Review: Sony XR65X90K 4K Full Array LCD TV Brings Premium Color, Google TV
The 65-inch 2022 Sony BRAVIA XR65X90K 4K Google TV is a nice affordable option for anyone looking for a set with excellent Sony video processing and responsive Google TV smart streaming and recommendations.
Unlike some of the company’s step-up BRAVIA 4K LED LCD TV series with Mini-LED backlighting, the BRAVIA X90K series is comprised of standard full-array with local dimming LED LCD models. This makes for a more affordable option, at the sacrifice of some black level detail found in Mini-LED systems that typically generate more brightness and better controlled black and haloing artifacts in dark scenes. The set also presents some shadow detail crushing in SDR and at times noticeable screen reflection that can get distracting.
The set also lacks quantum dot color volume and wide gamut enhancement technology found in many competitors models at this price point. However, Sony’s Cognitive Processor XR and Triluminos color system deliver a very similar result, with powerful brightness and color gamut boosting across the set’s 4K (3840 x 2160) screen pixels, This produces a very nice, realistic-appearing SDR and HDR pictures, over all.
- 4K Full-array LED backlit LCD TV with good 4K HDR brightness and wide color gamut
- Auto picture optimization
- Expansive Google TV app library and responsive voice control
- Relatively affordable price for a 2022 Sony TV
- Excellent picture processing
- Built-in ATSC 3.0/1.0 over-the-air broadcast tuners
- Modest appearing HDR peak brightness
- Noticeable blooming/haloing of bright objects on dark backgrounds
- Sometimes distracting screen reflection
Nicely, the X90K TV series, like many other Sony TVs this year, includes built-in NextGen TV ATSC 3.0 as well as obligatory ATSC 1.0 over-the-air broadcast tuners, so with the right antenna hooked up for your area, you should be able to tune in free (and otherwise) new TV broadcast networks and ancillary local market sub channels bringing the latest and greatest features and content. Sony is one of the most aggressive TV brands at bringing this nice new functionality to consumers and will become a bigger factor in a TV purchase decision in short order.
The BRAVIA X90K series comes in three screen sizes: 55-inches ($998), 65-inches ($1,198), 75-inches ($1,698) and 85-inches ($2,198). Although the number of local dimming zones will vary by screen size, we expect the design, picture and sound performance to be similar across the four models.
For this review, we tested the BRAVIA 65-inch XR65X90K, offering approximately 54 local dimming zones (by our count – Sony doesn’t release zone counts and the actual number might be slightly higher or lower) inside the 120Hz native refresh rate, full-array LED-backlit panel.
Sony’s powerful XR Cognitive processor drives an assortment of picture enhancement systems including what the company calls “XR Motion Clarity” blur reduction, “XR Triluminos Pro” for a wider, more natural color palette, and “XR 4K Upscaling” that intelligently controls the upconversion of lower resolution images to preserve lost visual textures and detail that can result from lesser technologies.
The processor itself was developed by Sony to drive the picture performance in a way that will appeal more naturally to the human visual system, to deliver what Sony believes is an experience that is more true-to-life and therefore more stimulating to the viewer’s perception.
Sony continues to offer High Dynamic Range (HDR) in three profile flavors including HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. It does not specifically support the HDR10+ profile, though it will produce similar effects from such content. Each of these profiles help black shadow detail and bright specular highlights in HDR-produced content stand out from the scene for a picture with contrast and brightness details that appear more realistic than the same content delivered in standard dynamic range (SDR) pictures.
This is further enhanced with Sony’s XR Contrast Booster 10 system that balances light output across the screen in a naturally appearing way.
In addition, the set supports the IMAX Enhanced certification for improved performance with IMAX Enhanced 4K/HDR content. The certification is only available to more advanced display models.
Also featured is the Netflix Adaptive Calibrated Mode, which is a system developed to make supporting TVs display Netflix content as closely as possible within the limitations of the set to the way it appears on Netflix’s mastering monitors in post production.
The BRAVIA Cognitive XR Processor also supports Sony’s exclusive content available through the BRAVIA CORE app supporting specially produced movies and programs that tap the full advanced picture and sound boosting features of Sony BRAVIA XR displays.
The performance we obsevered from this model is better than we expected to see from a television in this class, though absent some of the brightness and black level detail many upper-midrange 4K Mini-LED TVs from companies including Sony, Samsung, TCL, Hisense and others are aggressively promoting.
The BRAVIA XR65X90K is a very good display for watching both Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) movies and film-based television shows in both well-lit and controlled dark room settings. However, noticeable screen glare will appear on dark scenes in moderately well-lit to bright viewing environments. It also handles SDR live television programming such as news and sports telecasts, quite well, with excellent color handling and sharp resolution, but the set will benefit somewhat from a professional calibration.
