Hands On: Sony’s XBR-84X900 and XBR-HX950

September 6th, 2012 · 2 Comments · 3D HDTV, 4K LED LCD, Connected TVs

Today I got to take a close look at Sony’s new 84-inch, $25,000, 4K resolution LCD.

It’s big, it’s beautiful, but is it worth it?

Then there’s the local-dimming HX950 HDTV series, a rare breed itself.

All the info after the jump.

Let’s start with the quick part first. The HX950 is the successor to the HX929. With a full-array, local dimming backlight, it’s got some significant performance. The 950 doesn’t change the formula too much. Compared to the 929, the 950 has slightly rounded edges, different stand design, but keeps the Corning Gorilla Glass. A brief demo of the 55-inch looked good, with dark blacks and bright, non-haloed whites. They’re able to shut off the LEDs completely behind the dark parts of the screen for a better contrast ratio.

Both are available this month at $3,499.99 for the 55-inch and $5,499.99 for the 65-inch.


I am skeptical of 4K. To the point I feel 4K TVs are stupid. My opinion on the matter is largely irrelevant 4K TVs are eminent. Sony showed me the XBR-84X900 in a hotel adjacent to the convention center. Presumably to make it easy to dispose of my body if the indoctrination into 4K IS AWESOME didn’t work.

Sony is recommending a viewing distance of 1.5 picture heights away from the screen. In this case that’s about 6 feet away. And indeed, at this distance, the X900 looks pretty amazing. Using a combination of server-stored 4K video content and 4K still images, they gave a convincing demo of the incredible detail of 4K. In the image shown above you could easily make out individual cobblestones, the tiles in the roofs, and even the leaves on the trees.

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However, most people don’t want to sit 6 feet from their TV. Most people sit around 9-10 feet from their TV. At this distance (and I checked), the increased detail is much less apparent. That said, it still looked quite detailed. Without a comparable-sized 1080p TV to compare it to, I can’t say how much more detailed (if it all) it looks at a “normal” distance.

The Real Problem

I’m sure you’re going to read plenty of articles about 4K saying the lack of content is a big issue. I disagree. In the early days of HD there was almost no content. I have faith the content will come, that’s the easy part.

Of slightly more concern is that the current HDMI spec (1.4) only requires 4K at 24 fps, therefore the current HDMI chips can only do 4K/24 (if that). This precludes the possibility of 4K 3D, only 1080p 3D. While future generations of HDMI will surely have the ability to do 4K 3D, it’s likely the current gen TVs won’t be able to. Not unless there’s some sort of 1.4-1.5 upgrade, which would be largely unprecedented in a TV

The real issue that Sony needs to address is that people still sit farther from their TVs than they need to, and still aren’t buying big TVs in serious numbers. 4K in 50-inch sizes is completely unnecessary at 10-feet. Will people move closer or buy bigger TVs? I’m skeptical.

But like I said, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will feel they “need” 4K even if they can’t see it.

And let me say again, up close (or really huge) 4K is impressive.


Geoff Morrison @TechWriterGeoff
Geoff’s book is now in paperback


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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Harry Childress

    Thanks for the article on the Sony 4K tv. I contacted Sony regarding proposed price and TV size availability. They have yet to respond. I noted that you stated that the difference between previous model and the 4K was minimal. However you seemed to indicate that their was a difference .
    You also stated that most would sit around nine feet from the picture, but I feel that 12 to 15 feet would be a little closer.
    My issue was price, and size availability. I currently own a 65″ Mitsubishi, and do not want to go larger, nor smaller. Yet 65″ tv’s are not readily available. It is hard to find Sony 65″ TV’s in a store.

  • daarrid

    This is an interesting article that contradicts the often referenced HD Guru’s “HDTV Seating Distance Chart”.

    In this article we learn again, that 720p is very hard tdistinguishsh from 1080p at normal seating distances (10′) and for typical (non-projector) screen sizes.

    So it should come as no surprise that the reviewer found no difference when a 4K display is viewed from a distance.

    What I find amazing is the HD Guru still often references his own seating distance chart that recommends a seating distance of 78″ (6′ 6″) for a 50″ display based on visual acuity – the exact same criteria this article states is wrong headed.

    Also not mentioned in the article is that no video source provides EXACT pixel by pixel information. Rather all video is compressed to some degree and exact pixel information is thrown away to keep the bit rate within bounds

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