Sony's Best 4K TV for 2015 is From Last Year

The Sony X950B from 2014 is still Sony's best.The Sony X950B from 2014 is still Sony's best.Over the weekend, Sony announced the pricing and on-sale dates for its 4K/UHD and HD TV lineup. Most models will be out in May, and Sony is taking preorders now. At the 4K entry level, you can nab a 43-inch X30C model for $2,300 — the same price as a 55-inch HD screen in the new W800C line. 

But according to what several TV makers told me, people who go 4K tend to go for larger screens — 55 to 65 inches — that show off the higher resolution. In this range, Sony's standard bearer for 2015 is actually one of last year's models, the Sony X950B (see our review). "This is the best 4K 65-inch TV you can get," a Phil Jones, who represents Sony's TV products, told me during a detailed, hours-long demo of its new 4K/UHD televisions.

The killer ingredient is the X950B's high dynamic range (HDR), courtesy of full-array LED backlighting. Instead of directing light in from the edges of the screen, full-array models use a grid of LEDs behind the LCD panel. This makes it easier to individually adjust the brightness of different parts of the screen to display more nuance in all the shades between full black and full white. HDR doesn’t just bring out more detail in inky shadows; it also displays more subtle shades of color, which also enhances detail. 

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Some edge-lit LCDs can do local dimming, but not as well; and only the best edge-lit models can achieve HDR. Sony freely admits that its own edge-lit sets, which make up the majority of the 2015 lineup — even its one HDR edge-lit model, the 65-inch X930C — don't look as good as its two full-array TVs. 

The edge-lit HDR-capable X930C 65-inch 4K TV sells for $4,500.The edge-lit HDR-capable X930C 65-inch 4K TV sells for $4,500.

But you pay more — a lot more — for Sony's full-array TVs. The 65-inch X950B lists for a head-spinning $6,000, while Sony's 65-inch edge-lit models for 2015 sell for $3,500 (the X850C) and $4,500 (the HDR-capable X930C) — hardly impulse buys, but notably cheaper. Sony's only other full-array TV is this year's new, 75-inch X940C, which will sell for $8,000 and ship out in May. 

Full-array TVs don't always cost a fortune, though. Rival TV brand Vizio uses the technology in all the 2015 models it announced last week —both HD and 4K/UHD: from a 28-inch 1080p TV for $200 to an 80-inch 4K TV for $4,000. Vizio's latest full-array 65-inch set goes for $1,700. Full-array tech was common in previous years, as well. We've tested several of Vizio's 2014 TVs, from a 32-inch 1080p model for $300 to a 65-inch 4K Ultra HD for $1,800. They all displayed deep blacks and wider dynamic range than most competitors did. But in overall quality, including dynamic range as well as color, motion rendering and upscaling HD to Ultra HD, Sony's X950B handily beat Vizio's 65-inch, full array P652ui-B2 set.

Sony's new 65-inch HDTV, the W850C, sells for $1,900.Sony's new 65-inch HDTV, the W850C, sells for $1,900.

So you are not just paying more for the brand. Sony's TVs often deliver higher overall quality than cheaper competitors, but at much higher prices. If you aren't itching to buy a 4K TV — and given the dearth of content, you'd be justified in that outlook — check out Sony's new HDTV lineup, as well as last year's 55- and 50-inchers (see review).

We plan to test some of Sony's new 4K/UHD TVs as well as its HD models, whose full lineups are listed below.

4K/UHD TVs 

X830C: (Relative) Budget line Avail. May
43-inch ($1,300)
49-inch ($1,600) 

X850C: Mainstream line. Avail. May
55-inch ($2,200)
65-inch ($3,500)
75-inch ($4,500) 

X900C: Ultra thin. Price not announced. Avail. Summer
65-inch 

X910C: Ultra thin. Price not announced. Avail. Summer
75-inch 

X930C: Edge-lit HDR
65-inch ($4,500) 

X940C: Full- array HDR
75-inch ($8000)

1080p HD TVs 

R510C: Smallish
40-inch ($580)
48-inch ($530) 

W800C: Medium
50-inch ($1,000)
55-inch ($1,300)

W850C: Large
65-inch ($1,900)
75-inch ($3,000)

Follow senior editor Sean Captain @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide and on Facebook.

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