Sony’s 2017 TV line and Ultra HD Blu-ray player paint a brighter 4K future

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Sony’s Bravia A1 OLED TV may have stolen the spotlight at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV but it’s the company’s new line of LED/LCD televisions that will likely end up making the biggest waves in 2017. Today, Sony announced pricing, availability, and technical details on four series of LED/LCD televisions, and having seen them in action up close, we can attest that all of them are going to be serious contenders. Sony is also announcing its consumer-level Ultra HD Blu-ray player, offering consumers a premium option for enjoying the best 4K HDR Ultra HD content available.

The 2017 line of Sony 4K HDR Ultra HD TVs comprises the X800E/X850E, X900E, X930E/X940E, and the previously introduced flagship Z9D series. Sony’s new models (excluding the Bravia A1 OLED) have been priced out and are now available for presale at Best Buy, slated to hit stores nationwide in March 2017. Now, let’s dive into the details.

X800E/X850E Series

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Boasting similar features and performance, the X800E and X850E series are differentiated primarily by screen size — 43-, 49-, and 55-inch models make up the X800E series. The 65- and 75-inch variants get the X850E badge, but they also get a new chip offering HDR Pro Remastering for an HDR-like experience with non-HDR content, and Super Bit Mapping for smoother color gradations as well. As the entry level to Sony’s LED/LCD TV line, one might think Sony skimped on the X800E series’ processing and picture quality, but this segment is loaded with top-tier tech that’s been trickled down from higher-end models, including Sony’s excellent 4K X-reality Pro processing chip, and its Triluminous Display technology for expanded color gamut and increased color accuracy.

In addition to Google’s Android TV operating system, Sony has also built in Google’s Home assistant, allowing for voice-based interaction and commands.

Suggested retail pricing is as follows:

X900E Series

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The X900E is an all new segment within Sony’s TV lineup. In addition to the aforementioned 4K X-Reality Pro chip, X1 HDR Pro Remastering and Super Bit Mapping, and Triluminous Display features, the X900E adds X-tended Dynamic Range Pro 5x, which we witnessed increasing contrast substantially over prior-year models. Interestingly, a full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight system, typically a high-end feature, is limited to this series (with the exception of the 75-inch X940E and Z9D). One might think that FALD would offer the best brightness, contrast, and black level control, but Sony says its more advanced, edge-lit X930E/X940E models actually surpass the performance of this series. Pricing is as follows:

X930E/X940E series

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This series is at the highest rung of Sony’s lineup before getting to the over-the-top flagship Z9D series introduced late last year. In addition to all the aforementioned features, the X930E series employs an improved version of its edge-lighting system called Slim Backlight Drive +, which Sony claims offers 10 times the contrast of a conventional LED/LCD TV. We saw a side-by-side demonstration between the new X930E and last year’s X930D, and the contrast improvements were indeed substantial. This series has better black levels, better shadow detail, and much higher brightness, making it especially well suited for extreme HDR performance. This could be the finest edge-lit television we see in 2017.

The X940E, which is available only in a 75-inch version, offers a souped-up full-array backlight system for performance that treads dangerously into the Z9D’s territory. An HDR gaming demonstration using the PlayStation 4 Pro was especially impressive, and we expect the TV will perform equally well for TV and movie playback. To get such performance, however, one will have to pay handsomely for it. Pricing is as follows:

Based on our brief demonstrations, these appear to be the finest TVs Sony has made to date, with excellent HDR performance (including Dolby Vision, HDR 10, and HLG) and, again, some of the finest picture processing available. We look forward to reviewing all series models in depth later this year. And when we do, we look forward to using Sony’s new Ultra HD Blu-ray player as a source. Below are those details.

Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player

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Coming in at $300, the UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is now available for pre-sale at Best Buy and Amazon. While priced a little higher than entry-level players from Samsung, Philips, and LG, this premium player comes in at a lower price point than competing models from Panasonic and Oppo, while offering premium audio performance with Hi-Res audio support up to 192kHz/24-bit and DSD 11.2MHz (future firmware update required). Also included is built-in HDR enhancement processing for non-HDR discs, and playback abilities for just about every disc-based format, making it a universal disc player. The player will also support both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound formats.

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