Review: Sony XBR-55X930D Offers Stunning 4K HDR In An Edge-lit Display
The 55-inch Sony XBR-X930D Series of 4K Ultra HD TV is one of the company’s top level edge-lit 4K LED LCD TVs this year, reaching “premium level” brightness, black level and high dynamic range (HDR 10 format) performance to produce superb picture contrast, and accurate colors.
The X930D series represents Sony’s third-best assortment of 4K Ultra HDTV models for 2016, and at the current $1,698 retail price for the 55-inch model we tested, you’ll get a respectable bargain and satisfying picture quality if you’re not quite ready to pony up for one of Sony’s higher-performing units with full array LED backlighting and local dimming. That feature only comes in the step-up Sony X940D or new flagship Z series models, in addition to top of the line Samsung sets and P- or Reference Series Vizios. The trade off will be an image without the same degree of black level richness, and some detail crushing in both the bright white and deep black areas of the picture.
What you will get in this television is a beautiful image with decent motion processing, wonderful 10-bit panel performance that almost completely eliminates banding (Sony won’t say if it uses a 10-bit panel but it sure looks like it), an improved (not perfect) viewing angle from last year’s models, and beautiful HDR performance with vibrant specular highlights and deep blacks in the same frame, while mitigating to some extent the fine detail crushing in the dark shadows.
Performance-wise, the X930D stands shoulder to shoulder with Samsung’s curved-screen UN55KS9500, which is that brand’s top-performing 55-inch edge-lit curved LED LCD TV this year, and currently runs about $300 more.
Read more about the Sony XBR-55X930D after the break:
Size, Style, and Setup
The Sony X930D shares uses a new breakthrough technology called “Slim Backlight Drive,” which is designed to give more even overall screen illumination while removing hot spots and haloing around bright elements in an image. From a design standpoint it also allows shrinking the depth of the panel to an OLED-like ultra-thin 1-11/16th inches deep. The technology also produces excellent picture contrast and black level using a grid-array edge-lit LED system with local dimming. The sides of the 55X930D are sharply square with a thin black plastic bezel trim framing the picture. The set has an attractive finished look, with flattened side edges and center-running sliver metallic strip that surrounds the screen profile with an appealing contrasting accent to the otherwise dark-colored chassis. A subtle hump centered along the bottom edge of the TV’s frame houses the white LED power indicator light that illuminates the “Sony” logo from behind and below the trademark lettering. It also provides an effective spot for IR reception from the remote control.
The TV’s stand is a center-mounted wedge-shape pedestal base that attaches to the back of the set. This provides a very sturdy platform, although for larger-sized models, users can attach the screen to the wall with cables for additional stability in homes with young children or enthusiastic pets.
The parts to the base include a set of black plastic cover plates that provide a tidy cable management system. The unique profile of the X930D doesn’t negate wall mounting and included spacers ensure adequate clearance with standard mounting hardware.
The X930D’s LCD panel produces finely detailed 4K Ultra HD (3840×2160 pixel) resolution. The aforementioned Slim Backlight Drive grid array with local dimming produces excellent picture contrast and nice black levels, although not quite as deep and rich as on the company’s full-array LED models or LG’s OLED displays.
In addition, Sony uses its X1 processor, which works with the set’s X-tended Dynamic Range PRO technology to take power from dark areas of the screen and reassigns it to just the bright sectors requiring a luminance boost. This is said to help deliver three times the brightness range of a conventional LCD TV, and works with both HDR and to an extent non-HDR metadata supporting content.
For a wide color gamut, Sony employs its Triluminos Display technology, which helps give this set better than 90 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and helps deliver some of the most accurate colors we’ve seen from an edge-lit LED LCD TV this year.
The X930D’s edge-lighting system was brighter and more evenly dispersed across the back plane than most edge-lit LED LCD TVs. The grid-array lighting system with maximum contrast and brightness settings delivered a peak lumiance of 986 nits measuring on a 10 percent D65 white window. This was just shy of the 1,000 nits specified for Ultra HD Premium certification by the Ultra HD Alliance, but close enough for an impressively bright image with very wide contrast. Sony has elected not to seek Ultra HD Premium certification, opting instead to use its own HDR terminology. But at these levels, the set would likely qualify just the same. Black levels measured at a very respectable 0.03483 nits, which is better than the 0.05 required for Premium certification.
Testing peak luminance at other window sizes we found the set measured 641.1 nits at a 25 percent D65 white window pattern; 572.1 nits at a 50 percent window size; and 523.5 at a 100 percent window size.
