Sony's 2017 LED LCD range looks great, but it isn't the picture quality that'll sell you on it (even though it still looks pretty great). It's the smart TV experience, better realised here than in pretty much any other TV I've tested.
Sony's 4K LED LCD panels are a marked upgrade over last year's already impressive displays. While Sony doesn't release specifics on nits or backlighting, the broad strokes have it as brighter with more local dimming for higher contrast. Software-side HDR processors and upscaling leave even basic HD content looking crisp, and the colour and detail upscaling from 4K to HDR was breathtaking on the demo reel.
Now for the big question. The question that always get asked of a new TV. How does it stack up against OLED? Without a side-by-side comparison, it's hard to make a definitive call, but OLED's true blacks and rich colours still feel like the watermark. That's not to say Sony's new HDR offering looks washed out or lacking in contrast. If anything, it's a testament to just how revolutionary OLED is.
LG's OLED panels remain the ones to beat, but Sony's new Bravia range won't disappoint in terms of picture quality. It's also stepping up with design to rival LG's and a host of smart features that will hopefully win over new buyers.
While most TV manufacturers are going with paired soundbars, Sony's sound solution had them looking within. Three-speaker arrays offer subs, mids and high range built in, flowing through hidden sound channels that leave you with remarkable sound from a single TV.
Hiding those inner workings seems to be the name of the game, as the included low-profile podium mount has hollow frames for all your rear cables, so you won't catch sight of them trailing down behind your screen. If wall mounting is your thing, a double wishbone mount can sit flush with the wall at about an inch thick, or offer a huge range of motion to point your wall-mounted TV in a different direction.
Where the new Sony range really shines is in the software. A conscious effort to play up the "smart" half of smart TV has paid off, with voice-controlled Google Assistant ($300 at Amazon) and contextual searching, screen mirroring, the Android ecosystem and butter-smooth switching between apps.
Hold down the home button on your remote to open the app drawer, and switch to whatever you want to watch. Jumping between Netflix, YouTube, PlayStation and Blu-ray seamlessly felt great, but it was nothing compared to the voice control through Google Assistant. Anyone with the latest Apple TV will know how invaluable Siri is with the microphone-equipped remote, and here it is baked right into your TV.
The idea of channel hopping between apps on a smart TV has been a point of pride among the top TV manufacturers, but Sony's new interface is the smoothest experience I've had with it to date.
Range pricing and availability looks like this:
Release has it a little above current OLED pricing, but LG's range has been on the market for a couple of months now. The Sony range will soon be competing on price, and those smart features will make a strong argument, even if they aren't as showy as OLED.