technology inside the company’s X-Series TVs and it does one superb job at rendering 4K visuals, running the TVs’ smart platforms and upscaling non-4K UHD content for a maximal level of added sharpness. Particularly in the case of Sony’s 4K UHD TVs, the 4K Processor X1 is piece of truly innovative technology which helps this brand’s displays deliver some of the best motion blur and judder control as well as upscaling of non-4K content we’ve seen in any 2015 and even 2014 4K UHD televisions.

  • X-Reality PRO Engine

X-Reality

The X-Reality PRO engine of Sony’s X-Series TVs is actually a sort of sub-system of the Processor X1 we just covered above. This, X-Reality PRO, is Sony’s version of the upscaling technology used in all modern 4K TVs and it works superbly at what it does, particularly at delivering some of the best upscaling of SD and 720p content we’ve seen among the major brands, not to mention absolutely excellent upscaling of Full HD and Blu-ray HD content, to the point where this last non-4K resolution actually looks BETTER than native streamed 4K often does from a source like Netflix.

  • Triluminos Display

Triluminos Display is in essence Sony’s version the wider color gamut technology that’s offered by all of the major brands and as such it’s very similar to the quantum dot technology used in Samsung’s SUHD 4K TVs and LG’s higher end televisions. However, what distinguishes Sony from these other brands is the simple fact that they’ve been offering the color enhancements which come with Triluminos Display for longer than the other manufacturers, and while the technology has changed somewhat in 2015 and now in 2016, it’s basic function has been on offer since the release of 2014’s 4K Bravia TVs.

The latest 2015 4K Sony models all offer a phosphor-based color enhancement in their version of Triluminos, in contrast to the quantum dot-based 2014 TV variation of this feature. In both cases, the color enhancement created certainly does let Sony’s high end 4K TVs offer some truly superb colors, especially with the refinements offered by the abovementioned X1 Processor 4K engine.

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  • X-tended Dynamic Range

Once again we see the power of the Sony X1 processor 4K engine at work with X-tended Dynamic Range technology. This is another premium Sony X-Series TV feature and is part of what helps some of the HDR-capable 2015 TVs deliver their high dynamic range. In other words, this is a feature with an important presence in the X850C, X900C, and X930/940C HDR 4K TVs from last year.

  • Audio Technology

The audio technology of Sony’s X-Series 4K TVs is generally good but in some models it truly excels in some amazing ways. Most importantly, the premium X930/940C and select other 2014 X-Series TVs in the series completely forego the more typical slim body design common to so many 4K UHD TVs in favor of massive side-mounted speaker arrays that simply blow away the competition with the quality of their audio. Sony’s ClearAudio technology and a host of other sound specs work together in these massive speaker arrays to really offer something that’s a cut above the typical when it comes to built-in TV surround sound.

In basic terms, if you’re a fan of 4K TV with truly exceptional sound, Sony’s premium X-Series TVs and the X930/940C models in particular are absolute winners in this regard.

Smart TV Platform

Sony’s X-Series 4K TVs all come with the Android TV smart platform and on the whole, we have to declare that it’s a very good piece of interface technology. While the Android TV platform started out a bit rough around the edges and continues to lag a bit behind the great Tizen OS of Samsung 4K TVs and the truly excellent webOS 2.0 of LG 4K TVs, Android has also improved a lot in 2015 and proven to be one reliable, solid 4K smart TV OS.

Android TV for the X-Series Sony 4K TVs

Android TV for the X-Series Sony 4K TVs

Early problems like limited app selection and some major functionality gaps have been nicely fixed by Sony and the selection of apps available to Android TV in Sony’s 4K models is today actually great. On the other hand, the smart remote that comes with the higher end X-Series TVs still falls behind the superior Samsung and LG smart remotes, mainly due to a lack of motion controls, instead depending on touchpad navigation which can be a bit clumsy.

Display characteristics

Sony excels at delivering quality in its displays. This is the bottom line and buyers of all 2014, 2015 and most 2016 X-Series models are very unlikely to be disappointed, even with the lower priced models.

While we’d argue that Samsung’s 4K TV displays offer a slight lead on overall quality –and especially the more expensive models—Sony’s X-Series are superb televisions particularly when it comes to sports and fast action TV as well as gaming, with some great motion blur control and judder management technology. Furthermore, a higher percentage of Sony’s X-Series TVs offer superior contrast and better color than their Samsung LCD counterparts. Furthermore, all of Sony’s 4K TVs offer a firmly robust 120Hz native refresh rate and don’t come with the visually appealing but otherwise mostly useless gimmick of curved screen design.

