on December 6, 2017
I'm a TV Director so I'm pretty picky about image quality, and getting a good value when I buy gear. After doing a ton of research I was leaning toward the Samsung MU8000, and frankly I felt that paying $1300 for that TV was a bit too indulgent, even for me. OLED is also even more stunning but it didn't seem like the picture quality was worth all the extra money, basically twice as much. But a Black friday deal on this unit at BB for just $200 more than the Samsung tipped the scales and I took the plunge.
A quick tip on comparing TVs: when you go to a store, each brand's display models are PURPOSELY setup so the more expensive one has an obviously better picture. Yet that doesn't mean the cheaper TVs can't approach the same image quality, or sometimes beat it. With proper adjustment just about any TV these days can look pretty amazing. Plus, they won't input the same image to different brand TVs, so you can't really compare. It's a bit of a guessing game, and the best you can do is ask to adjust the settings, get a model to look as good as you can, and do the same for another model. But frankly, without the same image on both, it's a bit of a guessing game. I found the testing on RTings to be quite thorough, and that was my primary research method.
On the OS, I don't know what the negative reviews about the Android OS are about, mine works well, very little lag or waiting. The first thing I did was update the firmware, so maybe that's been fixed in the update. Sure, when there's more network traffic it's a little slower than normal, but that's to be expected, and is a function of your bandwidth, not the TV. Also make sure you connect an actual ethernet cable, don't rely on Wifi, it's typically much slower, even on 5G, and prone to signal dropouts.
First and foremost, the image quality is stunning. That's the main reason I got it, and I planned to bypass the potentially problematic Smart Tv functions and use my Roku. And compared to my previous Samsung 1080 HD TV, this Sony 4K unit is pretty impressive. After setting it up (get a SMPTE Color Bars video on YTube and learn how to use it), everything was richer, even regular HD content was better than my old Samsung. But HDR is supposed to be even more of a difference than 4K...
So then I dug deeper, and found that while 4K (Ultra HD) is passed through from my Roku 4 to the TV, HDR is NOT passed through (newer Roku "Ultra" models apparently do). So I just connected a LAN line to the TV, and I now have both the Roku and the Smart TV functions working. Although I can't do an instant A/B comparison, in about 15 seconds I can switch between Smart TV with HDR and the Roku without HDR... on the same show, same scene... and yes, the HDR on this set seems a tiny bit better, a little more contrast and detail than non-HDR. But frankly, it's not as big a difference as I expected... maybe as I watch more ocntent I'll find a bigger difference. But above all, either way gives a pretty stunning picture.
You also have to remember that a lot of the advances in image quality are true for ALL brands... 4K gives a big improvement, and HDR a little more. It has nothing to do with brands, it's the technology. So many TV's in the same price range can give you a pretty similar image... but the Sony seemed jsut a bit more rich, with a bit more contrast, and contrast/ range is a key determinant in image quality.
I have just two gripes, but they aren't deal breakers for me:
1. The menu options are pretty extensive, but on occasion the menu gets "stuck", when you hit the "home" menu button... hitting the menu button a 2nd time doesn't make the menu go away as it should, and the only way to get it off the screen is to re-select the input. Other times it works as it supposed to.
2. I wish the picture adjustments I made could be translated among different inputs. In other words, you get it set for, say, Amazon in the Smart Tv app. Then you go to another source, say Netflix through Roku, and the picture is darker. Or sometimes you find differences even between different movies on the same source. And the "Auto Adjust" function on the TV should fix that in theory, but in practice I didn't like the Auto function at all. So I'm constantly adjusting the brightness manually. But that's not necessarily the TV's fault... as the Auto sensing technology gets better, I expect they'll have better code that will automatically keep the contrast ratios and color balance you've set across all input sources.
The sound isnt' bad for TV speakers, but after all, they're tiny, lightweight speakers, so you shouldn't expect much... get an AV Receiver or a sound bar.
It took a while, but I got all my external devices to play nice with the Sony remote, so that's pretty cool that I can do the typical functions on Roku and my Yamaha AV Receiver with just the Sony remote. And it has all the necessary inputs and outputs, and tons of menu functions to control them. It took me a while to get ARC working, but that was more on my Receiver end (both the TV and the Receiver need to have HDMI control turned on, and turn on ARC on the Receiver).
Regarding Sony service, I've bought tons of gear from Sony over the years, including top end broadcast cameras, sound systems, car stereo, and Vaio computers. And I've also seen the quality and engineering go downhill over the years, too. In fact, my recent experiences with Sony Customer Service on some top end Vaio laptops was so frustrating I vowed never to buy another Sony product again. So I had to have a really good reason to get this unit, and the picture quality was so compelling I took the plunge... I can only hope I don't regret this Sony purchase.
Would I be just as happy with the Samsung? Maybe. Probably. But be sure to research the ads that you can't turn off... Samsung has built ads into their smart TV menus that you apparently can't disable at all... you can only disable some ads. That's a big turnoff for me, especially considering how much you pay for a Samsung.