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Sony TV Buying Guide 2020: How To Choose The Right TV
Looking for your next TV? Let’s find out which Sony TV is right for you!
We've put together a full Sony TV buying guide that aims to cut out the jargon and actually tell you which Sony TV out of their 2020 range you should be looking for in simple terms whether you’re into your games, sports, movies etc. We’re focusing on Sony today for those of you who have decided you want a Sony TV but maybe aren’t sure which model to go for. Admittedly, we were all a bit mystified about the number of models available in different screen sizes with varying features and multiple price points but now, after lots of research and multiple training sessions with Sony, we’re now in a position where we can really advise our customers what might suit them best.
Many retailers get a bad reputation for being biased and shoehorning you down a specific route and this is something we want to avoid. We’ve got a whole YouTube video dedicated to why we are starting with Sony so feel free to check that out! We will be looking to add other brands going forward and will be doing more reviews featuring different TV models and brands but we thought we’d kick things off with a buying guide for Sony’s 2020 TV range!
Sony TV Model Names
So if we look at the Sony range, Sony model names always look complicated but they can be split into different categories using a few of the letters and numbers in the model name. I’m going to give you an example so here we’ve got KD75XH8096BU which is obviously a bit of a mouthful. Straight away we can get rid of the KD at the start and the 96BU at the end as they’re not important! The 75 is the TV screen size in inches, X is the model class which might also be an A or a Z, H is for the year the model was created so H is 2020, G is 2019 etc and finally the 80 is TV model number and the higher this number, the better the model. The model numbers are slightly different here than in America so for example, the XH95 we have here in the UK is called the X950H in the US - because of course, us Brits always have to do things differently.
Sony TV Range 2020
The 2020 range starts with the X70 which is their entry level 4K HDR model with screen sizes available from 43” to 65” but we are going to start our comparison with the XH80 & XH81 which is what sony call their premium lineup. All models from here up benefit from the latest Android TV interface and all have the same speed processor to run the smart TV functions. This allows apps such as Netflix to launch three times faster than before. You also benefit from useful smart features like AirPlay or Google Assistant & Sony have also just announced that they are rolling out a software update to add the latest Apple TV app to these models. So budget allowing I would recommend starting your search at the XH81 or XH80 depending on the screen size you’re after.
Sony BRAVIA XH80
Just before we start comparing the models, all prices mentioned will be full retail so please check our product pages for the latest up to date prices & offers. Ok let’s start with the first model we have which is the XH80, Sony’s 4K HDR model with price ranges from £649 for the 43” model all the way up to the 85” model at £2199 but do note with this particular model, certain screen sizes are only available at exclusive retailers. It’s an LED screen with 4K HDR and Sony’s new X1 processor. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s break some of these terms down. You may have heard of LED before but to briefly explain, it is not responsible for the actual picture being shown but rather the TV light and how bright the picture ends up being. In LED panels such as the XH80, XH81 and XH85, the bulbs are placed around the perimeter of the screen and then use a guide to distribute the light across the screen. They are called edge-lit because the TV is essentially illuminated from the edges. You can step up to Full-Array or OLED models which I’ll cover in a bit.
When it comes to picture resolution, the more pixels you have, the more detailed the picture. 4K results in a total of more than 8 million pixels which is a big step up from 1080P screens which offer only a quarter of the amount of the total pixels in 4K and really 4K is the minimum you want to be looking for on a TV these days. HDR stands for high dynamic range and is more of a photographic term to heighten the contrast between the brightest whites and the deepest blacks. This has a big impact in making the picture seem as close to real life as possible and again this is something you’ll definitely want on any modern TV.
Then we have the X1 processor, now the processor in a TV is one of the most important elements to the quality of the picture you see on the screen and is responsible for things like refresh rate, colour richness, quality of the textures and much more. Sony have made a completely new processor for 2020, the X1, and from what we’ve seen it does an extremely good job at handling even the most complex picture. Also in the XH80, you get Sony’s X-Balanced Speaker system built in with the same concept found in their wireless speakers. The idea is that the drivers are sort of egg-shaped so it takes benefits from oval-shaped drivers and circular shaped drivers and combine them in one. If you’re planning to use a soundbar though, this of course won’t be an advantage to you.
