Sony Bravia W805C 2015 Android TV: first impressions

Recently I've had my eye on Sony's new 2015 range of Android TVs. My opinion of TV manufacturers' software features hasn't been so good. I never use internal tuners because DVRs are much better, and I find the implementations of their "smart" features are often half-baked - typically only supporting certain combinations of video containers and codecs, handling subtitles improperly etc. The support timeframes are also shockingly short.
 
With YouView and Android TV (hence lots of OEM-free options when it comes to media playback), Sony appears to have a half chance of escaping those problems by effectively outsourcing those functions to specialists who (potentially) can do it better and with better support. In theory, this range of TVs could enable me to get rid of both my YouView DVR and WDTV Live media player. However, I wasn't going to buy until after YouView had been released on the TV (summer 2015), to see if they have implemented it well. For example it remains to be seen whether it will work with BT Sport, or if it actually supports dual recording (I can't seem to find this info anywhere). However I came across the KDL-50W805C 50" Full HD model at a very good price, and picked one up on a whim.
 
Having played with it for a few days, I have to say I am concerned. Ignoring the missing features such as YouView and USB recording, there are a lot of outstanding issues and odd behaviour. There have been several firmware updates to address issues. Overall, in my opinion the TV was not ready to be released.
 
I am particularly interested in the media streaming capabilities, and to that end there are already several media player apps on the TV and in the Google Play store to choose from: the built in Android video player, Kodi, Plex, Emby, MX Player, VLC and Archos player. Unfortunately, every app has issues for my primary use case: streaming across the network. I haven't tested every combination of file playback in detail, but here is a summary of the issues I have encoutered so far:

Video refresh rates

None of the apps will switch the refresh rate of the TV to match the content. This means the TV's 24p support actually only applies to external HDMI sources, and indeed watching anything other than 30p or 60p content via apps on the TV itself is quite uncomfortable. To be honest, if I had known this before testing the capabilities of the apps I wouldn't have bothered, as it singlehandedly makes the TV quite useless for me as a network media player.

CEC

This appears to be buggy, the TV occasionally gets confused about what is plugged in where. In addition, during playback the connection to the AVR will randomly drop out from time to time. Similarly, the volume control slider also will randomly appear and go up/down by a point of its own accord.

Archos player

The app hangs when trying to access SMB shares and DLNA folders. Android doesn't support NFS natively so I can't actually play anything. Perhaps it will be brilliant for USB but that's not relevant for me (my movies are on a server).

VLC

The app can't see any content when accessing DLNA servers and has no SMB or NFS capability.

Emby

The Emby client app seems to want to transcode absolutely everything. I had to actually purchase the app to find this out, as videos don't play otherwise. It also only allows you to specify upto 30Mbps maximum, which is likely to be exceeded for Blu Ray rips.

DLNA

Using Emby or Plex via DLNA has big issues. Most apps are not able to browse the content successfully, and playing content to the TV (i.e. the DLNA renderer function) usually fails with a "cannot be played" error message. This despite having painstakingly set up DLNA profiles for Plex and Emby according to the specifications in the i-manual.

Kodi

The Kodi app is nice and smooth. It plays most content, except VC1 encoded videos. These aren't being hardware accelerated (though the TV has the capability in there somewhere according to the specs). DTS bitstreaming doesn't work, you get static hiss, but decoding it in Kodi is very very quiet and downmixes to 2 channel. The remote control key mapping is missing several buttons, and is not configurable.  For example "stop" doesn't stop playback, it produces "back" instead, and the subtitle & info/context buttons don't do anything. Fast forward doesn't work correctly: what is being played on screen doesn't reflect the position indicated on the seek bar, and skipping jumps to unpredictable intervals.

Plex

The Plex app tries to transcode everything and IIRC can't bitstream any audio.

Inbuilt video player

The pre-installed video player can play from DLNA (not SMB or NFS), but the "off" option for embedded subtitles doesn't work (i.e. subtitles cannot be turned off). I also tried sending DVD content (MKV/MPEG2/AC3) to the TV, but it was displayed in the wrong aspect ratio and the zoom/aspect ratio button on the remote has no effect.
 
YouTube
I tried casting some movie trailers on YouTube, but they played very juddery and the video lags behind the audio, making them unwatcheable.

Comments

Hi Andy, have you tested if MX Player works? Also if it's not too much trouble, can you confirm if TV Sideview (android app from Sony) works too? I usually use TV Sideview as a DMC to browse my server files on my phone and 'cast' it to the TV. What i'm dying to know is if it's possible to get the new Bravia Android TVs to boot up my preferred player (e.g. MX Player) to play the casted content instead of the inbuilt video player. 

