With new wave of 4K TVs coming, Sony’s 850D is a steal — and here’s why

Before we opened the box to unwrap Sony’s 65-inch 850D series TV to test, I’d read a lot about the TV’s lack of really good contrast. The thinking was this: if you were watching  the set in a dark room, or you were watching a really dark scene, the TV would express blacks as dark gray.

We found that to be just a tiny bit true, but we also found this TV to be the best in class for a sub $2,000 65-incher (full disclosure, we have not tested the Vizio P series, which is well thought of as well).

What makes this Sony so good?

Well, it makes everything you throw at it look better. It makes everyday stuff like DirecTV look really good and makes DirecTV 4K look spectacular.  But what really amazed us is how good it can make even an HBO Go feed on “X Men Apocalypse” look.

I had three people compare the 4K DVD version of the film with the streaming, non 4K version, being fed via Apple TV, and while everyone picked the 4K DVD version as clearer and more breathtaking, it took everyone a few input switches to choose. The upscaling engine, the technology that takes non 4K stuff and upconverts it to quasi-4K, is simply amazing in this set.

That’s an important thing to know since most people will be watching non-4K material most of the time.

The other thing that blew us away with the Sony was the accuracy and depth of colors. Using some calibration settings we easily got online, the TV gets out of crazy bright Vivid mode and into color accurate mode pretty quickly. Give your eyes a day or two to adjust and the set delivers a simply impressive picture, as good as you might see at the multiplex from 4K sources using a technology called HDR, which is baked into some physical and streaming movies. In a sense, HDR  makes colors and scenes punchier and more accurate, like when you sit at the doctor and they put that machine over your eyes and ask, “Does this look clearer? Or does that?”

HDR is the latter.

This set is going for as low as $1,300 now as the 2017 sets are beginning to hit the market. For most people, this set is all they’ll need, even if you get in the store and fall in love with those OLED sets that do super-deep and super-rich pictures — but also come with a super-rich price tag.

Trust, this is the next-generation TV set for most of us.

Samsung 2016 4K Midrange TV is a great bargain, if you get a good one

It’s really hard to walk into the TV store nowadays and stare at the row of impossibly then sets and not stop on a Samsung 4K TV. Whether really big or somewhat big or even curved, the Samsung TVs are stunning (especially when set on the brightest mode possible for the store environment, eschewing any need for color accuracy).

We got our hands on a 2016 version 65 inch KS8000 model recently and were very, very impressed. Understand, we’ve been watching a Panasonic 2009 Viera 50-inch plasma that’s been calibrated by a famous Florida calibrator named Louis Carliner. He spent two days, literally, making the set look good.

Back then the plasmas had a hard time doing purple. When Louis was done, our TV did purple. It still does. And it does deep blacks, something these back-lit LCD/LED TVs don’t do as well.

The Samsung, however, delivers a wonderful picture, just so much more sharp than the old HDTVs. If you haven’t seen a 4K TV in your home, you can’t appreciate the clarity. Given a good source, like a 4K DVD, the results are simply amazing. The clarity of the opening sequence in the latest X-Men movie is just stunning. It’s so clear we could make out the obvious CGI we missed when we saw the Tobey McGuire Spider-Man movies in the theaters. Man, it’s so obvious. How did we miss it?

On everyday material — Apple TV, FireStick, DirecTV — the Samsung didn’t do a super great job of upscaling the material — meaning it didn’t make us miss the Panasonic as much — but it looks decent enough and after you play with the color controls enough, you can get a somewhat less color-saturated picture. But we’re nitpicking.

The only problem we had with this TV was a rather big one. The TV doesn’t have many attachments directly into the set itself. You’ll plug what the company calls a “One Connect” cable into the back of the TV and the other end of the four-foot cable contains all of your HDMI connections. It’s a neat idea and, in a sense, could future proof  your purchase somewhat.

But the “One Connect” cable didn’t work for us. Source material would blink incessantly while watching it. The 4K DVD player worked exactly once (remember that X-Men scene?) and that was for five minutes. We got a new “One Connect” box and the problems didn’t go away, which led us to believe it may’ve been the display itself.

So the bottom line is this: the KS8000 is a very good TV, and it’s selling now as low as $1,300. We’ve read about some issues with the “One Connect,” but we don’t believe it’s a big enough deal to avoid the TV. And if you’ve not seen 4K, get this and prepare to have your mind blown.