What is the Sony XE85?
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
Sony use Android as the operating system for their Smart TV platforms and the XE85 now runs Android 7 (Nougat). The new version seems far more robust and it presents apps in an accessible manner using a series of tiled layers that you scroll down through and then across. There's a recommendation bar, along with Netflix, Amazon and BBC iPlayer, as well as all the other UK TV catch-up services, not to mention Google Play, YouTube and YouView. The response can be a little slow but there are ways to mitigate this by not installing the Samba feature, closing apps and using the app developer setting to speed things up but at least the XE85 certainly feels faster and more robust than in previous years. Recently added is a new app for controlling your TV using Amazon Alexa, which is a really handy addition – you can turn on the TV, change channels or volume by simply asking Alexa.
Sony KD-55XE8596 Recommended Picture Settings
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
We measured the Perceptual Colour Volume of the XE8596, which takes the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut and measures them against the ICtCp colour graph which takes into account human visual perception. This measurement uses 393 data points and delivers a number expressed in Millions of Distinguishable Colours (MDC). In the case of the XE85 that number was 255, which reflects the lower peak brightness and slightly smaller colour gamut.
Black Levels & Contrast RatiosThe XE8596 uses a VA panel and delivered a native black level of 0.028nits on a 0IRE window, which is good for an LCD TV. The panel could also easily hit our standard dynamic range target of 120nits, which resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 4286:1, whilst the ANSI contrast ratio was a reasonable 2740:1. The shadow detail was also quite good, although this isn't an area where LCD panels are strong and there could be a slight loss of detail in more challenging material.
Backlight UniformityIf there was one area where the XE85 impressed, it was in terms of backlight uniformity – whatever approach Sony are taking it clearly works. There was no clouding when watching SDR content, even during the night, although there was a tiny amount when watching HDR content where the backlight is at its maximum setting, especially on darker material at nighttime. Using a 100% white pattern the screen was free of DSE (dirty screen effect) and the panel didn't suffer from noticeable banding either, making it a good choice for football fans.
Viewing AnglesAs we mentioned earlier in the review, the 55XE85 uses a VA panel, which means the viewing angles are fairly limited. This is the normal trade-off for the superior black level performance of a VA panel but, as a result, if you sat more than 30 degrees off centre you would start to see a drop off in the contrast and colour performance. However when sat central to the screen, the Sony delivered an impressive image despite the absence of any local dimming.
Motion HandlingSony TVs usually deliver fairly good motion handling and we measured the motion resolution of the XE85 at around 300 lines, which is fairly standard for an LCD panel. This increased to the full 1080 if you engaged the Motionflow frame interpolation but it can introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content shot on video. However, we wouldn't recommend using it for film-based content like movies and TV dramas and instead we would use the True Cinema mode which increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus retaining a film-like quality to motion. If motion is a big issue for you then there is always the option to experiment with the Clear and Custom controls to find a setting that you prefer but the Clear mode uses black frame insertion which will make the picture slightly darker, so you might need to increase the brightness of the image, and some people may experience flicker.