Many thanks for the informative impressions :)

I don't have an Android phone so not sure about that, on my iPhone the SideView app works but I didn't notice a DLNA/cast option - does it not just use the Chromecast support? If so I don't think I can test that without an Android phone.

When acting as a DLNA renderer it appears not to use an app at all, but some sort of inbuilt player but I can't be sure - I've not had it successfully play a video yet ;) I'm sure I could find out that works to find out but I have a feeling you're really asking about the Chromecast support anyway. MX Player works, it plays files, but I've no idea if you can configure it for Chromecast.

Thanks for the reply. I shouldn't have used the word 'cast' since TV Sideview doesn't actually support Chromecast (though the concept is pretty similar).

The app just acts as a simple Digital Media Controller (DMC) that allows you to browse through your server files and play them on any paired TVs. 

But based on your test, it seems like the W805C as a DMR is stuck with the default player...which is not good :(

Sorry I'm not really familiar with SideView. I installed it but haven't tested it beyond opening it once, I didn't notice any media controlling capabilities.

When I tested DMR functionality I was using Emby mainly, it was just giving me a "not supported" alert message in the standard blue TV overlay (i.e. same overlay used for volume) so I didn't actually see what the playback controls were like. I know some apps do let you configure another app to handle the playback, but I have not seen anywhere in the settings to define a default media player for the DMR functionality - it's not like there's an app icon for it so I guess if it was anywhere it would be in the global settings?

I will do some more testing tonight.

OK I tested it again, as a DLNA renderer videos open in the "Video" app, I can't find any option to configure this. I tried "Gone Girl" DVD content (MKV/MPEG2/AC3) but it played in the wrong aspect ratio and the aspect ratio button has no effect. Blu Ray content (again, MKV) played well except if it contains subtitles the app displays them by default, and although the subtitle button on the remote works, selecting "Off" doesn't actually turn them off ;) The menu also does not disappear immediately, it lingers in the black bars when playing a 2.35:1 movie.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my queries, really appreciate it :)

So the only possibility to play a 24/25 movie correctly with USB is to wait until they will out an application which can play it in 24/25p, am I right? Or there is no way and we will never be able to play it in original format via USB with theese new series?

I'm not sure about USB, it's possible the default "Videos" app will switch the refresh rate, but I doubt it. Thing is, it's actually quite hard to tell - one has to assume that the switch is visible, as I haven't found an overlay screen in the TV itself that tells you what the refresh rate is set to...

Also it depends what you mean by "properly". You can play a 24p movie at 60Hz, you're just relying on the playing app to do a good job with the frame interpolation. I really notice it and it looks bad to me, others maybe not so much. Certainly I seem to be in the minority complaining about it so much!

Tried yesterday to play from DLNA server with Inbuilt video player. Yes it does not support contect, but picture browser see my dlna and displayes correctly...

Lets hope sony will fix such isues with time.

Yes I should probably do an update; some issues seem to be resolved (or perhaps just intermittent); I can browse a MiniDLNA server fine, but there are bugs with playback. For example:

  • DVD-derived content (MKV/MPEG2/AC3) plays in the wrong aspect ratio and can't be changed
  • Stuttering on 1080p MKV/H.264/AC3 (bitrate was about 16 Mbps)
  • Sometimes subtitles cannot be disabled - not sure if this is still here as I can't remember which files it was doing it on

I found the problem both on online streaming like online movies as well as playing downloaded movies on USB. For online content the picture didn't spread on full screen but had borders from all four sides . For USB playback the black letterboxes appear randomly and actually ate part of the picture eg. Half of the subtitles disappeared in bottom black border. It is useless for that purpose.

the problem with the refresh rate is from android, apparently, and android M will support switching refresh rates. I think the nvidia shield tv (arguably the best android tv out there) does support at least 24p and 60p, but hard to tell. do smart tv platforms from previous years do the refresh rate switching? 

 

ask for playback of dlna content, have you try bubbleUPnP or something similar to browse the content, and then have android let you decide which players to get? I;m not sure if android tv supports this, or if sony has crippled this. but basically, on a phone or tablet, you can use bubbleUPnP to browse the content and then you'll be prompt to play it with either VLC or MXplayer (or any other compatible player). may be worth a shot

 

Pretty sure refresh rate switching is possible from what I've read, but needs to be implemented along the whole stack, not just OS but the OEM's application APIs and the application itself.

Unfortunately the TV will not prompt you to pick a player for DLNA, regardless of whether you use the TV itself as the DLNA controller or an application on another device.

yeah, switching refresh rates will eventually depend completely on Sony and IM not sure how fast they will deliver, of if they will at all.

 

kodi has a config file to use external players (external to kodi) http://kodi.wiki/view/HOW-TO:Use_external_players_on_Android

 

maybe this can be used to get mxplayer or vlc to play smb / dlna shares?

