Counting down to HDR lift-off
What is the Sony 65X8505C?This is a, just above, entry-level Ultra HD from Sony built around the Android operating system. At current prices (September 2015), you can pick up the 65-inch version for just shy of two thousand four hundred pounds, although they seem curiously thin on the internet ground, at present, whereas the KD-65X8509C is widely available for closer to £2,000. On paper, the 8509C has very marginally better specifications so it must be a supply and demand thing. Occupying this price-point pits the 8505C against some pretty formidable competition but if it can live up to the promise of the impressive spec sheet, and some of the 4K Sony’s we’ve seen in the past, we should have a winner on our hands.
Design, Connections & ControlThere’s nothing particularly fancy about the X8505C’s design but it still manages to look and feel relatively high-end. We’re getting to the point where bezels can’t really get much slimmer and the frame surrounding the top and sides of the gloss black screen measures less than a centimetre at the top and sides; it’s a little bit thicker at the bottom to accommodate the SONY logo in the centre but it’s still very slim-line.
The chassis of the KD-65X8505C is considerably thicker at the bottom than it is the top, primarily to make space for the speaker system but also because that’s where all the connections are situated. There are four HDMI ports, in all and there’s good news from Sony in that they have confirmed the X85 series, and above, will receive a software update that will make them 2.0a compatible and so able to receive an Ultra HD HDR video signal. It's unclear whether all 4 HDMI ports will be made 2.0a compatible at this time and we're checking that out with Sony. HDMI 4 has ARC (Audio Return Channel) compliance, meaning it’s the one to use for your soundbar or capable AV Receiver, while you’ll likely hook up your set-top-box to the HDMI 1 connection. You also have the usual selection of legacy video connections (Scart, Component & Composite), a headphone jack, a Toslink digital audio output and 2 USB ports. Additionally, there are terminals for aerial and satellite connections and a LAN port, although the X8505C also has built-in dual band Wi-Fi.
Sony provides two options for controlling this TV, neither of which are the best examples of a remote control we’ve seen. The ‘One-Flick’ remote, in particular, is quite frustrating to use with the touch control function – accessed from a scroll pad on its centre – inconsistent in its response. When the One-Flick works, it no doubt makes scrolling through apps and menus much quicker but too often we found that our drag or flick was met with no response; perhaps we just haven’t got the right technique but a smart controller should be intuitive to use and not require training. The standard remote is OK but a little cluttered and the fact there is no real working ‘Exit’ button is a continuing annoyance with Sony remotes meaning you have to back out of menus in stages.
Features & SpecsThe X8505C 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). The X8509C comes ready for the latest 4K new spec “HEVC” and “VP9” codecs which can receive 4K UHD distribution services and YouTube in 4K UHD. It will also supply an expanded colour palette, with TRILUMINOS Display which is further enhanced for colour accuracy by the new engine.
Also, coming soon, Sony will integrate the YouView platform in to their 2015 4K TVs, allowing you to watch your favourite TV shows from BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5 as well as live TV using the lovely YouView interface with no need for a separate set-top box. We’ve pushed Sony for further launch details but we’ve not heard back, yet. We’re also conducting a full review of the Android Smart TV platform so look out for that coming very soon.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxFor the most accurate factory preset, you simply need to select the Cinema Pro Picture Mode after pressing the ‘Action Menu’ button on the remote and, based on the sample provided, that will get you very close to an industry-standard accurate picture. Sony has bucked the industry trend of mis-labelling a couple of the key picture controls this year so instead of ‘Backlight’ we now have ‘Brightness’ which was the old name for what they’re now calling ‘Black Level.’ Breaking the naming conventions is not necessarily a bad thing, as Black Level is a much better descriptive term than it used to be, but the fact remains most people won’t touch any of the settings anyhow.
We can see from the charts above that greyscale tracking, in particular, was excellent with only a slight excess of red energy in the whiter shades noticeable to the eye. The colours generally tracked very well, too, although green was a bit over-saturated and under-illuminated at maximum stimulus levels but it’s not an error likely to be unnoticeable to the untrained eye.
