Buying a new screen for your living room or theatre room? If a LG or Samsung hasn't already caught your attention, you should give some thought to a brand new TV from one of the longest-running and most experienced TV manufacturers out of Japan. Here's your guide to the entire Sony TV line-up for 2015.
What's New This Year?
The majority of Sony's 2015 range of BRAVIA televisions are running the Android TV smart TV operating system, and that means deep integration with a bunch of first-party Google services (like Google Play Music) as well as third-party apps (like Spotify Update: Spotify isn't on Aussie Sony TVs yet, although it's on the way) through a customised, TV-optimised version of the Play Store. There's a small range of apps on offer since the service is still quite new, obviously, but the list is growing quickly. Crucially, too, it's a lot more open than LG's WebOS and Samsung's Tizen-based Smart TV, so developers are more likely to take notice.
Apps like Netflix, Spotify, TuneIn are already available on Android TV, and video-streaming and playback services for your downloaded media like VLC for Android and Plex for Android are also available. The entire interface, too, will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used an Android smartphone or tablet, especially if it's a basic no-frills Nexus -- Android TV is all about simple block colours and flat Material Design. Android TV is pretty lightweight and Sony's new BRAVIA TVs are pretty powerful, so you'll only have to wait a couple of seconds for apps to load -- no worse than competitors.
4K X-Reality Pro And X1
Delivering clean, clear native 4K video content and upscaling 1080p or lower-resolution video is crucial for high quality TVs, and Sony has had the most experience in that -- it was the first to announce a 4K TV in Australia. After successive generations of video processors Sony has its most powerful 4K chip yet, and more than just optimising natively 4K video it does an extremely good job of 1080p and 720p video as well. This is utterly important given that, even for the next couple of years, even the very best 4K TV will mostly be restricted to showing 1080p video from Blu-rays, and most Australian internet connections are far more at home streaming 1080p or 720p than the much more demanding 4K.
To that end, everything but a few Sony 4K TVs have the X1 chip, and can stream 4K video natively from Netflix or YouTube or any other compatible service if it appears with an appropriately designed Android TV app. I didn't get a chance to test the quality on much other than a couple of Blu-ray movies like Interstellar and Skyfall, but for this kind of lower resolution but still high quality video, Sony's newest upscaling chip does one of the best jobs that I've seen of any 2015 television so far. Lesser screens still have the very capable X-Reality pro chip that we've seen on last year's models.
Sony has been pushing Hi-Res Audio for some time, and in 2015 this extends to the audio processing and high quality speakers in the company's top TVs. The top of the line X9400C, for example, has support for hi-res audio files whether they're streamed over the internet, your home network or played back directly from a USB-connected flash drive or portable hard drive, and the TV's speaker system is the equal of any standalone mini hi-fi system with 90 Watts of power and the same magnetic fluid speakers that it's had on flagship TVs for a couple of years now.
Basically, it goes like this: if you know what hi-res audio is, and you know the advantages that it has over regular audio, you should factor it into your consideration when you're thinking of picking a TV out of Sony's line-up. Hi-res audio eliminates all of the problems usually associated with low-quality streamed or downloaded audio files, like artifacting from audio compression and the loss of detail in especially high and low frequencies. You'll find it on the absolute top of the line Sony at the moment, but it'll filter down next year.
Here's The Entire 2015 Sony TV Line-Up
This is your rough guide to the entire Sony TV line-up for 2015. As with other TV manufacturers like LG and Samsung, there's one or two screens on the market that are carried over from last year's line-up, but for the most part the screens are brand new and up to date with the latest tech. As with other manufacturers, generally as you pay more you'll get a larger screen with more features, although don't be surprised if a smaller screen with a more diverse and fancier feature-set costs you a little more than a larger, dumber panel.
Full HD TVs: Cheap, Simple, And Smart
Sony's full HD TV line-up for 2015 actually starts with a hangover from 2014: the W600B. There's actually only a single W600B series screen available, the $1999 60-inch KDL60W600B. It's a basic, non-smart screen -- just a big panel with a Full HD 1080p resolution and not much else going on. You'll see more when you step up to the W700C, the first of the new breed of 2015 Sony TVs -- from $769 for the 32-inch KDL32W700C and $1099 for the 40-inch KDL40W700C to $1399 for the 48-inch KDL48W700C -- which all have built-in Wi-Fi, 1080p screens and last year's version of the Smart TV operating system.
Moving up to the W800B, there's a single 2014 update with the $1549 55-inch KDL55W800B -- Smart TV system, Full HD, Wi-Fi, and the addition of 3D over cheaper models -- and and otherwise brand new line-up with the $1399 43-inch KDL43W800C, the $1799 50-inch KDL50W800C, and the $2099 55-inch KDL55W800C. These three are the cheapest Sony TVs you can buy with the Android TV smart interface on board, so if you don't mind missing out on 4K these are a great way to add some Google features to a secondary screen for a bedroom, study or kids' playroom without breaking the bank.
In a larger screen size, you can get the 65-inch $3299 KDL65W850C and the 75-inch $5699 KDL75W850C -- these have all the bells and whistles of previous models, without the price tag of more fancy 4K screens. If you don't want to move to 4K just yet, but still want an excellent natively 1080p Full HD display, then that 75-inch W850C is the absolute best that you'll find from Sony. It's also the slimmest, although the base and centre of the W850C are still slightly thicker since that's where all the processing hardware and video inputs are hidden away.
Ultra HD TVs: Android TV, Big Screens, And X1 Up-Scaling
There are four different TV ranges in Sony's 4K line-up for 2015, starting with the entry-ish-level X83 series. The single X83 screen is the 49-inch $2299 KD49X8300C, with Android TV and built-in Wi-Fi and edge-lighting LED as you'd expect, but very interesting is the fact that this screen uses the top of the line X1 video processor. The same is true of the step-up X8500C, the $3299 55-inch KDL55X8500C, the $4999 65-inch KD65X8500C and the $7299 75-inch KD75X8500C, which add 3D on top as well as being available in larger screen sizes.
When you go to the X9000B, you're actually getting last year's model, but at a significantly lowered price point and with the addition of local dimming for the display to massively boost contrast. Local dimming adjusts the brightness of individual LEDs in a edge- or backlit LCD screen's lighting array, meaning you're able to get dark areas of screen next to bright ones -- not exactly up to OLED standards but still pretty damn good. You can get the $3499 55-inch KD55X9000B, the $4999 65-inch KD65X9000B, and the $8499 79-inch KD79X9000B if you have the money burning a hole in your pocket.
Superseding the X9000B is the new X9000C, which is the one you'll want -- although it's not currently available on Sony's website -- because it's the world's slimmest, measuring only 4.9mm across the majority of its chassis. There's also a larger screen size of that particular spec available as the X9100C, although it has to be a bit thicker to support the larger screen size. Both the X9100C and the nifty X9000C will be available in Australia in August.
And then, at the absolute top of the 2015 Sony LED TV lineup, you'll find yourself with the aforementioned $6999 65-inch KD65X9300C and $11999 75-inch KD75X9400C incorporating Android TV, Hi-Res Audio, the best of the best 4K Triluminos, and every bell and whistle you could think of. The differentiation between the two series with identical feature-sets is that the X9400C has those excellent front-facing Magnetic Fluid speakers. We'll have a review of the X9400C up on Gizmodo soon, so stay tuned. [Sony]