Updated

Sony Smart TV Platform 2015 Review
Android TV

6.0Remote
9.0Design
7.0Usability
7.0Web Browser
8.0Extra Features

Sony’s new Android TV smart features got off to a rocky start, and limited app selection (particularly for 4k models) was initially a big problem. Now, new apps are being released regularly, and the platform is becoming more functional every week.

Picture quality of Sony smart TVs

Smart TV OS Remote Our Reviews
R510C Basic Basic See review
W800C Android Basic See review
W850C Android Basic See review
X810C Android Basic See review
X830C Android Basic See review
X850C Android Smart See review
X900C Android Smart See review
X930C Android Smart See review
W600D Basic Basic See review
W650D Basic Basic See review
W630B Android Basic See review
X700D Android Basic See review
X750D Android Basic See review
X800D Android TV Basic See review
X850D Android Basic See review
X930D Android Basic See review

Sony smart TVs are a bit of a mixed bag this year. Many have great picture quality, with strong contrast and good uniformity. Others sacrifice contrast for a wide viewing angle, but are still relatively good.

To get a better idea of the differences between Sony’s Android TVs, take a look at our list of this year’s Sony lineup.

The rest of this article reviews the smart features found in Sony smart TVs. We used the Sony XBRX850C for this review, but will point out differences between models where applicable.

Remote Controls

Sony Smart TV Remote

The default remote included with Android TVs is just a basic one.

Some TVs, like the X850C, come with a Touchpad remote control, and it’s also possible to purchase one separately. We don’t recommend it.

Unlike the fancier remotes you get with the higher-end Samsung and LG TVs, the Sony Touchpad doesn’t allow for motion controls. Instead, you can swipe on the touchpad to navigate the menus. It’s tricky to use at first, and while it does get a bit simpler, it’s still not worth using over the traditional remote, and definitely not worth purchasing.

A better option is to download Sony’s TV Sideview App for iOS or Android. It allows you to connect your phone to your TV and use it as a remote. You can use the onscreen arrows to navigate, but you can also track your finger across the screen to control a cursor. It also enables voice search, and can even turn it on when the TV is in standby mode. It’s the best solution for controlling your TV, though it’s still not as good as Samsung and LG’s smart remotes. It’s a free download for iOS and Android.

Main Interface

Sony Smart TV 2

The interface is clean, and pretty simply to navigate. The top row is video and game content from YouTube, Crackle, and the Play Store.

Sony Smart TV 3

Below that is a row of ‘Featured’ apps. ‘Sony Selects’ is a collection of apps and games Sony suggests downloading. It’s mostly basic stuff.

Sony Smart TV 3

‘Input’ is just the selection of whatever devices you have connected to your TV.

‘Apps’ lists everything you have downloaded to your TV, as well as the Play Store.

The Play Store selection is growing pretty quickly. Apps need to be optimized for Android TV before they become available, so some favorite apps might not be usable just yet.

There is a 'Games' Row, too, separate from the Play Store. 'Gameloft' is one of the available options, and 'PlayStation Now' is in Open Beta.

Voice Search

One area where the Android TV excels is with voice search. Press the voice search button on the remote (either the Touchpad or in the TV Sideview app) and say what you’re looking for, and Android TV will deliver suggestions from the Play Store, Google Play Movies & TV, and YouTube, as well as relevant results from downloaded apps. It’s a convenient way to navigate to content quickly, and much better than the swipe controls.

USB Playback

Sony Smart TV 8

USB playback is interesting on Android TV. The video player is decent, and was able to play our video files just fine. The TV couldn't see any of our image files though (.jpg and .png), which wasn't great.

VLC

Sony Smart TV 8

It's also possible to download VLC. The first time we tried out VLC, it worked better than the stock video player. Recently, though, we've noticed some frame skipping with more demanding files.

Web Browsers

Android TV comes with a couple of options for browsing the web. The first is Opera, which is the default browser for Sony’s Android TV lineup.

While the browser did very well for speed on the Peacekeeper test (its score of 938 is quite a bit more than what our LG and Samsung TVs scored), it only got a 5/7 for HTML 5 capability. 

Worse, though, is that interacting with the browser is difficult. It was designed for use with the basic remote control that is included with the TV, and even when using the superior TV Sideview app, the menus behave as though a regular remote is being used.

To enter text, for example, you can use your phone as a trackpad and click in the necessary box. This brings up your phone’s keyboard. Enter the text as normal, press enter, and the text appears in the box, but requires that you confirm the selection using the TV’s onscreen keyboard.

