Review: Skyworth XC9000 Presents A Good OLED Value For Under $1,000
Skyworth has rolled out its 2021 TV lineup for the North American market, and among the most intriguing models are those in the entry 4K OLED TV XC9000 Series, which are among the least expensive options for the technology available this year.
We tested the 55-inch Skyworth 55XC9000 model, which is positioned for TV buyers on a budget who are looking for a television that presents movies well in dark room settings through the inherent benefits of OLED technology — deep inky black reproduction, wide reasonably accurate DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, 178-degree wide off-axis viewing angles, and an ultra-thin panel design. The model we tested delivered all of these reasonably well for typical viewers, with some caveats for videophiles explained below.
First, this might not be the right choice for anyone looking for advanced video gaming qualities, or a very bright HDR picture. The input lag time could be faster, even with Game Mode on. It also lacks some of the smooth motion handling of more advanced and more expensive OLED TVs. But for anyone looking at a good-performing, high value television for everyday television and movie watching this might be a good-enough option to consider.
Skyworth offers two models in the XC9000 series: 55-inches ($999.99 street retail price at the time this was posted) and 65-inches ($1,399.99 street price). This compares to LG’s A1 series models priced at 55-inches ($1,199.99 street price) and 65-inches ($1,599.99 street price). Both LG’s A1 series and the Skyworth XC9000 series use step-down 60Hz refresh rate OLED panels.
Key features of the XC9000 include an attractive ultra-thin bezel design, Chameleon Extreme 2.0 picture processing engine, Filmmaker Mode; HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR support; Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound support; wide DCI-P3 color gamut coverage; 3 HDMI 2.0b ports; 2 USB 2.0 ports; Android TV v. 10 OS with fast load times, built-in far-field mics for hands-free AI Google Assistant voice control (a hard-off switch on the TV is provided); and voice control remote with push-and-hold button-activated mic for use when the far-field mic is turned off.
The trade off to get the lower price compared to an LG A1 model will be somewhat weaker motion processing applied to the 60Hz OLED panel, less-adept picture processing, slightly dimmer peak brightness level than other OLED TVs, and a less sophisticated and useful menu for picture and audio settings.
Those looking for a television they can calibrate to the room viewing conditions should first consider the fact that the Skyworth XC9000 models lack color management system controls and extensive gamma adjustments while we found the 2-pt. and 11-pt. white balance adjustments were sometimes difficult to keep locked in. This makes a thorough calibration difficult compared to competitive OLED TV models.
The XC9000 series also lacks motion handling control adjustments, and some degree of motion blurring/judder is visible in content with a lot of fast action, like live sports. Also, lag time for video gaming wasn’t the fastest we’ve seen.
Despite this, those who don’t care about calibrating a television beyond the over-arching picture modes will find good picture quality from most source material benefiting from the strong picture qualities inherent in OLED technology.
Product appearance is one of the strengths of the Skyworth XC9000. The company uses its “bezel-less” design, which has a less than pencil-thin black border strip framing all four sides of the screen, crowned with a silver metallic edge and matching short feet positioned at the left and right ends of the base of the frame to keep the screen stable when placed on a tabletop or credenza. This gives the set the look of a higher-end TV than it actually is.
The stand leaves 1.75-inches of clearance beneath the screen. This means that when used with a soundbar in tabletop placements, most soundbars will block one of more inches at the base of the picture.
The panel depth measure less than a quarter of an inch at the top extending half way down the back of the panel where the panel depth expands to accommodate electronics, inputs and venting. The depth of the screen at very bottom of the screen extends 2.5 inches to the rear. The depth of the base footprint (the feet) measures 8.5 inches.
Inputs are mounted facing out to the left side of the screen, from the viewer’s perspective, and the power cord plugs in on the far right bottom on the rear of the panel.
