Sony KDL-47W805A TV Review
Can Sony's high-end 8 Series reach the heights of their flagship 905?
What is the Sony KDL-47W805A?Our first taste of Sony’s 2013 Bravia TV range was a sweet one with the W905 wining plaudits for its impressive black levels and contrast, excellent backlight uniformity and superb colour accuracy. It’s clear from the outset that the W805 under testing here isn’t going to match up in terms of dynamic range – the fact that it’s a TV with passive 3D technology betrays the fact it will have an IPS panel - but LG have proved that, with some sympathetic handling, it's possible to get most things right with that technology. Is Sony up to the IPS challenge? Let’s see...
Design and ConnectionsWe can usually count on Sony to deliver a TV that’s appealing to the eye and although the W80 is fairly unremarkable in terms of its bezel, which is essentially plain black with a very thin turquoise accent, the chrome-effect semi-circular stand sets it apart from most of the crowd - and it swivels too, which is always a bonus these days. The 47W805A is well connected and features four HDMI inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and three of which are downward facing which will aid wall-mounting efforts. The fourth HDMI input does face sideways but since it supports MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) that makes sense because it makes it easier to connect your smartphone or tablet. There are also three USB ports, one of which is for HDD recording, a CI (Common Interface) slot, an aerial socket, a satellite connector, a headphone jack, an Ethernet port, an optical digital output, a SCART socket, analogue stereo inputs and a combined composite/component video input.
As with the W905, the 8 series comes with two remotes – it’s all the rage these days. The first is the same basic model that Sony used last year. It's comfortable to hold and the buttons are sensibly laid out, covering all the major controls. There are dedicated buttons for accessing the Home page and the smart features (SEN) but the Exit button remains easy to miss and only takes you out one layer, which just mirrors what the Return button does. The second remote is a stripped down version that doesn't even have an Exit button, only basic controls such as On/Off, Home, SEN, Volume, Programme, Return and Options. You can access a more complete virtual remote on-screen but it’s a hassle to use in all honesty. The real reason for this second remote is that it supports the One-touch NFC (Near Field Communication) feature that allows instant wireless mirroring of your compatible smart device. The 47W805A comes four of passive 3D specs which look just like the active ones that ship with the 905 but of course they’re lighter on the ear and generally comfortable to wear. The problem with them is that they lack shielding at the sides to block out ambient light.
MenusThe menu system has been redesigned and whilst it retains some of the dreaded Cross Media Bar's (XMB) DNA, it's a vast improvement. There is now a central home page from where you can access all the features, devices and menus using one of six options - Featured, History, TV, Applications, Connected Devices and Settings. The first option is Featured where you will find various features recommended to you such as movies, TV shows, music and apps. The next choice is History which shows you channels, inputs, devices and content that you have recently accessed.
The Applications section gives you access to the SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) page, although again this can be accessed directly using a dedicated button on either remote, and it includes the Video and Music Unlimited pages, PlayMemories and popular apps. TheConnected Devices option obviously allows you to select from any connected devices, although there is also a dedicated input button on the remote which tended to be a faster method. Finally there's the Settings option where you can access the i-Manual, the Display Settings, the Sound Settings, the System Settings, External Input Settings, Network Settings and Digital or Analogue Setup. Make sure you turn off the Light Sensor in the Eco section of the System Settings menu or you will limit the brightness of the panel. This control really should be in the Picture Menu has it has a big impact on the images.
The 40W905 also includes an Options menu system that is accessed via a dedicated button on the remote. Sony has an annoying habit of hiding key selections away in sub-menus and this is a good example. You need to use the Options menu to access the Scene Select sub-menu, where you can select from a number of 'Scenes', the most important of which are Game and Cinema. You need to select Game if you want to reduce the input lag and you need to select Cinema to access the Cinema 1 Picture Mode that offers the most accurate out-of-the-box settings. As is usually the case with a Sony TV there are too many unnecessary processing features but we'll cover those in more detail in the test section.
FeaturesThe 40W905 includes an excellent Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that is well laid out, easy to use and includes both picture-in-picture and audio. Last year we felt that Sony's smart TV platform was too fragmented, so it was good to discover that this year everything in centralised on one page which you access by pressing the SEN button on the remote. You can also access the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) page and the Video and Music Unlimited pages from the Home page.
