Sony XBR-X850E 4K HDR Ultra HD LCD TV Review (XBR-65X850E, XBR-75X850E)
- Excellent color performance overall
- Great black levels and contrast
- Solid motion handling
- Robust, easy to place design
- Android TV 2017 better than ever
- No local dimming
- Not the brightest of Sony’s 4K TVs at all
- Some issues with 24p movie playback
- Input lag for gaming could be 1/3 better
The Bottom Line
Sony’s XBR65X850E and XBR-75X850E 4K HDR TV models are a slight bit on the pricy side for the value they offer (we for example prefer the value of Vizios P-Series 4K HDR TV models) However, what you get in the X850 line is a great package of partially premium features and some very robust overall 4K HDR performance. We recommend these models, especially for budget-conscious fans of Sony.
Sony’s 2017 X850E 4K HDR TV is the direct successor to the 2016 X850D lineup of 4K HDR TVs and overall, we’d have to call the new model a notable improvement over what was available last year. Like its 2016 cousin, the X850E is Sony’s premium mid-range model for this year and offers up a blend of better than average picture performance while also offering some touches of premium technology. On the other hand, it lacks many of the really premium features found in Sony’s higher-end and of course considerably pricier 4K HDR TVs for this year. As an HDR 4K TV, the X850E does offer the full spectrum of HDR display technologies though it lacks delivery of some of these specs to the truly strong degrees you’ll see in models like the X900E and much more so, the X930E. On other areas like color delivery and motion handling though, this is a great overall performer of a TV and doesn’t fall far from the performance levels of its full premium cousins on these and some other specs.
Let’s get down to all the gritty details.
Like we said above, the X850E is an overall good to great performer with few real defects for its price and level. Consequently, there are plenty of features that we’d call good or even great on this particular 4K TV. Let’s start with the key aspects of display performance which we like most and work our way down from there.
Black Level and Contrast
Sony’s 2016 X850D HDR TV series almost uniformly came with IPS display panels, with the exception of the giant 85 inch model. In 2016 the company has switched over to VA panel designs for all but the 75 inch model of the X850E successor and we consider the change to be a definite improvement. Yes, there is some loss of viewing angles but the 2017 model we’re reviewing here with its 65 inch VA panel delivers a truly excellent level of black uniformity and black depth that matches or exceeds UHD Alliance HDR Premium standards for black performance. Consequently, contrast in this TV is very good though it doesn’t quite reach the above-average levels we’ve seen in some 4K HDR LCD TVs we’ve recently reviewed.
Motion Handling & Upscaling
In terms of motion handling and upscaling both, Sony has generally always been a winner ever since we first started reviewing their 4K TVs several years ago. The X850E is in no way an exception to this tendency. First of all, though it only offers Sony’s more basic X-Reality Pro Engine and X1 4K HDR Processor systems, upscaling in this model is, as far as we were able to tell, just as good as it has shown itself to be in any of Sony’s much pricier premium 2017 TVs we’ve reviewed so far. The level of performance uniformity in this particular and crucial aspect of picture handling technology across the range of Sony’s TVs is a solid testament to how well the company implements its technology and since the majority of content that gets viewed on most 4K TVs today is still not of the 4K type, this particular spec is something we’d definitely call important.
Moving beyond content upscaling, one of the X850E’s most outstanding features is its overall motion handling. Here the X850 Series of 4K HDR TVs deliver some nearly premium-quality performance by LCD TV standards and motion blur control, motion interpolation and eve image flicker handling are all nearly perfect. As a 4K TV with a native 120Hz display panel, the X850E offers excellent, smooth interpolation of non-120Hz content sources, even down to 24p video from movies with some exceptions that we’ll get to shortly.
The overall color performance of the X850E series is definitely one of its positive points. Sony’s 4K TVs of all types since we’ve started reviewing them have almost universally performed exceptionally well on color and the 2017 display improvements on the X850E make this TV do the same. As an HDR 4K TV, the X850E lacks some of the stunning peak brightness, contrast and black levels that the best of Sony’s newer models have but on color it delivers a much more robust HDR result, with solid support for 10-bit color gradation and Wide Color Gamut that’s comfortably above 90% of DCI-P3 coverage. There is some weakness at displaying particularly dark colors due to local dimming weaknesses but this is not a deal breaker for a TV at this price.
