Sony KD-49X8307C review

Android TV isn't quite there yet

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Our Verdict

Ultra HD image quality and excellent HD processing make up for the myriad Android TV issues, making the Sony KD-49X8307C a rather tempting 4K prospect.

For

  • Sleek and slim chassis
  • Impressive Ultra HD image
  • Great HD upscaling
  • Good price

Against

  • Argh! Android TV!
  • No voice remote
  • Lacking in brightness
  • Some edge-lighting issues

Just how smart do you want your television to be? That's the question I've kept asking myself as I've been testing the 49-inch Sony X83C.

In a rather unprecedented step for Sony, it chose not to pursue a proprietary operating system for its latest round of Smart TVs, instead opting to buddy up with Google and climb aboard the Android TV bandwagon with the likes of Philips, Sharp and Hisense.

So the Sony KD-49X8307C is my first experience of Android TV in the home, and it's been a rocky start to our relationship. But, like the tease I am, I'll come back to that later.

Sony KD 49X8307C review

Aside from the Android-related fun, what else do you get in this rather well-priced package?

The Sony KD-49X8307C is a lovely-looking 4K Ultra HD TV with a pretty reasonable £799 price tag. And you get a fair bit of powerful Sony technology into the bargain, which means it's not just the svelte silvery chassis which looks good – the images do too.

Powering that 3840 x 2160 native resolution is Sony's 4K Processor X1 silicon. It's this image processor that's responsible for the Ultra HD visuals, but it's actually most impressive when it's showing off its upscaling chops on non-4K content with the 4K X-Reality Pro engine.

The 4K Processor X1 is also there to manage the dynamic contrast levels, constantly optimising the brightness and contrast of the image on a per-frame basis to give you the best image quality possible.

The 49-inch IPS panel on this Sony X83C is supported by an edge-lit LED backlight.

Well connected

And what of its connections? For a relatively mid-range TV it's pretty well connected if truth be told. There are a full four HDMI connections on the rear of the X83C, each of which supports the latest copy protection standard, HDCP 2.2, and one of which supports the MHL mobile connection protocol too.

Sony KD-49X8307C reviewIt's also, rather remarkably, still rocking a SCART connection for that old-school vibe, as well as composite and component video inputs.

The X83C also comes with a 3-port USB hub, and there are a host of other audio ins and outs, from standard analogue audio inputs to headphone and audio out as well as digital optical connections.

There are the requisite connections for a dedicated subwoofer too, which is handy, as the pair of 10W down-firing speakers are rather weak. And if you were to stick a soundbar in front of the TV you'd probably find it blocks the IR receiver – I know I did.

Because of the thin bezel design the speakers are well hidden in the base, but I'll have to forgive the X83C its audio failings because a) it's the current fashion, audio be damned, and b) it's actually a rather lovely-looking design.

The stand is surprisingly sturdy for such a sleek, simple setup. Initially I did think the shiny, metallic finish would be a little distracting when using the TV, but thankfully the imagery on-screen is generally captivating enough for that not to be an issue.

And the smarts?

That's the actual hardware then, so we're back to Android TV. I've had mixed reports from people I trust regarding Android TV, but most vociferous in his opposition has been our resident TV guru, John Archer.

I thought that maybe he was being overly harsh – but that was before I actually started using the OS. And it's not just the whole initial, inevitable teething problem-thing either – it just still doesn't feel particularly ready.

Sony KD-49X8307C reviewI was good too. I updated Android TV straight away, hoping that it would give me the ideal start to my time testing the software. I could forgive it the lengthy download and install time – although my home connection is ridiculously quick it did still take a long ol' time. But for the initial install, that's almost to be expected.

What wasn't to be expected was the fact that even once the X83C had completely finished its upgrade, and rebooted, the video inputs all lead to one place. No matter what was plugged in, or which of the four HDMI connections was used, or which input was selected via the TV, it would only display what was coming in through HDMI 1.

Resetting the TV itself didn't yield any solution to the problem, and only performing a total factory reset managed to get things back to normal. But at least that seemed to be a permanent fix – something I wasn't able to nail for the forgetful nature Android TV seemed to have with USB inputs or even the network.

Sometimes the TV would turn on with no indication there was anything connected to its USB ports, requiring a reboot to fix the issue, and sometimes it would decide there was no internet connection, despite the fact that Netflix was quite happy to stream in full Ultra HD mode.

Still, at least Android TV means you get a host of applications, including most of the major streaming services. YouTube in 4K is all ready to rock and so is Netflix, providing you have the necessary account level.

Even Netflix, however, was seemingly not impervious to the trials of this iteration of Android TV. Playback was lovely and smooth until you paused what you were watching to dip out of the app and into the home screen – sometimes going back into Netflix meant juddery 4K video that only a TV reset could fix.

Sadly, there are also still gaps in the TV version of the Play Store, such as no NOW TV or All4 to get your catch-up fix of Game of Thrones, Bear Grylls and his suffering islanders or endless episodes of Peep Show.