If Goldilocks were to pick a TV size, 43in might just be it.
It’s not a size we see too often in our testing rooms, but it sits quite comfortably in between 40in and 46in, and could prove to be just right for someone torn between the two.
At 43in (it’s also available at an equally unusual 49in), this X8305C is Sony’s smallest and cheapest 4K set of 2015, dropping 3D capabilities in order to keep the price down – a tradeoff many will be happy to make.
Design-wise, it’s unlikely to floor you with its beauty, but at this price we don’t expect anything too flashy. Instead, it keeps things simple with a super-slim black bezel and a minimalistic central stand that is suitably sturdy.
The only noticeable flourish to proceedings is a shining bar of light underneath the Sony logo, which you can turn brighter or off as you desire.
At 19mm thick, it’s a candidate for wall-mounting if required, and has handily placed side-mounted HDMI ports for that very purpose.
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Speaking of which, connectivity should be fine for most setups. It includes four HDMI inputs (all HDCP 2.2 compliant, with one that is MHL compatible), three USBs, two each of analogue and composite video ins, one component video, an optical input and a Scart for legacy kit.
The Sony also has an audio out/headphone jack and subwoofer out, plus an ethernet port for hardwiring the TV to your router.
Wi-fi is on board though, and it finds our network easily, giving access to Sony’s smart TV services, which are served this year by Android TV.
Although we’re still not completely sold on the operating system, it does have promise. It’s clean and simple enough to use, but it can be a little slow to get in and out of apps. Other offerings from the likes of LG and Samsung are much more slick and intuitive.
There’s also the issue of content. As things stand, the only app available from the UK’s catch-up services is BBC iPlayer, although Netflix and Amazon Instant Video stand alongside a number of lesser-known options. Even if an app is on the Google Play Store, that doesn’t mean it’ll be available on Android TV – though there are promises more apps will be coming soon.
Of course, what is readily available is a full house of Google services, including movie and music downloads, games and a fresh choice of YouTube content every time you open up the Home menu.
Highlights are picked out for you, but you can browse in more detail further down the home screen, as well as access content stored locally on USB or NAS drives.
To test the Sony XDX8305C’s performance, we jump straight into an episode of House of Cards on Netflix 4K. We find a sharp picture that offers smooth motion for all but the fastest moving objects (we opted for the Standard MotionFlow processing) and crisp, clean edges.
However, while detail levels are good and give good insight, they can’t quite match the level of subtlety found on the Samsung UE40JU7000. Objects and landscapes don’t offer as much depth and colours aren’t rendered with quite the subtlety of the Samsung.
They are largely well handled though, with natural looking skin tones and a bold but convincing colour palette.
We do notice a slightly green hue, which is particularly noticeable in darker scenes. We tweak the set’s colour levels to get rid of it but find it is more detrimental to the overall colour balance and returned to the default.
Contrast is one of the areas in which the Sony falls down the most, as dark scenes struggle with detail levels and any differentiation between light and dark areas.
Blacks will go deep, but they lose a lot of the detail within them, whereas whites aren’t able to punch through with the same purity you see on the Samsung.
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Step down to Blu-ray with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the performance is similar.
There’s still no argument when it comes to crispness and clarity in brighter scenes, but we would like more fine detail and better contrast levels to really help make the picture stand out, particularly for daylight viewing.
Move to broadcast viewing (there’s only Freeview HD on offer) and the colour palette of the X8305C takes a turn for the warmer. This can work in its favour with some TV broadcasts, injecting an eye-catching vibrancy to a scene, but bright colours (particularly reds and greens) can look a little overblown and unsubtle, and skin tones a touch blushed.
The Sony’s upscaling performance is good though, and it does a fine job of keeping Full HD looking sharp on a 4K panel, though there is the expected drop in overall detail levels.
Standard-definition is perhaps a little overdone in this respect, with detail smoothed over in an attempt to prevent too much noise breaking through.
It’s understandable why Sony has taken this approach, but compare it to the Samsung UE40JU7000 and we’d take the extra detail on offer there, even if it means a touch more noise thrown in as part of the process.
The sound performance is handled by two drivers, which are powered by a total output of 20W. You won’t immediately find yourself reaching for a soundbar, but audio is a little thin and enclosed.
Voices are clear but soundtracks aren’t as expressive or engaging as we’d like, and overall it lacks body and subtlety.
There is only one, standard-sized, remote control in the box. A touchpad remote is available separately, not that we think you’ll need it.
The included remote is well laid out, with a shortcut for Netflix and a sizeable D-pad for navigation, with most of the controls you’ll need laid out around it.
In the 43X8305C, Sony has produced a great value TV that offers a lot for your money. Its strengths certainly lie with 4K and Blu-ray material though, with broadcast pictures on the warm side.
We want more from the contrast across the board too, and while detail levels are good, there are competitors out there offering more.
For these reasons, we have to dock this Sony a star. For entry-level 4K, it’s worth a look, but there are other sets available around this price level that show what it takes to get the full five.
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