Sony XBR-X850F 4K UHD HDR LCD TV Review (XBR65X850F, XBR75X850F, XBR85X850F)
Stephan Jukic – May 24, 2018
The Sony X850F is basically the company’s successor to the 2017 Sony X850E and like its predecessor, this model comes in a slightly limited range of only larger sizes and features a mostly mid-range set of features. Sony has traditionally offered at least one of its X850 TVs with IPS display since at least a couple years ago and with the 2018 X850F the company followed this routine by making all of them except for the giant 85 inch model into IPS display model. What this means in practical terms is quite important: The TV by default comes with a much lower contrast ratio, weaker black levels and some other variations in color performance. On the other hand, IPS display technology does improve viewing angles dramatically. It’s IPS issue aside, the X850F is a relatively good 4K HDR TV in most other ways.
Note, the model being reviewed here is the 65 inch edition with IPS. The 85 inch X850F offers a Vertical Alignment panel (VA display) and will have entirely different contrast, black level and local dimming specs. Color performance might also be different. All other specs, for motion handling, smart functionality, connectivity, gaming chops and so forth should be more or less identical in both IPS and VA versions.
- Excellent motion handling
- Fine HDR and SDR color delivery
- Excellent connectivity
- Solid 4K TV for gamers and PC use
- Very good viewing angles
- Terrible contrast ratio
- Weak black levels
- No local dimming to improve the above
- Poor native audio power
The Sony X850F is a good TV in so many ways, but its IPS display panel creates a contrast and black level performance that badly weakens how well this TV shows content on the screen. We recommend it if you like the wide viewing angles of IPS though.
What We Liked
There are plenty of good things about the Sony X850F. In fact, if it weren’t for the specific problem of its IPS panel nearly ruining the TVs highly important performance on contrast and black level delivery, this would for the most part be one excellent high mid-range 4K HDR LCD TV. Thus, despite its notable flaws, the X850F does indeed offer a whole range of things we consider to be very good or even truly superb about its overall performance. Some of the following are as good in this model as they are in even the best Sony 2018 4K TVs, so let’s get down to the details of what we liked most about this model.
Fortunately for owners of IPS 4K TVs or those who prefer this type of display for some reason (possibly because of the wide viewing angles it offers) color performance isn’t affected much at all and the X850F shows this wonderfully. In terms of both HDR and regular color volume, accuracy and vibrancy, this model performs nearly as well as any VA panel 4K TV would and delivers some great richness to any content you watch with it. Now, deep rich black levels and high contrast definitely help make colors stand out more richly but the X850F’s actual raw color rendering performance does stand up by itself.
The same goes for HDR color delivery and capability in this mid-range Sony 4K HDR TV. It offers full support for wide color gamut at over 90% of the DCI-P3 color space and also supports full 10-bit color. In other words, the type of display panel it has doesn’t affect these two specs notably and while the X850F’s IPS display makes it a dismal failure at coming even close to meeting HDR10 standards for contrast, black level and peak brightness, at least high dynamic range colors are rendered superbly as required. We do need to mention that pricier and more refined Sony televisions like the X900F or Sony’s 2017 X930E do deliver superior overall color volume, higher DCI-P3 wide color gamut and better metrics for things like gamma and delta-E
The X850F does motion wonderfully. In previous years some of Sony’s mid-range 4K TVs tended towards defects in their motion handling but not so in this model’s case. The X850F not only avoids almost all ghosting during movies, sports action or TV shows, it also avoids stutter and manages some excellent frame rate interpolation (as long as you don’t mind something of a soap opera effect). There’s also no backlight flicker that we could see and the X850F is just fine at handling most sources of lower frame rate content on its native 120Hz panel.
The one huge benefit of IPS displays in 4K TVs is that they offer excellent viewing angles. Unlike VA TVs, whose pixels are narrow from left to right (due to their vertical alignment), IPS pixels are wider horizontally and allow for color, contrast and brightness to stay high even if the TV is being viewed from well over 30 degrees off to one side or another. VA panel 4K TVs may offer much better contrast but their narrow viewing angles are one of their major defects. Obviously, for those thinking of buying the X850F among our readers, the 85 inch model, with its VA display doesn’t come with this particular benefit.