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR)We were impressed by the X90 when we reviewed it but, given the XE85's lack of a direct LED backlight and local dimming, our expectations weren't as high. However this mid-range model really surprised us, delivering an excellent image with natural colours, a good contrast performance, excellent video processing and decent motion handling. The X1 processor effectively upscaled lower resolution content to match the 4K panel and the Reality Creation feature can prove useful in this respect as well, although it does have a tendency to over-emphasise film grain. However whether we were watching standard or high definition broadcasts, the 55XE85 produced very watchable pictures and although we don't watch much standard definition content these days, it still looked good on the 55-inch screen. What really struck us was the colour fidelity of the Triluminos panel, with the TV delivering natural images that really popped. The new BBC series Blue Planet II looked exceptional at times, with lovely colours and detail and the processing also handled the banding caused by the broadcast compression very well. The picture quality was just as impressive with streaming content and both The Expanse and Narcos looked fantastic. The Sony handled Gravity on Blu-ray very well despite the lack of any local dimming, whilst Moana really popped with detail and colour. Overall the XE8596 was a very impressive mid-range TV with SDR content.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)The story with HDR wasn't quite as impressive, primarily due to the limited peak brightness. However that's not to say that the HDR performance was bad, it's just that the peak highlights didn't have quite the same impact as a TV with a brighter backlight. On the other hand the limited brightness meant that the XE85 didn't suffer from excessive clouding or bright edges or corners and black bars on films managed to still look black. The greyscale and colour temperature for white were good and the tone mapping was effective, ensuring that detail was retained up to 4000 nits. The slightly smaller native colour gamut also wasn't an issue because the actual tracking was very good, as a result the colours still looked both natural and saturated. When watching a disc like The Revenant the Sony handled the natural colours and snowy whites of the wilderness very well, whilst the level of detail was impressive. The XE85 also handled the arriving in Neverland scene in Pan without clipping the sun and a new purchase like Westworld looked very impressive with the landscape vistas appearing particularly striking. The X8596 also handled the HDR on Star Trek Discovery and Stranger Things 2 very well and overall we found that the Sony was capable of a very enjoyable HDR performance despite its inherent limitations.
Sony KD-55XE8596 Video Review
Sony include a number of audio features such as Clear Audio+ and S-Force Front Surround, both of which are intended to provide a more immersive experience. We found that these features tended to make the audio sound rather echoey and preferred the Music sound mode for a more neutral experience. There’s also the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Clear Phase which are designed to get more from your streaming music sources. Overall the XE85 was fine for general TV watching but for those who love movies and TV dramas, you would be better off with a soundbar.
Input Lag & Energy Usage
In terms of the XE85’s energy consumption it proved to be extremely efficient and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 65W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 66W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased and the 55XE85 was drawing 118W with our optimal settings.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||69%|
|HDMI 2.0a Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||8|
|What do these mean?|
- Accurate calibrated greyscale & colours
- Excellent performance with SDR
- Good motion handling
- Low input lag
- Decent set of features
- Great price
- HDR performance could be better
- Narrow optimal viewing angles
Sony KD-55XE8596 4K LED TV Review
Should I buy one?The XE85 really impressed in our testing, delivering a great all-round performance that, when combined with its low price, makes it a cracking buy. Whilst the Sony might not have a direct LED backlight or local dimming, the even nature of the edge LED backlight and the VA LCD panel deliver a very watchable picture that has decent blacks and a good contrast performance. The only downside to these decent blacks was the narrow viewing angle but the out-of-the-box accuracy was reasonable and the calibrated image was near-reference, resulting in natural looking pictures. The motion handling and video processing were also impressive, despite not using Sony's X1 Extreme processor, and the XE8596 produced some lovely looking SDR images. The TV also supports HDR but was limited by its brightness and native colour gamut, although the excellent tone mapping, greyscale and colour tracking did result in a pleasing HDR image overall. The design is minimalist but attractive, the build quality decent and we like the remote control, whilst the Android Smart TV platform is improving every year. At 28ms the input lag should please gamers, whilst the sound quality and energy consumption are good, making this TV a hard act to beat. As such we're happy to award the Sony KD-55XE8596 an AVForums Best Buy badge.
What are my alternatives?There are a couple of obvious alternatives, starting with Sony's own KD-55XE9005. This TV includes a direct LED backlight (something of a rarity these days) and local dimming, along with all the features found on the XE85, and can be picked up for £1,299. The XE90 is certainly the superior performer when it comes to HDR, so if you have an extra £300, it's probably the best option at this price range. If you're looking for a superior HDR performance at the same price as the XE85, then the Samsung UE55MU7000 is definitely worth a look, with a superior HDR performance and has just had a hefty price drop to £949. If you're budget is even tighter than the price of the XE85 or MU7000, you could consider the Hisense H55N6800, which at just £679 is a bit of a bargain. The N6800 is well made and delivers a great SDR image but, like the XE85, it's HDR performance could be better. However considering the price, it's hard to fault the Hisense in terms of value.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
SDR Picture Quality
HDR Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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