Whilst Sony's smart TV platform might not be as comprehensive as some of the competition, it wisely concentrates on the kind of features that people will actually use such as video-on-demand and catch-up services. We cover Sony's Smart TV System in far greater detail in its own dedicated review which you can find here.
Test ResultsUsing the Options Button to get to the Scene Select item gives you the choice of using the Cinema viewing mode, which has the best out-of-box accuracy. As we can see from the charts below left, the W805A had a bias toward green in the greyscale as well as a small excess of red and a lack of blue. This resulted in images with a noticeable yellow cast but the included 2 point White Balance controls should be sufficient to remove the cast. The W9 was remarkable for its out of box colour accuracy but the W805 is not, with colours that are a fair bit too dark and a green that’s off toward yellow at full saturation. As Sony has still yet to come up with a CMS for its TV range, we’ll have to hope the white balance controls can help somewhat. In actual fact, Delta Errors for colour aren’t that bad but there are definitely noticeable problems.
With so little to play with, it takes no time at all to calibrate Sony TVs and we had a more than acceptable greyscale within about 10 minutes. By ganging up the low end controls we were also able to get a much flatter gamma response too and with overall dE’s all under 1, it’s a storming result for the 805. Who needs 10-point controls? Shh, we didn’t really say that!
We doubted very much that we’d be able to deal with the fairly significant hue error of green at full saturation and so it proved. As we can see from the chart below, it only veered off course at 100% saturation and was actually very accurate at lower stimuli so it wasn’t such a big deal in practise. The observant amongst you will note that the luminance errors at 100% saturation are uniformly out, on the low side, and be wondering why we didn’t push the Colour control harder. The answer is, that in doing so we would have introduced much larger errors at the lower stimulation points so it was the best balance. Overall, results are still excellent but we wish Sony weren’t being such stick-in-the-muds with their lack of colour management options.Sony hasn’t managed to crack the issue of extracting impressive black levels from an IPS panel and the W805 scored averagely here. A full screen black pattern produced a measurement of 0.158 cd/m2 which is distinctly average. Creditably it improved that performance to average 0.148 on a checkerboard, yielding an ANSI contrast of almost exactly 800:1. The Adv. Contrast Enhancer setting was almost useable on Low but you’ll have to be prepared for the odd spot of fluctuating brightness with some camera changes. When engaged in it’s Med or High settings, the fluctuations were all to frequent. Screen uniformity was good but noticeably brighter in the middle than the edges which could be seen easiest with very dark content.Sony has upgraded their X-Reality Pro engine for 2013 and overall the 47W805 delivered excellent processing. It passed the standard definition film cadence detection tests, with Film Mode set to Auto, and scaling of standard definition signals was also excellent, resolving details without blurring or ringing. Deinterlacing performance was also excellent in both high and standard definition, with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test and, in the second, slight jaggies only appeared on the bottom bar of the three moving bars. As with last year there are a number of options when it comes to Motionflow, which is Sony's name for their frame interpolation software. The first two choices - 'Standard' and 'Smooth' - use heavy interpolation which results in an overly smooth effect that is best avoided with film-based content. The other options use different methods that might appeal to some people depending on how susceptible to flicker they are. If you choose Impulse you'll see an immediate dimming of the picture and possibly flicker due to black frame insertion. Since the 47W805 copes perfectly well pulling down 4 frames at 96Hz the 'Impulse' option seems slightly redundant, especially as 'Clear Plus' uses 4:4 pulldown with a black frame insertion technique that flickers considerably less.
At just under 23ms the 40W905 was one of the lowest input lags we've measured but the W805A is most certainly the quickest and registered a lag under 20ms – an AVF first!. Whatever Sony are doing to bypass all their processing, it's certainly working and it's a big improvement on last year. What’s more, Sony has achieved this with the notoriously tardy IPS panel so it’s double the back slaps!