We tested the set for HDR using the HDR 10 Reference Disc 2016 Ultra HD Blu-ray featuring motion test patterns and a corresponding PC work flow authored by video display expert Florian Freidrich for Samsung. Our test gear included: a SpectraCal C6-HDR colorimeter and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
We found the X930D to be just a shade dimmer than Samsung’s UN65KS9500 edge-lit 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV we tested earlier this year. That set boasted a peak brightness of 1,196 nits with a 20 percent D65 white window pattern, with backlight and contrast turned up to maximum levels.
Also, when we used Friedrich’s charts for HDR clipping, we needed to dial down the contrast setting on the 930D from maximum to 67, which lowered peak luminance to 658 nits at a 10 percent window. This still produced a respectably bright HDR image with nice blacks, better detail and deeper and richer colors in bright highlights.
Although not to the level of a full-array system, the dimming control on the 930D produced very bright highlights and relatively deep and rich black level for an impressively contrasted image. However, blacks are slightly more washed out than on Sony’s step-up models and we did discern some fine detail crushing in the darkest areas of the screen when viewing HDR content.
The Sony 55X930D features down-firing stereo speakers, which produce a better-than-average sound, although it can be rather thin and boxy on bass tones. This is to be expected with an ultra-thin cabinet like this, but it makes a good case for adding a supporting sound bar or full home theater surround sound system, which really is the best way to go in most cases.
Still, the on-board sound provided ample distortion-free volume for a mid-to-large sized room, and dialog from TV shows and movies was clean and clear.
Input Options And Networking
Sony’s input selection is solid, including four HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2, 1 set of component video inputs, one set of composite AV inputs, three USB inputs (2 USB 2.0 one USB 3.0), Ethernet LAN port, optical digital audio output, stereo audio (mini), RF antenna input, and a remote RS-232 port for control system communication.
The selection of input options on the rear and left side of the X930D should prove sufficient for any home theater setup. One of the TV’s four HDMI ports includes an ARC-enabled (audio return channel) interface to transport internal audio sources (TV tuner, apps, and connected devices) to a compatible amplifier. All of the TV’s HDMI ports are compatible with the screen’s native resolution at up to 60Hz.
Networking options for the X930D include Ethernet and fast 802.11ac dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) Wi-Fi connection to link to a wireless network.
The XBR-55X930B comes with a RMF-TX200U remote with voice control, which features a baton-style design with an uncrowded layout of clearly labeled buttons. Operation is pretty straight forward, although it’s a little hard to find the picture controls at first. The remote features prominently labeled buttons for the Google Play and Netflix apps. In addition, because the set used the Android TV operating system, it will work with a Google Cast app on a smart phone or tablet to cast streaming video service selections from the mobile device to the big screen. This helps to bring a wide range of additional app options to the TV.
Smart TV System
As mentioned, the X930D continues Sony’s use of the Android TV platform for the second year in a row. Together with the compatible Google Cast system, this brings users a huge selection of streaming apps and supporting services. The set supports decoding of both the HEVC and VP9 compression codecs enabling access to a wide range of streamed 4K video sources like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube. Sony recommends a broadband internet connection speed of at least 20Mbps for best results with 4K.
Apps preloaded in the TV appear in a set of scrolling menu bars that rotate via the arrow buttons on the remote control showing suggested movie selections available online or via one of the connected source devices. Key apps on the TV include Amazon Instant Video, Google Play movies; Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Crackle, Foxnow, 4K Ultra, MLB.TV Toon Goggles and others.
The home page also brings users access to a range of built-in gaming options via Google Play Games, PlayStation Now, Hub Gameloft and others. PlayStation Now is Sony’s cloud gaming service. You can pair a DualShock controller (not included) with the TV, log in, and run through a selection of rental-only titles anytime. PlayStation Now links to the PlayStation Network for high score comparisons with friends and archiving earned trophies. Games are a little more basic than those available through Sony’s PlayStation 4 consoles, but for fast and simple gaming action, this on-board option is easy to use.
3D For Thee
For those who appreciate 3D movies, Sony continues to support 3D playback in the 55X930D, however, the active-shutter 3D glasses are optional. At a time when many manufacturers have abandoned the technology, this set is one of the dwindling options to take advantage the stereoscopic effect while you still can.
Picture Setup Options
The X930D features a huge selection of picture mode selections. Most people can go directly to CinemaPro and ignore the majority of the TV’s 13 picture presets. When playing HDR 10 metadata-enabled content the TV will automatically shift into HDR Mode – the brightness and contrast levels are both boosted to max to raise peak luminance and widen the TV’s contrast range. This allows showing details to a certain level in both deep blacks and bright whites at the same time. This also boosts color details in pinpoint areas of brightness on the screen, like orange and yellow hues around campfires and explosions.
When viewing standard dynamic range content, selecting HDR Mode from the picture mode settings brightens highlights in SDR content to HDR-like effect, although this tends to be somewhat more exaggerated when not directed by native HDR metadata. We also needed to select HDR Mode manually on certain Ultra HD Blu-ray titles that were labeled “HDR” but for some reason didn’t activate the automated HDR settings trigger in the X930D.