Well, maybe that is possible if you are using Kodi to play DLNA content (not when using another device as DMC of course). I'm not sure if this is better: Kodi appears to get playback right, or better than other apps anyway. There are only a couple of issues (can't play VC1, odd effects when seeking, and no way to bring up context menus from the remote). Maybe if I get some time I'll see what MX Player is like as a player for Kodi, if I can find a way to actually get the custom file onto the TV... presumably there is a file manager app available for Android TV.

So I just got a 805c myself. 

Installed archos, mxplayer, vlc. 

 

Archos finds smb shares just fine, and adds pretty thumbnails and descriptions. I can even see the episodes pop up in the home menu. However it complains about missing audio codecs. Haven't purchased the codec pack.

 

I dont have any dlna shares yet.

 

The default video app doesnt see smb shares as far as I know. I suppose it finds dlna. Works fine with USB.

 

I installed ES file explorer. I had to manually add my SMB share (with IP and share name. ). It worked really well, I can browse the files. When I hit the files, I am prompted with the android "select an app to open this file". This constructs an URI that other apps can use to open the file. I can see MX player, archos , even ES media  player, and the default video player. 

MX player plays the video perfectly, but the audio is out of sync. I blame this not on MX player, but on sony/android. THe picture systems are different for "apps", clearly the apps part is not optimised for audio sync yet.  The same happens if I play it with ES video player (1080p streamed over wifi, streams fine, but audio lags a bit). I suppose I can play with the picture settings to disable some of the video processing. 

The app that however works the best, is the default sony player. It uses diferent picture settings (when in the action menu, it says Apps(video) rather than just apps). Same as netflix ones actually.  The default video app cannot browse SMB shares , but when launched from ES file explorer, they play just fine.

Let me know if this works for you!

 

Install 'Keymap Editor' on Kodi to map any functions you need to the remote controller. Not all the buttons on the remote seem to register, but you only need a few things really. I seem to suffer audio lag with some video files in Kodi, so I've mapped the audio sync options to a couple of buttons.

I think there have been a couple of system updates since your initial review. I don't recognise many of the problems you have reported.

I'm sensitive to judder but haven't been troubled by it in any apps or input methods. I have MotionFlow turned off, so it's nothing to do with that. It is quite frustrating not to know what the refresh rate is set at though. That really should be in the overlay.

I sometimes have a problem with usb devices not showing up. Have to reinsert them sometimes to get them to work. I'm looking at getting a NAS soon though so it won't annoy me for long.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the TV. Great picture quality and it upsizes SD content very nicely to my eye. Updates have addressed many issues and will hopefully continue to do so. Plus, the fact that it's Android makes it very configurable with loads of apps and Kodi seems to work pretty well.

Thanks for commenting.

I have installed all the system and app updates, though there hasn't been a TV update since mid July. No doubt they are frantically working on YouView. I dread to think what state that will be at first launch... Some of the TV issues have gone away though (whether by themselves or because of the updates I can't tell!), but I haven't updated this article to reflect all of those changes. This article was just my initial quick findings, but it seems to continue to get some interest so I should probably update it or do a follow-up.

Glad you are happy with the TV. I have not used USB at all so can't speak for the issues you've had with that, but if you don't have an NAS then it's no wonder you haven't experienced some of the other issues around DLNA in the various apps. Some of those have gone away too, but the inbuilt app (which is what is used for DLNA PlayTo) is still unusable due to its aspect ratio issues.

Refresh rate: I must admit it is bothering me less day by day, maybe I am getting used to it. I am finding myself using Kodi to watch things now and again rather than a dedicated box. It is annoying not to be able to find the refresh rate yes, but ultimately at present it is pointless, because it is always 60Hz (it says so in the system info part of Settings).

Unfortunately I found a diferent related issue though: playing a DVD from the PS3 had some horrendous de-interlacing artifacts. Can't really tell where that was coming from (could be the PS3). The TV also kept switching from AC3 passthrough to stereo PCM on and off throughout the movie, which was very annoying. In truth there are a suite of related audio issues, especially related to audio delay like you have experienced. For me, off the top of my head they are:

  • Audio delay will be fine one day, way out on another. I have seen this with both external inputs (e.g. YouView box, PS3) and apps (Kodi). On my YouView box it seems to happen less frequently, but I noticed once that just adjusting the delay and then putting it back again seemed to reset things and it worked.
  • When watching content from my streaming box, the volume control will randomly appear every few minutes. The sound doesn't drop out, but something is happening in the audio chain, related to either CEC or the passthrough in the audio chain (box->HDMI->TV->optical->amp).
  • Most apps only output 2ch stereo, they can't passthrough digital encoded or decode and send multichannel PCM. The settings exist, but the TV can't do it.
  • I had an issue the other day watching a DVD from the PS3, the sound would constantly drop out, switching between sending AC3 (passthrough) and stereo PCM. This was happening every few minutes.

so I'm not the only one noticing audio sync issues? for me it's slight (except for some apps, it depends on the picture settings actually). But it drives me crazy. 

