Is a 55-inch 1080p TV still viable in this new 4K world?
What is the Sony W805C?The KDL-55W805C is a 1920 x 1080p television that sits at the top of the company’s Full HD line-up and features the new Android Smart TV system. It also incorporates X-Reality Pro upscaling features along with Motionflow XR 800Hz technology and active 3D is also on-board. There are three screen sizes in the W805C range and these include the KDL-43W805C, the KDL-50W805C and today's review model the KDL-55W805C.
In a market that has surprised everyone with the rapid growth of 4K Ultra HD TV ranges and sales, is there still a need for large screen 1080p only screens in the UK market? Let’s see if the 55W805C can offer enough for those not ready to take the Ultra HD route just yet.
Design, Connections & Control
There is no getting away from the fact that the W805C is a gorgeous looking TV with an ultra slim depth and minimalist design. Only a very small Bravia logo can be seen at the top left and the main Sony logo in the centre of the bottom ultra-thin bezel. The panel takes up the rest of the real estate at the front and is a lovely deep black when switched off. The stand is a thin chrome affair that sits flat to the front of the TV and bends upwards and back to single feet at the rear. Whilst the 55W805C was never going to fall over on this stand, it also wasn’t the sturdiest and there was a large degree of flex and movement if you touched the TV. Obviously because of the stand's design it is not able to swivel.
The incredibly thin screen widens out towards the bottom rear to house the connections and electronics. There are four HDMI slots, one side mounted with MHL and three downwards facing with ARC on HDMI4. There are also three USB ports with USB2 set up for HDD recording, one component and composite hybrid, analogue audio inputs, digital optical audio out, a headphone 3.5mm output, a LAN port and a legacy Scart. That’s quite a comprehensive line-up of connection options.
Controlling the KDL-55W805C is fairly straight forward with the supplied remote control. It is a plastic affair but sits neatly in the hand with all the major buttons within easy reach. We didn’t find the tuner controls to be that intuitive when compared to the likes of our usual Panasonic where a press of the up or down direction keys brings up an info box and we can scroll through the channels and get a now and next look. With the Sony you need a few more button presses to channel surf and we think they are missing a trick here. Otherwise the remote works with apps and the Android features with no issues and we never felt the need for a smart remote. But if you do want the smart remote it is available as an optional extra.
Features and W805C SpecsThe KDL-55W805C is a feature packed TV and the main event for Sony this year is the addition of Android powered Smart TV. There is a new home screen with a usable UI that works with horizontal cards grouped together under direct headers. The top of the page highlights things you may be interested in from services like You Tube or shows from the Guide. Then you have a row of favourite or most used Apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and more. Following that is a row of the TVs inputs so you can select a connected source. Further down the page and we get another row of Apps, this time highlighting Google services and the Google Play store, games and the TV guide. There are other services like photo sharing, one-flick, TV SideView and more.
We found that when it worked as it should the home page and smart features were rather good, if a little sluggish. But on at least two occasions we witnessed the system crash and then completely freeze. We are not sure if this was just associated with the review sample or a known issue with the Android service, so on this occasion and after a reboot and firmware check, we will give it the benefit of the doubt as we didn’t have another Sony in at the time to check.
The W805C also includes Motionflow XR 800Hz backlight and motion interpolation technologies along with scaling via Reality Creation Pro and with each of these technologies it is a case of making sure they are not doing anything to change the intent of the image or how it should be displayed. MotionFlow in almost all configurations adds a soap opera effect or over smoothness to images and the reality creation can add over aggressive noise reduction and should be used sparingly with some material.
Other features include NFC connection, MHL support, Audio Return Channel and USB HDD recording capabilities. Finally we have Active 3D playback available on the W805C but there are no glasses supplied with the TV and we couldn’t find any other makes we had to hand that would work either.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxAfter measuring a number of settings which looked close to accurate by eye, we settled on using the Cinema Pro picture mode and the Expert 1 setting for the Colour Temperature. With the new menu layout on this year’s Sony TVs be aware that brightness is actually the backlight setting and black level is what we would normally have as a brightness control. It might be confusing but is actually technically correct. The new menu layout houses similar settings together under headings like Brightness, Colour, Clarity and Motion.