The Skyworth XC9000 series offers three HDMI 2.0b inputs, and lacking the more advanced gaming and sound features of the newer HDMI 2.1 specification, like eARC, ALLM and VRR. Other ports include a composite input via a 3.5mm dongle; a SPDIF optical output, and a pair of USB ports, one v.2 and one v.3. This will be good enough to accommodate most source devices while supporting input for 4K UHD and common HDR profiles, but leaves no room for future proofing. The television will not support the newer advanced gaming features over HDMI, like 4K/120Hz or VRR.
Android TV 10
The Skyworth XC9000 runs the Android TV v. 10 operating system without the overlaying Google TV user interface. Unfortunately, HDMI-CEC implementation here did not want to cooperate with our connected Denon AVR and daisy chained source components. The system kept turning on a connected Ultra HD Blu-ray player when ever we tried to operate a Roku Ultra media streaming player connected to the AVR hub on a different source input. This required us to disconnect which ever device we didn’t want to view when attempting to play the other. We ended up turning HDMI-CEC (HDMI Control) off altogether.
Skyworth offers a nice selection of apps here, including most of the major ones like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, hulu, Apple TV+, Peacock, HBO Max, YouTube, YouTube TV and many others.
The Android TV 10 interface offers nice scrolling rows of app sources, inputs and program thumbnails to quickly find a program a user might like to watch, but this is very much the same as other Android TVs in this class.
The XC9000 offers a nice assortment of the three most commonly used high dynamic range (HDR) profiles for movie and streamed television series — HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. It does not support HDR10+ or Dolby Vision for gaming. The television also lacks sufficient power to present very bright HDR specular highlights, and although the OLED technology produces deep black the set does not have the ability to reproduce dark shadow detail, with some elements of grayscale shading and colors being crushed into the black surroundings. We measured black level at zero nits, as is expected from self-emitting OLED panels with the ability to turn off light at the pixel level.
At the other end of the scale, the television only managed 431.7 nits of peak brightness with the television in “Vivid” mode and the contrast, backlight and brightness controls maxed out. This is below the threshold for a “Premium” UHD OLED TV as defined by the Ultra HD Alliance criteria.
The set also didn’t track EOTF gamma for HDR very closely, meaning that contrast and brightness levels might not be exactly in line the grading levels the filmmaker selected using studio post-production monitors.
The Skyworth XC9000 handles color quite well. We tested the set in HDR10 measuring 99% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage, which is among the highest available.
In SDR the set measured color points for Blue, Magenta and Yellow pretty close to the target points, but Green, Cyan and Red all pushed a bit far outside the SDR gamut field. In real world images this shows up as a slight green tint throughout the picture. Unfortunately there are no Color Management System controls to easily adjust this beyond 2 pt. and 11 pt. white balance adjustments.
Like LG’s 2021 entry A1 series line, the Skyworth XC9000 line helps to reduce the asking price slightly by using a native 60Hz refresh rate OLED panel. This year is the first time such panels have appeared and the result tends to show up more motion blurring and judder than other OLED sets equipped with 120Hz refresh rates. If your eye is sensitive to this when watching sports or other content with a lot of fast moving objects and camera pans, you might want to consider stepping up to a full 120Hz version, like Skyworth’s premium XC9300 series, LG’s B1 or higher 2021 OLED series or any 2021 Sony OLED model.
Like most 4K OLED televisions, the XC9000 performs best in dark or dim-room lighting conditions.
As mentioned, the XC9000 lacks a number of basic picture settings controls that are now virtually standard on most 4K Ultra HDTVs. You’ll find no color management system controls to fine tune color accuracy if you have the proper calibration equipment, and the white balance controls for 2 pt and 11-pt adjustments were at times tricky to use. Any attempt to adjust the expert settings under the Movie mode or Filmmaker Mode settings groups resulted in the set kicking immediately into User Mode. The set lacks any motion colors and our attempts at calibrating HDR didn’t seem to alter much, as the television didn’t change settings from SDR upon sensing incoming HDR signals.
That said, the factory settings for BT.709 were reasonably accurate out of the box for our dimmed room lighting conditions.
Pre-calibrated Rec. 709 color measured outside of the gamut targets for Green, Cyan and Red in Calman calibration software from Portrait Displays.
