There's lots to like about Sony's second tier Ultra HD TV
What is the Sony X8505?
Sony’s flagship 4K TV, the X9005 is a thing of absolute beauty and possibly the best TV we’ve seen so far in 2014.That comes at quite a price, however, and many will be looking to make the entry into the Ultra HD market with something more affordable. The step-down Sony 55X8505B offers such an opportunity, with the 55-inch model under review here, presently on sale at a more palatable £2,000, or thereabouts, which would have been flagship 1080p territory not so long ago.
The X8505 provides almost the exact same feature set as the X9 but goes about its business with a different panel which won’t have the same native contrast performance as the top-tier set but that doesn’t stop us having high expectations of it. Sony’s push to bring 4K to the mainstream continues, let’s see if the X85 is the one to do it.
Design & ConnectionsAs is the norm with a Sony TV, the X8505 is very well constructed and it possesses an air of understatement thanks to a very thin black bezel surrounding the screen, which is gloss black and whilst fairly reflective (of course), much better than most at combating direct light, e.g. a facing window. The ‘hero’ look of the X8 comes with the feet at either extremity of the bezel but for those that can’t accommodate the full span of the TV, the feet can be placed much closer to the centre. For those interested, you’ll need a unit around 125cm wide for ‘full deployment’ but only around 45cm in the middle position. The feet and outer sides of the bezel are actually two tone in a black/silver, plastic/metal combo but it’s a hardly a standout design feature but it’s still an attractive telly.
At the rear we have a comprehensive set of connections, with all 4 HDMI ports being mounted at the side and about 14cm from the edge, so if you don’t have chunky HDMI cables, they should stay hidden. The HDMI 2 and 3 inputs are specified to a resolution of 3840 x 2160 at a maximum rate of 60 frames per second and carry support HDCP 2.2, MHL and ARC. You also get the expected legacy video connections, 3 USB ports plus headphone and digital audio outputs and both wired and wireless LAN. Finally, there are terminals for Freeview HD and a HD Satellite (not Freesat) connections, also on the side connection plate.
Sony’s higher-end TVs for 2014 are accompanied by a brace of remote controls. There’s the usual standard rectangular offering as well as the ‘One Flick’ Smart controller. It features a reduced number of controls but it does have a touchpad to speed up navigation around the apps and services and it works quite well. Whilst the titular flick operations are quite good, they aren’t especially intuitive and we do fear they will go unused by most, if the tutorial is skipped on initial set up.
The adjustable feet are an excellent idea
MenusWe’ve never been fans of Sony’s menu systems and that hasn’t changed in 2014. The saving grace of the picture settings, at least, is that most can be accessed with a quick press of the Options button on the remote. There are some picture altering options, under the Eco settings which require you to trawl through the Settings menu from the homescreen and this is an unnecessarily laborious process that should be much simpler than it is. The Options button also reveals the Scene Select Menu and your best choice for accurate pictures is Cinema here and, as we’ll see later on, very faithful to the standards they were.
FeaturesAudio has been a major focus for Sony’s TV division this year and whilst the X8505 doesn’t possess the top-of-the range speaker system, those built in are pretty good with a bright and fairly dynamic sound carrying a decent degree of stereo separation. There is the opportunity to improve upon that with a fairly modest outlay, however, in the form of the SWF-BR100 wireless subwoofer unit. The sub comes with a USB dongle and an audio wire that connects to the TV and away you go. The BR-100 costs around £250 and is probably just about worth that as it certainly gives more impact to the overall sound with reasonably deep and impressively tight bass. Would a £250 soundbar package be better? It would be very close, in all honesty, but there’s no tidier solution than the Bravia subwoofer and there could be bundle deals available at your retailer to make it an even more attractive proposition.
The optional wireless subwoofer is a really good solution
We’ve already conducted a full investigation of Sony’s Smart TV Platform for 2014 and there’s certainly plenty of video on demand and streaming services available but perhaps there’s just too much of an emphasis on content discovery, at the expense of other elements of the platform. There is an excellent app for both iOS and Android, however, which ranks amongst the best available on any Smart TV service but if you want to know more, you’ll need to click on the link above.
