FOR Lovely, vibrant but natural colours; detail; SD upscaling AGAINST Struggles to produce anything approaching black
As manufacturers continue to push punters into super-sizing their lounge TVS, smaller models have been somewhat neglected. We’re not even talking about genuinely small TVS here. Depending on the manufacturer, getting flagship tech and features means buying at least a 49in or 55in model – and for some people that’s simply too big.
With Sony, if 43in is your limit the most advanced model you can buy is the KD-43XF8505, which boasts features from the 49in-plus XF9005 but ditches the local-dimming, direct-led backlight in favour of LED backlighting from the edges.
This turns out to be a poor decision, because, while the XF8505 is in some ways one of the best TVS in its class, its backlight badly lets the side down.
It's a handsome set. It shares the splayed stance of the XF9005 but the arched feet make it look less awkward. It's no super-slim OLED, but at 5.8cm it’s lean enough and looks neat when wall-mounted.
Connections and apps
Around the back, you’ll find four HDMI inputs, two of which can handle 4K HDR signals (HDR10 and HLG are supported), three USB sockets, ethernet, aerial and satellite (but not Freesat) connections.
Google’s Android TV brings with it a comprehensive selection of apps, including Netflix and Amazon Video (in 4K and HDR), Google Play Movies and TV (in 4K), Spotify, Rakuten, Plex, VLC, BBC iplayer and My5.
Android is generally getting better with each update, but the XF8505 suffers quite badly with stutter and lag. This can be a bit irritating, with jerkiness through menus and long pauses in certain situations.
Kicking off with current test favourite Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 on 4K Blu-ray, there’s a fair bit about the Sony’s performance that’s pleasing. For a start, colours are rather lovely. There’s a richness and vibrancy that’s really enticing without being overdone: whites are pure, skin tones are natural and subtle shades abound.
Detail levels are high, too, and while the image isn’t quite as sharp as that of last year’s Award-winning Samsung UE40MU6400, it’s nicely defined in its own right. Motion processing, though not perfect, is also a step up from most TV'S this size.
It’s also a bright image – much more so than its rivals at this size – and that would make it a perfect foil for an HDR movie such as this, were it not for the fact that the set is completely incapable of producing anything even approaching black to act as a contrast.
Essentially, if there’s anything even a little bright on the screen, the backlight makes everything else grey. Any image that combines light and dark elements is left looking hazy – and that’s a big problem for a film with so much space-based action.
Different film, same story
It’s also a problem when we drop down to the 1080p Blu-ray of Logan; the scenes inside Wolverine’s near-windowless hideaway are the wrong kind of gloomy.
We drop another level of resolution and the Sony is surprisingly impressive. The issue of black depth remains, but our Dirty Harry DVD and standard-def content via the Freeview tuner are otherwise sharper and more detailed than on rival sets.
The Standard mode’s default settings are pretty much as good as the XF8505 gets. We switch off the noise reduction options, but no amount of experimenting produces the blacks we are looking for without dropping brightness to unacceptable levels.
The Sony's sound, though thin, is at least clear and more spacious than average.
There’s a lot to like about the KD43XF8505 – in many ways this is a five-star set – but some problems are so big that they cost a product not one, but two stars, and that’s the case with the backlighting of this Sony. We’d expect better from a TV costing £400, let alone one with a £700 price tag.