Sony KDL-55W805C review

Is a premium HD TV still worth buying?

Sony KDL-55W805C
Is a premium HD TV still worth buying?

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With most brands starting to treat HD TVs as relatively low-rent sets, it's reassuring to find the 55W805C delivering mostly outstanding image quality that means picture enthusiasts don't have to find the cash for a 4K UHD set if they want a truly cinematic, engaging picture.

Unlike the majority of TVs the 55W805C gives you a really lovely image right out of the box - no matter what source you feed it. This is because Sony has been able to continue its recent trend of being able to successfully adapt its picture settings automatically to suit whatever types of image it may be receiving.

This is a significant achievement given that research continues to show that the vast majority of us never touch our TV's picture settings once we've got a new TV home.

Sony KDL-55W805C

It's also pleasing to see a brand willing to create images that actually suit/get the best from the panels they're appearing on rather than merely following increasingly dated video industry standards.

Though I should add that the 55W805C does have picture presets available that can hit those standards if that's your preference, as well as providing a decent collection of picture calibration tools if you fancy fine-tuning things manually.


Getting into more detail about what makes the 55W805C's pictures so enjoyable, the good news starts with their contrast. Once again Sony proves itself a master of edge LED backlighting, managing to combine superbly deep, rich black colours with an exceptional level of clouding-free uniformity.

You don't have to take as much brightness out of the picture to maintain this black level uniformity as you do with most edge LED TVs either, meaning pictures enjoy plenty of punch despite their black level strength.

The 55W805C's ability to deliver deep blacks without compromising light output excessively also helps it produce seriously impressive amounts of shadow detail. Dark scenes thus enjoy pretty much the same sense of depth and detail that bright ones do, avoiding the relatively hollow appearance for dark scenes witnessed to some degree on most other LCD TVs.

This gives images a consistently immersive, cinematic look that seems certain to endear the 55W805C to movie fans.


The 55W805C combines its excellent light handling with some vibrant but also engagingly subtle colours, too.

It's true that the 55W805C doesn't offer the same degree of colour finesse as Sony's 4K, Triluminos-carrying TVs, but this is hardly surprising. Compared more fairly with other HD TVs around today, the 55W805C's colour palette looks superb. The colour performance even holds up during dark scenes, thanks again in part, no doubt, to the excellent backlight management.

The combined precision of the 55W805C's lighting and colour tones has a further knock on benefit. Namely that it helps the set deliver a spectacular sense of detail from native HD sources.

Clearly we're not talking about the same degree of precision you can get from a good quality native 4K TV, but if you want a TV that's capable of getting every last drop of detail out of high definition content, the 55W805C won't let you down.

Sony's 55-inch HD flagship for 2015 even retains the majority of this clarity when showing images containing motion.

Even in its native state, with no motion processing active, the panel inside the 55W805C proves to be impressively responsive, suffering only minor loss of resolution over moving objects, as well as minimal judder.

Sony KDL-55W805C

Motion processing

The sharpest results, though, are obtained if you use Sony's MotionFlow processing, which does a great job of smoothing away judder and blur without, crucially, leaving images looking unnatural.

So long as you stick with a relatively low-powered MotionFlow setting, anyway.

While a TV as good as the 55W805C deserves to be fed as HD-rich a diet as possible to unlock its maximum potential, it's important to stress that Sony's set is also exceptionally good at remapping standard definition content to its HD screen. It pulls off the key trick of adding detail without emphasising noise, and also does better than most upscaling engines when it comes to retaining colour vibrancy and accuracy when showing even low-quality standard definition sources.

The only real issues I managed to uncover with the 55W805C's 2D pictures are that contrast and colour can reduce if you watch from more than around 35 degrees down the TV's sides (in keeping with the majority of other LCD TVs), and that its contrast and noise reduction settings can have an unusually heavy impact on motion clarity, meaning you may find you need to reduce the former and turn off the latter with some motion-packed sources.

I guess I should point out, too, that for all the 55W805C's black level quality, some TVs that use a direct LED lighting system rather than an edge LED one can deliver an even better contrast performance.

But such direct LED TVs usually cost more than the 55W805C.


The 55W805C's 3D performance is hit and miss.

On the upside I was hugely impressed by the brightness and colour vibrancy of the set's 3D images, despite the fact that this is an active 3D system that requires you to wear shuttering glasses. Sony's set does a good job of delivering the small details from HD 3D Blu-rays too, and its motion processing is good enough to tackle the extra judder problems often associated with 3D playback.

The 55W805C's excellent contrast performance, meanwhile, proves handy in delivering a particularly good sense of depth and space in the 3D frame, especially during dark scenes.

The downside is crosstalk ghosting noise.

For while the 55W805C doesn't exhibit the double-ghosting phenomenon anywhere near as often as many previous Sony 3D TVs have done, oddly when the crosstalk does appear it's unusually aggressive - brighter and more defined in its appearance. Which means that your eye is more likely to be drawn to it - especially when the 55W805C's 3D pictures look otherwise so pristine.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.