Design-wise, the X850 is an excellent piece of technology. It looks a lot different from its premium cousins from the X900E upwards but the X850E does come with an elegantly utilitarian build that features a robust supporting stand with a conveniently small footprint and some very thin bezeling along its edges. Additionally, the whole TV feels firm when stood up on its support even though that same support is made of plastic in this year’s model instead of the metal we saw in the 2016 X850D HDR model. The connectivity ports along the back of the X850E are all along the back, which could be inconvenient if it weren’t for their placement along a sideways outward-facing recess that makes them quite easy to access even if this model is right up against a wall.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Since we’re talking about one of Sony’s mid-range 2016 4K HDR TVs here, you can’t expect the X850E to deliver the sort of almost uniformly excellent performance that the company’s premium and ultra-premium models do. It does have its flaws, but when the price of this model and it’s numerous benefits are weighed against its negative points, the balance definitely goes in favor of the X850E being a great choice for many consumers who don’t want to spend a lot more on truly premium technology while still wanting some high-end features. That said, here are the things we most disliked about the X850E television.
First and most glaring (almost literally) there is the fact that Sony didn’t give the X850E any sort of local dimming technology. This is a feature which dramatically enhances the ability of a 4K TV and especially a 4K HDR TV to enhance contrast by actually deactivating LED backlights for sections of the screen that are supposed to be dark as needed by the content being shown. Due to a lack of local dimming, the X850E doesn’t deliver the same precision contrast levels for different sections of the screen that you’d see in, say it’s next pricier cousin the X900E, or any of the really premium models like the X930E or X940E. Additionally, this lack of local dimming, as we alluded to above quickly, also produces an odd weakness on delivery of deep dark colors, which show up a bit brighter than we’d like. This local dimming problem is perhaps the X850E’s biggest single weakness.
In a related note, the peak brightness of the X850E model comes nowhere close to what you’ll get with even Sony’s X900E edition or many of Samsung and Vizio’s HDR LCD TVs. The peak brightness levels in this TV are decent but nothing close to the minimum standards for HDR10-indicated brightness levels. Black levels are however quite good and this makes up for some of the middling peak brightness, resulting in a relatively good contrast level.
Moving along, motion handling in this model is generally very good, especially for motion interpolation and motion blur control (by LCD 4K TV standards). However, the X850E does come with one notable motion handling weakness in its playback of 24p content from movie media sources. Specifically, it can’t quite handle 24p video in all formats without showing some judder.
Finally, the X850E doesn’t deliver the best input lag settings for gaming in almost any format. It’s input lag for 1080p content, 4K video sources and 4K video sources with HDR enabled isn’t bad in the TV’s Game Mode but it could definitely be better. The average level sits at around 34ms and we’ve seen consistently better in any 2016 or 2017 Samsung 4K TV of any kind, where between 19 and 20ms is more common.
On a finishing note, we should mention that this is a 4K TV with VA panel display technology, meaning that viewing angles aren’t the best, with notable contrast and color bleed when the screen is viewed at more than 29 degrees off from dead center. Also, for fans of 3D movies and Blu-ray discs, no Sony 4K TV for this year comes with 3D technology.
Overall we like Sony’s new HDR X850E successor to the X850D of 2016. This year’s model is overall a generally better 4K HDR TV than last year’s edition was and it stands up well on its own against current competitors. If you want some core premium technology at a reasonable price, this model has plenty to offer, though the lack of local dimming is something of a disappointment.
Key TV Specs
- Screen size: 65 diagonal inches (XBR-65X830E), 75 diagonal inches (XBR-75X850E)
- 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
- HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Hybrid Log Gamma
- Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
- Screen Lighting: Edge-lit LED backlighting without local dimming
- Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
- Remotes: Sony button remote with voice recognition
- Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a with HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out,
- Sound: 10 W+10 W Bass Reflex Speakers with Dolby™ Digital, Dolby™ Digital Plus, Dolby™ Pulse and DTS Digital Surround
- Contrast Ratio: 4515 : 1 (native, real contrast)
- Black Level maximum: 0.021 cd/m2
- 3D Technology: N/A
- TV dimensions with stand (65 inch model): 57 1/4 x 35 3/4 x 10 1/2″
- TV dimensions with stand (75 inch model): 66 1/8 x 40 3/4 x 11 1/4″
- TV weight (65 inch model): 46.3 lb (21 kg) w/ Stand, 48.7 lb (22 kg) without stand
- Processor: 4K HDR Processor X1
Some Important Highlights
Black level and contrast Improvements: While the 2016 65XBR-X850E and 75XBR-X850E models that we’ve so far seen released on sale don’t have the sort of stunning contrast ratios, local dimming augmentations and HDR10-level peak brightness specs that their premium Sony cousins come with, the X850Es have definitely improved these aspects of display performance over their 2016 X850D cousins. The single biggest reason why is Sony giving them VA display panels instead of the IPS we saw in all but the largest of the 2016 versions. With VA, contrast ratios of well over 4000:1 and higher overall brightness as well as deeper, richer black levels all become much easier to achieve.
