How to buy the best TV
How to buy the best Sony TV
By Martin Pratt
Article 4 of 7
We see what's in store for Sony range of OLED and LCD TVs in 2018, and demystify the marketing lingo, so you know your X1 Extreme processor from your X-Reality Pro.
There's no shortage of TVs in Sony's 2018 line up, with a new OLED leading the pack followed by four new LCD ranges.
Not all of Sony's 2017 TVs are being put out to pasture, though. The new AF8 OLED actually sits underneath last year's A1 OLED in the pecking order. The same goes for Sony's LCD TVs. The ZD9 will stick around on store shelves for another year, backed up by the new XF90, XF85, XF80 and XF75 series.
Sony isn't ignoring full-HD TVs either, with the new WF66 and RF45, both of which benefit from HDR.
Names aside, what makes these series different? Triluminos colours and X1 processors are just some of the terms you'll see on shop displays, but what do they mean and which of Sony's new TVs benefit from them?
Sony is selling two OLED TVs in 2018, but only one of them is new. The A8F will sit underneath last year's A1, but on paper there isn't much to pick between the two.
Both TVs have the best technology Sony has to offer. According to the Japanese brand, the X1 Extreme processor built into the A1 and A8F is better at upscaling content to 4K than its other chips. It also has something called object-based HDR, which means it analyses individual things on screen and adjusts the colour for a more realistic image.
Triluminos is Sony's way of saying that its TVs have a wide spectrum of colours and it's found on all of its 2018 4K sets.
The OLEDs have two flavours of HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG.
HDR10 is the current standard and HLG iss the HDR format that broadcasters will use when HDR TV channels launch.
You can learn more about this new technology in our guide to HDR.
So what's the difference between these two TVs? It looks like aesthetics at this stage. The 2017 A1 had a large kickstand, which acted as a subwoofer and made the TV tricky to wall-mount. The A8F has a tiny silver stand at the base instead and is much thinner as a result.
The A8F will be available in 55 and 65 inches. The A1 goes a bit bigger with a 55, 65 and 77-inch model.
The ZD9 was the cream of Sony's LCD crop in 2017 and it's sticking around for another year. It has the same processor and HDR formats as the OLED TVs and some of the other premium LCD sets. The key difference comes in the backlight.
The Sony ZD9 comes with a Master Drive backlight and it's the only Sony TV that does. The LEDs inside the panel fire a more direct beam of light, which should mean less colour bleeding into darker areas of the screen. It also has more LEDs than Sony's other backlights, so the ZD9 is brighter.
Don't expect to get a ZD9 in a living room-friendly size, though. In only comes in 65, 75 and 100-inch varieties, which makes it Sony's biggest TV for 2018.
The XF90 range is brand new for 2018 and it's very much a premium series. The only difference on paper between it and the ZD9 is the backlight.
Both are full-array, but the XF90 TVs don't benefit from the Master Drive technology. This should mean that the ZD9 is brighter and may have less colour bleeding into darker areas of the screen.
Full-array isn't something that Sony's other LCD sets benefit from and it's one of the key reasons why you'll pay more for an XF90 TV. Full-array means there are more LEDs and more dimmable zones. The more dimmable zones there are on a backlight the better the TV is at controlling which parts of the screen are lit and which are dark. This should make for better contrast.
See what we though of both the 55 and 65-inch versions of this TV in our Sony KD55XF9005 and KD65XF9005 review.
As we move into Sony's mid-range series, the differences between TVs becomes greater.
The XF85 has the X1 processor rather than the X1 Extreme, the backlight is edge-LED rather than full-array and it isn't compatible with HLG. The processor is a downgrade, but it still benefits from object-based HDR, but the TVs armed with the X1 Extreme processor should do a better job of upscaling content to close to 4K quality and keeping things fluid during fast-moving scenes.
Its lack of compatibility with the HLG HDR format isn't really an issue now, but when the BBC and other broadcasters launch HDR channels, then this TV won't get the benefit.
The final key difference between the XF85 and the XF90 is the kind of backlight it uses. On XF85 TVs, the LEDs run around the edge of the screen rather than sitting behind it. This means edge LED TVs can be slimmer than full-array ones, but the contrast is likely to suffer as there are less dimmable zones.
The XF85 series is available in a huge range of sizes: 43, 49, 55, 65, 75 and 85 inches.
The XF80 has the X-Reality Pro processor, which was first used in Sony's 2013 TVs. It upscales content to 4K by comparing the patterns it sees on screen with those in a vast database to achieve better colour and brightness. It doesn't have object-based HDR or the advanced colour levels of the X1 or X1 Extreme, though.
The lack of a second tuner means you won't be able to record one show while watching another or connect a Freesat HD box.
The XF80 series is available in 43, 49 and 55 inches.
It's difficult to spot the difference between the XF75 and XF80. Both have the same processor, backlight, smart TV platform and HDR compatibility.
We'll need to get these TVs into our lab to spot the difference and see if this series has the sound and picture quality to beat Sony's pricier TVs or its cheaper ones.
The XF75 series will be available in 43, 49, 55 and 65 inches.
It's tough to tell these to ranges apart. Both are powered by the X-Reality Pro processor, but these are HD TVs, so it won't be upscaling anything to 4K. They are HDR compatible, too, but only with HDR10.
Unlike the 4K LCD TVs, you don't get the Android smart TV platform, instead they will use a Linux-based system developed by Sony. You won't get the same quantity of apps as you would with Google's platform, but that doesn't necessarily mean the Sony smart TV will be more awkward to use.
These TVs will also benefit from Freeview Play. This useful piece of software combines the electronic programme guide with catch-up TV apps, so you can easily watch shows coming up and those you may have missed.