Sony TVs are generally a pretty safe bet. They tend to have great picture quality and a good amount of polish. Their build quality also tends to be better than average. Their budget models are not the most competitive TVs, but their high-end and especially their mid-range TVs are amongst the best, albeit usually at a price premium.
Compared to other brands
- Good handling of motion. Sony, as a TV company, is a pioneer of motion features, and it shows. They usually have the best interpolation and most of their TVs have an image flicker feature to enhance motion clarity.
- Great upscaling. Sony TVs, even the cheaper models, do better than average when it comes to upscaling lower resolution content.
- Sluggish smart features. While Android TV itself isn't bad, and sluggishness is common with other brands, Sony TVs are prone to having common slowdowns while using their features.
- High price. Sony TVs will most often be priced above their competition in their category.
Sony vs Samsung
Samsung TVs have a picture quality comparable to Sony TVs, and in general, they are pretty competitive with each other. A big difference between the two is the physical build quality though, especially with higher-end models.
Sony vs LG
Sony TVs will generally have better picture quality than LG TVs. Even their IPS models which use the same panels as LG will tend to have better uniformity and get brighter. They both offer OLED models now, and LG offers the cheapest one, which is a plus.
As a rule of thumb, it's pretty hard to get wronged by buying a Sony TV. Their more entry-level offerings aren't great, but any of the "Bravia" branded models (XBR model name) is a pretty safe bet. Their Android TV smart platform isn't the best, but it isn't bad either. You might end up paying a slight premium over competing models, but you'll usually end up with a good TV.
Best Sony Smart TVs
Sony's lineup of TVs isn't the widest. Their focus is mainly on mid-range and high-end models. They do offer some budget TVs, but they haven't shown to be very good,
*E = 2017
*D = 2016
*C = 2015
*B = 2014
Budget models will start with "KDL". The rest of the Sony range will start with "XBR". The first digits in the code are the size; the last 3 are the model. The higher the model number, the more expensive it will be. For example, XBR55X900E is a high-end 2017 55 inch model, while the KDL32W600D is a budget 2016 32 inch model.
Best Sony 4k TV
The best Sony TV we've reviewed is the X930E. It's an impressively bright TV that does HDR better than any other LCD TV while remaining a very versatile set that can deliver for almost every use-case.
Picture quality is great, and as stated, we haven't measured a brighter TV. This has a great impact in HDR since it helps to produce very bright highlights that pop. Contrast is also among the best, and its local dimming feature is better than average. Thanks to the very quick motion and responsiveness of inputs, it's an equally great choice for gamers out there.
Its only real downside is the price. It isn't extravagant and is one of the lowest of its class, but its little sister the X900E offers very similar performance for quite a bit less.
Best mid-range Sony 4k TV
The X900E packs a punch. In its price range, it's very difficult to beat. It offers most of the performance of the X930E above, but for about 60% less money. It's overall a very similar TV. Contrast is about the same, and both feature a nice local dimming feature that enhances it even more. The X930 edges it on that aspect a little bit, and it gets significantly brighter, but that still makes for a fairly small difference. Considering this, the X900E will please most buyers minus the pickier enthusiasts that really want the best of the best when it comes to HDR.
Best budget Sony 4k TV
If you're not too interested in HDR, or if you'd like one of the best sports watching experience on a tighter budget, get the Sony X700D. It won't have quite as good a picture quality as the more expensive models, but it still packs a lot of value and will often perform better than TVs multiple times more expensive for TV shows and sports. If a home theater isn't your main focus, you might not see much of a benefit on spending more than what the X700D can offer.
The X700E replaces the very popular X700D from 2016.
If you've ever used an Android phone or tablet, you'll find yourself to be surprisingly familiar with Sony's Android TV platform. It isn't the slickest available nor the fastest, but it is feature-packed and provides great interaction with mobile devices, making accessing content that much faster. While the interface itself hasn't changed much, the performance gradually improved over the year to a point where it's a bit less of an issue than it used to be.
The default remote included with Android TVs is just a basic one.
Some TVs, like the X850C, come with a Touchpad remote control, and it’s also possible to purchase one separately. We don’t recommend it.
Unlike the fancier remotes you get with the higher-end Samsung and LG TVs, the Sony Touchpad doesn’t allow for motion controls. Instead, you can swipe on the touchpad to navigate the menus. It’s tricky to use at first, and while it does get a bit simpler, it’s still not worth using over the traditional remote, and definitely not worth purchasing.
A better option is to download Sony’s TV Sideview App for iOS or Android. It allows you to connect your phone to your TV and use it as a remote. You can use the onscreen arrows to navigate, but you can also track your finger across the screen to control a cursor. It also enables voice search, and can even turn it on when the TV is in standby mode. It’s the best solution for controlling your TV, though it’s still not as good as Samsung and LG’s smart remotes. It’s a free download for iOS and Android.
The interface is clean, and pretty simply to navigate. The top row is video and game content from YouTube, Crackle, and the Play Store.
One area where the Android TV excels is with voice search. Press the voice search button on the remote (either the Touchpad or in the TV Sideview app) and say what you’re looking for, and Android TV will deliver suggestions from the Play Store, Google Play Movies & TV, and YouTube, as well as relevant results from downloaded apps. It’s a convenient way to navigate to content quickly, and much better than the swipe controls.
USB playback is interesting on Android TV. The video player is decent, and was able to play our video files just fine. The TV couldn't see any of our image files though (.jpg and .png), which wasn't great.
Android TV comes with a couple of options for browsing the web. The first is Opera, which is the default browser for Sony’s Android TV lineup.
While the browser did very well for speed on the Peacekeeper test (its score of 938 is quite a bit more than what our LG and Samsung TVs scored), it only got a 5/7 for HTML 5 capability.
Worse, though, is that interacting with the browser is difficult. It was designed for use with the basic remote control that is included with the TV, and even when using the superior TV Sideview app, the menus behave as though a regular remote is being used.
To enter text, for example, you can use your phone as a trackpad and click in the necessary box. This brings up your phone’s keyboard. Enter the text as normal, press enter, and the text appears in the box, but requires that you confirm the selection using the TV’s onscreen keyboard.
You can’t do so without either switching the app over to the setting that mimics the remote (swaps the trackpad for arrows) or using the regular remote. That slows everything down quite a bit, and is a nuisance.
The other browser you can use is Google Chrome. It fared worse in the Peacekeeper test. It was within the same range for overall speed, but its HTML 5 performance was a pretty weak 2/7.
To use Chrome on your Android TV, you need to log in to play.google.com with the same Google account that you have set up with your Android TV. Next, download the ‘Sideload Launcher’ app to your TV, and then download Google Chrome.
Open Sideload Launcher and then open Google Chrome. Note that the default remote included with the TV does not appear to work. You’ll need to use the TV Sideview app on your phone to use Chrome.
In addition to the web browsing options you get with Android TV, it’s also possible to use the cast function to display individual tabs from Google Chrome.
There are major limitations to doing this. For one, you can only cast in a resolution of up to 720p. For another, the tab is only mirrored, and not controllable from the TV itself. If you want to scroll down, you need to do so on the computer.
Casting works much better for “Google Cast Ready” websites like YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go, and Plex.
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While they tend not to be the cheapest available, Sony produces great TVs. They'll generally be quite versatile, which helps with making them suitable for most people. The smart features could benefit from an update, but the overall package offered by their TVs is still better than average. At this point in time, it's fairly safe to say that their overall reputation holds true, and rare are the people that will find themselves disappointed by purchasing one of their TVs.