Calibration And Color
The Sony XBR-55X930D’s main picture calibration controls consist of 2-point and 10-point white balance. Post-calibration measured results from Calman’s ISF workflow showed no concerning error readings (Delta E 2000), with the highest measured level hitting just 2.59. Errors under 3.0 in motion video are considered unnoticeable for people with regular eyesight.
Color gamut measurements revealed the X930D’s native color space can easily exceed the saturation levels used for HD video production and encompassed 94.8 percent of the DCI-P3 color specification used in commercial cinema. The Ultra HD Alliance requires 90 percent DCI-P3 or better to qualify for Ultra HD Premium certification.
Video Processing And Motion
Checking for video noise handling, our favorite low-light torture test found in the opening scenes of the Blu-ray version of Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End showed the set to do a very nice job of keeping background noise to an almost unnoticeable minimum without softening overall picture quality. The classic 1080i HQV benchmark Blu-ray test disc revealed that the X930D does similarly acceptable job handling jaggies along angled edges in the moving bar and violin strings tests. The benchmark’s film resolution loss test indicated that the TV performed motion-adaptive processing that effectively eliminated flicker and related loss of detail in the selection of interlaced movies that were examined.
As with earlier Sony 4K TVs, the 55X930D does an admirable job of upscaling lower-resolution HD and Full HD material to fill the expanded number of pixels on the 3840×2160 screen.
Sony provides a variety of motion resolution enhancement options with the X930D that can deliver perfect clarity with 1080-line video benchmarks. For motion blurring and judder, Sony uses a native 120 Hz panel combined with its Motionflow system which does a nice job of keeping moving objects clear while limiting judder without boosting the Soap Opera effect.
Viewing angles and uniformity
Off-axis viewing with the 55X930D was similar to other VA-type LCD panels in that color saturation appears to wash out slightly starting at about 20-degrees but the picture remains quite watchable out to extreme viewing angles.
Uniformity exams showed no signs of obvious banding in scenes containing lots of flat bright backgrounds like panning sky shots or some sporting events. However, on a solid gray screen some darker shadowing is evident along the top of the frame and slightly in the corners and down the sides of the screen. However, this was hardly noticeable when watching regular programming. Thanks to the new edge-light system, no signs were detected of haloing or cloudy hot spots although some elevated brightness was noticeable at times toward the bottom of the screen. This is a common occurrence in edge-lit displays.
Loading up the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Great Gatsby revealed the X930D’s ability to handle a wide range of contrast with brilliant specular highlights. The set’s processing system also did an excellent job of accurately rendering a variety of skin tones and complexions without exaggeration or distortion.
Most times, the kicked into HDR mode when fed HDR 10-supporting content from a connected 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, however I noticed on some titles, such as the 4K UHD HDR copy of The Last Reef Cities Beneath The Sea, the set remained in its Rec-709/standard dynamic range (SDR) settings requiring me to manually go into the picture settings to select HDR mode.
The program itself was gorgeously shot showing a stunning array of colors from the underwater life. Here, too, the benefits of the 10-bit panel and content came through in the near elimination of any visible banding. Underwater scenes tend to be a torture test for this kind of artifact.
For most major theatrical fare, we didn’t find it necessary to manually select HDR Mode. One point of criticism here is that Sony includes a “Display” button on the remote to call up an info banner showing the resolution level and aspect ratio of the program being viewed. However, this otherwise handy tool fails to indicate when an HDR 10 title is playing, making it harder to confirm that the set is in the right mode when trying to determine if a 4K HDR program is being displayed properly by the TV.
Sony’s XBR-55X930D Series 4K Ultra HD TV earned HD Guru’s Best of CES Award for most Innovative 4K Ultra HDTV. Upon further review we stand by our assessment. Sony’s Slim Backlight Drive delivers one of the finest edge-lit LED LCD TVs we’ve seen, keeping a uniformity of brightness across the LCD back plane while minimizing blooming and haloing around bright objects on dark consistent backgrounds.
Its premium-level peak brightness, respectable black levels, and accurate color output should bring years of delight to anyone who takes one home. It’s also a full-featured smart TV that provides popular 4K streaming options, dual-screen content sharing, good multimedia file support, and a great built-in gaming experience. Oh, and it’s got 3D if you want it. You will find a handful of better performing 4K Ultra HDTV models on the market this year, but you are going to pay a lot more than this to get them. Plus, a series of price reductions have made it an even more appealing premium-level 4K Ultra HDTV option.
We therefore award Sony’s XBR-55X930D 4 out of 5 hearts.
The XBR-55X930D used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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