Go big or go home
What is the Sony 43X8305C?The X8305 sits toward the bottom of Sony’s rather confusing range of 2015 Bravia 4K Ultra HD television range, and this 43-inch model is the smallest screen size within that. The X83C range actually comprises of the X8305C, the X8307C and the X8309C, with choices of 43- and 49-inch in each; there is no difference between the 8305 and 8307 in terms of specifications, other than that the former features black trim against the latter’s silver. The only difference with the X8309C (black only), as far as we can see, is a slightly better backlight scanning rate which may, or may not, improve perceived motion handling; we told you it was confusing.
The exact model we’re looking at here is the KD-43X8305C which, at the time of publishing (November 2015), is widely available for £650, and under. It’s a sign of the times that it isn’t an inconsiderable wedge of cash for a 4K TV of this size, when you consider you can easily snag a 50-inch UHD telly for the same, or less. So the questions are, is the X8305C good enough to warrant the price and is 43-inches really worth it for Ultra HD, alone, with no prospect of HDR (High Dynamic Range) video on the horizon?
Design, Connections & ControlAs you may have been able to glean from the text above, the X8305C features a narrow black trim, in what is a fairly unremarkable design. The base stand is of the cut-out variety and therefore gives the package a light, airy look although it doesn’t swivel; that said, this TV is very light so it’s easy enough to pick up and position wherever you like. The supplied remote also errs on to the functional , with its classic design and lack of the smart features found in those higher up the food chain – it does have a dedicated Netflix button, however, which will be convenient for many.
All four HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 compatible (we tested them with an NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV) and run down on a side connecting panel, along with the headphone jack, the satellite and aerial inputs and three USB ports – one is version 3. At the back are the legacy video connections, a Toslink digital audio out and the LAN port; the X8305C also features built-in, dual-band WiFi.
Features & SpecThe X8305C comes equipped with Sony’s new X1 with 4K X-Reality PRO processing. It also Supports Google’s latest Android TV operating system (5.1) and support for HEVC and VP9 codecs which can receive 4K UHD distribution (Netflix, Amazon etc) services and YouTube in 4K UHD.
Sony Android Smart TV PlatformWe gave a full review of the Sony Android TV platform earlier in 2015 and little has changed since then but we didn’t get any system freezes during our time with this sample so perhaps some under-the-hood optimisations have been made. To summarise said review – Android TV shows great promise as a Smart TV platform but, as yet, there aren’t enough apps optimised for use with a standard TV remote, you do get Ultra HD streaming via YouTube, Netflix and Amazon however. Sony has also seemingly under-powered at least most of their range to cope especially well with the new platform so there could be occasions where you’ll get frustrated. On the other hand, Android offers a lot more freedom than the competing Smart TV platforms and you’re free to load non-optimised apps and see if you can get them working. There is also the ability to run KODI as a (kind of) Smart TV platform within a Smart TV platform and, likewise, PLEX.
YouViewThis was our first chance to check out the YouView implementation on Sony TVs and we like what we saw. YouView is installed as an app and integrates live and catch-up TV services on the Freeview platform pretty seamlessly. YouView features a seven day scroll-back Electronic Programme Guide) that allows you to find content from the previous few days and watch it directly without having to open the corresponding catch-up player; speaking of which, there are the BBC iPlayer, All 4, Demand 5 and ITV Player present. You don’t have to use YouView for your digital TV services, if you don’t want, but we’d advise that you do.
Picture Settings Out of the BoxThe 2015 Sony TVs have a range of accurate to very accurate picture modes but the best is Cinema Pro which does almost all the leg work for you, in terms of nullifying unwanted processing options. As we can see from the RGB Balance Graph below, the 43-inch X8305C produced a reasonably neutral greyscale with a slight excess of green energy, throughout, and a corresponding lack of blue. The colours (chart below right) against the HD TV Rec.709 standard were also good with delta Errors below five, although the target is to get these under three. For those interested, and we should stress Sony makes no claims that the X8305C can deliver a really wide colour space, this TV has around 73.5% of the DCI P3 colour gamut, which we anticipate is the near future of Ultra HD content.
Picture Settings CalibratedSony’s new ten-point gamma/white balance controls proved just a trifle inconsistent so we didn’t quite get the ruler-flat greyscale tracking we would have liked but the results were still very good, with a minor inconsistency at 30% grey , which gave a deltaE of just over two, so no great shakes. There is no dedicated colour management system on-board but the greyscale calibration went some way to improving matters with most errors, again not noticeable to the naked eye.
Picture Settings Video
Picture QualityMost of the general nuts and bolts needed to make a good picture are present and correct in the Sony KD-43X8305C but there is one vital piece missing. Sony has clearly opted to go with an IPS panel – as opposed to the VA variants much of the competition prefer – which means black levels, and therefore picture contrast, is lacking. We typically measure black at 0.05 cd/m2, and below, with a VA panel, where the Sony X8305C was recorded at 0.23, which gives the VA a contrast advantage of more than 4X – and that’s very apparent if you watch in anything like low-light conditions. To compound that, the darkest areas of the picture were muddied further by a noticeable blue tinge so what little detail present in the shadows was further diminished. It can be the case that a good dimming system can help out but that in the X8305 – activated with the Adv. contrast enhancer option – it’s far from that and best left off. To be fair, dark screen uniformity was very good so there were no errant pools of light to make things worse.
