Smaller TVs (i.e., those measuring less than 50 inches) often suffer from lackluster picture performance. The Sony XBR43X830C is an exception, offering excellent color fidelity, good upscaling capability and a solid 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) picture, all for less than $700.
The 43-inch LCD set with LED edge-lit backlighting delivers a quality picture for shoppers looking for an ultra-HD TV that will fit into a smaller space. The Sony Bravia X83C doesn't include many bells and whistles, like a built-in webcam or a touch-screen remote control, but it does have plenty of support for popular streaming services, thanks to its Android TV interface. The Sony XBR43X830C is priced on the high side of ultra-HD sets this size, but the picture quality will appeal to movie lovers.
Design: Basic But Capable
Pleasantly svelte, the XBR43X830C has a narrow bezel wrapping around its screen and is only 2.36 inches thick. On a tabletop, the set rests on a broad chrome center bar stand with two legs in the back.
The Sony has four HDMI ports in the rear, all of which are compatible with the latest ultra-HD copy protection format. There are also three USB ports, composite/component video inputs, and Ethernet, audio and RF connections.
Performance: Solid Color Saturation
Top-notch 4K programming lived up to its potential on the Sony XBR43X830C. When I tested it in the preset Cinema Home mode, the Sony delivered rich, saturated colors across the spectrum, even in relatively mundane scenes from The Blacklist. Every smirk from James Spader was sharp and clear, and contrast levels were remarkably good, as evidenced by our test results.
I also found that the XBR43X830C delivered good off-axis viewing (away from the center of the screen); colors stayed accurate, with only a little loss of overall brightness. One downside is that the edge-lit design means solid blacks have a grayish cast (as with other similar designs).
This Sony set was adept at upscaling Blu-ray content to 4K resolution. The TV seamlessly handled fast-paced chase scenes in Skyfall, and it was easy to see details in the corners of shadowy rooms. As with most Sony TVs, flesh tones were flattering, and colors looked well balanced and realistic.
The softer, subtler Sony look can have some trade-offs for picture quality. Stars in the background of the film Gravity remained sharp pinpoints of light even in motion scenes, but the overall look was more filmlike (some would say more "natural"), with some slight picture noise on the ocean backgrounds. On the other hand, there was no light leaking or flaring that can create artificial halos around bright objects like the space shuttle in Gravity.
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Audio performance was not a strong suit of the XBR43X830C. It has a variety of presets, with Cinema proving the most pleasing, open and expansive of the options. Still, vocals sounded muffled and lacked definition on the high end, which took some of the thrill out of Adele's vocals. If you want the sound to match the picture quality, I recommend adding a soundbar.
Android TV: Attractive and Flexible But Complicated
Based on Google's Android TV interface, the graphics and arrangement of streaming services on the XBR43X830C are attractive and flexible. However, the interface isn't as simple as the Roku interface or as zippy as LG's WebOS smart TV software. I found the cross-linked Android TV menus sometimes needlessly complex. The remote's Home button invokes the smart TV streaming services and features; YouTube featured videos; icons for Vudu, MLB, Starz Play, Pandora and Netflix; and a raft of other services. Not surprisingly, the Sony XBR43X830C also supports the company's subscription-based PlayStation Now feature for playing PlayStation 3 games online (though you'll want a game controller).
Google is good at delivering a multitude of options, but I couldn't help but notice that if you choose an on-demand movie suggestion, it would automatically take you to the Google Play option to buy or rent, rather than Vudu or Amazon. The same is true for TV shows, such as The Flash.
Searches will cast a net over multiple sources — mostly online — but as with other sets, it doesn't search through every possible source (such as all local program guides). To make it easier, the Google voice search feature is supported, but it doesn't work with the included remote, which lacks a microphone. A compatible Sony remote with a microphone, the RMF-TX100U, is available for less than $100, or you can use a compatible app on an Android phone.
Sony packages the XBR43X830C with a standard wand-style IR remote. Unfortunately, it has one of the more awkward button layouts on the market. Its concentric-circle controls — with TV, Action Menu, Guide, Home, Discover and Back buttons arced around the four-way directional pad — are surprisingly irritating.
It's too easy to inadvertently hit one of the buttons when you are trying to hit the directional pad, and vice versa. (Every time I meant to move down in a menu, I found myself accidentally pressing the Discover button.)
Not everyone has a huge living room for a gigantic flat panel, but that doesn't mean those people can't appreciate a precise picture. For those shoppers, there's the 43-inch Sony XBR43X830C. It delivers a well-balanced picture in 4K and does an excellent job of upscaling regular HD and Blu-ray programming. This isn't the lowest-priced ultra-HD TV on the market, but its picture quality justifies the cost.