Sony XBR-65X800H 65-inch X800H 4K HDR TV Review

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Sony XBR-65X800H 65-inch X800H 4K HDR TV Review


The $1,000 TV market is crowded. At or around this price point, you'll find the high-end offerings of budget manufacturers as well as the midrange models from marquee brands, all generally 65-inch models. The Sony XBR-65X800H is a perfect example at $999.99 ($898 at Crutchfield and at Amazon). The question is, how does the X800H stand apart from the rest?

The panels on the edge-lit X800H series, from the 65-inch down, employ IPS (in-plane switching) screens. The 75- and 85-inch offerings use VA (vertical alignment) screens instead. The major benefit of using IPS over VA is increased viewing angle without significant discoloration or contrast shifts to the image off-axis. IPS will give you an extra 15 to 20 degrees over VA. So if you're planning on having watch parties with friends (once we're all allowed to be in rooms together again), sitting position won't affect the quality of the image as much for anyone on the periphery. There are some drawbacks to IPS panels, though, which I'll get to later.

65X800H_remote.jpgWhen you look at the X800H packing box or website, you might notice a Netflix emblem, which means that the TV carries a Netflix recommendation and therefore has a dedicated button on the remote and voice control. What it does not mean is that the TV has Netflix Calibrated Mode, which enables a viewing mode specifically for use with the built-in Netflix app. You'll need to step up to the XBR X950G, XBR A9G, or XBR Z9G Series for that.

While you might not get a special Netflix Calibrated Mode, the X800H will recognize Dolby Vision when you're using the app (or any other source that sends the TV a DV signal) and switch over to one of two specific Dolby Vision HDR modes: Dolby Vision Bright or Dolby Vision Dark. It also strangely gives the option of using the Vivid mode (not a Dolby Vision Vivid, mind you), in case you want to ruin the image quality.

The Bluetooth-enabled remote for the X800H has been upgraded to the one from last year's X850G. It's a bit thinner and I far prefer the button layout. Gone is the continuous ring of buttons around the central d-pad, and the Google Assistant activation button has moved from the top of the remote down to just above the d-pad, which keeps it within thumb's reach. The only major drawbacks are that it's an inch or so longer than it needs to be and there's no backlight.

Setting Up the Sony X800H

In almost twenty years of setting up televisions for testing and evaluation, I've never experienced the dread I did when setting up the X800H for the first time. Why? There are no screws to secure the legs to the frame.

Let me say that again: There are no screws to secure the legs to the frame.

Instead, the legs are kept in place by friction, and it works flawlessly. Really, there's no reason why it shouldn't if designed properly, but I was still terrified the first (and second and third) time I needed to move it from floor to credenza or vice versa. The legs themselves have slimmed out from last year, with the unfortunate consequence of losing the built-in cable trough, which is replaced with a less-attractive plastic clip.

All connections are side-facing on the left side of the back of the TV. There are four HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.3 (one with ARC), and while some gamers might be disappointed the ports aren't HDMI 2.1, the X800H has a native 60Hz panel so next-gen gaming at 4K/120 wouldn't be possible anyway. There are also two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an optical out, headphone out, 3.5mm composite video in (an adapter cable is not included), Ethernet if you choose to hardwire the TV instead of using the built-in WiFi (both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), cable RF, 3.5mm RS-232 (again, no cable included), and 3.5mm IR. The Bluetooth connection will work with the remote, as well as a mouse or keyboard, but unfortunately not with headphones.

200408_FY20_TV-AndroidOS_UI-49X800H.jpgThe X800H, as with all Sony TVs, uses the Android TV OS. The platform has had its troubles with stability and clunky operation in the past, but over the past couple iterations many of those issues have been resolved -- or at least improved. The most recent version functions smoothly and quickly. It comes preloaded with Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, and Disney+, and you can get just about any other streaming app your heart desires on the Google Play store. This includes HBO Max and Peacock, which are still unavailable on the Roku and Fire TV platforms as of this writing. Chromecast works flawlessly for streaming from supported mobile apps to the TV and generally only takes a few moments to buffer enough for HD-quality video.

The Android OS is a full-screen OS, as opposed to Samsung and LG's smart TV interfaces, so in order to select installed apps you'll need to go to the home screen (or use Google Assistant, which works well with complex commands for content selection). The settings menu, though, opens as a banner either across the bottom (for assignable quick settings) or the right side of the screen (for more in-depth menus). And for calibration, the full menu will close and the selected slider will appear unobtrusively on the bottom right of the screen. 49_X80H_XH800_front.jpg

The tried-and-true technologies that have become a staple of Sony televisions for the past few years are here (the X800 series isn't where Sony introduces its newest tech, but it certainly benefits from some trickling down). The main one, which makes a Sony look like a Sony, is Reality Creation. Some form of it has been around for decades. Over those decades, a database of images has been collected and is on-board the X1 4K HDR processor (a new generation of which was introduced this year). The processor references the database against the image onscreen in order to boost the perceived resolution. If it sounds like upscaling, that's because it pretty much is. And it does a really good job of it, especially for lower-resolution content. Once you hit 4K though (even, to an extent, 1080p), any perceptible change is negligible unless you're right up at the screen. It also isn't meant for games, so best to keep it off while gaming.

