Sony KD-43XG8396 43” 4K Android TV versus Samsung QE43Q60R 43” 4K Tizen TV
I was in the market for a 43” mid-range smart TV. The Samsung Q60R and Sony XG8396 stood out as both were advertised as smart, but Android appeared to be more flexible and with more apps than Samsung’sTizen OS. After much deliberation I opted for the Sony, whose picture quality didn’t disappoint. So why did I return it within 24 hours and why is the Samsung so much better?
The main objectives of this TV were to stream content and watch the occasional terrestrial TV programme in a small gym while I worked out, but I also wanted it to be smart, linking with current and potential future IoT devices. It also had to support Bluetooth headphones. That might be taken as a given if a TV says that it has Bluetooth, but some only support protocols such as keyboard/mice without the required audio support. This would also mean that said TV would also not connect to a Bluetooth sound bar – a showstopper for many – so worth checking out if you’re considering this option on a future TV.
After getting the Sony TV home I duly started unwrapping in order to configure it.
First issue – wall-mounting
All TVs have VESA mounting points on the rear, so there was never an issue with mounting either TV. Every TV I’ve ever owned previously is powered directly by a cable. The first thing I saw upon opening the Sony TV was a power supply. Given that I’d just had a partition wall built with a plug socket to be located directly behind the TV, I didn’t really want to have a trailing cable. In the end I decided that the power supply could be balanced between the screen and the wall, as the rear panel stepped in a few centimetres. No biggie, but hardly an elegant solution.
Long-winded setup on Android
The Sony is powered by Android, so you can consider this to be similar in terms of setup to getting the latest and greatest Android mobile phone. After powering up you’ll need to log in, which was a painful experience on the Sony remote control. The buttons are quite low set within the handset, and I found myself often having to press twice in order for it to register. It took several minutes to go through the myriad of options and permissions required but it duly found all of the terrestrial channels and, after about 10 minutes I was at the Android home page.
I’d connected to my Wi-Fi network and my first port of call was to open YouTube and pull up some 4K content. As expected, I was not disappointed. The obligatory nature videos really popped, the colours were vibrant and the level of detail was on another scale to 1080p resolution. At this point I was feeling vindicated for choosing the Sony, despite the minor issue with the power supply.
No iOS mirroring out of the box
One feature that I wanted to take advantage of what casting content from my iPhone or iPad to the screen. Although Sony’s website states that you can ‘cast from Android, iOS or your laptop’ what they are referring to is using Google’s Chromecast technology. This is not the same as screen mirroring, and despite my best efforts I could not mirror the content of my phone or tablet on the Sony (whereas there’s no such issue with my daughter’s lower spec Samsung TV). Chromecast allows specific apps to cast (such as YouTube) but does not allow you to mirror the device’s screen itself. For example, if I wanted to quickly pull up photos from my camera I would not be able to use Chromecast as Apple’s photo app does not support it. A quick Google search provided apps in Google Play that did deliver this functionality but with the caveat that they are either ad-supported or you have to pay to remove ads. Again, not what you expect for a mid-range Sony TV when other much lesser-priced TVs offer this out of the box.
The showstopper – WI-FI connectivity
At this point I was about 90 minutes in. I’d (arduously) logged into various accounts (Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, etc.) whilst simultaneously cursing whoever designed the Sony’s remote control. During one such test the TV reported no WI-FI, so I duly reconnected. However, each time after testing the above-mentioned mirroring app the TV would tell me that it couldn’t see the network, the hub for which was certainly in my line of sight. Four disconnections later and I threw in the towel. One hard reset later and the TV found its way back into the box.
I must give credit to PC world, who took the TV back without any fuss. They offered a full refund, but I opted for the Samsung which they also priced-matched to the tune of £100 discount. The Samsung ended up being £80 less than the Sony.
Round two – the Samsung QE43Q60R
Less than 15 hours after unpacking the Sony and I was repeating the process with the Samsung. To my relief on opening the box I was presented with a nice short power cable with a 90-degree connector – no issues with mounting this TV!
Powering the TV up, Samsung of course wanted me to create an account but did offer the option to skip - ‘let’s do that later’, I thought, deciding to check that all of the features I wanted would work. It quickly found all of the terrestrial channels and within a couple of minutes I was at the Samsung home screen. I was already familiar with this, having set up my daughter’s TV several months back.
Unusually, the Samsung ships with two remote controls – a standard one with the usual array of buttons and a much simpler one, which has a ‘rocker circle’, handling ‘left-right-up-down’ selection, with the middle button acting as OK. It also supports speech input, powered by Samsung’s Bixby smart assistant. Bixby’s had a bit of a rough ride in the media when compared against much more mature assistance such as Google Home, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, but in the few tests I did it recognised everything and was fast to respond. The smart remote itself was far superior to the Sony, and much faster to use when entering login information for the likes of Netflix, etc.
I would not regard myself as a connoisseur of AV tech, so could not tell you from a highly technical level which TV outperforms the other from a visual or audio standpoint, but both TVs looked stunning when playing 4K content. The Sony was probably the winner, but I’d have to see them side by side to be able to back that statement up. Either way, the Samsung did not disappoint. I’d read other comments online that the blacks were not true blacks and that there were artefacts, but I guess the latter would depend on the quality of the source content. Terrestrial HD TV looked fine, as did Netflix and YouTube 4K content.
The Samsung was the smarter TV
Now for the real reason I bought the TV – its smarts. There were three key areas that the QE43 outperformed the XG83. Firstly, it was very simply to connect up my Bluetooth headphones, and the Samsung immediately prompts me to connect to them as soon as they are powered up. Next up was screen mirroring. Swipe down on the iPhone, tap screen mirroring and the TV’s listed. After a one-time permissions authorisation my phone’s screen was quickly mirrored on the TV, with no perceptible lag at all. Finally, while Samsung’s App Store pales into insignificance by comparison to Google Play what it does have up its sleeve is SmartThings connectivity. I’ve not yet linked it to Alexa, but I did link it to my Ring doorbell (which is also connected to Alexa). So, when a visitor comes a-knocking not only does the Ring Chime and Alexa pipe up, but the TV also shows a notification, with the option to quickly open up a live view.
I’ve learnt two things from this exercise. Despite loving Sony products for many a year, I fear that what they deliver in picture/sound quality they lack in functionality – the same could be said for my existing Sony LCD (that dates back several years) which defaults to terrestrial TV and thus requires me to change sources every single time it’s powered on. Samsung on the other hand have often been guilty of cramming features into devices just so that they can say they’ve got X number of features, not because they truly add value.
In this case Samsung is the clear winner. I’ve had the TV for around a week now and it hasn’t missed a beat. The interface is intuitive and fast, the network connection has been solid (despite me connecting it to a slower 2.4GHz network) and it connects quickly to my headphones without argument each time. I can go from powered off to playing whatever I was previously watching on Netflix through my Bluetooth headphones with three clicks and less than 10 seconds. Would I buy Sony again? Possibly. Build quality is excellent. Picture/sound quality is excellent. Hopefully future models will get smarter, but in the meantime the smart crown goes to Samsung,