The X850F gets quite bright. This makes its contrast ratios even worse than they might otherwise be for an IPS 4K TV but it also comes with its benefits in terms of good viewability even in brighter rooms and a bit of compensation for the low contrast ratio of this model. What we also like about the X850F’s brightness specs for both sustained and peak HDR and SDR brightness is the sheer level of consistency they seem to have. In the model we reviewed here, (as we’ll show in greater detail below in our Visual Performance Specs section) specific levels of brightness stayed almost even for all settings when the TV is in standard content viewing mode and later stay even at a higher level when the TV is set to view HDR content.
We like the design of the X850F. It looks much like Sony’s premium 2018 4K HDR TVs except that it’s a bit thinner due to the absence of a full array LED backlight panel. Now while this means no high quality local dimming and higher peak brightness, the TV is at least much lighter and friendlier when it comes to mounting on a wall. Like the X900F, the X850E is made entirely out of plastics but it feels solidly constructed and its legs are a little thinner and more widely spaces. Quite frankly, we’d even say we prefer this model’s design to that of its pricier cousin the X900. The bezels along the screen edge are extremely thin all around and that creates a great impression of a large, clean display area.
Gaming Chops for consoles and PC use
Sony’s X850F offers some very decent console gaming compatibility across a wide range of resolution and color combinations, with or without HDR. In its gaming mode it performs well or even great in all these areas as our section on input lag in the Visual Performance Specs section further below will show. On the other hand, There are TVs out there that support superior levels of input lag across different resolutions, color settings an HDR adjustments. Examples of these include Samsung’s MU-Series models from 2017 and 2018, Vizio’s 4K TVs and even TCL’s excellent P or C-Series models. Even Sony’s X900F performs a bit better than the X850F.
However, for most gamers and PC users, the X850F does well enough in these areas and its high level of HDR color support boosts the quality of 4K or HDR gaming nicely. It’s also a great TV for use as a PC monitor if you want one truly huge computer display. It also supports assorted resolution and color combinations when hooked up to any newer PC.
Smart TV platform and Google Assistant
On a final note regarding complex features we particularly like, the smart TV platform of Sony’s 2018 TVs is the latest version of Android TV and while it lacks a bit of the fluid, easy usability of rival smart TV platforms like WebOS from LG or the fantastic Roku TV, we still like it plenty. Android TV offers a tremendous selection of apps with many more available for download from the gigantic Google Play marketplace. All of the major streaming media apps such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Vevo, Spotify and even Sony’s own special 4K movie download service are present but most importantly of all direct access to Google Play means that you can download just about any TV-compatible app from what is one of the World’s largest app marketplaces. For this reason more than any other Android TV is a great smart interface for what is already a superb piece of hardware technology.
Furthermore, the X850F’s version of Android TV also includes the downright fantastic new Google Assistant voice command software, letting you speak to open numerous apps, check the weather, open access to connected devices and search for content across apps. Google is still refining its voice assistant technology but the version of Google Assistant in the X850F already stands out for its quality among similar technologies from rival brands like Amazon’s Alexa, which are becoming ever more popular in most of the 4K TVs of 2018.
What We Didn’t Like
Contrast, black levels and local dimming performance
The biggest issues that the X850F faces revolve around its picture performance. IPS 4K TVs have their uses and for a certain type of 4K TV owner they can be very useful due to their wide viewing angles but their huge weakness lies in the terrible contrast performance they deliver. This is where the X850F disappoints the most and the problem is compounded even further by the absence of any local dimming technology behind this TV’s screen. We’ve seen other IPS 4K TVs such as LG’s SJ8500 and certain Vizio P-Series IPS editions deliver some remarkably decent contrast ratios by IPS display standards but this was helped out by the fact that these TVs came with local dimming to augment darkness. The X850F lacks this feature and thus its already very poor native contrast of less than 900:1 can’t be improved further beyond this level.
As a result, overall contrast is crappy, black levels are rather washed out and the overall result is a quality of general display performance that’s constantly marred by these black level failures. This model is an HDR 4K TV, with support for vibrant, rich high dynamic range colors in certain types of content. And while those colors are indeed rendered nicely, their impact is weakened by how poor the quality of black levels shows itself to be in this television. This is the single biggest weakness of the Sony X850F and it’s nearly a deal breaker in many ways.
