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Sony KD-55XE8596 User Review

  • Krisafc80
    Sony 65XE8596 4k HDR LED/LCD TV
    Review of Sony KD-55XE8596 LED LCD TV by Krisafc80, Dec 29, 2017.
    The Sony 65XE8596 is my second attempt at an LED/LCD 4k screen. I've been using an LG 60PX990 plasma screen for the last 7 years and have been very happy with that set overall.
    Two years ago, while fishing in the budget(ish) waters of 4k TV's, I snagged a 65" Hisense LED/LCD set. However, it failed to impress and was returned quite quickly. At this point, I thought that LED/LCD (at my price point) just wasn't the right tech for me and with the price of 65" OLEDS being sky high, sticking with my plasma was my only real option. Frustrating.
    Fast forward to the present day and favourable reviews of the XE8596 are beginning to emerge. I'm interested again. Christmas approaches and the 'sales' begin. I'm very interested. I somehow manage to convince MrsAFC80 and decide to leap into the 4k waters once more.
    I've been living with this TV for a week now and here are my early review.

    Why the 65XE8596?
    For a start, it was within my budget and I must confess to being something of a Sony fan. My living room set up now consists of, this TV obviously, the Sony STRDN1040 AV Amp, Sony Bluray player, PS4 and I use the Sony Xperia X Android phone. There is also a Google Home nearby. So in theory, this should all sync like a dream...Shouldn't it?

    From a practical viewpoint (which was important to MrsAFC80 agreeing to the purchase), I recently cancelled and am rid of SkyQ, so the FreeSat/HDD recording capability of this TV is a big plus. One less black box on the TV stand. It is A+ energy rated as opposed to my C rated plasma, the cable management in the stand is a nice touch and works well, it has a matte screen to dampen reflections and despite the less than premium materials used, it's actually very easy on the eye. I like it. Size wise, despite having 5" more screen, it actually feels no bigger than my previous TV due to the thin black bezel. All good.

    Set up

    There is quite a long winded set up when you first power this monster up. Those familiar with setting up a new Android phone will feel at home here as it's very similar. Google account, WIFI, T&C, Location etc are all sorted out at the get go, although you can skip most of it if you want to.

    Useful Features

    Android TV and Remote(s)

    Personally, I've always used Android Smartphones so the much maligned Android TV feels very familiar to me. Signing into my Google account (you can add more than one if necessary) was fast and easy. Within the Android menu, all the major apps I use like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, BBC IPlayer and Google Play Movies are prominently displayed (Netflix and Google Play have dedicated buttons of their own on the remote). There are a ton of other apps for those that want/need them, including YouView (which I've not used), and you'll also find the general settings and input options here too.
    I find navigation of the menu pretty fast and accurate. All apps have opened quickly when asked and it's not crashed or frozen at all.......so far!

    The supplied remote feels light, not too big, has tactile rubber buttons and follows the TV's aesthetic. I've found it easy enough to use if slightly over sensitive on occasion. The remote controls the volume on my AV Amp and the Sync Menu button allows access to the amp to change the 'sound field' if necessary. Play, pause, rewind etc buttons all work well within the respective apps and it of course has a button to access the built in TV Guide. It also has a voice search function which some may see as a gimmick but it actually works really well and is very accurate (even given my North East twang). I've downloaded the Sony TV remote app to my phone but aside from switching off and volume, I've not tested it fully as the regular remote is working well enough.

    As a side note, Sony are giving away a free 4k movie redeemable through Google Play Movies. There are a limited amount of titles but it works. I opted for Spiderman Homecoming. Be warned though that I had to redeem it through my phone first where it was added to my library to view on the TV. It just wouldn't work direct through the TV.

    FreeSat and HDD Recording
    As I said previously, I recently got rid of SkyQ so needed a satellite tuner and recording function. Tick and tick. The twin satellite cables from my Sky dish plug into the side of the back panel. Its a bit fiddly as they are quite close together and those of us with sausage fingers might struggle here. Anyhow, I got them connected and using the remote, followed the steps to tune the TV stations. It took around 10 mins to complete the scan. Once complete, the TV guide is populated with the stations available and the TV guide. Now, this is where I've had an issue where sometimes it doesn't pick up and display the guide information for some channels. Strange. Flicking between stations is quick enough and the guide itself is nicely laid out and easy to read.
    Plug a HDD into the dedicated USB port, again located on the side of the back panel, the TV detects it and asks what you want to do with it. The drive needs to be formatted by the TV for use so for goodness sake don't use the drive that has your baby/wedding/holiday photos/videos stored on it!! As of now, I've not recorded anything so am unable to say how well this works. I'll update this when I do.

    Chromecast
    This TV has Google Chromecast built in and those of us that already use a separate Chromecast know that it's a very good system for streaming media. However, a lot of the apps that are compatible with Chromecast streaming are built into or available through the Android TV platform, making the Chromecast function not as useful as it was previously. That said, I've used it quite a bit for convenience and it works flawlessly. I can even shout at my Google Home and get it to cast my whims up on to the huge screen. A nice feature that works well.

    Screen Mirroring
    Used this once so far via a Samsung Galaxy S8 and it worked quickly and flawlessly. That's it really. Should work with most Android phones/tablets as far as I'm aware.

    Picture Quality
    Lets face it, if you're reading this, you are almost certainly most interested in the quality of the image this TV produces. The above is just fluff, not the type of fluff you have to clean out of your tumble dryer and discard but the useful kind of fluff. To set the scene, I've not and will not be professionally calibrating this TV. I'm using the recommended setting as per Steve Withers review on this site. I've found them to be excellent. I wont be going into deep detail here, I'll leave that to the Pros but will give the opinion of someone who appreciates the nuances of a good image.
    So let's get to it.

