Sony Bravia 2017 TVs: Full, in-depth review
Where do Sony's new 4K UHD HDR LCD Android Smart TVs, the X94E, X93E, X90E and X85E, fit in today's market?
- Great built-in sound
- Smooth scrolling
- Smooth colour gradients
- Good Android features
- Halo effects on rear-lit models
- Colours and contrast still second best
There's much to like with Sony's 2017 TV range. But picture quality is still better on LG OLED and Hisense ULED TVs.
One area where Sony really wins out is in Audio. Sony’s built in speaker system offers two sets of three front-facing speakers (sub, mid-range and tweeters) which provide a very-well rounded sound for movies and music alike. It gets very loud and yet offers impressive bass, mid-range and vocal clarity – the best we’ve heard from any TV without a sound bar.
Sony’s design is as premium as you’d expect. There’s only so much you can do with a thin bezel but the stands are solid, don't take up much room and looks good. The rear of the X93E and X94E have interesting textured patterns on them. There are also four (count’em) hidden panels that can be removed to reveal the inputs and extensive cable management channels which lead all the cables through the stand and out of sight.
In the box of the X93E and X94E, Sony also includes a substantial, cantilevered bracket which you can use to fix the (very heavy) TVs to your wall. The arms mean you can easily bend and angle them in different directions. It’s a substantial piece of kit to add to all boxes, however, and seems like an unnecessary expense for some.
We should note that the X8500 TV, being side-lit, is much thinner and lighter and may be easier to wall mount than the rear-lit models.
Remote and Android TV
Sony’s remote hasn’t changed much in layout over the years but we like the rubberised finish that comes with the X9x models (the X85E’s remote is the same but all plastic). It’s generally very responsive but there were times when the Android TV operating system could hang and take a while to execute our instructions.
We like having Netflix buttons but weren’t a fan of the Google Play button which directs you to Google’s store. LG offers an Amazon Prime button which is preferable.
Still, having the built in voice search (which uses Google’s voice recognition) is handy and very accurate. Different screens can open different types of search which can get a bit confusing but it didn’t take long to get used to it. Searching for films was impressive. When the right film was found you’d be asked which source you wanted to access it from – whether paid from the Play store or ‘free’ on Netflix.
Android TV means there are heaps of apps and media players which will be a boon for many. Our eyes lit up when we saw Kodi there and we tried to install the famous Exodus add-on to see if it would work. However, while offering the latest version 17 of the software, we struggled to install the add-on. It may have been a networking issue but it was hard to tell. We’ll revisit that down the line.
The new range feels very substantial but the backlighting means the top-end TVs are relatively big and heavy compared to LG, Hisense and Samsung rivals plus Sony’s own X85E TV.
LG’s OLED and Hisense’s Series 7 still beat them all for colour, contrast and true black performance and the latter costs substantially less (even factoring in a decent surround sound system) although it does look cheaper. However, Sony’s pricing looks to be sensible.
If you want a massive 75-inch TV, you don’t have many other choices and the X9400E and X9000E are reasonable value in this regard. It’s worth remembering though that Hisense’s 70-inch Series 7 ULED TV can be had for less than $2,700 while the 55-inch model costs less than $2,000. We expect some of Sony’s lesser models will appear in shops at competitive prices. As with last year, the best value looks to be with the X8500 series which doesn't offer much in terms of quality loss but costs much less. It may attract some over Hisense and we'd like to spend more time with it.
All in all, we can’t quite recommend the Sony TVs but there’s still much to like. If a premium build is important to you then it sits nicely in between LG's OLED and Hisense’s ULED TVs. They’re better value than Samsung’s new TVs too.
But the fact remains that OLED and ULED offer a better image than Bravia.
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