Best Sony TV 2018: fortune favours the Bravia

From the world’s most innovative OLED TV to mid-range HDR heroes, if you want to buy the best Sony TV, our pick should help you decide

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So you you want to buy a new Sony TV? Brands have been brutally compared and evaluated, and your decision is final: your next telly will be  the best Sony Bravia you can afford. It’s an understandable decision. Sony has been knocking it out of the park when it comes to 4K UHD, offering TVs which are a fine combination of style, performance and price.

Question is, what model should you go for?

Is it time to bag a flagship performer, like the Sony A1 OLED or the acclaimed ZD9 LED LCD TV? Or does it make more sense to go frugal, with a well specified flatscreen that won’t wipe out your slush fund?

Take our guided tour through the best Sony’s TVs available right now, to help make up your mind...

Sony's best TVs, in our order of preference

Sony KD65A1

1. Sony KD65A1

Until 2018's new screens arrive, this 4K OLED remains the best TV Sony has ever made

Specifications
Screen size: 65-inches
Other sizes available: 55-inch, 77-inch
HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
HDMI: 4
USB: 3
Dimensions: 1451 x 834 x 86mm
Reasons to buy
+Sensational, cinematic images+Innovative sound system
Reasons to avoid
-Lean-back design requires low AV furniture-Android TV OS creaks like a haunted house

There’s no doubt about it: the 65-inch version of Sony’s A1 OLED flagship TV is jaw-droppingly fine. I might even go so far as to say it's a TV classic.

The design is stylish, but unusual. The KD-65A1 doesn’t employ a conventional pedestal stand, but leans back on a hinged support, which also accommodates all the AV inputs, and houses an 8cm subwoofer.  

Build quality and finish are high. But it’s not just the design which is remarkable. The set features an Acoustic Surface sound system. Rather than use conventional speaker drivers, the OLED panel itself vibrates to provide audio, agitated by twin sonic actuators on the back panel. The total audio output of the TV is rated at 50 watts, and in full flight sounds positively strident. 

Picture quality is similarly outstanding, helped in part by Sony’s 4K HDR X1 Extreme picture processing engine. Blacks are deep, while bright spectral highlights make for dynamic HDR.  

The TV supports HDR10 and HLG broadcast HDR out of the box; a DolbyVision firmware update is on the cards. There’s also object-based HDR remastering which does a phenomenal job boosting highlights on SDR material.

The smart platform here is the Android TV OS, with Chromecast built-in. It’s notoriously inelegant, but you can integrate it with a Google Assistant smart speaker, while Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube all stream in 4K. There’s also a YouView app to replace the Freeview HD programme guide, and this offers all mainstream Catch-Up TV services.

Overall, I rate this a sensational OLED TV. Premium telly just doesn’t get much better. Money-saving tip: the 55-inch version is more affordable than it has any right to be.

Sony KD-65XE9005

2. Sony KD-65XE9005

Sony's best 4K HDR LED LCD TV for sports

Specifications
Screen size: 65 inches
Other sizes available: 49-inch, 55-inch, 75-inch
HDR: HDR10, HLG
HDMI: 4
USB: 3
Dimensions: 1228 x 707 x 60mm
Reasons to buy
+Direct LED backlight+Excellent motion, detail and colour fidelity
Reasons to avoid
-Not overly bright -Android OS is still not great

Sony’s XE90 LCD TV family doesn’t use LED edge-lighting, but rather has a direct LED backlight system. This gives them a tangible edge when it comes to portraying movies and sports.

Tonal uniformity is improved for one thing; there’s no light splodges around the edge of the screen. This backlight approach also improves HDR handling. The KD-55XE9005 supports both HDR10 and HLG. Yes, I did notice some bloom around bright HDR highlights, but overall HDR precision is better than that on an edge-lit LED screen for similar money.

The set is nicely finished too. A smart aluminium trim gives the screen a premium feel, and there’s an easy to accommodate pedestal stand if you don’t want to wall mount. All four HDMI inputs are 4K HDCP 2.2 compatible for use with UHD set top boxes and Blu-ray. There’s also three USBs and component AV.

Image quality is deliciously crisp. The set uses Sony’s standard X1 HDR processor, which offers Super Bit Mapping 4K HDR and Object Based HDR Remastering, to defeat banding and make the most of SDR content. There’s also a 4K version of Sony’s X-Reality Pro image processor.  

A wide colour gamut (WCG) Triluminos panel, it boasts a gorgeously vibrant colour performance. 

The screen uses the familiar Android TV OS, alongside a YouView programme interface. Chromecast is built-in. Streaming services include the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, all of which stream in 4K, and there’s a full complement of catch-up TV players.

All things considered, we rate the XE90 a fine HDR LED LCD TV that won’t break the bank.  It’s well worth shortlisting.