Sony BRAVIA XH81
So what do you get when you step up to the XH81 which starts from £699 for the 43” up to £999 for the 65”. Well, not an awful lot actually. You get a more premium stand and their premium backlit remote - whether those are important characteristics to you, we’ll leave that down to you. The XH81 is not available larger than 65” though so if you’re looking for a larger sized LED TV, then go for the XH80.
Sony BRAVIA XH85
Next we have the XH85 which is Sony’s best LED TV that’s not Full Array starting from £849 for the 43” but only goes up to 49” which is available for £899. For the extra cash, first off you get an aluminium bezel which gives the TV a much more premium finish, you get upgraded Motionflow so the clarity of motion is clearer again with less blur which is great for gaming or sports fans. Also with the XH85, you get an HDMI eARC connection - now if you’ve watched any of our Sonos Arc soundbar reviews, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but essentially this is the most advanced HDMI connection on the market at the moment and supports a much higher bandwidth. What does that mean to you and I? Well, it’s a future-proof form of HDMI that can transmit high quality audio from your TV to your Soundbar or AVR and passes through uncompressed Dolby Atmos - great if you intend to use a Dolby Atmos soundbar with your TV such as the Sonos Arc. Although, the XH80 and 81 will both allow atmos content to pass through their standard HDMI-ARC connection so the eARC is more of a future-proofing feature. You do actually lose the X-balanced speakers in the XH85 so I’d recommend using a soundbar with this model anyway.
Sony BRAVIA xh90
The Sony XH90 is a bit of a jump up from the XH85 offering a Full Array LED screen, a step up in sound performance with Acoustic multi-audio and better technology for picture quality with X-tended dynamic range and x-motion clarity. So again let’s cover those terms in more detail. Full Array LED screens differ from standard LED screens as they light zones of LEDs independently which helps to offer a better level of contrast making light areas lighter and dark areas darker. The XH90 is also the first in the range to offer local dimming which helps to enhance those black levels. This is then combined with additional features including X-tended dynamic range and X-motion clarity which together enhance the luminosity of the LEDs to offer a brightness range which is 3 times wider than standard LED tvs. The combination of these technologies leads to an improved colour and contrast and smoother, brighter and more blur free shots therefore making this TV better for sports and action sequences.
The XH90 starts at £1,099 and is available in a large range of screen sizes - 55, 65, 75 and 85”. With a metal blade stand and narrow aluminium bezel it offers a neat finish for a more immersive viewing experience. It’s proved to be a pretty popular TV with reviews. It was branded an “excellent mid-range 4K TV” by T3 and awarded the What Hifi award for best 65inch TV under £2000 this year in 2020. This is the first TV in the range to offer a Netflix Calibrated mode and that means you can activate a preset in the settings to ensure the best picture settings are automatically selected when you’re viewing Netflix content. If you’re a regular Netflix viewer you might want to consider the XH90 or above to take advantage of this handy feature.
This TV is also an option for gamers and the HDR gaming is notably good. The XH90 would probably be one of our top Sony picks for gaming however I have to admit it’s not all gold stars. The XH90 struggles a bit with the variable refresh rate and while Sony are currently rolling out HDMI 2.1 features via firmware updates which should improve that we will need to do some proper testing to check how this compares with some of the best TVs out there for gaming. In general, I would say something like the LG OLED48CX or 55CX are at the top of my list when it comes to gaming TVs so you might want to check them out if that’s your number 1 priority.
When it comes to sound the XH90 is a step up from the XH85 with that acoustic multi-audio although this isn’t available in the 55” model. Acoustic Multi-audio means this model has sound positioning tweeters on the side bezels of the TV which offer more precisely controlled audio. This provides more accurate sound from the exact point it happens on screen which offers a more life-like reproduction of audio for a more immersive experience. I’d say for the average TV viewer this would do the job but I personally find the bass is lacking a bit and would probably look to add either a soundbar or soundbar and sub to enhance that audio performance.