Gaming Performance Details
Another somewhat more minor issue we have with the X850F lies in how well it delivers low input lag for gaming via consoles and PC rigs. As we stated in our section above on what we liked about this model’s gaming chops, the X850F does not deliver poor input lag performance during gaming. Most casual Xbox One, PS4 or more serious 4K HDR gamers, using the HDR and 4K versions of these consoles, will be happy enough with how well this 4K TV handles motion during gaming but, we’ve seen better performance from much cheaper 4K TVs. To name a couple of examples, TCL’s P-Series models from 2017 and any Samsung 4K TV no matter how cheap it is all offer fantastic input lag metrics and they’re also capable of similar or sometimes better HDR performance for high dynamic range games.
Finally, we can’t say we love the native audio system of the X850F. It’s below average in its overall performance and that’s a bit disappointing to see in a Sony TV like this from a company that we know to be capable of doing better (The Sony OLED TVs for 2017 and 2018 being an example of some very clever TV audio innovation). This isn’t to say that the X850F offers flat out crappy audio, but even a low-priced external speaker system or sound bar will improve this part of the TV’s performance enormously.
Value vs. Price & Bottom Line
Overall, we think the X850F is a good 4K HDR TV as far as it goes but we don’t believe it quite offers enough performance to justify its price as a high mid-range 2018 4K TV, even if it comes from a major and excellent brand like Sony. There are plenty of better options available at lower prices and some TVs from Sony itself offer far superior overall performance while costing only a bit more. The 2017 X900E is a great example of this. If you want a good IPS 4K TV, the X850F might be a good option but even as far as IPS 4K TVs go, we think LG’s SJ8500 from 2017 is the much better option. It offers better contrast, comes with local dimming and even includes support for Dolby Vision HDR, which is always a nice bonus.
Key Sony XBRX850F TV Specs
- Screen sizes: 65 in XBR65X850F, 75 in XBR75X850F, 85 in XBR85X850F (TV being reviewed is 65 inches)
- Smart TV: Android TV with Google Assistant voice assist
- 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 smart remote and Sony remote app for iOS, Android
- Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a and HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out
- Sound: 10 W+10 W with Dolby™ Digital, Dolby™ Digital Plus, Dolby™ Pulse and DTS Surround Sound support
- Contrast Ratio: 895:1 (native, real contrast without local dimming activated)
- Peak Brightness: 522 nits (cd/m2)
- 3D Technology: N/A
- TV dimensions without stand: (65 inch model): 57 1/8 x 33 x 2 1/8 inch (1450 x 836 x 52 mm)
- Dimensions with stand: 57 1/8 x 35 1/2 x 12 1/2 inch (1450 x 900 x 315 mm)
- TV weight (65 inch model): 56.4 lbs with Stand, 58.4 lbs without stand
- Processor: 4K HDR Processor X1
Display Performance Metrics
The following are the several categories of key display metrics for picture performance in the Sony X850F HDR TV. They may vary slightly from unit to unit so they should not be taken as absolutes. However, they should maintain a generally high level of similarity in all units that makes them good enough to be reliable indicators of quality. Different sizes of TV display can change some of these metrics slightly (for example, larger edge-lit 4K TVs tend to have weaker local dimming and peak brightness) and though the X850F maintains identical display specs in all of its sizes, some TV models come with display panel variations for certain specific sizes.
The following metrics of display performance for contrast, black level, color performance, brightness and motion handling (all of which are the most important aspects of display performance) essentially bear out what we said above about the X850F: This is a 4K TV with some excellent picture specs in how well it handles motion on the screen, how well it renders colors and how well it upscales non-4K content, but the X850F is fatally flawed by its contrast and black level issues and the lack of local dimming technology that could have made them more manageable.
Black Level, Local Dimming and Contrast:
Black levels, local dimming and contrast are all entwined together in any 4K TV and thus deserve being covered together. A 4K display’s contrast ratio is affected by how dark the screen can be made and this maximum black level is in turn affected by the presence and quality of local dimming technology. For those of you who don’t clearly know how local dimming works, it’s basically a method by which the LEDs behind an LCD 4K TV display actually turn off in specific patterns to minimize how much light leaks through into the blacks that the screen is supposed to display. Not all TVs have local dimming though and in cheaper models, the LED backlight is always on, with blacks being created by light barriers inside the pixels on the screen itself.