Furthermore, at least as far as LG’s 2015 and even 2016 4K UHD LCD TVs are concerned, Sony 4K models beat pretty much all of them in overall picture quality. However, bear in mind that this does not apply if you include OLED models from LG, which are superior to practically any other TV on the current market.

Finally, what we particularly like about the X-Series TVs is how long they’ve spent at the cutting edge. Sony was not only one of the first companies to offer HDR in its three top-shelf 2015 X-Series models (the X850C, X900C and X930/940C), it’s also the company which first offered enhanced color gamut through phosphor or quantum dot filters in the form of its Triluminos Display spec.

The 4K display on Sony TVs is good enough to fool animals into confusing it with reality

The 4K display on Sony TVs is good enough to fool animals into confusing it with reality

Connectivity

While Samsung is the king of connectivity among the major brands due to its external and easily upgradable One-Connect and One-Connect mini boxes, Sony offers just as robust a built-in connectivity package in all of its 4K TV models. This means that all of their TVs come with everything you need for a fully-fleshed out streaming UHD content and general web media connectivity package. The latest version of HDMI, USB 3.0, full compatibility with HDCP 2.2 and 4K video compression via HEVC and VP9 are all present and so are all the usual digital audio and analog features.

Finally, the Sony Android TV smart platform also comes with complete wb browsing capacity and great access to Google Play apps thanks to the Android aspect of its design.

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The Best Models

Sony’s entire X-Series 4K TV line from 2015 is excellent at the price each TV sells for and even some of the 2014 4K TVs from the manufacturer are simply great models even now. Furthermore, what Sony has offered to-date in 2016, with its third generation X-Series Bravia models is also just fantastic. However, Of the TV’s in the Sony lineup we’ve looked at to date, three TVs in particular stand out for their quality:

XBRX930/940D 4K smart TV with HDR

This is the flagship 4K UHD TV of the Sony 2016 X-Series and it is without a doubt the manufacturer’s finest model, with full array LED backlighting, full HDR support and some of the better display features we’ve seen among 2016 LCD 4K TVs. The X940D (and its edge-lit X930D cousin with otherwise identical specs) is expensive to be sure but absolutely superb.

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XBRX900C 4K smart TV with HDR

One of Sony’s best and shiniest 2015 4K UHD TVs, the X900C came with an innovative design which incorporated one of the thinnest TV display panels in the LCD market for 2015. Also with HDR and some truly killer specs, the X900C however lacks the massive speakers of its cousin the X940C. Like all Sony 4K TVs, the X900C comes with a flat panel design.

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XB4X850C 4K TV

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The X850C is one of Sony’s best 2015 4K UHD TVs and in certain ways even outdoes the 2016 X850D model despite being older. It manages to deliver a superb level of color performance, high contrast, great black levels and some very decent peak brightness as a 2015 HDR TV. Furthermore, unlike the 2016 X850D successor to this TV, it also comes with Triluminos Color technology for even further color vibrancy. This was one of our favorite Sony 4K models in 2015 and will probably continue to be so in at least the first half of 2016.

Price Considerations

On the whole Sony’s 4K UHD TVs are on the pricier side, much like their Samsung counterparts but with enough selection at different price points for the company to offer something for nearly all budgets. The top shelf new 2016 models are very expensive indeed and the flagship X940/930C 4K TVs from 2015 with HDR are also well in the premium price range, costing several thousand dollars for the larger screen models. On the other hand, Sony also offers the excellent X810C for well below $2000 and this TV’s smallest 55 inch model retails for just over $1000.

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Positives, Negatives and Final Opinion

Here’s a quick rundown of all the pros and cons inherent in Sony’s 4K TVs. As you can see, the favorable points definitely outweigh the negatives and this is a reflection of the quality these TVs are built with and our assessment of them as a whole. Basically, Sony makes excellent TVs and for sports and action movie fans in particular, the company’s 4K UHD models are solidly superb choices with few flaws.

Positives

  • Across the board native 120Hz refresh rate even on lower priced models
  • Very good price range
  • Superb performers at fast action native 4K content
  • Excellent color with Triluminos Display
  • Wonderful contrast levels in most models
  • Great upscaling engine
  • Plenty of apps and content access
  • Superb audio in premium TVs
  • HDR in several 2015 models and all 2016 models to date

Negatives

  • No 240Hz native refresh
  • Android TV platform could be a bit better
  • Slightly on the expensive side for LCD TVs (the premium models)
  • Samsung’s TVs offer slightly better overall performance