Sony BRAVIA xh95
Now things really step up in the model above. The XH95 is Sony’s flagship full array LED which we think offers the best value for money in Sony’s entire range of LED TVs. It features Sony’s X1 Ultimate Processor which is found in their top of the range Master Series models including their 8k models. It also offers crisper visuals and wider viewing angles thanks to X-Wide Angle technology. The XH95 comes in the largest range of screen sizes with 49’ up to 85” starting at £999 up to *cough* £3,699 for that largest screen size. It has some slight cosmetic upgrades on the XH90 with a backlit remote which is a nice extra, a flush surface and adjustable width stands which is good if you’ve got a smaller TV unit to stand the TV on.
Now as i said the XH95 is a big step up again from the XH90 and that’s primarily down to the processor which has a huge influence on the picture quality. This Ultimate processor is twice as fast as the X1 processor found in all the models below and renders each object on the screen individually to offer a more clear and colour realistic image from any angle. The XH95 also offers X-tended dynamic range pro which is a slight upgrade on the xtended dynamic range in the XH90 with 6 times the contrast. However the other key feature to highlight is the x-wide viewing angle which makes this TV great for placing in the corner of a room with a better viewing angle than you get with the majority of LED TVs. Colours are also adjusted to stay more true to life from whichever angle you’re watching from.
Sony BRAVIA a8
The next step up from the XH95 is into OLED territory with the A8 and this jump offers exceptional contrast, brightness and blur free visuals. So the A8 is the first OLED TV in the range so let’s quickly cover the advantages of OLED. For us, OLED is the future for TVs going forward offering a picture quality that is very difficult to replicate in LED screens. OLED screens make colours noticeably more vivid and most importantly offer true black levels. This is because the individual LEDs can be tailored to the needs of the pixel they are lighting, offering a broader spectrum of colour and blacker blacks. Due to the longer and more complex manufacturing process of an OLED TV, these extra costs are often reflected in their price.
Again the A8 boasts that X1 ultimate processor and the other great features found in the XH95. On top of those it also offers a pixel contrast booster to take that OLED screen even further, ensuring 4K and HDR content is even more vivid and detailed. The A8 also offers an adjustable height stand which is a handy feature if you’re considering placing a soundbar on the same TV unit.
The other standout feature of the A8 is Acoustic Surface Audio. Now this is another step up from Acoustic multi-audio and personally I was pretty blown away by this feature when we tested it in our office. Essentially the sound emanates from the screen itself with two actuators which vibrate the TV imperceptibly and a pair of subwoofers provide deep bass and a more dynamic sound overall. This works really effectively, not only is the sound really realistic and comes from wherever that noise was made on the screen but it’s also a really high quality of audio performance. Just for context, my colleagues played a blind test on me to see if I’d believe that the TV was playing audio from its own internal speakers disguised with a Sony soundbar sitting in front of it, and I genuinely thought it was coming from the soundbar - it was that good. For the real movie and music enthusiasts I think you might still want to push it further with either a soundbar or surround sound setup but I’d actually recommend getting this first and testing it out as you’d be surprised how well it performs.
Now you are limited to 2 sizes with the A8, 55” and 65” and while these are the most popular sizes out there it would have been nice to see the full range of sizes available. These start at £1,699 for the 55” and a big jump up to £2599 for the 65”. I think if you’re in the market for a 55 or 65 inch TV and can stretch your budget to access this level of performance then these would be our top picks. They are a huge step up in quality without a crazy leap in price from the models before. One thing I would point out is the HDMI connections. It has 4 HDMI inputs including HDMI eARC which is at this price point a non-negotiable in new TV models to avoid latency with connected soundbars. However like the XH95 it doesn't fully support HDMI 2.1 so you’ll experience that lack of variable refresh rate. Sony would justify this as they don’t see this specific TV as appealing to gamers but rather film enthusiasts so again I’d maybe look at that LG OLEDCX if that’s what you’re after.
Sony BRAVIA a9
Now the A9 is the first in the Master Series from Sony designed to bring the director or creator’s ideas to life in your living room with extra calibration. I would say that the A9 is a bit of an anomaly in this line-up as it’s only available in the smaller screen size of 48”. It’s very similar to the A8 being an OLED screen and featuring the same great features and that X1 Ultimate Processor. For me, I’d only suggest this model if you wanted to experience OLED on a smaller scale and had a room suited for a 48” TV.
