Sony KDL-65W850A 3D HDTV
AT A GLANCE
Excellent color and resolution
Good blacks and shadow detail
Satisfyingly bright 3D
Typical LCD off-axis limitations
Minor 3D flicker and ghosting
It may lack the headline-grabbing, 4K bling-zing of Sony’s XBR Ultra HD designs, but this 65-inch KDL series HDTV sits at the top of the company’s bread-and-butter line and offers more than enough features and performance to satisfy a wide range of buyers.
With all the ink spilled these days about the trendy but expensive Ultra HDTVs, a plain vanilla HDTV, with its resolution of 1920 x 1080, may seem a little ho-hum. But Ultra HD (4K, or more correctly, 3840 x 2160) is still consumer 4K content-starved with its specs not yet fully complete, and the jury is still out as to whether or not it will offer significant benefits in typical home screen sizes. Its price of admission also remains high. As a result, top-of-the-line, non-Ultra HDTVs, such as Sony’s new KDL-65W850A, remain serious players in the high-end video market.
I’m accustomed to 65-inch sets by now, but if you’re not, the KDL-65W850A will look huge in most domestic spaces. Be not afraid. First of all, it’s thin—though at just over 2.5 inches, not the thinnest of flat screens. Second, at under 80 pounds, even on its non-rotatable stand, it isn’t that difficult for two people to unpack and set up.
Compared with thinner designs, the Sony’s 2.5-inch depth offers more room behind the LCD panel to provide for a relatively uniform diffusion of the LED edge lighting uniformly across the screen (while the edge lighting here incorporates local dimming, this is not a back-lit design with multiple, individually dimmable zones behind the screen). While that uniformity isn’t perfect here, the deviations are subtle and visible mainly on test patterns. They never bothered me on real program material.
The screen’s surface is also less glossy than usual. It’s far from having a totally matte finish; you’ll still see reflections from the screen in a lighted room. But they’re soft and furry compared with the mirror-like images that stare back at you from most of today’s sets.
The Sony follows the current trend of providing more than enough video controls to either optimize the picture or thoroughly mess it up. But not to worry; you can’t damage anything with the user controls, and they’re easy to reset. The one significant omission here is a color management system (CMS) for fine-tuning the color gamut. Sony doesn’t typically offer this feature on its flat-screen sets, though much of its competition now does. But as with most recent Sonys we’ve tested, the out-of-the-box color gamut is more than satisfactory, though not quite technically ideal.
The KDL-65W850A offers the usual bewildering range of picture modes—14 to be exact. But the specific subset of Picture Modes you can choose from depends on which Scene Select option you select. To keep from going postal with the bewildering range of Scene Select/Picture Mode combinations available, I chose Scene Select-Cinema (and the Cinema 2 Picture Mode) for 2D and Scene Select-General (and the Standard Picture Mode) for 3D. This approach did require me to manually change the Scene Select mode whenever I went from 2D to 3D—if you use different Scene Select settings for 2D and 3D, the set will not automatically change Scene Select modes when you swap 2D and 3D sources. This can be avoided by staying in the same Scene Select and Picture Mode throughout, but the General/Standard combination offered more brightness in 3D than any Cinema mode, and without significant (post-calibration) tradeoffs.
Motionflow engages Sony’s frame interpolation (or dark frame insertion in some settings) to smooth out motion blur. Without it, I did see some blur on fast motion—but no worse than usual for an LCD set. It was tolerable, and in my opinion, preferable to the video-like, soap-opera look common to motion interpolation. I left Motionflow off for all my tests and viewing.
As noted, the KDL-65W850A uses edge-lit local dimming, and it boasts Sony’s Triluminos color technology, said to extend the color palette. However, without elaborating, Sony clarified that this version does not use the Quantum Dot technology employed for Triluminos in the model KDL-55W900A we reviewed for the July/August 2013 Home Theater (available at soundandvision.com).The KDL-65W850A can also access and use the additional color infor- mation (x.v.Color, AKA xvYCC) included on Sony’s “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray Discs.
The KDL-55W900A offers a wide range of Internet features and apps, though the Web interface screen is less flashy than much of its competition. But everything you might want is likely there. You can also download firmware updates for the set and play back videos, photos, or music either directly from a USB storage device or from your home network.
Our KDL-65W850A arrived in a substantial wood crate, which suggested that this was a dedicated review sample and likely from an early production run. Expect yours to come in the standard cardboard carton.
The set performed exceptionally well on good sources. Its color was visibly flawless, with clear, natural fleshtones and crisp but not overstated resolution. One of the video controls, SBM (the acronym for Sony’s Super Bit Mapping) is on by default. After trying it both on and off, I left it on. It appeared to do no harm, though I can’t say it provided any tangible benefit. (Sony responded after our review was complete that SBM tends to be more noticeable on specific types of program material, such as sunsets and other more depth-related content.)
With Sony’s LED Dynamic Control (for the edge-lit local dimming) set to Standard, the black level was unmeasurable with a full-screen black image. But it increased significantly when this feature was turned off. Unlike multiple zone backlit local dimming, however, with edge-lit local dimming, a spot of light on the dark screen, such as the pause bug generated in the upper left corner by our Oppo BD player, turns on the edge lighting in the affected area. This produces a gray band extending completely across the screen from left to right. But this was obvious only on an otherwise fully black screen; on typical source material, the gray banding was rarely noticeable.
The recent Sony 4K sets we’ve tested had this same gray banding effect, but on those models the edge lighting was located at the top and bottom of the screen and the banding was vertical. In the KDL-65W850A, the edge lighting is on the sides. One benefit to the latter is that the side lighting with local dimming is superior to top and bottom lighting in keeping the black bars dark on widescreen movies.