Sony XBR-55X850B Bravia Review (XBR55X850B)
55 Inch, 4K UHD Smart TV Passive 3D
by Jack Burden, Senior Editor
We were fortunate enough to be able to review this model along with the X950B and compare the quality of both. Well, that's good in general for Sony but maybe bad for the X850B as it is not a small step down in quality as the model number might suggest. The notable picture quality attributes missing in the X850B are the Extended Dynamic Range which give the X950B such extremely accurate and bright colors. While the X850B is certainly still very detailed with a 4K signal pumped into it, it cant compete on pure picture quality with the X950B. The screen itself is not as fine and detail can be lost in dark areas of scenes. There is a haziness and bluish hue to the blacks when a bit off center as well.
The X850B is future-proof for 4K and can accept 4K signals from Netflix or other 4K streaming devices. When viewing House of Cards in 4K we noted that the picture, though very nice, was not nearly as detailed as a 4K up-scaled BluRay.
Picture Quality Rating: 92/100
This wide-gamut color technology has been fantastic for Sony for a couple years. It produces much more realism and true-to-life color renditions than most of Sony's competitors, and in general takes less calibration effort to obtain a watchable picture solution.
Up-Conversion of HD to 4K
Another strength of Sony and the XBR55X850B is the up-conversion of non-4K content. Sony has always had exceptional processing in this area and the X850B does a very nice job displaying HD and 480p content. While the up-scaled images will vary a good bit by content source, Sony's X-Reality Pro processing engine is second to none in this department. That's important considering most of the content you will view on this TV will not be 4K. My impression after watching a few programs is that even with the upscaling, the X850B delivers a crisper more detailed picture, with few if any artificial artifacts (Internet streaming excepted).
3D Passive Quality
As the 3D quality gap has closed, we now prefer passive 3D to active. No batteries or flicker to deal with. Cross-talk issues are normally taken care of by viewing more at eye level to the center of the screen as is the case with this X850B. We took a view of How to Train Your Dragon from a PS3 and the colors were vibrant, the textures detailed and crisp, and the 3D depth as good as the theater. There are two passive 3D glasses included (the ones from the movie theater will work too).
Features Rating: 88/100
2D to 3D Conversion – A Feature Worth Trying Finally
As with most processing conversions Sony engages in, this one is also very good. Which is good, because this is a feature we have long called not worth using on most TVs. It's content dependent of course, but try it with a BluRay and I think you will be surprised how good it is. The feature is accessed easily though a dedicated button on the non-touch pad remote control. It does create a more engaging image with more depth, especially for HD sports programming. One drawback is that the feature does not work with built-in Apps on the TV like Netflix.
The XBR-55X850B lacks the side mounted speakers of the X900B, but still provides a thin profile
Sony opted with the simple sleek look with the X850B as compared to the mammoth side speakers on the X900B. The speaker cavity in the back only adds a quarter of an inch or so to the depth so this TV is super slim at just over an inch – great for wall mounting. The bezel is just a simple matte black finish and barely visible. The stand feet are somewhat adjustable so the user can place them more towards the center of the unit if your TV console is narrower. Overall it's an almost frame-less, and very unobrusive design allowing the picture to stand out.
Touch (Track) Pad Remote/ Other Remote
Sony's touch pad remote is just the right size to fit in your hand comfortably. as with other touch pad remotes, a few more key buttons would be nice
The new jet black matte finish touch pad remote from Sony has a very nice fast responsive touch pad that definitely speeds up scrolling somewhat across Smart TV Apps (over 100) and also speeds up search considerably when typing on the on-screen keypad. Much better than 5-way controller. It does not have a voice recognition feature. For those so used to a smart phone touch control, will likely prefer the touch remote over the standard remote that also comes with the TV (Sony didn’t take any chances there). There is also an iPhone App remote but control with the App is inferior to the touch-pad remote itself.
Smart TV Features
The new layout of the Sony Entertainment Network contains category separations for Movies, Apps, Music, and Albums. It's a very attractive easy to use layout and thankfully, operates much better than 2013's SEN. The Apps selections are more interesting than in the past as well and we see lots of improvement from Sony in this area.
The selection of apps on the Sony Entertainment Network is pretty good. Most of the services have good content to offer
Social Viewing Feature
One of the most interesting features on Sony TVs for 2014 and beyond is Social Viewing. You can turn on the Twitter scrolling feed feature to find out what people are tweeting about the programing you are viewing. For many shows like The Voice or The Bachelor or many reality TV shows that creates some fun.
But perhaps the best part about this feature from my perspective is to be able to Skype with a split screen and talk to someone about what you are watching. Keep in mind that your company on Skype will also need to have this functionality in their TV either a Sony with Split screen Skyping or something similar from another brand.
This is the layout of the Soical View feature for the XBR-55X850B. The program in the largest window with a webcam feed on the left and live Twitter updates on the bottom of the screen
For example, imagine watching that intense college football game while talking to your best buddy about it on Skype right there on the same screen. Fun. Or imagine talking to your friend while watching one of your co-favorite reality shows. You can see where this would definitely add a social aspect aspect to watching TV. In our view of the feature it worked very well.
Value Rating: 87/100
At $2299 The XBR55X850B is fitting into a nice price slot and $1000 less than the 65” version. You are getting future-proofing and that great Sony color. The panel is not nearly as nice as the X950B but who can afford that full-array model? Features are solid enough with an improved Smart TV function and there are surprising extras like the 2D to 3D conversion and excellent upscaling of various content to 4K. Competition comes from Samsung's UN55HU8550 at the same price and the LG 55UB8500.
Overall Rating: 89/100
- Screen Size (measured diagonally) :54.6"
- 4K Ultra HD providing 4x the resolution of 1080p
- 4K X-Reality PRO picture engine for best picture from any source
- TRILUMINOS Display reproduces higly accurate color and clarity
- Motionflow XR 240
- 120Hz native rehresh rate
- ClearAudio+ Digital Sound Processing (DSP)
- Audio Power Output : 10W+10W
- Speaker Configuration : 2ch, Full Range (30 x 80 mm) x 2
- HDMI 2.0 means 4K content at 60p is possible
- Future proofed with HEVC codec for support of future 4K content
- Built-in Wi-Fi for accessing the Sony Entertainment Network
- Screen Mirroring via NFC OneTouch Mirroring
- MHL 3.0-enabled for mirroring second screens
- Passive 3D capable with 2 pairs of glasses in the box
- 2 USB ports, 4 HDMI inputs
|Jack Burden joined the review staff of CEAG Inc. in May 2003 after finishing his graduate work at Harvard University. He has been reporting on consumer electronics and conducting product reviews for more than seven years... Read more about Jack|
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