The video processing in the XC9000 does an acceptable job of upscaling lower-resolution picture sources to fit the 4K Ultra HD resolution and 10-bit color of the panel. The set does show quantization (color banding) artifacts in some 8-bit source content, occurring around bright objects against a solid color background, like a setting sun against a horizon or streams of light descending from the surface in some underwater scenes.
Upscaled 480p content, such as that found on DVD movies, were presented more or less as they appear on any HD or Full HD screen. Film grain is present along with low light noise, but no better or worse than they would appear on a display with native 480p resolution. The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine DVD, for example, is neither as sharp nor colorful as we remember seeing it on film in the theaters, but it manages to keep moving mosquito noise from poor line quadrupling to a minimum.
Real World Viewing
For most real-world viewing, the television generally passes the eye test with much of today’s HD and Full HD SDR content. We find the television tends to be best suited to movie-based source material, handling streaming content and 4K UHD and standard Full HD Blu-ray movies reasonably well.
The “Coral Reef” chapter scenes for the BBC’s Blue Planet II 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc are vividly brilliant and appear naturally and accurately well saturated presenting the native 4K source material on the XC9000 screen. Due to the deep black reproduction on this set, the lack of brightness didn’t crush out any of the visible stars in the opening shot of Mars against a starfield background used in the opening title sequence of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc version of The Martian.
Specular highlights were noticeably brighter than the surrounding elements on the screen and stood out to a point that brought a sense of depth to the image.
Upconverted SD content from sources including DVDs or YouTube videos of old 4:3 television programs are considerably softer in appearance than Full HD Blu-ray content, and even from the way they are presented by televisions with more powerful picture processing. You might want to take that into consideration if you have a large DVD library you tend to view a lot.
The Skyworth XC9000 is an OLED display so wide viewing angles are excellent. The panel holds its color, contrast and brightness from a wide range up to 178 degrees, making it the perfect type of display to be mounted on a wall or placed in a room with seating all around the screen.
The on-board sound system is surprisingly good, benefiting from the wide soundstage of the Dolby Atmos system. Dialog is clear and can get reasonably loud, although the overall tone tends to have a slightly hollow quality, and loud or deep sound effects like explosions and gun shots lack some definition and punch. As with virtually all flat-panel televisions we recommend adding on a soundbar or a multi-channel home theater speaker system.
The Skyworth brand might be unfamiliar to many in the United States. The China-based manufacturer only began its push behind television sets here in 2018, although it long has been among the top TV brands in its domestic China market and is one of the larger OEM/ODM TV manufacturers in the world. In fact, Skyworth ranked among the top five TV manufacturers in 2020, according to some market research estimates.
In North America, you still might have to do a little hunting to find the brand, but it is quickly spreading to regional TV/appliance dealers, national chains, independent electronics shops, and on Amazon, both here and in Canada.
We found the Skyworth 55XC9000 to be a good value for a 4K OLED TV, for those who want to simply enjoy watching clear constrasty movies in a darkened room. The set handles most theatrical and even live video content quite well. However, some sports fans with a careful eye might find the set’s motion blurring and judder off putting, as well as the overall color balance that pushes slightly green.
Also keep in mind that OLED displays can be vulnerable to image retention (or burn-in) when static images or bright elements (like cable station logos or stock/news tickers) are left on screen too long. This is easily avoided, however, by taking care to turn the set off or change the channels periodically throughout the day. Also, don’t leave freeze frame video game or computer graphics stationary on screen for more than a few minutes at a time.
Those who’ve been waiting for an OLED TV that rings in at under $1,000, like the 55-inch Skyworth 55XC9000 we tested here, should try to check this model out for themselves. The Android TV 10 platform is loaded with streaming content, which is a breeze to search through and presented in a simple to use, straight forward manner. We therefore award the Skyworth XC9000 3.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Skyworth 55XC9000 4K OLED TV used for this review was a company loan.
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By Greg Tarr
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