Sony KD-49X8307C

Android TV isn't quite there yet

Sony KD-49X8307C

When it comes to affordable, decent-sized 4K TVs, 49 and 50-inchers are becoming the new standard. And with the likes of the Sony KD-49X8307C coming in at a shade under £800, an Ultra HD 4K Smart TV is becoming a realistic option for many more of us telly addicts.

But with the recently released 4K media streamers – the Amazon Fire TV and Nvidia SHIELD – offering to make your dumb TV a much smarter beast, do we need built-in smart options?

And so we're back to trying to figure out just how smart we want our actual displays to be. Having to reboot your media streamer is something we can understand – it's kind of like a computer box after all – but having to do the same for our television? That's something we really have no frame of reference for.

We liked

The actual panel Sony has kitted out this affordable 4K TV with is quite lovely. It's not going to worry any of the OLED faithful or the direct-lit LED brigade with their superior contrast and blacks, but for a TV of this price to be able to offer a picture this good is impressive.

It's especially good with native Ultra HD content. When compared with similarly-priced panels from other manufacturers, however, the 4K X-Reality processing in the Sony really makes standard Full HD content stand out.

I've seen other 4K panels really struggle with the lower-quality streams, especially in darker scenes, but the Sony manages to boost HD sources to 4K without any weird artifacting or undue visual noise.

I'm also impressed by the connectivity. With a full four HDMI ports and myriad USB connections the KD-49X8307C is well represented when it comes to getting content onto the screen.

Even when the TV isn't on it looks great. That slim, aluminium chassis belies its relatively reasonable price tag – from the stand to the bezel it has a quality look and feel to it.

We disliked

Oh Android TV, why do you frustrate me so?

It's such a shame, when the actual picture quality is as good as the Sony KD-49X8307C is capable of producing, that it's the OS – something Sony has very little control over – that lets the side down.

A lack of popular apps we can forgive – that will improve over time – but it's the bugginess which you simply don't associate with Sony products that really grates.

Having to do a factory reset on your TV because it can't figure out the inputs, or having to reboot because it's forgotten how to recognise USB connections, or because Netflix has slowed to a juddery crawl, are not the things you ever expect to have to do.

One thing that is Sony's fault, though, is not putting the voice-control remote in the package. You only get the standard Sony TV remote, not the one enabling you to chat to Google.

During a break in testing, finding my wife standing a foot from the screen screaming "All4!" at the top of her lungs because the search function defaults to voice-control was a sight to behold.

Final verdict

The Sony KD-49X8307C is a good-looking TV whether it's on or off. The design is striking, and the panel is rather impressive for such a well-priced Ultra HD telly. You can pick this 4K TV up right now for less than £750 at Amazon.

It's 4K performance is excellent, showing great detail and tangible depth, but it's the HD performance which really stands out against the crowd – which is good considering you'll likely be watching mostly HD content for a good while at least.

However, we're not talking about a particularly future-proof TV here for your £750-odd – there's no HDR now or in the future for TVs of this ilk.

Whether you're happy to cope with the vagaries of Android TV though is another question. I couldn't recommend the Sony to my gran – she'd throw the remote through that UHD panel in a matter of hours.

But if you're techie enough to deal with its foibles – which should hopefully diminish as Android TV matures – then the Sony KD-49X8307C is a well-priced contender for the affordable 4K crown.