You can’t do so without either switching the app over to the setting that mimics the remote (swaps the trackpad for arrows) or using the regular remote. That slows everything down quite a bit, and is a nuisance.

 

The other browser you can use is Google Chrome. It fared worse in the Peacekeeper test. It was within the same range for overall speed, but its HTML 5 performance was a pretty weak 2/7. 

To use Chrome on your Android TV, you need to log in to play.google.com with the same Google account that you have set up with your Android TV. Next, download the ‘Sideload Launcher’ app to your TV, and then download Google Chrome.

Open Sideload Launcher and then open Google Chrome. Note that the default remote included with the TV does not appear to work. You’ll need to use the TV Sideview app on your phone to use Chrome.

 

Google Cast

Sony Smart TV 8

In addition to the web browsing options you get with Android TV, it’s also possible to use the cast function to display individual tabs from Google Chrome.

There are major limitations to doing this. For one, you can only cast in a resolution of up to 720p. For another, the tab is only mirrored, and not controllable from the TV itself. If you want to scroll down, you need to do so on the computer.

Casting works much better for “Google Cast Ready” websites like YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go, and Plex.

Codec Support

H.264 (AVI, MP4, MKV) Yes
H.265 (AVI, MP4, MKV) Yes
VP9 (WebM) Yes
 

Conclusion

The platform is still young, and it has some limitations, but Android TV does a lot well. The TV Sidescreen app works great, and the Google cast feature is pretty handy (though not suitable for prolonged browsing).

So far, our favourite Sony smart TV is the Sony XBRX850C. We also really like the Sony XBRX930C, which offers better quality for those who can afford it. We also have reviews for the rest of the Sony lineup.