TRILUMINOS™ Display: Color enhancement technology through special filters has become the rage in the HDR TVs of last year and this year. Samsung is using it, LG is using it and Sony’s version of it is called Triluminous Display. While the Samsung version depends on quantum dot color filters of the latest type to deliver their televsions’ wide color gamut, Sony claims that Triluminos Display uses a different mechanism, in the X850E and other models. However the company is not elaborating too deeply on the specifics of this. Whatever the case may be, the X850E and its 2017 cousins do indeed offer better-than-ever color performance specs and very high DCI-P3 Wide Color space coverage. This is a measurable improvement from what we saw in some 2016 HDR models from this and other brands.
Android TV Improvements: Android TV isn’t our favorite Smart TV platform but it is one of the better options out there. For the 2017 version in the X850E and its Sony cousins, improvements have been made to refine it even further. The new Action Menu is one particular option which enhances usability and access to specific popular settings that a user is frequently visiting. Then there’s the excellent Google Play Store which comes with Android TV and allow for access to a very broad range of apps for extended TV functionality. The X850E also offers up access to Chromecast, for streaming of content from smartphones and tablets right to the TV screen itself. And of course, all the main content streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Spotify and Hulu come pre-installed. The main Android TV platform in the X850E is completely ad-free as far as we could see in our review model.
Expanded HDR Capabilities: For 2017 Sony has expanded the HDR functionality of its high dynamic range TVs to include both Dolby Vision and the new HLG broadcast high dynamic range standard. Dolby Vision support, which is an arguably superior format to the HDR10 that was the only dynamic range standard of Sony’s 2016 4K TVs has only been included in the X930E and higher models of Sony 2017 4K HDR TVs, so the X850E doesn’t have this feature. As for HLG, it is found in the X850E and while it’s not yet really available in any commercial broadcast 4K content, there is wide expectation that it will be and at least the X850E is future-proofed for that possibility.
Note: HLG high Dynamic Range support is scheduled for a late 2017 firmware update and not available in the X850E at the time of this writing in June of of 2017.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Key Display Specs
Like we mentioned above in some detail, Sony’s X850E is a very good overall display performer even if it doesn’t offers a stunning visual experience by premium standards. It also does come with a few not so major flaws but for most 4K TV buyers, these will be barely noticeable, especially to anyone who isn’t already used to using seriously premium 4K HDR TVs and doesn’t compare this model with them.
Black Level, Local Dimming and Contrast: The Sony 65XBRX850E we’re specifically review here as well as other X850E models of other sizes offer what we’d call a very good black level by LCD 4K TV standards. Black bottoms out at 0.020 nits and this puts it right on spec with HDR10-mandated display levels. Consequently, overall contrast in the X850E is very good at 4515 : 1 even though we’ve seen better in cheaper or similarly priced 4K HDR mid-range TVs like Samsung’s MU8000 2017 model, 2016 Samsung KU7000 model or especially Vizio’s superb contrast levels for the 2016/2017 P-series TV. Black uniformity in the X850E is also excellent, with near perfect uniformity that’s all the more impressive for coming from an edge-lit 4K TV, though we’re applying this judgement to the smaller 65 inch model, and larger 75 inch edge-lit versions might come with a bit more clouding. Finally, the X850E lacks local dimming so contrast isn’t as good as it could be and there is some light bleed along the edges of bright sections of content due to the local dimming absence.