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Cinema Mode: 65W
- Calibrated – Cinema Mode: 52W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 88W
Sony KDL-47W805A Picture Quality 2DThe Sony W805A certainly has some things going for it. The colours are generally very accurate, viewing angles are generous for LCD and high-def pictures are, for the most part, blessed with superb levels of detail. If you were sensing a ‘but’, top marks, as there are actually a couple of caveats to mention. The first thing that struck us was a very noticeable dirty screen effect (DSE) that rears its head on almost every panning shot. Watching the Confederations Cup semi-final was actually made a very frustrating experience by the unwanted addition of smeary marks running vertically down the screen every time the ball travelled more than 15 yards. But it wasn’t just with green where it’s visible; any pale colour would show it up so it was too regular an occurrence, by far, in our reckoning.
LG showed with the LA790 and LA860 that it’s possible to implement good dimming systems on an IPS panel. It seems like they’re the only ones to have got the hang of it, however, as first Panasonic then Philips and now Sony have shown how it’s not done right. Sony’s Adv. Contrast Enhancer is the culprit here and although, as we alluded to on the ‘Test Results’ page, you might be able to stand it at Low, the brightness fluctuations the setting causes are very noticeable. We’re currently watching quite a lot of ‘gritty period pieces’ (we stole that from Netflix) - where there’s a lot of candles and open fires in evidence - and these are absolute torture tests for dimming systems; the W805 was yet another not to come out of them with flying colours.
If you can get over the fact that you’re never going to get satisfying black levels and you can ignore the dirty screen effect then the Sony W805 is certainly capable of providing some excellent pictures. Motion has quite a nice feel to it (with a little help from MotionFlow, at times) and since the calibrated greyscale is very neutral, there was a nice natural look to images but we can’t help but get the feeling that this Sony is underperforming relative to its status and price-point.
Sony KDL-47W805A Picture Quality 3DWe (well, I) find the passive 3D experience the most favourable for the home. Besides the obvious cost and convenience advantages over active shutter technology, it’s just more comfortable for the old noggin and the lack of flicker is the icing on the cake. The W805 is another worthy entrant in the pantheon of passive 3D TVs, providing all of the above with relatively believable colours and decent motion handling, to boot. Unfortunately the DSE, also mentioned above, is not obliterated by the 3D glasses so large portions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were rendered somewhat unexpectedly unenjoyable and our Wimbledon test footage was similarly affected.
- Excellent greyscale after calibration
- Very low input lag for gamers
- Very accurate colours post calibration
- Picture processing is up there with the best
- Viewing angles are good
- Weak blacks and contrast
- Dirty screen effect ruined lots of content
- Dimming system is flawed
- Overpriced vs performance
Sony KDL-47W805A TV ReviewSony’s W805A is certainly a good looker and although its bezel is largely plain black – with just a hint of turquoise – the loop stand is certainly distinct, stylish and it swivels to boot. As is the current trend for high (or highish) end TVs, it ships with a couple of remote controls, one of which is a conventional type and the other a stripped down, feminine version whose ‘big feature’ is one-touch NFC pairing with your phone or tablet. Whilst the Menu system has undergone something of redesign, it’s new attractiveness can’t hide the XMB roots so it can still be a chore to navigate around. It’s better but not quite there yet. Sony’s Smart features largely concentrate on Video-on-Demand services, which is a good thing and all the usual suspects are there, along with their own content – which is not surprising. However, as good as it is, it’s not quite up to the likes of Samsung or LG’s offerings.
Sony continually prove that you don’t really need fancy 10 or even 20 point balance controls if you can get the basics right and with their simple 2 point version, we were able to gain superb greyscale performance. It’s a shame they’ve yet to see fit to include a colour management system as with Wimbledon currently on, the yellowy greens were quite evident. Much worse, however, is the W805’s dirty screen effect problem which blighted much of what we watched – both 2D and 3D – and is particularly noticeable on grass and skies. The dimming system is no great shakes, either, so the somewhat average black levels and dynamic range weren’t given any further meaningful assistance.
Positive points of note include an incredibly low latency for gamers, reasonably pleasing motion handling and a nice natural look to images but we can’t help but get the feeling that this Sony is under performing relative to its status and price-point. It’s certainly no W905 and we hope Sony continues to further its R&D into IPS technology as there’s more to be had from it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,299.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money5
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