Once you have set the black level and contrast controls for your room and lighting, along with the Gamma slider (we found 0 resolved 2.2 in a normal living room) the image produced is fairly accurate to experienced eyes and will keep most enthusiasts and viewers happy without going to the expense of a calibration. Plus there are very few calibration control available on the W805C which makes the task of achieving a fully accurate calibration very difficult. So it is all the better news that out-of-the-box the Sony gets close to being accurate and producing nice looking images with few errors visible to most viewers.
As you can see in the left chart the greyscale tracking was for the most part adequate with a blue starting to run low and red high towards the higher end of the scale. Gamma tracked at 2.2 and overall deltaE errors were below 3 until the higher reaches, so those with sharp eyes might be able to see some slight colour casting in the brightest areas of the image, but for the majority the image will look natural. Looking at the CIE chart on the right we can see that the colour gamut is almost capable of expressing the Rec.709 standard for HD with just a few instances of hue and saturation errors. Green, cyan and magenta have slight hue errors with blue under saturated on the measurements. However, blue errors are the hardest to see with the human eye, so will go unnoticed here.
The other issues will not be visible to 99% of the likely owners of the X805C who instead will enjoy a very accurate and colourful image with no obvious issues visible. Only in a side-by-side with an accurate reference set would any slight errors be visible to most viewers. So overall it’s a decent set of results for the Sony and these are our recommended settings for owners.
Picture Settings CalibratedWith only a 2- and 10-point white balance control available and no Colour Management System (CMS) it is a good job that the W805C is as accurate out-of-the-box, especially with a colour gamut that is only slightly out and can be massaged to produce a slightly more accurate result with the greyscale corrected and tracking better. We would have to question the need given the lack of adjustment available and the out-of-the-box image results for a full professional calibration. With only the greyscale controllable and assuming all W805C sets have similar gamut results, we would have to say that given the price point and end results likely with the Sony, a paid for calibration would probably be overkill and not really achieve massive before and after differences; provided the out-of-the-box settings are corrected for the room and lighting by the end user.
Moving on to our calibrated results we managed to get the greyscale tracking flat and with errors well below 2 DeltaE which means any errors will not be visible on screen to the eye. Gamma tracked well at 2.2 which is our standard for a normal well lit living room – it also tracks perfectly well at 2.4 if you so desire and your room is a little darker than normal. The colour gamut is still not fully resolved for Rec.709 but after the greyscale calibration it is now more accurate, but not perfect for our secondary points and blue still has a large saturation error. But without a CMS and with the gamut under saturated there is not much more we can do. The other positive to take from this is that saturation tracking results at 25, 50 and 75% were only slightly under saturated for the primary and secondary colours with no major errors here either. So even though the Sony doesn’t have a CMS and the gamut is slightly shy of Rec.709 points, it is still a very acceptable result and provides a very compelling image that the majority of viewers will enjoy without any obvious errors being visible on screen with normal content.
Sony W805C Picture Settings Video
Using the settings outline above and making sure that picture adjusting controls such as Adv. Contrast and Black Adjust were switched off we found the images produced by the W805C to be very compelling with excellent black levels from the VA panel. That is even more surprising given that the Sony doesn’t have a full backlight or local dimming system in use. The only downside was a lack of shadow detail at the very low end and some backlight clouding which we will come back to. When set for our review standard of 120cd/m2 of brightness we measured black levels at 0.02cd/m2 on our ANSI test and with a full black raster pattern which was a very good result. This continued with onscreen viewing of normal material with a reasonable performance with mixed contrast scenes and those set in dark environments when using the TV in a well-lit living room. When we changed to the light controlled (i.e. very dark to pitch black) surrounding of our cinema room the W805C struggled with backlight uniformity issues and light pooling to the bottom of the screen in both corners. This was visible not only on black screens but was also obvious on low APL scenes where shadow detail and blacks were clipped and the clouding made it difficult to enjoy the content being watched. So, this is not the ideal TV if you like to watch movies in very low light conditions. In a normal living room with high ambient light, or daylight, these issues were less visible, but shadow detail retrieval is non-existent for critical viewing.
Given the slim nature of the screen and the use of edge lighting we were also not surprised to see some banding in low light viewing and even some hints of dirty screen effect with football coverage and some panning on images with the same colour in large areas of the image, like the green of a pitch or golf course. These artefacts, while still present, were harder to notice in a well lit room as opposed to watching in low light surroundings.