Picture Settings CalibratedThe first thing to do when calibrating any display is to set your black and white points correctly for your own viewing environment; you can find out details on how to do that using our Picture Perfect guide. For our night time viewing, we just have a lamp behind the TV to provide a small amount of ambient lighting, so the eyes don’t get tired, so I needed to knock the Black Level control down a notch but since I like a peak luminance of about 140cd/m2, these days – must be my age, the Brightness control had to go up around eight notches. We also knocked the Gamma control down to -2 for the low-light conditions and initially disabled the motion interpolation and adv Contrast Enhancer controls; we’ll have a closer look at both Motion Flow and the dimming system later on.
With the basics taken care of we moved on to the white balance calibration which is done under the Adv. Colour temperature submenu. Sony has added finer, ten point, controls to their TVs this year but they were barely necessary given the out-of-box accuracy and the adequacy of the two point controls. We can also see from the CIE Chart, top-right, that the absence of a Colour Management System (CMS) wasn’t particularly keenly felt, although it would have been good to have been able to correct the green errors beyond using the global Colour control.
Out-of-the-Box PerformanceTwo of the most key factors in producing great pictures are pretty much there right from the off with the KD-65X8505C; contrast and black level performance is very good – we measured black at 0.024cd/m2 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 5400:1, which is certainly some of the best performance you’re going to see with an LCD TV. To add to that, the direct LED backlighting of the X8509C produced excellent dark screen uniformity but the dimming system is, frankly, a let-down. Even with fairly unchallenging scene transitions, we noticed pulsing off the backlight that would illuminate completely the wrong elements of the picture so we turned it off. It’s a shame as Sony does do better with the higher-end sets, here, so this model definitely can’t produce pictures with as much dynamic range as those, particularly in terms of shadow detailing, which is mediocre on this set.
The lovely dark screen uniformity wasn’t quite carried over to the instances when on-screen content was brighter. We could quite frequently spot the panel structure behind the screen on panning shots and some colours – creams and greens, particularly - brought out a blotchy, dirty screen effect in the same circumstances. That meant watching a sports game or a scene with a cloudy sky-scape could get a bit irksome. We’ve certainly seen much worse examples than the KD-65X8505C in this regard, however, but it’s something to be aware of for sports fans, especially. Speaking of which, and because we’ve nowhere else suitable to mention it, the Live Football Mode, available from the Action Menu, is to be avoided as it presents a truly awful, over-saturated and over-smoothed picture.
Quite a dim dimming system
The other picture attribute we were referring to above is colour accuracy and, as we noted earlier, the X8509C demonstrated commendable levels out-of-the-box. Skin tones looked natural and the majority of skies, grasses and foliage appeared believable. When compared to other calibrated displays in the house, some of the ultra-green, greens appeared a tad overcooked but the vast majority of viewers aren’t really going to notice that and, given the accurate greyscale – assuming other production samples mimic this one – and the lack of meaningful colour calibration tools, paying a professional to do it for you isn’t going to reap huge dividends over the factory settings and some minor adjustments of your own.
Sony has also been right up there in terms of producing dedicated video processing chips and the 4K X-Reality PRO is excellent. Scaling (and some reconstructing, it has to be said) of standard definition pictures, in particular, is an incredibly strong point of the X8505C. it’s no mean feat that a watchable image with a 720 x 576 resolution can be had on a panel with a native resolution of 3,840 x 2160, especially on a 65-inch screen. General video deinterlacing was also excellent with broadcast HD images (1080i) remaining crisp under movement, which brings us to the motion handling of the Sony. Even without assistance from the MotionFlow processing, we found the KD-65X8505C a pretty smooth watch but you can – at least for us – slightly improve fast paced video with some moderate custom settings. As ever, we’d leave it alone for movies but it’s probably the best interpolation technology on the market.