Sony BRAVIA ag9
The Sony AG9 is also in the Master Series and was actually one of Sony’s best-selling OLEDs of 2019 so they’ve decided to continue it for 2020. One of the main advantages of this model is the large screen size option so on top of a 55 and 65 inch option you’ve also got the choice of a 77” screen for those wanting even bigger.
Now another benefit of opting for this model is the sound performance. So the AG9 offers Acoustic Surface Audio +. So this is the same as the A8 where the screen is the speaker but the differentiator is the AG9 utilises an additional subwoofer to offer deeper bass. Another great audio feature Is that the AG9 can act as a centre speaker as part of a wider full surround setup. This will help to bring out the vocals or dialogue with a better level of clarity and also means you can pair up with a set of floorstanders either side of the TV to create a more immersive audio experience.
Sony BRAVIA zh8
And we’re finally onto the last TV in the Sony 2020 line-up, the ZH8. This reverts back to a full array led technology but offers support for 8K. Again this just takes things that bit further pushing the processor and screen to the max. So like 4K, 8K refers to the resolution of the TV and it essentially offers a higher resolution than 4K with 4 times the number of pixels and that’s 16 times that of a 1080p TV. For the viewer this means your picture will be a lot sharper and more detailed and it’s the very best picture quality available at this moment in time.
Now there isn’t a lot of 8K support available currently but the sweetener is that the ZH8 will upscale your 2K or 4K content for the 8K panel which should add a bit extra detail and clarity bringing it closer to 8K resolution. The ZH8 does this using 8K X-Reality Pro technology and a unique 8K database and it individually optimises the resolution of each subject on the screen using Object-based super resolution technology which makes everything look more realistic and reproduces real world textures. Another benefit of opting for the ZH8 is an improvement to the audio performance. It also uses Acoustic Multi-Audio but this model includes a vibrating frame tweeter which can follow the action to further improve the immersion.
Now, more 8K content will come, like it did with 4K, but I’d only really recommend this TV if you’re looking for the very best available and want to future proof yourself going forwards. They’re very expensive and just not really necessary for the majority of TV buyers and I think it’ll be a couple of years before I’d consider one myself. I’ll also just point out that you’ll also need at least HDMI 2.1 for 8K content.
Recommended Soundbar/ sound system setups
Now I’ve highlighted some of the audio potential in these TVs but there are going to be a lot of you watching who might already own a soundbar or home sound system or are looking to invest in one and want to know which we’d recommend and which are compatible. First and foremost, all of the Sony TVs we’ve covered today will pass through Dolby Atmos and that’s crucial to point out as only the XH85 and above offer an eARC connection. That means no matter what TV you go for in this range you’ll be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos content in some way.
So Sony do their own soundbars which we do stock on our site such as the HT-X8500 2.1 soundbar with an inbuilt subwoofer for £299 and the HT-G700 3.1 system for £399. We will be doing a video on these at some point but the Sony soundbars are a good option if you’re looking for a simple way of boosting the sound quality from your TV. If we are speaking generally, Sony soundbars are loaded with features such as DTS, Atmos, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity etc. We would certainly recommend the HT-G700 3.1 system as this comes with a separate subwoofer and Atmos support at an affordable price.
Some other options you could consider would be the Sonos Beam, also for £399, as this unlocks a much more robust multi-room system and is clearer on the vocals. If you can stretch to the Sonos Arc for £799 you’ll get Atmos support on another level with dedicated upwards firing drivers for a fully immersive listening experience. If you want to avoid the soundbar approach, you could use an AV receiver and wire some bookshelf or floor standing speakers for a bespoke home cinema experience.
Now you may be comparing some of these Sony TV models to other brands out there like Samsung or LG. We will be doing more in-depth videos with some comparisons and delve into the models in a lot more detail very soon so let us know in the comments what you’d like to see. If you’re looking to upgrade your TV or your audio setup then do check us out online at www.smarthomesounds.co.uk. We are an official Sony retailer as well as other brands such as Sonos and Bowers and Wilkins to name a few. We have spent a lot of time getting to know these TVs so if you’re after some more personal advice or have any questions then don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat we’re always more than happy to help. We do offer free delivery and hassle-free returns as well as 12 months interest free payment options to help make things a bit easier!