Hands on: Sony Bravia RF45

Available in a single size, the RF45 upscales the RE4’s legacy

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Lacking any smart functionality and awash in an unremarkable design, Sony’s RF45 is the epitome of a basic entry-level screen. Well, it would be, if it didn’t have HDR as a secret weapon. With HDR in toe, Sony’s RF45 might be one of the better-looking entry-level screens we see this year – but we’ll just have to wait until we have one in our own home to find out.

For

  • HDR HDTV
  • X-Reality Pro processing
  • Sony MotionFlow 400Hz

Against

  • Only available in one size
  • Unremarkable design
  • No smart functionality

In 2017, Sony stole a march on its rivals by introducing the first range of full HD (rather than 4K) TVs to support high dynamic range (HDR) playback: the RE4. 

Thanks to this unique capability and aggressive pricing, the RE4 series appears to have been a sizeable hit – especially, we suspect, with owners of original PS4 consoles, which are capable of outputting HDR but not 4K. 

Given its success, it’s no great surprise to find the RE4 series continuing into 2018 in 32-inch and 40-inch sizes. If those sizes are a bit on the petite size for your tastes, though, Sony has decided to expand its full HD HDR offering by introducing a new 43-inch RF45 model.

What do we think of Sony’s latest 43-inch high-def HDR TV? Read on to find out.

Design

In design terms the RF45 is a fairly standard affair. Its dark grey frame is rather wider than those wrapped around most of Sony’s 2018 TVs, and the built quality is more plasticky. There’s a nice slightly textured finish to the screen frame, though, and its sharply angled out feet add a little flare to proceedings.  

One other thing worth noting about these feet is that they’re not stuck right under the TV’s extreme corners, meaning you won’t need to find a bit of furniture the same width as the TV to sit it on.

Aside from its mostly unremarkable design, probably the most significant sign of the RF45’s entry level nature is its lack of any smart features (Netflix, Amazon, the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and so on). 

This may limit its appeal to some, though it’s worth stating that there are many pretty affordable external devices (such as the Amazon Fire TV) that can add such features to the RF45. The aforementioned PS4 carries many online video sources, too. And don’t forget, either, that a growing number of these external ‘smart’ boxes can also now stream HDR content.

Performance

Given its budget nature, the RF45 doesn’t have enough brightness or colour range to deliver an uncompromised HDR experience. However, impressively its does have Sony’s X-Reality Pro picture processing engine at its heart. This is more powerful than any processing you’d typically find on an entry level TV, so hopefully HDR  images will ‘remap’ to the TV’s capabilities well enough. 

Experience shows, too, that the X-Reality Pro system should deliver superior upscaling of standard definition sources, and enhanced colour refinement to help you experience the maximum benefit from the screen’s 1920x1080 resolution. 

Also connected to X-Reality Pro and a very pleasant surprise to find at the RF45’s likely very affordable price point is Sony’s MotionFlow 400Hz system, for reducing judder and blur when showing motion. Sony’s motion processing has long been ahead of the pack, and tends to be especially useful on budget TVs where motion issues can often be such a drag on picture quality.

The last things we can report ahead of the RF45s launching in the spring are that they support both the industry standard HDR10 and broadcast-based HLG HDR formats, and that their connections include two HDMIs, a headphone jack, and a USB capable of playing back video, photograph and music files. 

Early verdict

While it’s rather lacking in the smart connectivity and design departments, Sony’s entry-level screen will be packed to the gills with some of the brand’s better picture processing tech. 

Will that be enough to make it the best beginner screen of 2018? We’ll just have to wait until we have one for ourselves to find out. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.