Sony KDL-W800B series review: Gaming-friendly TV gives good picture and value

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Value: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The Sony KDL-W800B series is capable of pleasing shadow detail and decent color performance; one of the better black-level performances from a frame-dimming TV as well as a lack of black uniformity issues; very low lag means it's great for gamers; a refreshing lack of gadgetry for its own sake; it has an attractive design.

The Bad Terrible 3D performance -- and I mean it really stinks. Local dimming TVs such as the cheaper Vizio E and M series can beat the Sony for blacks And it's on the pricey side.

The Bottom Line The Sony KDL-W800B series is a classy television with excellent color and shadow detail, but in pure bang-for-buck terms, its black level can be bettered for much less.

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Back in the days of the CRT, Sony had a fairly unassailable position as the reference when it came to picture quality: everyone aspired to owning a Trinitron. Sadly, the company's reputation has dulled in recent years with the transition to LCD, and Samsung dethroned the Japanese company saleswise many years ago.

But this doesn't mean Sony has put out poor TVs, and in some cases the company can outdo its rival at the same price. Case in point: the W800B is a better performer than the Samsung H6350, with better blacks, shadow detail, and uniformity.

No, it's not as flashy as other TVs for the price -- it doesn't have "the best remote control ever invented," for example -- but this is a very solid television with pleasing design. It won't sell as many units, but it is nonetheless much better value for money than the Samsung H6350 and H6400.

But there is one thing that prevents top marks going to the W800B: that little upstart Vizio and its phenomenally good (for the money) 2014 E-series television. It's cheaper than both the Samsung and Sony by quite a bit and has class-leading black levels.

While I'd point you in Vizio's direction first if you're after a "cheap" TV, if you're a Sony fan or a super-keen gamer then the very low input lag times of the W800B make it worthy of consideration.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the Sony KDL-50W800B, but this review applies to the 55-inch model, too. Both sizes have identical specs, and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Design

The W800B is unmistakably a Sony design, with its "mirror" central panel and spindly metal stand. The bezel features a thin, attractive black aluminum frame that wraps around the edges of the television. This helps foster the illusion that the Sony is "all screen."

sony-kdl-50w800b-product-photos03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The main difference between this model and the step-up W850 is in the design of the cabinet. While the W800 opts for the standard skinny profile, the more-expensive W850 chooses an unusual thick-bottomed"wedge" design that has the added benefit of improving its sound, particularly the bass.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Speaking of thick, the W800B is the first TV we've seen of its size to include an external power brick.

sony-kdl-50w800b-product-photos08.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony's remote control has a bit of the World Cup fever about it with its dedicated "football" button, but aside from this and the Twitter-centric Social View, it is a mostly practical and ergonomic remote.

The menu system has received an upgrade with a more "OS-like" appearance -- for example, the Home page now features a set of icons along the top including a Settings cipher. Once you get deeper into the menu system it's just as easy yet confusing to use as before. One confusing bit is accessing the Scene menu: it's accessed via Options>Cinema which gives you the best picture quality, and isn't all that intuitive.

Key TV features
Display technology: LCD LED backlight: Edge-lit
Screen shape: Flat Resolution: 1080p
Smart TV: Yes Remote: Standard
Cable box control: No IR blaster: N/A
3D technology: Active 3D glasses included: Two pairs (TDG-BT400A)
Screen finish: Semi-matte Refresh rate: 120Hz
DLNA-compliant: Photo/Music/Video USB media: Photo/Music/Video
Screen mirroring: Yes Control via app Yes
Other: Optional subwoofer, available in black or white (SWF-BR100, $299), extra 3D glasses (TDG-BT400A, $50 list); PlayStation Now streaming game compatibility

Features

As the second-cheapest model in Sony's lineup for 2014, the W800B comes with mainstream-level features. As far as picture quality enhancements are concerned, this is an edge-lit television that lacks local dimming. It features a 120Hz panel; just ignore the higher number specified by its "MotionFlow 480 XR" processing.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

As a 3D TV, the W800B includes two pair of active 3D glasses. Additional pairs are available for $50 each, but since the TV adheres to the full HD 3D standard, you can use third-party glasses like Samsung's cheap SSG-5150GBs.

If you want to boost the sound quality of the W800B, the company offers an optional subwoofer (SWF-BR100, $299) that connects wirelessly to the TV.

Smart TV: Most companies have upgraded their smart TV offerings for 2014, these range from complete (LG) to mild (Panasonic). Sony is somewhere in the middle with a new interface and more content suggestions than before.

sony-kdl-50w800b-product-photos-screenshots05.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The old XrossMediaBar is long gone, and it's been replaced by single pages as well as a small group of icons along the top. You get a choice of Movies, Album, Music, and Apps, all of which heavily feature Sony content, of course.

The selection of content is ample, with the only major omission among major video apps being HBO Go, something Sony offers on the PS3 but not its televisions.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony includes hundreds of Apps in its menu, but accessing them is mainly for the adventurous. Sadly, there is no way to sort them by name, only by whatever secret formula Sony seems to have determined is the key. and organizing them is done only by scanning through them all and adding individual items to a "My Apps" list.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Type LED-LCD
  • LED Backlight Type Edge-lit
  • Display Format 1080p
  • Diagonal Size 55 in
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