Our Verdict 
Sony shows that you don’t need to pay a fortune to get a good 4K TV
For 
Sharp picture across the board
Lovely colours
Plenty of subtlety
Against 
Blacks could be better
Smart interface is not as comprehensive as rivals
Reviewed on

The Sony X85 series is the company’s entry-level 4K TV range. It sits below the higher-end X9 and flagship X95 series, and comes in 65in, 55in and 49in variants.

This KD-55X8505B is one of the more affordable 4K TVs around. Better still, it’s rather good, even if it doesn’t look as flashy as its big brothers.

Design

The stand takes the form of two small feet instead of the traditional pedestal. Why? So you can move them, to suit your rack.

You can have the feet in the middle, or at each end of the screen. They’re sturdier than they look.

Go round the back and you’ll find a generous set of connections: four HDMI 2.0 inputs and three USBs.

Legacy inputs include component and SCART. There are both Freeview HD and satellite tuner options. Internet comes in wired and wi-fi options.

You also get a small camera for Skype calls.

Interface

We’re big fans of Sony’s new smart TV portal. It’s a mature, neatly laid out interface.

The main categories of TV, Movie, Music and Apps are divided into panels, and navigation is intuitive.

The new Discover feature gives quick access to favourite and most-used services, while recommending related content.

The Social View button presents a scrolling Twitter feed at the bottom of the screen. Sony’s app offering is fairly strong: there’s still no sign of ITV Player or 4oD, but you get BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon Prime Instant and Netflix – and while on the subject of Netflix, we’re pleased to see this TV offers HEVC decoding.

That means you can stream Netflix in 4K, if your connection is up to it – 15-20mbps is recommended.

Performance

With 4K, the Sony looks lovely. The picture is superbly detailed and very sharp – edges are nicely defined without being overly etched.

We hook up an ethernet cable and stream a few episodes of Breaking Bad: the desert looks suitably grainy, while Walter White’s beard is finely drawn.

Colours are rich, but skin tones remain convincing. We won’t go as far as to call the palette natural, however.

It’s a bit too punchy for that, but it never feels unrealistic.

More after the break

The depth of the black levels is the weak point here. It’s far from disastrous but it never gets properly dark, and very dim scenes suffer.

We’d recommend turning on the Black Corrector setting, which helps a bit. Time for a bit of Full HD with a Blu-ray of Skyfall.

The picture is nicely upscaled and the colours are just as nicely handled, even if the Samsung UE55HU7500 has the edge on detail and subtlety.

Motion is fine for the most part, with only a hint of judder during panning shots. We tend to turn off as much additional processing as we can, but we’d recommend putting Motionflow on low.

This keeps the picture smooth but with enough subtlety that James Bond doesn’t look unnaturally etched. 3D pictures are good: bright enough, with minimal crosstalk issues.

The passive 3D glasses are comfortable, but the sense of depth isn’t as convincing as from the active-shutter offerings of the KD-65X9005B.

Stepping down to standard definition, the performance is similar. There’s an inevitable bump in grain and fall in sharpness, but it’s a perfectly serviceable picture as we watch Andy Murray crash out of Wimbledon on BBC One.

The audio performance is average for a flatscreen TV. The sound is spacious enough, but without the large speakers of the X9 range it sounds a little thin.

Sony follows the recent trend by offering two remote controls – a standard stick, which is nicely laid out and easy to use, and a minimal One-Flick remote with a touch pad, although the latter is not very intuitive.

Verdict

We really like the Sony KD-55X8505B. It’s an attractive TV with a good set of features and an enjoyable performance.

The competition, though, is very strong.

MORE: Best TVs 2014

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