Sony X850D 4K HDR TV Review – (XBR55X850D, XBR65X850D, XBR75X850D, XBR85X850D)
Sony’s new X850D has plenty of aspects that you could ask for from a main home entertainment 4K TV – impressive visuals, an amazing user interface in the form of Google’s Android TV OS, Sony’s trusted hardware and a seriously improved design. But is it the best in its class? The answer would have to be no. Despite some superb viewing angles, great color and a fine smart TV platform, the X850D isn’t quite up to par with rival models in the same class such as the KS8500 or even the KS8000 from Samsung. Even LG’s LCD 2016 HDR 4K TVs like the UH8500 give this model a run for its money and that’s not quite what we’d call happy news considering the fact that LG still has kinks in those TVs, and the fact that even Sony’s 2015 X850C is in some ways superior to the X850D.
That said, the X850D is no crappy 4K TV by any means. Sony’s excellent ability to deliver a TV with superb motion and judder control applies firmly with this model and the new UHD Alliance certified HDR specs in the X850D do offer some improvements from what we saw in the HDR of last year’s X850C, though not as much as we’d like.
While the X850D comes in below Sony’s new flagship model, the X930D, and despite being a cheaper option, this model still comes packed with many of the latest technological features.
For starters the X850D features 4K HDR capabilities, which partly fall under the rubric of Sony’s “X-tended Dynamic Range” technology from 2014 and 2015 models. However, in this case, the company has also gone ahead and given their 2016 Bravia TVs (the X850D included) a further degree of qualification under Sony’s new “4K HDR” standard, which is derived from the “Ultra HD Premium” spec of the UHD Alliance. With that, the X850D delivers an amazing 10-bit spectrum of colors, deeply layered contrast and superb detail. Furthermore, 4K HDR brings a much wider range of brightness, creating consistently more life-like pictures. The X850D is also equipped with Sony’s Triluminos technology (also seen in the x810c) for optimal color mapping, giving you rich, vivid colors, without oversaturating the more subtle tones, which create a particularly natural feel. Sony’s Triluminos must compete with LG’s remarkable OLED color quality (most notably the EF9500), and Samsung’s Quantum Dot Color in its 2016 SUHD TV models. In its competition with both, Triluminos holds up well, particularly against Samsung’s QD Color technology.
To enhance the picture quality even further, the X850D is also packing 4K X-Reality PRO. This technology analyses every individual pixel, and using an image database, fills in contrast, colour detail and stunning texture which breathes new life into every single frame of content, taking standard definition visuals to near native 4K quality. But high def content also gets a significant boost from the X850D’s 4K Processor X1 (the same one seen in the Sony XBR65X850C), which improves contrast, colour accuracy, and the clarity of HD as well as 4K content. In simple terms, Sony’s upscaling technology works not only on delivering sharper detail and better color/contrast to non-4K content, it also makes an effort to improve the essential color and contrast qualities of native non-HDR 4K UHD content.
Just like their 2016 flagship TV, the X930D, the X850D supports Google’s super slick and intuitive Android TV operating system, which makes finding and streaming content a breeze but also functions as a gaming device. Oh, and forget having to fiddle with the remote control to type what you’re looking for as the TV and OS work together to deliver advanced voice control. Like almost everything that comes out of Google, we expect the OS to be continually improved and enhanced and for bugs to be repeatedly squashed all without you having to lift a finger. With the X850D a bloated, buggy, outdated TV OS is a thing of the past.
The X850D will also benefit tremendously from the upcoming “Sony Ultra”, service which is set to launch later this year. The service will let owners of selected Sony TV’s stream 40 – 50 titles of Sony Pictures best titles including Men In Black and Salt. The library is expected to grow considerably throughout the first year and we also hope that its pricing structure is eventually modified, since “Ultra” doesn’t come cheap at $30 per film and with only a direct per-title purchase option available, instead of monthly subscription or rental.
However, you don’t really need to even use Ultra for your 4K content needs in the X850D and other 2016 Bravia TVs, since Android TV comes well equipped with most of the latest streaming 4K content options like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ultraflix and others. These selections will only expand down the road and Amazon in particular also offers HDR 4K movies and shows to Sony’s HDR 4K TVs like the X850D. Then there is also the 4K Blu-ray option for the X950D, for which this TV is completely ready. The selection of titles for 4K Blu-ray is growing almost daily and though one of Samsung’s 4K BD media players is still pricey at nearly $400, it definitely works to enhance your access to HDR 4K content for the X850D, since all current 4K BD titles are coming out with the same high dynamic range standards as those offered in Sony’s 2016 4K TVs.
