Sony X81CH Review: An All-Purpose TV For a Fair Price


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An in-depth Sony X81CH review gives an idea of what to expect from the mid-range section of Sony’s current 4K offerings.

The Sony X81CH offers all the bells and whistles that you expect from Android TV. A smooth, powerful user interface goes nicely with good picture quality. Let’s find out if this Sony 8-series product line delivers on the second count.

Sony X81CH Review: Design

Like most Sony 8-series TV sets, the X81CH has a sleek and understated design. The display is less than three inches thick at its widest point, allowing it to sit smack against the wall like a painting. If you opt for an entertainment stand instead, note that the TV legs are on the far ends of the panel. You’ll need an entertainment stand that’s just as long as the TV to accommodate the legs.

Sony X81CH review

The Sony X81CH offers little in the way of cable management, and you’ll have to settle for a pair of clips. Use them to clip the cables onto the stylish, metallic TV legs that are the sole dash of color on the unit. 

There’s little going on at the back, except for a 300×300 VESA mount pattern and a column of inputs.

Inputs

Sony is doing a great job with the selection and location of TV inputs. You can easily access all the ports from the left side of the screen, where they sit in a column in the following order:

  • Two USB ports that sit side by side
  • Digital optical output
  • A 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Composite video input that requires an adapter to work
  • Four HDMI ports
  • A LAN port
  • An RS232 jack
  • IR input port
  • A coaxial connector for cable or antenna

Like with all smart TVs, the X81CH also has a wireless adapter for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections.  

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Sony X81CH review: User interface

The Sony X81CH runs Android TV, an OS that comes with a large selection of apps. The interface is customizable, which is a relief if you prefer a sparse home screen and simple menus. Android TV ships with Google Assistant, with support for Alexa and Apple airplay.

Suffice it to say that the interface has virtually every content app and every productivity tool you need. This includes modules and tools for smart home integration.

Sony X81CH review: Hardware and picture quality

Sony includes a powerful processor that powers both the OS and an AI module that performs signal processing. Together, the processor and AI take care of noise removal, which takes care of blur and fuzziness in images. This configuration also executes the color reproduction of a source signal. It also handles motion smoothing, video upscaling, and sound reproduction.

As for the panel itself, the manufacturer uses an IPS panel with a native refresh rate of 60 frames per second. The panel has direct backlighting but lacks a local dimming feature. What does all this mean in terms of picture quality?

1.       Color accuracy

The Sony X81CH does an excellent job of color reproduction. Right out of the box, the colors that appear on your screen are a near-perfect match to the source material. The colors may be a little warm, which may cause a barely-there red or yellow tint. If you want to, you could make slight adjustments, but it really isn’t necessary.

A wide color gamut and the chipset of the TV are behind the accurate colors of the X81CH. The expansive color palette of the panel allows for the creation of rich, life-like colors.

2.       Brightness and HDR content

A TV with high peak brightness is capable of recreating a more extensive range of colors, which is necessary for HDR content. Bright TV sets are also able to overcome glare and other issues that come with dim panels.

The X81CH has a peak brightness level of 500 nits in HDR mode, which is pretty average for a TV at this price point. As a comparison, higher-end product lines from Sony have peak brightness levels as high as 750 nits. What do these numbers mean in terms of real-world picture quality?

They mean that the TV does an excellent job of creating the wide range of hues that HDR content requires. However, the panel struggles to highlight small details in scenes that are overly bright or overly dark. This doesn’t stop it from doing an excellent job of executing SDR picture.

3.       Contrast

The lack of a local dimming feature takes away from the contrast level that the X81CH can deliver. However, this is only noticeable in HDR content, as the previous section explains. In SDR, detail stands out, both in shadow and in bright sections of a scene.

4.       Viewing angles

IPS panels like the Sony X81CH typically have wide viewing angles that allow you to watch the TV at any angle. The color accuracy, brightness, and contrast remain the same, even when you sit to the side of the screen.

5.       Motion handling

It takes about 14 milliseconds for individual pixels in the Sony X81CH to change color. This response time is fast enough to prevent motion blur in bright scenes. You may notice slight ghosting in darker, fast-action scenes. This is where the panel’s signal processing AI kicks into gear. A slight tweak to the TV settings will counter motion blur by inserting black frames.

Low input lag makes the panel responsive to your commands. This makes for a smooth experience when navigating the interface, selecting menu items, or playing games.

Pros

  • Android TV interface provides a wide selection of content and tools
  • The feature-rich interface is compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple Airplay2
  • Wide viewing angles
  • Accurate color reproduction
  • Fairly wide color palette
  • Support for most HDR formats
  • A wide selection of input ports

Cons

  • The TV is bright enough for SDR, but it falls a little short with HDR content
  • A lack of local dimming limits the execution of contrast in the Sony X81CH
  • There are no HDMI 2.1 ports, which limits the ability of the TV to render certain games
  • A lack of variable refresh rate also takes away from a user’s gaming experience

Sony X81CH review verdict: Good picture quality and useful features

This Sony X81CH review finds a TV that promises to deliver a smooth user experience. Between the feature-rich interface of Android TV and excellent picture quality, the Sony X81CH is worth a try.  It makes an excellent general-purpose TV that can also double as a monitor for your PC. The Sony X81CH is also suitable for casual gaming, specifically game titles with lower frame rates. Click here to learn more about this television.

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