Like the other Sony’s we’ve seen in 2015, the X8305C is blessed with top-notch processing, thanks to the 4K X-Reality PRO chip. The ‘up-scaling’ of standard definition signals to match the Ultra HD resolution is very good indeed although, undoubtedly, a 43-inch screen is far more forgiving than the usual (larger) 4K TVs we get in for review. Video deinterlacing was also of an excellent standard with broadcast HD images (1080i) remaining detailed under movement. In terms of the motion handling, itself, the KD-43X8305C delivers pretty well but, for non-film content, it might be worth using the Motion Flow settings in a mild, custom setting which can improved the perceived clarity of motion without introducing an over-smoothed look. You can also use the processing to effectively reduce the inherent judder with 24p material (most movies), again without destroying the filmic look but we prefer those as is; we would say that Sony’s interpolation technology is probably the market leader, right now, however.
Weak black levels lets the side down in an otherwise decent picture
To come back to a question we posed ourselves in the intro, is there any point to Ultra HD resolution on a TV this size? We would say, yes, but don’t go expecting any mind-blowing improvements in picture quality over your Full HD (1080p) TV. The Ultra HD services – Amazon and Netflix - we tested on the X8305C both looked markedly better, in terms of the relative lack of compression artefacts, than their 1080p equivalents fed from an external source (Roku 3, as it happens), although you would be more than hard pressed to see any improvement watching the equivalent Blu-ray disc. As noted above, the combination of screen size and excellent processing mean you don’t really lose out on content that is sub UHD. The fringe benefit of an Ultra HD, with at least relatively future-proofed connectivity, over any 1080p TV on the market now is that you’ll have better compatibility with technology coming out later in its life cycle so it’s almost advisable from that standpoint alone.
Sound QualityThis 43X8305C isn’t one of Sony’s better sounding TVs, in fact it’s up there as being one of the most disappointing we’ve heard in 2015. To be fair, that’s partly as a result of us generally being sent better specified – and higher ticket – products but that doesn’t really excuse the heavy distortion at moderately high levels or the flat, lifeless soundstage. On the bright side, that should encourage more folks to consider a separate audio solution and, budget permitting, that’s always the best route, flagship TV or otherwise.
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionThis is a middle of the road TV for gamers, with a measured input lag of 37.5 milliseconds in the Game Picture Mode. You will need to activate that to even get that low as the others are at least double the latency. The KD-43X8305C is pretty energy efficient, however, with a full screen white pattern consuming 83.5w; for comparison, our post calibrated settings came in at 85.5w so you’re not saving much with all the energy saving settings activated and you might just want to watch a better picture.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 73.5% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 7 What do these mean?
- Good colours
- Some key apps, including 4K video streaming
- Android TV gives you more freedom than the rest
- Excellent video processing
- Weak blacks and contrast
- No shadow detail
- Price already seems a bit high
Sony KD-43X8305C (X8305C) 4K TV Review
Should I buy the Sony KD-43X8305C?The 43-inch Sony X8305C is not bereft of virtues, by any means; the design is non-offensive, the connectivity is as up-to-date as a non-HDR capable TV currently needs to be and the Android Smart TV platform provides promise for the future while holding key elements of the present, in the form of Ultra HD video streaming services. The video processing is also very strong, so even if you’re feeding the Ultra HD resolution panel a source of lesser definition, you’re not likely to be disappointed. The picture accuracy, out of the box in the Cinema Pro mode is also commendable and the screen uniformity gave us no cause for complaint which, in itself, is something unusual and praiseworthy.
So, what’s not to like? While the colours, processing and lack of technological annoyances are all well and good, the lack of contrast and black level performance drags the whole show down. The X8305C makes for a good choice in a really well lit room but it’s one to avoid if your critical viewing is in more subdued conditions, as it is for us. In the words of a comedian whose name escapes us, ‘it’s good but it’s not great,’ and therefore misses out on an AVForums award.
What else could I buy?Assuming you're shopping for this kind of screen size – and with Ultra HD we’d urge you to go bigger, if you can – then the choices aren’t all that vast. The 40-inch Samsung JU6400 is well worthy of a look, however, and is about £150 less than the Sony but for that you’re sacrificing 3-inches of screen real estate. The Panasonic CX700B also comes in a 40-inch version and outperforms the Sony in terms of picture quality. Are you sure you can’t go a bit bigger? If you can squeeze in a 50-incher, then the Panasonic TX-50CX680B as another fine choice with only a £50 premium for all that extra picture; likewise the 50-inch Philips PUT6400 delivers the size bonus, along with a £50 saving on the X8305C.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
2D Picture Quality7
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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