The X850D also features some very welcome design changes from last years’ X850C. Most notably, Sony has decided to ditch the bulky and bothersome side-mounted speakers in favor of internal sound technology, giving it a much cleaner and more stylish finish – especially in the larger sizes. A narrower frame and thinner design overall have brought the TV’s looks up to speed with its capabilities, making it a much more attractive home entertainment option, even if audio quality itself suffers a bit (more on this shortly)
One aspect of the X850D that can’t be ignored is its size range. While Sony’s favorite child, the X930D is only available in 55 and 65-inch models; the X850D is available in up to a massive 85 inches. And as far as having the option available goes, size does matter.
3.8 - 11 Reviews
We mentioned earlier that the X850D is in a class below that of Sony’s current hero, the X930D. And while it does feature many of the X930D’s impressive features, some are also very clearly lacking.
Chief amongst the missing features is that of local dimming. The X930D utilizes several regions for its fantastic local dimming capabilities, reading images’ color levels and giving pictures hyper realistic saturation when it comes to HDR 4K content in particular. Thus contrast, color accuracy and improved blacks all benefit from higher, more precise luminance and deep rich black levels where they’re needed on the screen. The X850D however, only features frame dimming, meaning that while it still reads and adjusts colors, its capabilities are limited and can only make one adjustment per frame. Furthermore, the TV’s edge-lit display and lack of local dimming mean some rather surprisingly poor contrast for an HDR TV and a low quality of contrast precision and variation in onscreen content. In the X850D, this particular weakness is actually so considerable that we’re left wondering how this particular TV ever managed to get certification for 4K HDR or Ultra HD Premium from the UHD Alliance. Even the X850C or Samsung’s JS9000 from 2015 both offer superior local dimming and, more specifically, contrast technology. On the other hand, color and black uniformity aren’t affected by these local dimming weaknesses and through both of these areas, the X850D is saved from delivering a flat out poor display quality.
The X850D also misses out on Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range Pro, the ‘pro’ version of Sony’s HDR. This doesn’t mean the TV misses out on HDR by any means though; it sill features Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range which provides brilliant brightness and no blooming under normal circumstances. However, for a 2016 Bravia model, the higher category of X-tended Dynamic Range would have been a welcome addition from Sony. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that the company should seriously stop messing around with consumers on quality and start delivering the full-array LED backlighting that makes X-tended Dynamic Range PRO work exceptionally well to all of its new 4K HDR TVs. This is something Sony might want to make as a main goal for 2017. If Vizio can manage to pull full-array off in all of its larger 55 inch+ 4K TVs for 2016, why can’t the much larger Sony brand do the same?
We love the move away from the X850C’s speaker ‘wings’, but the downside of moving to internal speakers is a slight degradation in sound quality. We don’t see this as a major issue though, considering that a TV like this is best used for a home entertainment system that’s complemented with a full third party external surround sound system. That said, the native sound quality of the X850D is actually one of its single biggest weaknesses. It has definitely gone downhill from what we saw in the X850C from 2015. This is also something we noted in our review of the X930/40D HDR TV.
Sony’s X850D packs an impressive amount of punch. The TV addresses at least two of the major 3 C’s that determine the optimum viewing experience (clarity, color and contrast). It achieves unrivalled clarity through real time image sharpening, refining and noise deduction. Superior color performance is achieved as a result of the TRILUMINOS display and 10-bit color display. And finally, contrast is where the X850D almost fails. It delivers the goods but in a badly watered down form that’s disappointing considering the high across the board color performance of Sony’s 2015 4K TVs and other 2016 models like the X930D.
Beyond nailing the basics, the TV’s usefulness is also enhanced dramatically as a result of Android TV OS which provides you with thousands of apps (including Netflix and YouTube) at your fingertips and allows you to get the most out of them through an easily navigable interface and voice control (if you don’t like fiddling with a remote control).
As mentioned above, the TV is let down ever so slightly chiefly due to lack of local dimming, lackluster sound (addressed by purchasing a sound bar/surround system) and HDR that doesn’t live up to the “Pro” versions in this TV’s slightly more expensive cousins. These moderate shortcomings are somewhat excusable though since the other visual qualities of the TV are just superb.