It is in the normal living room during day light or with good ambient lighting where the Sony KDL-W805C excels and produces some very nicely balanced and colourful images. Here we were impressed with the detail on offer and some decent motion with content such as football and HD documentaries on BBC4. You could apply Motionflow to sports or fast moving video content to improve the motion, but we would recommend avoiding its use with film or drama content. Black levels were strong and mixed contrast scenes held up well in the brighter viewing environment. Colours looked natural and skin tones were accurate throughout with the settings used out of the box and overall it was hard to find fault with the W805C when used in this manner. The downsides are more apparent in darker viewing situations.
As this is an HD resolution set we found the scaling of good quality SD content to be excellent with no signs of ringing or enhanced edges. In fact the Sony passed all our scaling and video processing tests with flying colours showing the strength of the X-Reality processing without adding anything that shouldn’t be there. We also found there wasn’t any issue with background processing or noise reduction taking place with the Sony.
The W805C is also 3D capable but Sony (like every other manufacturer these days) neglected to send us any 3D glasses to use, and despite trying to find some compatible glasses on our own, we were unable to test the 3D capabilities of the Sony. It just highlights how manufacturers seem to have given up on promoting or encouraging the use of 3D.
Overall the Sony W805C has some issues with backlight uniformity, DSE and clouding when used in darker environments, but these become less of an issue when used in a normal living room with normal lighting levels. Out-of-the-box the image is very good with nice colour reproduction, good motion and excellent upscaling of good SD content. It also has very good black levels with only some slight crushing and shadow detail missing. As a living room workhorse it would turn in a very good performance where the slight issues found would be unlikely to cause any issues for the end user, only those looking to watch film material in a dark room would run into potential issues. The issues highlighted are very much those linked with the technology being employed with the LED LCD W805C, but in normal everyday use these are probably not deal breakers for most viewers who will enjoy the TV in the right surroundings. Those looking for excellent low light viewing can look elsewhere.
We have covered all the major picture points above and even after fixing the greyscale tracking to reference levels and slightly tweaking the gamut in the process, the differences between calibrated and out-of-the-box (given that the front panel controls for contrast etc. are set correctly for the environment) are negligible at best for the majority of users. This is certainly a case of the product probably achieving the best it can without the need for calibration; as it is best suited to being an everyday living room workhorse and not a cinematic critical viewing device. As such we don’t think it would be cost effective given the results and purchase price to go with a full professional paid for calibration on this model.
Sound QualityThe W805C is a very slim screen design, but the bottom area is wider where the electronics and speakers are housed. As such the sound quality is acceptable for normal TV viewing with clear dialogue and the music and effects not getting in the way. However the sound is thin with very little bottom end and the midrange is also closed and boxy when pushed loud. This is to be expected with such small speakers in a small enclosure. The built-in sound quality is usable but we would recommend a sound bar or other outboard solution if sound is important to you.
Input LagUsing the Leo Bodnar lag tester we measured 36ms in game mode which is a very good result and shouldn’t impact on the majority of gamers, even with online gaming. Out of the game mode the input lag is much higher (56ms) and would thus be noticeable to a larger number of users.
- Good out-of-the-box accuracy for colour and greyscale
- Excellent video processing
- Strong black levels in normal viewing environments
- Decent input lag
- Some clouding and backlight uniformity issues, especially when watching in dim surroundings
- Some DSE present
- Smart TV is promising, but still a little slow and clunky UI
Sony KDL-55W805C (W805C) Full HD TV ReviewThe Sony KDL-W805C is a strong LED LCD 1080p TV from the company and will find itself at home in the average well lit living room with strong black levels, good colours and decent motion. There are issues when viewing the W805C in dim environments which are the results of the technology being used, namely edge lighting and a thin screen, which impacts on screen uniformity with clouding to the bottom edges of the screen. We also noticed slight DSE (Dirty Screen Effect) and with sports viewing where there are large areas of the same colour, like a pitch and camera movement, there was also some banding visible. The black levels are strong but again in dim surroundings we could see crushing and a lack of just above black detail in reference films we use for assessment. All these slight issues are less noticeable in normal viewing conditions with a good level of ambient lighting.
The only other area that could impact on the Sony is the fact it is only a full HD set and is priced higher than some of the entry level 4K Ultra HD screens, like the CX680 from Panasonic, which offers more future proofing and better features in a 50-inch screen size for less money. The 55W805C is a strong workhorse with a compelling image that has some new features like Android Smart TV and excellent video processing, but it is clearly in a fight for attention in the show room. However, if a Full HD living room or second room TV is still important for you, we recommend you check it out.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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