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Questions & Answers

30 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
266
How do you access the web browser in the Sony Smart TV, I can't find how!
It is necessary to download the browser. To do this, open the smart interface home, and select 'Apps'. Under 'My Apps', click the cross to add more apps, and select the opera web browser.
90
Is there an optional QWERTY remote that works with this TV? Because wireless keyboards don't.
Have you tried USB wireless USB keyboard? Those should work. It is the Bluetooth wireless ones that aren't supported.
55
How can I add an HBO GO app to this TV?
Update: For 2015 models, you can download HBO Go from the Google Play Store app.
49
There is an Opera web browser app that you can download for Android TV. You can also sideload Chrome.
We managed to sideload Chrome, but Opera has not been working. Could you email us a link to the version that you managed to get to work?
We'll be updating the review to mention that it is possible to get a web browser. Thanks for letting us know.
27
Many of my apps have disappeared from my Sony Bravia. For instance, there are only 14 apps in my tab, and when I hit the Netflix button it says "feature not available". I refreshed my internet content. Any other troubleshooting ideas?
We've seen a few complaints about vanishing apps and lost functionality in Sony smart devices recently. You could try doing a factory reset and then seeing if the apps work as normal. It's possible an update got rid of some of the function. Beyond that, you might want to speak to Sony support directly to get their assistance.
24
Does it support the HBO Now app?
Yes. That was added recently.
21
How do I access the internet browser on my Sony Bravia R510C?
Unfortunately, there is no internet browser available for that TV.
16
Can Sony smart TVs get the ESPN app? If so, how?
Unfortunately, the ESPN app is unavailable on Sony TVs. You'll need to connect a laptop or a streaming device like a Roku to watch ESPN videos on your TV.
11
Does the Sony Smart TV software support WiDi?
Yes, Sony smart TVs do support WiFi Direct.
11
Can the 850c use Sony Dualshock 3 controllers from my PS3 to play games from both the Google Play Store and Playstation Now App? Or, as it states in some reviews, do I have to purchase a PS4 Dualshock 4 controller just for my TV, since I don't own a Playstation 4?
Only the DS4 controller works with Sony's Android TVs, so yes, you would need to buy one of those.
10
The Android OS is buggy and the remote is laggy. Updates are required multiple times per month and take 30 minutes on a high-speed internet connection. TV tries to make suggestions of what to watch. Wish it would mind its own business.
The only thing good about this TV is the image quality. It's impossible to use.
Those are all valid complaints. We'll add a note to our review to make clear some of those downsides.
9
Do the Sony TVs have built-in WiFi? How about LG and Samsung?
Yes, all 2014 smart TVs now come with built-in WiFi.
8
Is there an on-screen keyboard that can be activated to search the home screen, or other apps like YouTube? I have this TV, and the only option is to speak into the touch pad remote. No on-screen keyboard appears. Thank you for any reply.
Yes, there is. When making your selection, you need to make sure that you're selecting the text input field, and not the microphone for voice search. That will make the keyboard appear.
3
What do you do when your smart TV is on but is blacked out?
It will depend on the model of the TV, as well as on what you are trying to do with it. You should contact your TV's manufacturer to get support for this problem.
3
Does the Sony xbr65x850c support showtime anytime?
It support the 'Showtime' app but not the 'Showtime Anytime' app yet.
2
How to upgrade your Netflix on a Sony Smart TV?
For the 2015 TVs running Android OS, the Netflix app should update by itself. If you think it didn't, see if there is an available update to the Android OS. On the remote, hit the 'Home' button then 'Help' -> 'System software update' -> 'Check for a system software update'. If there is an update available select 'Update Now'. For older Sony TVs, press the 'Home' button -> 'Settings' -> 'Setup' (or 'Network') and select 'Refresh Internet Content'. You can then update the list of Apps by going 'Home' button -> 'Video' -> 'Options' -> 'Update List'.
2
Is there a way to load the amazon App store on a X810C? (Or at least Alexa?)
No, unfortunately. None of which is available on the x810c.
2
I am using a new Sony Bravia 65" 810C 4K Android TV for a monitor primarily. Frequently, I get the message popup from the TV OS that some random Google Play service has stopped. (Most often Google play music) None of which I even care about. When I look at the Apps utility, the Google play services do not have uninstall or disable options. Sent Help request to Sony & got no answer.
Try to see if there is an available firmware update for your TV. That might help. If not, a factory reset of the TV may help too but that would mean losing all your settings. You can disable a bunch of Google services (including Google play music) if you go under Settings -> Apps -> System Apps -> Google play music -> Disable.
1
How do you turn the sound off the tv makes when using the remote to make a selection?
Go under 'Settings' - 'Sound' and turn Off 'System sound'.
1
Old answer; OS now has HBO Go. I'm sure it was correct in 2014.
We've updated the answer. Thanks!
1
My Bravia 50W800C supports Skype?
Unfortunately, Skype isn't available for Android TV at the moment.
1
Is it possible to root Android TV OS on the Sony Bravias?
We don't have any experience rooting Android TVs and don't recommend it.
0
Can I access Play Store on a smart TV to download apps such as CBS or ABC to watch the way I do on my computer?
Not exactly. There are some apps you can download from your TV, and you can also go here to download a few others that might not show up on the TV, but CBS and ABC are not available at the moment.
0
I recently purchased a Sony XBR55X850C model and cannot find a way to find internet browser. I have looked in both "Sony Select" and "Google Play Store", and there is no option for Opera or Chrome anywhere.
Add your TV as a device on your Google account, and then open the Opera listing in your PC's browser. You should be able to download it from there.
0
You state that the Sony XBR55X850C supports Showtime Anytime since October 1. I can only find the Showtime app (and not the Showtime Anytime app) as a choice in my google play apps on my 850C. It does not appear that Showtime Anytime is yet available. Please advise.
You are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. We have fixed the previous answer.
0
Is Acorn TV available on the Sony Bravia X850C?
No.
0
Using as a monitor with windows 10. If I enable 4K resolution with scaling less than 200%, fonts look like crud. Pretty much eliminate the 4K advantage. Any fix for this?
On Sony TVs, enable the 'Game' or 'Graphic' picture mode for text to look sharp in 4k.
0
All of a sudden, I can't access my apps on the Sony x850c. When I chose one it says it isn't wifi connected. I went to settings and wifi and it has a strong signal. I was trying to use my Amazon app to watch a movie. Do you know why this is happening?
Try to delete your wifi connection in the network settings and redo the connection afterward. If that is not working, turn off the TV and unplug it from the electric outlet for about a minute. Then if you still have the same problem, try a factory reset of the TV.
0
Just wanted to say thank you for your insight and direction. I ran into your site after the fact (got a bum Samsung), and came across this site. By your recommendations, I bounced between the Samsung 6400, then the 6500, when I finally decided on the Sony x810c (65"). This Sony set is head and shoulders in both build and performance. Your calibration settings take a bit to walk through, but once finished, superb! No question for me, just gratitude.
Your feedback is really appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to write. Glad you enjoy your new TV.
0
I see no video review about the Web browser option for the x810c. I cannot find the browser in the apps or can I download a browser.
It is necessary to download the browser. To do this, open the smart interface home, and select 'Apps'. Under 'My Apps', click the cross to add more apps, and select the opera web browser.
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