    Satellite tuner - SD/HD
    What I have discovered is that a quality source is so important and that results can vary wildly through broadcast TV stations. While almost exclusively sticking to HD channels, I've been both impressed and depressed with some of the images on display. Fear not, this is almost certainly due to poor broadcast quality. For example, Harry Potter last night on ITVHD at times (bright scenes) looked fantastic with great detail. Other times, usually in dark scenes, some detail was lost in the shadows. Overall though, it was good. Other programmes like Nadia Hussain's cookery show looked fantastic. Very natural, great colours and lots of detail. So even HD channels are hit and miss. It really is down to the source material and broadcast quality (and your chosen settings to a lesser extent maybe) as to whether it looks decent or not. Watching pretty much anything in SD on a 65" TV begins to look like a dogs dinner and is best avoided if that type of thing bothers you. If it doesn't, it is watchable.

    Streaming Services

    Netflix - I've not got a UHD subscription so its HD only for now. Not to worry though as it looks great and a real step up from HD Satalite broadcasts. Watching Black Mirror and it really is a pleasing watch. Again bright scenes look fantastic and detailed and there is certainly more shadow detail on show. Trollhunters, as with most animated films/shows looks amazing. Happy.

    Amazon - I have a prime account so have been able to watch some HDR content here. The HD stuff is on a par with Netflix but the HDR is a step up again. Man in the High Castle looks fantastic. The contrast between light an dark is awesome. I appreciate this TV doesn't go near some other sets in terms of brightness but it's a really pleasing watch. The brighter scenes are stunningly good and detail is amazing. Still, some dark shadow detail is being lost, probably due to the frame dimming this set uses. However, I cant help but think that the frame dimming approach rather than local dimming really helps fight against the halo effect, especially with HDR content. I've not seen any like I did with the Hisense that had local dimming. Very happy.

    YouTube
    WOW! Try some of the 4k demo footage on YouTube and be prepared to be blown away by the colour, detail and clarity of these images. Stunningly good, especially on a 65" screen and shows what this set can do when fed the right material. Other YouTube content, much like the TV broadcasts, vary wildly depending on source etc.

    Google Play Movies (GPM)
    So I redeemed Spiderman Homecoming 4K and was expecting to be blown away. I wasn't. Turns out, HDR isn't yet available through the Android TV version of GPM so it was plain old 4k. Don't get me wrong, at times it looked great but I felt like it wouldn't look any different to if I were watching the regular Bluray. Disappointing(sort of).

    Bluray
    I don't currently own a UHD Bluray Player so can't comment on that but based on the best quality streaming services, I'm convinced that Blurays will look outstanding on this set. I've also not tried a regular Bluray as yet and will update when I have (this weekend). Again, I expect it to look excellent.

    Gaming
    This is via PS4. My daughter mainly uses this console to play Minecraft and I use a second PS4 through my projector in the cinema room. From what I've seen, it looks great in game mode and she has commented that it feels faster than on the plasma.

    General Observations
    So, what is the verdict on picture quality? I'm very happy overall. The image, once the settings have been tweaked, is very natural, bright and detailed. No issues with motion, it's what you'd expect (this can be tinkered with to your liking of course). Blacks are pretty black for this type of panel but there is definitely less shadow detail vs my old plasma. The frame dimming system fights against haloing which aids HDR playback and the screen uniformity is excellent. Very minor (and I mean minor) light bleed can be seen from the bottom of the screen where the LEDs are if you look for it.
    I really can't overstate, and I'm sure this is the case with virtually all TVs, that the source material is vitally important to creating a satisfying image, albeit the up scaled images on show here are by no means poor. This is a very capable TV.

    A word on viewing angles
    This was my single biggest concern when deciding to buy this TV. Being used to the ridiculously good viewing angles of plasma, I was slightly worried. Yes the perfect viewing angle is quite narrow. Personally, my sofa is directly opposite the TV stand against a flat wall so sitting central isn't an issue. However, on occasion I've been forced to sit at around 45 degrees off centre and there is a drop off in contract for sure. This isn't a deal breaker for me and knew it would be the case before buying. There are way more pros than cons with this TV so I can live with that.

    Audio
    Like many of you, I use a Sony AV Receiver and separate 5.1 speakers so the TV audio is neither here not there. I have the amp connected to the ARC HDMI on the back panel and so far it's mostly working well. I'm able to control my amp with the TV remote and 'control for HDMI' is working well when switching between inputs and the amp is detecting and auto switching when a 5.1 signal is detected. However, for some reason, it keeps defaulting back to the to the auto sound field every time the TV is restarted. This means I need to re select Dolby PLII to up-mix the 2 channel stereo broadcasts. It just doesn't seem to stick. Maybe it's me.

    Conclusion
    For £1135, I couldn't ask for much more really. A huge screen, attractive design, 4k, HDR, very capable in the PQ department, 7yr warranty and more features than I could shake a stick at. It's not perfect but anyone who frequents this forum knows that TVs rarely are. Goodbye plasma, it was good, but I've now officially moved on.
    This item was purchased for £1135 inc £55 delive from TPS Manchester in 2017. The reviewer still owns this product.

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

    8

    Screen Uniformity

    9

    Colour Accuracy

    9

    Greyscale Accuracy

    10

    Video Processing

    8

    Picture Quality

    9

    SDR Picture Quality

    7

    HDR Picture Quality

    9

    Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box

    7

    Picture Quality Calibrated

    9

    Sound Quality

    7

    Smart Features

    9

    Build Quality

    8

    Ease Of Use

    9

    Value for Money

    10

    Verdict

    8
    1. Badass01 likes this.
    No comments have been posted on this review yet.
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