Sony XBR-43X800E 4K TV Review: Smart HDR Bargain

The Sony XBR-43X800E is great at some things, but suffers from a mediocre display and speakers. Despite its imperfections, it's also inexpensive and perfectly sized for smaller homes and college dorms. If you're looking for pristine picture quality, you should look elsewhere. But if you're more concerned with feature set and smart functions, it's a good buy.

Sony XBR-43X800E Specs

Price

$599

Screen Size

43 inches

Resolution

3840 x 2160

HDR

HDR10

Refresh Rate

60Hz

Ports

4 HDMI, 3 USB

Audio

2x 10 Watt

Smart TV Software

Android TV

Size

38 x 22.3 x 2.25 inches

Weight

22.3 pounds

Design and Ports

Measuring 38 x 22.3 x 2.25 inches without the stand, the 43X800E is a bit thick for wall mounting. The cabinet will work with a standard VESA 100 x 200 millimeter mount, but the 2.25-inch thick base won't let you mount it flush against the wall like some sets. The U-shaped stand has a footprint of 9.6 inches deep and 21.9 inches wide, with channels for cable management built into the back legs.

On the left of the TV you'll find two HDMI ports (one with Audio Return Channel or ARC for connecting a soundbar) and three USB ports (two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0), while a coaxial connector lets you get over-the-air content for free with an antenna.

On the back of the 43X800E are two separate connector panels. We would like to have seen these consolidated into one panel and positioned better for easier wall mounting, but the rear connections do offer two more HDMI inputs, a digital audio connection, component video input and an Ethernet jack. Although you can skip the wired connection in favor of built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Another odd quirk of the otherwise normal TV is that the power cord includes an external brick, much like the cable used to power a laptop. Most TV manufacturers build this hardware into the TV cabinet, but in this case, it's external.

While that's not likely to be an issue once the TV is set up and stationary, it does introduce a wrinkle to the otherwise basic setup process for the TV, with a bulky brick to account for if you chose to wall-mount the TV. There's also more chance that you'll lose part of the two-piece cable while moving, so you'll want to pay extra attention if you're packing up to move or shuffling between apartments regularly.

Performance

The 43X800E’s 43-inch panel isn't huge, but it's big enough for a small apartment or dorm, and the performance is adequate for the price of the set. Bright colors popped in Transformers: The Last Knight; one character's red shirt was bright against a vibrant blue sky, and various Transformers were accented with bits of green, blue and yellow. While subtlety isn't usually what you look for in a Transformers film, flesh tones had a lifelike blend of colors when viewing human faces amid the ridiculous CGI chaos.

Brightly lit objects were well-lit in dark scenes, but even things like the lights at the end of tunnels looked pretty good, with surprisingly few haloes. However, the darker parts of the display were extra dark, frequently too dark to make out details. Adjusting the screen brightness helped with the too-dark shadows, but also resulted in blown-out whites and brights. It also caused clear problems with elevated blacks, the dark gray color that is a glowing IPS panel's closest approximation of black. Regardless of how we adjusted the backlight and contrast, the black levels were never quite right.

Backlighting on the 43X800E was pretty consistent, with some very faint shadowing in the corners. The slight shadow was so subtle that it was hard to spot even with test screens designed to bring out such lighting variance, so it's unlikely you'll notice it at all during regular use.

MORE: Our Favorite 4K (Ultra HD) TVs Available Now

Thanks to HDR, shots of luminescent objects, like a jellyfish in dark waters or neon in a dark bar, actually appeared to glow. The mere presence of HDR on the 43X800E is an improvement over other sets in this price range, like the 55-inch Insignia Roku TV or the Westinghouse 43-inch Amazon Fire TV Edition, which don’t offer the picture enhancement. The set offers support for HDR10 but not any of the other HDR formats vying for supremacy, like Dolby Vision. Whether or not that is a problem will be decided whenever that quiet format war winds down.

Fast action wasn't quite as smooth as we'd like; when viewing a space scene in Transformers: The Last Knight, individual stars winked out of existence as soon as the camera moved with any real speed. While that's not a huge shock on a 60Hz panel, we had hoped that Sony's promised 240Hz effective rate had the processing chops to prevent that problem.

Thanks to HDR, shots of luminescent objects, like a jellyfish in dark waters or neon in a dark bar, actually appeared to glow.

Upscaled content looked clear on the 43X800E, with 1080p video displaying without any discernible distortion or artifacts. DVDs, HD Blu-rays and broadcast television all looked pretty good on the set's 43-inch display.

The color gamut was quite good, with the 43X800E reproducing 99.9 percent of the colors available in the Rec. 709 color space. The apparent quality of the color we saw in our anecdotal testing left us a bit surprised when instrumental testing revealed it to be fairly inaccurate in standard= viewing mode. With a Delta-E rating of 9.78, the 43X800E's colors tend to be slightly oversaturated and to skew slightly blue.

Audio

The Sony has two 10-watt downward-firing speakers built into the cabinet, and while the volume can get decently loud, you'll be better off getting a good soundbar. Sound quality was adequate, with strong bass at low and moderate volume levels.

Turning up the volume not only made the bass worse, but the treble also dropped in quality.

MORE: Our Favorite Soundbars for Small and Big TVs

Once turned up to 50 percent volume or more, the bass flattened in tone and caused some rattling in the slim TV cabinet. Turning up the volume not only made the bass worse, but the also made the treble drop in quality.

Smart Features

The XBR-43X800E comes with Sony's version of Android TV, which offers some of the most robust app support available for streaming services and apps. Thanks to Google's strength in the app world, you'll find all of the popular offerings, like Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video and even less common (but popular) options like Sony's own Playstation Vue, or roll-your-own streaming solutions like Plex and Kodi.

Plus, if you can't find the app you want within the Android TV ecosystem, built-in Chromecast functionality lets you bring in apps and content from your phone or tablet.

This TV's operating system also works with smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, giving you a way to integrate the smart TV into your greater smart home.

Remote

The remote included with the Sony XBR-43X800E isn't the most intuitive in the world, festooned with buttons and reliant upon a directional pad surrounded by six additional navigational buttons. Add to this a full number pad, dedicated buttons for apps and media playback controls, and the chunky rectangular remote has 50 buttons total.

The aspect we most liked about the remote was the integrated microphone, which pairs with the TV for voice interaction.

It's nowhere near as intuitive as the minimalist remotes that came with the TCL Roku 43S403 or the 55-inch Insignia Roku TV, but it will get the job done.

The aspect we most liked about the remote was the integrated microphone, which pairs with the TV for voice interaction. Searching by voice will let you find content across several streaming apps, but not broadcast or cable channels.

Bottom Line

The 43-inch Sony XBR-43X800E is a great smart TV paired with a 4k display panel that's just pretty good. It has its faults, from inaccurate color to frustrating black levels, along with an awkward connection panel and middling sound from the built-in speakers. That said, Sony's Android TV platform is one of the best available, and the number of apps and connectivity options give the set some versatility that outstrips most similar TVs in this size and price range.

We give a slight edge to the TCL Roku 43S403, which offers similar performance and the popular Roku interface for a slightly lower price. But the Sony is still worth considering because of its excellent Android TV options and better connectivity.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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