A menagerie of picture enhancement options can be found on the X800H, including:

  • Motionflow, which combines controls for smoothness and clearness
    • Smoothness changes the frequency of frame interpolation
    • Clearness changes the frequency of black frame insertion
    • CineMotion: Sony's name for 3:2 pulldown
    • Random noise reduction, for things like RF interference
    • Digital noise reduction to help with compression artifacts and mosquito noise

One of the first things I do when I turn on a TV is turn off any motion interpolation and I suggest you do the same. There are limited use scenarios where it could almost be acceptable to have it on (sports, maybe), but it never looks natural. And with the different levels of black frame insertion on the X800H, I didn't notice any benefit. It only led to a darker image due to the extra black frames. CineMotion is useful if you're watching something that needs the 3:2 pulldown undone, otherwise it does nothing, so it's worth leaving on auto. The noise reduction you can adjust to taste with lower resolution content, but I mostly kept it off. The less extraneous processing that's enabled, the better.

How Does the Sony X800H Perform?

For the most accurate picture, Sony recommends using Custom picture mode. My eyes and measurements agree. Using a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, Calman calibration software, a VideoForge Classic for SDR patterns, and HDR10 patterns from Diversified Video Solutions, I measured the average grayscale DeltaE at 1.6 and average color-point DeltaE at 2.2. (DeltaE is the difference between measured and ideal performance. A measurement under 3.0 is good enough that you wouldn't see major discrepancies without doing side-by-side comparisons. Under 1.0 is considered perfect. Above 5.0 you'll start to see problems, even without an A/B comparison.) Colors measured as a little oversaturated, but even so, the out-of-the-box measurements are very good. If you choose to calibrate it further, your only options are either two-point bias and gain or a 10-point color temp. Color point hue, saturation, and luminance adjustments don't become available until you step up to the X950H model line

Sony_X800H_Grayscale_pre-cal.jpg

HDR grayscale and color measured similarly to SDR -- grayscale measured an average DeltaE of 1.5 and color an average DeltaE of 2.1 -- but the grayscale midtones straddle the EOTF line with 50- to 60-percent gray luminance being a little high before it dips under at 70 percent. 

Sony_X800H_HDR_Grayscale_pre-cal.jpg

At max brightness in SDR, the X800H outputs 432 nits, which is more than enough for SDR content. I did most of my viewing with brightness set at the default of 40, which still results in 358 nits of brightness. Light output in HDR, automatically set at max brightness, disappointingly increases to only 465 nits.

A great HDR demo I like to use is the Millennium Falcon's flight through the Maelstrom in Solo: A Star Wars Story. There's plenty of dark shadow detail to challenge the best displays, with lightning blasts that punctuate the darkness. Not to mention an enormous tentacled space monster -- a summa-verminoth for those keeping track -- that should have some excellent close-up detail.

The shadow detail proves to be too much for the X800H, though, as the nooks and crannies of the Falcon's cockpit blend into a dark gray haze, causing the ship's dimensionality and character to get lost. The Maelstrom itself loses some of its foreboding in the darkness, but due to the limited HDR brightness, the lightning blasts don't have the surprise that can heighten the mood of that scene and make the scene feel that much more dangerous. When there is enough light shining on the characters' faces, or when the summa-verminoth awakens and focuses its eyes on the ship, the detail is excellent. As the creature gets pulled into the gravity well at the center of the Maw, oranges and reds and yellows illuminate its disintegrating body and the detail loses some intensity as it gets further away, largely due to the lackluster contrast ratio.

Some of the best shows to watch in 4K and (if possible) HDR are food shows. Especially now, not being able to go out and dine with friends, getting to see a beautifully composed dish prepared by a talented chef is heaven. The first episode of season six of Chef's Table highlights American chef Mashama Bailey and her counter-style restaurant, The Grey, in Savannah, GA. Using the Netflix app on the X800H, I was able to enjoy it in Dolby Vision. The varieties of green throughout Savannah were beautiful and lush. The earth tones within The Grey feel warm and inviting, and her food, even after I had eaten dinner, caused my mouth to salivate from the depth and luxurious detail in the chicken, or fish, or gazpacho.