There was very little wrong with the out-of-box greyscale performance in the Cinema mode but it almost goes too bright with the eco and light sensor settings disabled in the Settings Menu. We clocked it at well over 300cd/m2 with the backlight set to just 7 and we dare not take it any higher but you’d gave to speculate peak white could reach around 400cd/m2, which is insanely bright. That’s just an aside, really, and we can see from the RGB balance charts, top-left, that bar a very slight deficiency of blue in the greyscale, throughout, our only concern is that gamma is tracking a little lower than our target but with a highest delta error of 3, we really are in very good order.
The pre-calibrated colours were also in excellent shape. Red and Green were both a touch oversaturated – a result of the Triluminous tech on board, no doubt – when compared to the HDTV Rec.709 standard but generally results were excellent. As something a little bit different, in the charts top-right, we’ve actually mapped the performance against the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) standard to see how close Triluminous could get and it’s actually not far off at all with Blue, Red and Magenta all hitting their marks at full saturation when Live Colour is put in its highest setting. As things stand, there’s almost no content to take advantage of the X8505’s ability to display a wide colour gamut but it’s good to see that it can and it should mean Sony’s mastered in 4K Blu-ray collection will look a bit special, when played through a compatible Sony Blu-ray player which will be instructed in the encode to display colours closer to the DCI standard.
It took only one click on the White Balance controls to tame the slight excess of green in the greyscale and we were also able to bring gamma tracking much closer to our target of 2.3. We were left with a bit more blue energy near black but this is a common trait of the panel technology and not overly noticeable with real world viewing material. Turning to the colours, this time against the Rec 709 standard, and the oversaturation of red, green and yellow persists at full stimulation levels but luminance targets are now being hit and delta Errors never get above 2, where above 3 is considered noticeable.
As we can see from the expanded CIE Chart below, colours tracked extremely well at lower saturation levels, so the over-saturation of red at 100% doesn’t ever really become an issue as things like skin-tones look just about perfect. Despite their over-saturation at 100% levels, green and yellow are tracking perfectly throughout the range, and the same can also be said of the remaining primary and secondary colours so it’s an excellent set of results here.
Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity
If ever there were to be an Achilles Heel for the X8505 it was likely to come here but it actually stood up quite well in this portion of testing. The 55X8505 is equipped with an IPS panel, that are not known for their impressive black levels but, thanks to some assistance from the reasonably effective Adv Contrast Enhancer (ACE) control, we able to improve on the native contrast performance a touch. With ACE set to Mid, a full black screen pattern measured at a fairly low 0.047cd/m2 to give an On/Off contrast ratio over 2600:1 but with mixed content on a chequerboard pattern, averaged black levels were diminished to 0.093 cd/m2 which, whilst good for IPS, is quite a margin less deep than some. In real world terms, content where there's lots of black on screen looked pretty impressive and where it was more mixed the black levels looked perfectly acceptable and shadow detailing was actually quite good.
We’re pleased to report that the X8505 tested had excellent bright screen uniformity with no trace of panel banding and only the faintest hint of a dirty screen effect with panning shots. In fact, in this regard, it’s one of the best LED/LCD TVs we’ve ever tested and full credit to Sony for that. Dark screen uniformity was nearly as good but we could see a couple of small patches of uneven lighting toward the bottom left and top right corners. This was more or less eradicated by using ACE, although you then may see the odd flash of light on a dark screen when scene changes bring with them a rapid alteration in lighting conditions.
Sony X8505 TV Video Review
Contrast performance is impressive for IPS
With the dearth of native Ultra HD content out there, it is, of course, vital that a 4K TV is able to scale sub 2160p resolutions convincingly, and the X8505 is superb in this regard. Obviously the better the signal you give it, the more impressive it will look but even a well mastered DVD could appear more than watchable. Ramping up to streamed 720p and 1080p material and we found the Reality Creation tools quite useful, although it’s not a scaling control, as such, but the tiny local adjustments in pixel brightness did lend images an extra sense of depth and resolution. A good Blu-ray disc looked simply superb via the X8505, even in motion, although with stiller shots it looked even better and, dare we say it, more than the 1080p native resolution of the disc. More routine tasks such as standard definition film cadence detection for both 2:2 (PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC) were passed and for 24p content (most Blu-rays) a MotionFlow setting of True Cinema produces a 4:4 frame pull-down without interpolation. Video deinterlacing was also excellent, which we could observe in our various ‘jaggies’ tests and we could see that confirmed when watching sports via broadcast 1080i50 material where lines remained intact under panning.
