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Our Verdict

So long as you don't see yourself being fussed about 4K for the next few years, the 55W805C is a compelling TV. Its engagingly slim form plays host to a long list of features that includes everything the TV needs to produce one of the finest pictures I've seen from an HD TV. It's well connected too, and while Android TV turns out to be a bit of a chore it's still got plenty of smart TV appeal.

For

  • Superlative picture quality
  • Space-saving design
  • Content-rich smart TV system
  • Good auto picture optimisation

Against

  • Slightly flimsy build quality
  • Android TV isn't great
  • Not cheap for HD
  • Average sonics

As I went through the motions of unboxing and setting up the Sony KDL-55W805C, I have to admit I found it hard to muster up much enthusiasm.

The thing is, I've been so spoiled this year with outstanding cutting-edge TVs boasting such next-generation glories as native 4K UHD resolutions and HDR playback that the idea of testing a TV with just an HD pixel count already feels like stepping back in time.

Fortunately my initial apathy towards the 55W805C didn't last long.

Partly because common sense set in and it occurred to me that with 4K content still thin on the ground HD is still a force to be reckoned with, and partly because it soon becomes apparent that despite not offering a 4K pixel count, the 55W805C is capable of delivering some seriously good picture quality.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's jump back to my first impressions Sony's brave new HD set.

Sony KDL 55W805C

For the most part it sets its stall out well. It's design runs completely counter to that of the previously tested 75X9405C, ditching that model's ultra-chunky surround in favour of a much more on trend ultra-slim frame that's barely a centimetre across along its top, left and right edges.

The 55W805C also sticks out relatively little around the back, and sits on a remarkably thin and unobtrusive metal bar stand.

Build quality

The 55W805C looks better from a distance than it does up close.

The frame around the screen is a bit plasticky, and the TV doesn't sit particularly solidly atop that skinny stand. The space saving design will likely win it many fans, though - even though clearly a set this skinny won't be able to compete sonically with the output of the massive forward-facing speakers built into some of Sony's higher-end models.

Connections on the 55W805C are excellent.

You get four HDMIs, for instance, when a number of TVs we've tested recently have only managed three. Plus there are three USBs on hand to play back multimedia files from USB drives (or for attaching a USB HDD for recording from the TV's tuners), and the 55W805C's svelteness hasn't stopped Sony from finding the room to build in Wi-Fi alongside a network cable port.

It's with its picture specifications, though, that the 55W805C really starts to get down to the business of justifying its relatively high cost for a non-4K TV.

Particularly promising is the provision of Sony's previously impressive X-Reality Pro processing engine, which uses a large built-in database to quickly recognise different types of source content and thus reduce the burden on the TV's picture processors.

This should result - in theory, anyway - in more successful real time results.

Local dimming

The 55W805C also employs local dimming in its edge LED lighting engine to deliver a better contrast performance. Sony has delivered the best edge LED/local dimming results of any TV brand for the past couple of years, so hopefully it will be able to continue this trend with the 55W805C.

Another sign of the high level of processing power Sony has injected into the 55W805C despite its 'mere' HD status can be seen in its MotionFlow system. Its combination of a native 100Hz panel, backlight controls and frame interpolation is potent enough to deliver a claimed 1000Hz effect.

You always have to treat these sort of figures with a healthy amount of scepticism, and it's also the case that you'll rarely if ever find yourself wanting to use any TV's motion processing on its highest setting.

But such figures are, at least, useful for giving you an indication of the sort of processing power a TV is packing.

The 55W805C also supports 3D playback (though doesn't come with any included 3D glasses), but it doesn't get Sony's Triluminos technology for delivering an expanded colour palette. This would have helped seal the 55W805C's premium pricing deal, but its absence isn't really surprising.

Sony KDL 55W805C

Android TV - for better or for worse

When it comes to the 55W805C's smart features, Sony has boldly once again thrown in its lot with Google, despite this relationship not bearing very successful fruit in the past.

Google's latest integrated smart TV system is called Android TV and… it's a bit of a mess, alas. Almost everything about it runs counter to the more streamlined, focussed approach now being adopted by most smart TV engines.

The interface is full screen, there's a focus on quantity of content over quality, there's precious little integration of live TV features, there's no real scope for customising the system, and there's too great an emphasis on the sort of content - especially games - that most TV users will have little interest in.

Ironically the most useful thing about Android TV is its compatibility with Chromecast - a much more streamlined Android content sharing system that just emphasises how unnecessary and OTT Android TV is.

Fortunately the 55W805C's smart features aren't restricted to Android TV.

For the set also carries Sony's own Discover system, which actually delivers a much more successful, flexible, focussed and usable way of finding and accessing content. Furthermore, following an imminent update, the 55W805C will carry YouView, providing you with catch-up services for the most popular UK terrestrial broadcast channels - as well as the convenience of an electronic programme guide (EPG) that can scroll back through time to on-demand content as well as looking ahead.

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