The X850F delivers what we’d consider to be a terribly poor black level across the board. This affects and ruins its overall capacity for high quality contrast ratios (high contrast in essence) and also creates really washed out black levels for any dark areas of the screen. The resulting effect of these defects is a low level of general picture quality. It even makes the X850F’s otherwise great color rendering seem weaker and less vibrant than it really is (since how good colors look to the eye is partly due to how strongly they contrast against darker areas on the screen). The presence of local dimming, even of the limited sort that edge-lit LCD TVs like the X850F are limited to, would have definitely boosted the above problems with contrast and black level in the X850, but because Sony deigned to exclude this feature from this model, it made the X850F’s biggest problem even worse.
Peak brightness is the maximum possible spot HDR or SDR luminosity of a 4K TV display or a section of it as measured in units of brightness called 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.
In terms of how well it handles peak and sustained brightness for both conventional SDR (standard dynamic range) and for HDR (High dynamic range) content, the X850F compensates a bit for its poor black levels by being a pretty good performer. For both SDR and HDR content, this television delivers fairly high average luminosity and more interestingly still, it delivers these high levels of brightness for each setting very uniformly regardless of how much of the screen is pumping out light. This is an impressive achievement and definitely wins the X850F some points on picture quality. The numbers below demonstrate what we mean:
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 409 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 408 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 408 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 407 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 407 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 405 nits
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 522 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 522 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 521 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 520 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 522 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 522 nits
The X850F’s color deliver is very good. It’s not as excellent as we noticed it in the X900F or in any Samsung ultra-premium 4K HDR TV but it’s still very good. This television model supports full HDR color with 10-bit color support and wide color gamut coverage of over 92% of the DCI-P3 color space. These specs mean that when the X850F is showing high dynamic range video content, it delivers rich, vibrant and highly saturated color realism. The TV’s problems with black levels and contrast weaken how well its color rendering seems to perform as far as the naked eye is concerned but in terms of measured performance, there’s nothing really wrong with the X850F’s ability to deliver quality color for almost any content. Color volume at high levels of brightness and in shadowy scenes is also very good. White balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma in the X850F sit at relatively decent levels of 0.25, 2.11 and 2.09 respectively. We’ve seen better in cheaper 4K TVs but these aren’t bad values at all.
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
The Sony X850F is one relatively good TV for gamers who want to hit 4K and HDR notes with their console gaming if they have the right kind of accessory technology. We’ve seen better performance on this front from most of Samsung’s 4K TVs and, surprisingly, even their cheapest models as well as those of Vizio or TCL but the X850F still performs fairly well on the whole and with the benefit of its HDR color performance to boost things further. The following are the specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 29 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 27 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: 12.9 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz + HDR: 29.3 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz + HDR: 26.9 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 89.8 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 30 ms
- 4K @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 + 8 bit HDR: 30.2 ms
- 4K with interpolation activated: 93 ms (leave the interpolation off)
We should also note that Sony has built the X850F with some truly superb compatibility with PC hardware for use as a giant sort of PC monitor. This TV offers up full 4:4:4 chroma subsampling support and 1080p @ 120 Hz support when coupled with PC rigs. Other supported resolutions include those mentioned above in our input lag listings.
The Sony X850F, like all of Sony’s newer 4K TVs, offers up a full package of today’s now standard and essential advanced connectivity specs. For connecting it to pretty much any external media device in the most useful possible ways, no user should have any problems with this model. In other words, it comes equipped with multiple HDMI, USB ports and other crucial connectivity slots. The television however lacks full HDMI 2.0 HDR supported bandwidth in all four HDMI ports. Instead only ports 2 and 3 offer this. The following are its ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 4 (2 and 3 come with HDCP 2.2 and full HDMI 2.0a capacity)
- USB : 3 (USB 3.0)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 1
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: No but coming later in 2018 firmware update
The Sony XBR-X850F TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough ARC DTS
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough Optical DTS
Sony X850F Pricing
The Sony XBR-X850F’s several different size ranges are selling for the following prices found in the links below 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 links for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this model.