• Screen size: 54.6 diagonal inches and 64.5 diagonal inches, 75, diagonal inches, 85 diagonal inches
• Smart TV: Android TV with Apps and Full Web Browser
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate (MotionFlow 960Hz)
• Screen Lighting: Edge-lit LED backlighting
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: Sony smart remote
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI 2.0a ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Component, 1 composite, 1 Audio Out, 1 Digital Audio Out
• Sound: 0W x2 Audio Power Output, with 7.5 W x 4 Audio Power Output in 75 inch model and 10W x2 Audio Power Output in 85 inch model.
• Contrast Ratio: 3,640:1
• Black Level maximum: 0.035 cd/m2
• 3D Technology: YES, Active 3D in all models
• TV weight without/with stand:
• 55 inch: 33.3 lb/ 41 lb.
• 65 inch: 44.75 lb/52.69 lb.
• 75 inch: 73.41 lb/82.45 lB
• 85 inch: 134.92 lbs/146.39 lb
• Processor: 4K Processor X1 Quad Core
We partly love Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range, or HDR capabilities. Colors are brilliant and the brightness levels are impressive. When this is coupled with Sony’s Triluminos technology, the result is even richer colors and unbelievable textures for a very natural picture.
4K X-Reality PRO is another highlight of the X850D. It analyses each pixel, and using an image database, adds contrast, detail and texture to every single frame of your content, whether the source is broadcast TV to low quality video streaming.
Google’s Android operating system also features as a feather in the X850’s cap. It gives you unparalleled connectivity and access to content. It allows you to connect to the TV from mobile devices, stream content from Amazon Prime – with Netflix, Sony Ultra and Google Cast coming soon – and function as a gaming platform. The user-friendly platform also has a number of fun and useful tricks up its sleeve including advanced voice control.
3.8 - 11 Reviews
As we’ve alluded to in our words above, we’re rather mixed on the X580D and also unpleasantly surprised in some ways about its visual performance. On the one hand, this TV manages to deliver some truly superb performance with almost any kind of fast-action content, with superb motion control, blur and judder control specs, in true Sony style. Furthermore, the TV also offers up some excellent viewing angles thanks to its IPS panel display and in this easily beats Samsung’s 2016 SUHD TVs with their VA display technology and decidedly narrower quality viewing angles. Furthermore, color performance, while not as broad as we’d expect, is still great, thanks to 10-bit HDR color and Triluminos Display, with about 93% of DCI-P3 color space coverage. Additionally, brightness really works well in the X850D, with peak brightness levels in excess of the 1100 nits needed for Ultra HD Premium certification and an overall average display luminance of 370 cd/m2.
Yet on the other hand, the X850D disappoints rather heavily in its complete lack of local dimming technology and the precise contrast refinements this particular spec offers. As a result, Peak brightness offers little variation and the contrast in this 2016 HDR model is actually inferior to that of even much cheaper 2015 Sony 4K TVs like the non-HDR X810C! This is downright disappointing to see. The overall contrast ratio on the X850D sits at about 1300:1. While that’s fine for something like a 4K PC monitor, it’s inexcusable in a 2016 HDR 4K TV, especially when you consider the fact that comparably priced competitor models like the Samsung KS8000 offer native contrast that goes well into the 3500:1 range.
The following are the connectivity specs of the X850D:
4(outside1, center3) - (all models)
COMPOSITE VIDEO INPUT:
2 (1Rear/1Rear Hybrid w/Component)
COMPONENT VIDEO INPUT
RF CONNECTION INPUT
1 side (all models)
1 side (all models)
3 port (all models)
1 (Side/Hybrid w/HP and Subwoofer Out) (all models)
DIGITAL AUDIO OUTPUT
1 side (all models)
Currently the 55 inch XBR55X850D costs $1,498 on Amazon. The 65 inch version costs $2,398, 75 inch version for $3,998 and the massive 85 inch version is selling for $9,998.
3.8 - 11 Reviews
The main feature that we miss in the X850D is local dimming. While Sony’s hero, the X930D series features multiple regions for impressively realistic dimming and contrast, the X850 only has frame dimming capabilities. While it can still read and make adjustments to colors and contrast, it has limited capabilities and can only make one adjustment per frame.
The X850D also misses out on Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range Pro - the ‘pro’ version of Sony’s HDR. While this doesn’t mean the TV misses out on HDR - it sill features Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range which provides brilliant brightness and no blooming under normal circumstances – there are some instances however, where the difference is apparent.
Impressive 4K upscaling
Amazing OS in the form of Android TV
Sleek, clean design
Three size options including 85"
Lack of regional dimming
Not "pro" dynamic range technology
Average sound due to internal speakers