12 Monkeys is a show that's been on my list for years. I adored the movie when it came out in 1995, and there have been a couple times I've started watching the SyFy show before something in life inevitably drew me away. All the seasons are available in 1080p through Hulu, and it afforded me the chance to play around with some of the upscaling settings. Up close, there was a definite improvement to detail with Reality Creation turned on. I set it to manual and found a setting around 40 to be best. Minimal improvement could be seen with the noise reduction settings. At a comfortable viewing distance, though, any of the changes were very subtle at best. The detail was still very good, though, and colors all looked natural.

For gaming, switching to game mode is mandatory. Outside of game mode, with a Leo Bodnar 1080p lag tester, I measured an input lag of 124.7ms. But with game mode enabled, that drops to 10.8ms. Grayscale and color measures were a bit less accurate, although not egregiously so.

The X800H's panel is semi-reflective and can diffuse some ambient light, but a lamp that's in direct view will cause a distracting amount of reflection. I had to turn off the living room lamp that sits next to our couch while in most sitting positions. Direct sunlight is also more than the panel (most panels, actually) can handle, so make sure it doesn't directly face large windows.

The Downside

IPS screens don't have good contrast. There's no way around it, and the X800H expectedly suffers from poor contrast. On top of that is IPS bloom, or glow, which happens at the corners and looks like a grayish tint, in the case of the X800H, exuding from the edge. (IPS bloom can have a different color tint depending on the display technology and the screen.) Again, it's an inherent issue with IPS panels.

The X800H also doesn't have local dimming zones that you would get from a full-array local-dimming set. This isn't offered until the next step up in the Sony line, the X900H. For this TV, it's just edge lighting, and any dimming can only be done by those edge LEDs, or frame dimming, as Sony calls it. This, paired with the set's light output, is what limits the overall performance and consistency of HDR across the panel.

How Does the X800H Compare to the Competition?

Pretty much every manufacturer has something within the same price range as the Sony 65X800H, although they're usually VA panels instead of IPS, so their contrast ratios will be better. For the same price, LG offers the NanoCell 85, which comes with FreeSync variable refresh rate support and auto low-latency mode, but it's also edge-lit and even dimmer than the Sony (for a full-array local-dimming version, check out our review of the NanoCell 90).

The Hisense H9G (review pending) can be found within $50 of the Sony, is a 120Hz panel (although also doesn't have HDMI 2.1), is significantly brighter, especially in HDR mode, but doesn't look as good out of the box.

TCL's 65R635 is $100 less than the X800H. It's also a bit brighter than the Sony, and also doesn't measure as well out of the box. But for interested gamers, it includes variable refresh rate from 48-120Hz and an auto game mode.

On the other side of $1,000 is the Vizio P-Series Quantum at $1,200, with full-array local dimming, variable refresh rate, and HDMI 2.1. If previous iterations of the P-Series are any indication, it will be a light cannon, too.

The Samsung Q70T at $1,300 has a similar light output to the Sony and is also an edge-lit TV with no local dimming (review pending).

If you want to stay in the Sony family, you can step up to the X900H for $1,200. It's a few hundred nits brighter than the X800H, has full-array local dimming, a VA panel for better contrast (aided by the company's X-tended Dynamic Range feature), and includes the Netflix Calibrated Mode when using the Netflix app through the Android OS. The 900 series is also where Sony historically introduces new features. Of interest to the gaming crowd, the X900H includes support for variable refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, and a native 120Hz panel. It's my understanding that, by way of a firmware update later this year, the X900H will support 4K/120Hz and VRR ranging from 48 to 120Hz. Great news for anyone planning to purchase a next-gen console.

Final Thoughts

The buzz for the past couple years, whether pushed by marketing teams or wanted by consumers, has been HDR. And it's where most manufacturers have been putting their efforts, resulting in what's becoming the video version of the loudness war of the '90s and '00s. Sony has chosen not to participate whole-heartedly in that competition -- they don't even publish their luminance figures -- and instead has focused on proprietary features and good out-of-the-box color and grayscale performance. And they do that well.

The Sony 65X800H 4K HDR TV is for today's casual consumer. It doesn't push the technological envelope with features for next-gen gaming and won't tan your skin with its light output, but it is a suitably bright display for ambient light rooms (as long as the light isn't shining directly on the display). And while the IPS panel causes high black levels, the wide viewing angles make it a great choice for having friends over to watch.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Sony website for more product information.
• Check out our TV Reviews category page to read similar reviews.
• Sony XBR-75X950G 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.

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HTR Product Rating for Sony XBR-65X800H 65-inch X800H 4K HDR TV Review

Criteria Rating

Performance

3.5

Value

4

Overall

4

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