From memory, this is the most responsive gaming 4K TV we’ve yet tested. Opting for Game from the Scene Select menu brings input lag down to 40.1 milliseconds which should be more than acceptable for most. Strangely, using our testing device, the number started at nearly 60ms but fell rapidly over the course of a few seconds to a stable 40ms. We’re not sure why that is, as we would expect the Game mode to engage immediately on selection, but it appears the X8505 takes some time to shut down its extraneous processing.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 135W
Calibrated – Cinema Mode: 131W
Calibrated – 3D Cinema Mode: 217W
Sony X8505 Picture QualityScouring the memory banks, and please consider we’ve seen scores of them over the years, the Sony X8505 is the best IPS panel equipped TV we’ve ever seen. The lacking in native contrast performance, as per the testing, rarely shows itself when enjoying movies and TV, with pictures that have a real standout quality and a really believable colour palette. As we said above, the scaling is excellent so the action from the Commonwealth Games, from the weekend just gone, looked tremendous from a ‘lowly’ broadcast 1080i signal, even at night, and even a 720p stream of Spartacus from Sky’s NOW TV service – not known for its high quality streaming output - looked amazingly good.
Despite the Blu-ray disc of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs being present in the house virtually since release, the kids have never watched it until now and, just for research purposes you understand, we sat through it with them – and it looked fantastic. Obviously, with high definition animation where the source material can be virtually flawless, there is less pressure on the video processing but even a more serious challenge such as The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug proved the X8505 is more than up to the task, delivering stunning pictures brimming with detail.
2D pictures were fab but 3D, not quite so much
We have seen some absolutely spectacular results with 4K panels delivering full resolution passive 3D to each eye but the X8505 doesn’t really fall in to that category. It seems pretty clear that the X85 doesn’t provide the full resolution experiences as images look noticeably less defined than their 2D counterparts. That’s not to say they are bad, by any means, and it does provide an excellent degree of pop-out and depth but 3D aficionado’s will notice the down-scaled look. Otherwise we would have few complaints with just a small amount of ghosting occasionally noticeable but colours were good and so was the screen uniformity, even with the backlight turned up to maximum levels. Personally speaking – as someone not especially fussed by 3D – it wouldn’t put me off a purchase and the 3D presentation is sufficiently good that it’s fine for the odd viewing but if it’s a major factor for you, it’s advisable to go and check the performance out for yourself.
- Very natural looking pictures
- Excellent scaling
- Almost perfect colours
- Adjustable feet are a good idea
- Sound is decent (and very good with the subwoofer)
- Lots of VoD Services
- Decent blacks for IPS
- Great screen uniformity
- 3D looks low res
- Menu system is tiresome
Sony KD-55X8505B (X8505B) Ultra HD 4K TV ReviewThe 55X8505 is another superbly well engineered TV from Sony, carrying the usual understated elegance. The versatility of placement that the adjustable feet brings is also a great bit of thinking and there are enough connections around the back and sides to keep anybody happy, including two HDMI 2.0 compatible ports.
The menu systems aren't to our tastes and they should be easier to navigate but the means by which you do so, i.e. the remote controls, both work well. The standard controller is nothing to write home about really but the new 'One Flick' smart thing brings easier navigation around the Smart TV features.
Said features include a treasure trove of streaming and catch-up video services, an internet browser, media player and PVR recording and the emphasis of the platform is very much on content discovery. The X8505 also provides a built-in camera for Skype video calling and compatibility with the optional Bravia subwoofer, which works really well.
Despite the IPS panel, the X8505 still packs in enough contrast to please most, partly thanks to the quasi-dimming systems the picture controls include. That builds on some superbly accurate colours and near perfect screen uniformity to provide dazzling images, almost regardless of resolution. Naturally the higher the res, the better it looks but the scaling is of such a standard that anything from a quality DVD up is more than acceptable.
It's a shame that the 3D presentation isn't of such a high standard, and it looks as though the X8505 isn't capable of delivering Full HD to each eye via its passive system, but we would certainly find it acceptable as an occasional 3D watcher and it's not something likely to put off most prospective buyers.
It might not be quite the super high quality TV that the X9005 is but then the X8505 has a considerably lower price tag and we think it does more than enough to justify that. It's a 4K TV that gets almost everything totally right and well worthy of its AVForums Recommended Award.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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