 

So I finally got my w805c. Quite pleased with the picture quality and actually found that the tv plays my files.

To play SMB shares, I've found two ways. One, archos player finds them automatically and downloads the metadata with the pretty thumbnails on its own. Mind you, I did configure my SMB server (raspberry pi) to not require any login or anything like that.  As for archos as a video player, it complained about all of my audio codecs and I didnt want to purchase them.  Archos *does* have an option of using another video player (rather than its built in one). I have not tried this setting yet. I tried it on my tablet and it didnt work. 

 

The other way to play SMB shares was to download ES file explorer. I manually added the SMB share address (host and share name). It found it just fine and I could browse the files. When attempting to play a file, I was greeted with this menu: http://i.imgur.com/2xf49nE.jpg, which is what I expect from android. Kodi will also be in the list if you have it, I had not installed it at that point.

I tried playing a pretty heavy 1080p x264 mkv. From there, I tried the different options: archos complained about the audio, but the video was playing fine. Using the ES explorer the video played well but it looked jumpy. MX video player could not handle the video properly, it was stuttering all the time. But I will try later. The inbuilt video player 'video' played it perfectly. VLC, which I suspect has its own decoding, was totally struggling.

 

I also noticed a few things regarding the video settings. The 'home' screen cannot display sony's action menu with the picture settings. When playing netflix, youtube, or something using the inbuilt video player, the action menu says the settings are applied to "Apps(video)" . When using anything else to play video, or from another app, it says just "Apps". I noticed that mx player, archos, vlc were all "Apps", while the inbuilt video player was "Apps(video)". This may explain some of the jerkiness as maybe apps had different motion settings.

 


As for refresh rate switching being a concern: it shouldn't be for 24p, at least not in this TV. According to rtings (http://www.rtings.com/tv/reviews/by-brand/sony/w800c), the US equivalent to this tv (w800c), plays 24p over 60p/60i, so there is no reason why ours shouldn't either. Basically the TV detects the 24p->60p conversion, and undoes it. If the true motion setting is the film one, you will experience a movie without any judder. Otherwise, it would be very obvious. I watched the entire movie and not once did I nottice any jerkiness. 

 

The one thing that's bugging me to no end: the audio sync. There's definitely a problem there. Kodi let me play with the audio sync and it's definitely about 50ms off (not sure if ahead or delayed ! ). It's the same regardless of the source (netflix, youtube, media player). Did seem to get a bit better while connecting the external speakers output, but maybe that was just placebo. But it isn't always too bad. Most of the times I've been the only one noticing here. 

 

Now, when I connected my laptop through HDMI it was a mess. Definitely delayed. Sounded like the actors were dubbing their own voices. I couldn't stand it. 

 

 

Oh, one more thing! it won't let you change the aspect ratio in the inbuilt player from the action menu because that would mean changing the ratio of the entire android interface. However, if you manage to play it using mx player, it has options to change the aspect ratio or zoom levels. I would suggest using the file explorer method to force the video to be played by a different application rather than the inbuilt one.

 

Hi All,

Have just bought the x83c Android TV, I have a synology NAS so I was hoping I could install the DS Player App but its not available on play store.

From your experience, what is the best media APP for Android TV, maybe one that picks up the media art and movie info and plays all file types with nice interface.

I couldn't find DLNA on the TV but when I click in Movie it gives me the option to connect via usb or my  network, select network then NAS (DS214play).

 

 

There is no specific app for DLNA, it is part of the Videos app as you've found.

I think Kodi is the best and most reliable app at the moment for media file playback, hands down. Plex would be OK if it weren't for the 5.1 audio problem.

- doesn't play back 3D content (because of ARM)

- can't do audio passthrough

So for most people on Android TV useless :-(

I don't have the TV any more but I do have an nvidia Shield Android TV. On there, Kodi can do passthrough of DTS and AC3, or it can decode them and pass multichannel PCM. What it can't do is pass through encoded DTS-HD and TrueHD. I understand the latest betas can do but haven't used them myself.

If Kodi on the Sonys still can't pass through regular DTS (when other Android TV devices can), I worry if they will ever be able to.

I now use ES File Explorer to connect to my Synology NAS box, then to play video on the native player, VLC or Kodi, depending on the file type. None of the other apps could find or login to my SMB share. This workaround really works, and I never would have figured it out on my own.

I also found how to adust picture settings for apps from the action menu, not clearly spelled out by Sony. 

Sony is still a great hardware company, but has a way to go with their software user experience.

Thanks to all the posters above.

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