Sony KD-65ZD9

3. Sony KD-65ZD9

Best Sony HDR LED LCD TV performer

Specifications
Screen size: 65-inches
Other sizes available: 75-inch
HDR: HDR10, HLG, DolbyVision
HDMI: 4
USB: 3
Dimensions: 1462 x 847 x 78mm
Reasons to buy
+Literally the brightest HDR star in Sony’s UHD fleet+Premium design
Reasons to avoid
-Android TV OS… but you knew we’d say that, didn’t you?

If you’re looking for hands down the most spectacular HDR performer in Sony’s range, don your sunglasses and take a squint at the mighty ZD9. This stunning LED LCD TV features a full array backlight, dubbed the Master Backlight Drive, and can deliver unfettered HDR in a way few screens can match.

Also available in 75-inch (KD-75ZD9) and 100-inch (KD-100ZD9) screen sizes, the ZD9 is capable of astonishingly bright spectral highlights, allied to a wide colour gamut and ultra sharp image processing.

The Backlight Master Drive comprises a number of calibrated white LED lights, driven by a highly accurate lighting algorithm. As the design focuses every LED light into a tight spot, the effect is less diffusion with brighter HDR images.

Out of the box, the set supports HDR10 and HLG, and there’s a DolbyVision firmware update incoming, because the set uses Sony’s top of the line X1 Extreme imaging chip.

Cosmetic design is slick, with a black slate bezel and premium gold trim. The neatly pattern rear panel disguises the usual number of inputs, which includes four HDMIs and a trio of USBs.

This is a sublime performer in every respect. Bathe in the glow of its HDR.

Sony KD-55XE8596


4. Sony KD-55XE8596

Best mid-price Sony HDR TV

Specifications
Screen size: 55-inch **Other sizes available** 65-inch, 75-inch **HDR** HDR10, HLG **HDMI** 4 **USB** 3 **Dimensions** 1232 x 717 x 57mm
Reasons to buy
+Punchy picture performance+Above average motion handling
Reasons to avoid
-Mid-range HDR performance-Feels a little flimsy

If you want a mid-priced Sony 4K HDR set with very solid picture credentials, the XE85 line is well worth a look. Featured here in its 55-inch guise, the XE85 is also available in 65- and 75-inch screen sizes, and all are competitively priced.

The image processor is the mid-priced X1 4K HDR, but it does a fine job. Motionflow picture processing reduces blur and judder, making this a solid bet for sports fans.  

The KD-55XE8596 is HDR10 and HLG (broadcast HDR) compatible, and delivers a balanced dynamic performance. HDR Object-based Remastering adds a highlight boost to all SDR content. A Triluminos WCG (wide colour gamut) panel, colour vibrancy is high.

Audio performance is somewhat routine, as you'd expect, with a 2x10W sound system that's polite at best. Partnering it with a soundbar or stonking great home cinema receiver, would be our recommendation, as ever.The thin-bezel frame is somewhat lightweight (it’s here that corners have been evidently cut to meet a price point), but panel and image processing remain undeniably a cut above. Connections include four HDMIs, plus three USBs and legacy AV inputs.

The smart platform in use here is the Android TV OS, with Chromecast built-in. There’s also a YouView app which adds integrated catch-up TV services for BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, All4 and demand 5. Streaming apps include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, with 4K support.   

Like we said: very solid.

Sony KD-43XE7003

5. Sony KD-43XE7003

Best cheap Sony 4K UHD TV2160p HDR pictureFreeview PlayNot the brightest HDR star

Specifications
Screen size: 43-inch
Other screen sizes available: 49-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch
HDR: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+
HDMI: 3
USB: 3
Dimensions: 571 x 971 x 70mm
Reasons to buy
+High brightness HDR+Premium design
Reasons to avoid
-No Freeview Play

Sony’s entry-level 4K HDR screen is well worth a closer look. At first glance, it appears much like its upmarket siblings, all thin black bezel and central pedestal with crafty cable management, but while it’s net connected it doesn’t use the Android TV OS.

Instead, there’s far more modest Linux-based VOD platform onboard that offers key streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Youtube, without additional bloat. The remote features dedicated YouTube and Netflix buttons, for faster loading. 

While step-up 4K screens rely on a Youview app for integrated catch-up TV, the XE7003 employs a Freeview Play tuner. In many ways, this is a more elegant solution.

HDR enabled, the set supports HDR10, and enhances image clarity with Sony’s 4K X-Reality PRO and Frame Dimming technologies. An Advanced Contrast Enhancer and Black Adjust tweak add a little bit of variable bite. Colour vibrancy is high, while a 200Hz iteration of MotionFlow XR smoothes motion handling.

Connections include three HDMIs and a trio of USBs. The onboard sound system is rated at 20W, and there’s ClearAudio+ processing for improved clarity, although don’t expect anything particularly symphonic.

If you’re looking for a low-cost 2160p screen with HDR compatibility, then the EX700 has exactly the right credentials. It looks great, and the simplified smart platform is just the ticket.

The EX700 range also includes similarly affordable  49- (KD-49XE7003), 55- (KD-55XE7003) and 65-inch (KD-65XE7003) models, in addition to the 43-incher featured here.