Brightness: Quite simply, peak brightness in the X850E models is just about average by the standards of mid-range 2016 and 2017 4K HDR TVs with similar prices. This model does a decent job of delivering peak and sustained HDR brightness in different ways and performs a bit more weakly on peak or sustained SDR brightness settings. One quality the X850E does nicely handle is being able to deliver remarkably similar brightness levels even if the illuminated percentage of the screen is expanded massively. Not all 4K HDR TVs can manage this, and see massive drop-offs in their brightness capacity when half or more of the screen needs to be bright. This speaks well of the X850E’s backlight LEDs.
Also, to clarify, peak brightness is the maximum possible spot HDR or SDR luminosity of the display or a section of it measured in nits (or cd/m2, which is the same thing) under different conditions. Sustained brightness is the highest possible sustained HDR or SDR brightness that the TV screen can manage over different conditions or areas of illuminated display. Here’s a rundown of key measurements for both below:
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 343 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 381 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 379 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 372 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR Brightness: 370 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 360 nits
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 401 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 432 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 428 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 422 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR Brightness: 427 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 418 nits
Color Delivery: All of Sony’s HDR 4K TVs manage some truly excellent or at least very good color delivery for both HDR and normal color spaces. The X850E is no exception and Sony’s inclusion of their specialized quantum dot-like Triluminos Display technology, which they’ve refined considerably over the last 3 years, works wonderfully in this TV.
The X850E manages to deliver 10-bit color with 1.07 billion RGB (red, green, blue) values with some very minimal banding in some of the darker shades only and while it’s DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut color space coverage doesn’t match the 97% we saw in the pricier X930E cousin of this TV, the 92% it does reach is quite good, comparable in fact to what was the maximum in Sony’s premium 2016 HDR 4K TVs. After calibration for color accuracy the X850E also delivers downright excellent results, with a fine color delta E of 1.24 and a decent gamma of 2.1. Overall color volume and vibrancy are wonderfully represented in this model with only a moderate defect of weak deep, dark color delivery due to the lack of local dimming and its specific precision display darkening effects. Most consumers will however be really happy with how well the X850E performs on both HDR color delivery and general SDR color performance for normal content.
Motion Handling & Upscaling: Sony’s other strong point for almost all of the 4K TVs we’ve ever reviewed from this brand has been how well they handle motion, picture processing for sharpness and upscaling. In this key area of performance, the X850E lives up to our expectations wonderfully for the most part. Starting with motion blur control, this model delivers great performance, with a lower-than-average response time of 9ms and resulting in only a very small amount of blur behind fast-moving onscreen objects. Likewise for motion interpolation, which is pretty much perfect: In other words this model does an excellent job of fitting low frame rate content (60fps, 30fps etc) sources from TV broadcasts or other media devices to smoothly run on the native 120Hz display panel of the X850E’s display.
The one motion handling weakness that the X850 does suffer from is in its limited support for judder-free playback of 24p content sources. 24p movies and such can be played back smoothly from DVD or Blu-ray players and even from streaming content via the TV’s built-in apps. However, satellite box versions of the same 24p content might show judder, which at least some viewers might really notice (other people don’t notice this issue at all though).
Finally, thanks to Sony’s superb picture processing engine, the X850E models all deliver excellent content upscaling, for HD content in particular but also to a high degree of quality for SD and 720p video sources with good formatting.
The following are the connectivity options of all models of the Sony XBR-X850E. All major advanced content connectivity specs are included and this TV is fully capable of console gaming and PC monitor use in all major resolution formats, frame rates and color subsampling modes. Average input lag for 1080p content, 4K content and 4K HDR content in Game Mode sits at between 34 and 31 ms, with support for 4:4:4 subsampling and 60Hz at the same level of input lag.
- HDMI : 4 (All come with HDCP 2.2 and 2,3 offer full HDMI 2.0a)
- USB : 3 (USB 3.0)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5mm : 1
- Component In : 1 (shared)
- Composite In : 2 (shared)
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- IR In : 1
The X930E also offers audio connectivity in the following types
- 5.1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 5.1 Passthrough ARC DTS
- 5.1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 5.1 Passthrough Optical DTS
Sony is selling the X850E for the following prices at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon link(s) for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this excellent 4K HDR TV model.
65 inch XBR-65X850E: $ $1,698.00
75 inch XBR-75X850E: $ $2,998.00
4.7 – 4 Reviews