Calibrated PerformanceAs you’ve probably gathered from what’s written above, there wasn’t an awful lot in the pre and post calibrated pictures with this TV. It’s a shame there’s not a colour management system on-board as you could make a more meaningful difference if there were. That said, we needed to alter a few key settings to maximise for our viewing room and the white balance alterations definitely brought out a little more detail so, if you want the absolute best, a professional calibration – or learn it yourself – is the only means to that end.
ULTRA HD 4K PerformanceThere are some exciting developments around the corner for the X85 series later in 2015, as Sony promises a software update that will bring with it HDMI 2.0a support, meaning they will be able to play UltraHD HDR Blu-ray discs. We’re also expecting that update to allow owners to stream UHD from Amazon Instant, as well as Netflix when their titles are ready. For now, and we’re not complaining, we were left to once again peruse the fairly limited amount of 4K titles available through those two streaming services. The results, as you would expect, were great although it seems the growth in popularity of UHD TVs has seen users of Netflix service, especially, grow since the 4K titles were first released. We weren’t frequently sent back to 1080, and sometimes 720p (the horror!) whilst watching just about anything but whilst the resolution held at 2160p, pictures were tantalisingly good with only the odd hint of compression noticeable.
Sound QualityWe would describe the X8505C as a good audio performer and having such a large screen does allow for some convincing stereo separation. Dialogue remained clear, even at low volume levels, and there was enough low-end for effects to be convincing. You would, of course, get much better sound by hooking up some speakers, or a soundbar, but if you’re budget won’t stretch, you’re not likely to feel let down by the X8505C.
Input LagSony were leaders of the pack but they’re lagging (pun unavoidable) behind in 2015. With the Game mode activated, using the Leo Bodnar device, we recorded input latency at 37 milliseconds. That’s not exactly crippling but there are more responsive TVs currently on the market, if this is a major consideration for you.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 85% 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) 8 What do these mean?
- Great contrast
- Good colours
- Super scaling of lower definition content
- Android offers lots of choice
- HDMI 2.0a coming
- Some poor UI design choices
- Unusable dimming system
- Occasional system crashes
Sony KD-65X8505C 4K Ultra HD TV Review
Should I buy the Sony KD-65X8505C?The Sony 65X8505C is a typical Sony TV. It looks good, but understated, features a range of bound-pushing technologies and produces very commendable images. This Sony is also well future-proofed by virtue of the fact it will receive a software update to allow for HDMI 2.0a connections to bolster the HDR streaming support, through Amazon and Netflix.
We can’t say we’re entirely taken by the new Sony Smart TV experience, which is based on the Android operating system. There are, undoubtedly, lots of possibilities afforded by Android, including the ability to run KODI – which the X8505C does pretty well – but there aren’t enough apps with standard remote control support, yet, and Sony hasn't done themselves any favours with some of their UI design decisions; The ‘Discover’ bar shortcut is seven layers deep, for one – which is bonkers – and the OneFlick remote is erratic, which doesn’t help. You can use alternative remotes and keyboards but not many end-users will know that. To those well experienced with Android, the X8505C offers a bit of a playground; those that aren’t may feel daunted.
The KD-65X8505C was nice and accurate out of the box, albeit with some saturation issues in green but the two and ten point white balance controls allowed us to make some minor improvements. This Sony offers really good black levels, too, although a disappointing dimming system offers no worthy assistance. Video processing is extremely strong, however, with even some standard definition material looking decent but, naturally, as you move up the resolution ladder, the X8505C keeps on getting better. The message here is – while you’re waiting for UHD to go mainstream - you won’t be disappointed with the ‘filler' and this Sony can produce excellent pictures from almost all sources so, all in all, the KD-65X8505C does just about enough to earn itself an AVForums Recommended Award.
What else is there?As we said in the intro, this is now a very hotly contested price-point. We think the Samsung UE65JU6400 is well worth a look and will likely cost you less than the X8505C. You could also cast your eyes to the Panasonic TX-65CX802B which is a little more than the Sony but has better low light picture performance. And, finally, there’s the Sony KD-65X8509C which at current prices is less than the 8505 and actually is showing as in-stock online.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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