That said, the set does a competent job of self-calibrating for gamma and screen brightness via an on-board ambient room monitoring and enhancement system. Considering the price point, we figure most buyers will rely on this value-added asset.
The television handles movies streamed through the Google TV OS especially well, with 4K Dolby Vision content. We found Dolby Vision supported HDR presented the best appearing images for this display, although the improvements are subtle compared to standard HDR10 metadata or live broadcast-HDR programming using HLG. We didn’t test for IMAX Enhanced or BRAVIA CORE content performance for this review, but we expect them to both be excellent on this display.
The XR65X90K is also a capable gaming display, offering a moderately low input lag of 22.6ms for Full HD 1080/60p HDMI input and we expect similar performance for 4K/60p as well. The set has a pair of HDMI 2.1 bandwidth inputs accepting high-frame-rate gaming and PC sources, with support for variable refresh rate (VRR) after firmware update from newer gaming devices.
The styling of the Sony BRAVIA XR65X90K features an attractive glass black narrow bezel frame measuring 0.43 inches thick surrounding all four sides of the screen.
The included stand consists of a pair of metal feet that can be attached at two different along the bottom of the screen to fit tabletops or credenzas of varying widths. The short position fits the screen snugly atop the placement surface, but this can be raised for situations where a soundbar is desired to avoid blocking any portion of the screen. These feet are very easy to attach to the screen and provide above-average support without much screen wobble.
The footprint of the reviewed 65-inch model measures 46.3 x 13 inches. With the stand in the lowest position the gap between the mounting surface and the bottom of the screen is 1.54 inches. In the elevated position, the set provides 3.31 inches of clearance allowing for many soundbar models to be placed in front of the screen without interference.
The back of the panel is made of a black textured plastic with a rounded ramp up in depth from the edges of the frame inward toward the center back of the screen. The panel depth measures 2.76 inches at its deepest part. This design provides a flat surface for wall mounting with a slight gap around the perimeter of the back of the panel and the wall surface. VESA standard bracket screw holes are provided.
Facing the screen, the inputs are arranged in a carved out niche on the left side of the panel facing out to the side, providing plenty of clearance in wall-mounted applications. The set offers four HDMI ports (two HDMI 2.0 and two 4K HDMI 2.1 ports). HDMI input 3 adds support for eARC/ARC audio passthrough, and ports 3 and 4 support up to 4K/120fps frame rates, Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and will support Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) following a firmware update. All four inputs are HDCP 2.3 compatible to play the latest copy-protected 4K video content.
Other connection ports include a set of composite video inputs (via a 3.5mm A/V minijack cable), RF input for antenna/cable signals, optical digital audio output, Ethernet port, and 2 USB inputs.
The set lacks cable management.
Wireless connections include dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), and Apple AirPlay 2 for wireless streaming from Apple devices.
The compact remote fits comfortably in the hand and offers a minimal button layout, relying on the Google TV operating system to do most of the work controlled by the central up/down/right/left app/settings highlight control. Fast-access app buttons are provided for YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video. The buttons are not backlit but most of the pertinent controls are easy to determine by feel in the dark.
The Google Assistant voice control mic input is located toward the top of the control panel layout. The centrally located mic trigger button is clearly marked and easy to access quickly.
Unfortunately, the remote lacks internal battery recharging capability that is now available in some competitors’ remotes.
The VA-type LCD panel in our test model was relatively free of any distracting dirty screen effect with a 100% full-screen gray test pattern and only subtly visible vertical line blemishes across 201 nit white screens and brighter. This was not immediately noticeable or distracting in real-world demo material most of the time, but it can be seen occasionally in some camera pans and zooms depending on the scene backgrounds.
Like most LCD TVs, Sony BRAVIA XR65X90K Google TV suffers somewhat when viewed from off angle — both vertically and horizontally — although horizontal viewing angles hold onto contrast and color details better most televisions in this price class. Reflections in the screen are visible and can be distracting at times viewing dark scenes when lights are on in the viewing room.
Where it’s positioned in the market, the Sony XR65X90K isn’t likely to attract many customers who will be willing to shell out for a professional-level calibration, or have the equipment necessary to perform one themselves. But for those with the inclination, Sony supports a Calman AutoCal workflow that will speed the process up considerably when the right light meters and test pattern generators are available. Nicely, Sony provides a comprehensive assortment of settings and picture modes to tweak brightness, contrast, gamma and color levels precisely to fit the lighting conditions of the room.
Keep in mind that each source, including content streamed through the Google TV UI, must be calibrated separately. When streaming content through the Google TV OS, the set typically shifts into a set of pre-determined picture settings upon detection of content flags in signal sources like Dolby Vision HDR, for example. While not perfectly customized to the room, these pre-sets tend to look quite good, with little to no action required by the viewer.
For calibrating HDMI input sources, pre-set picture modes include: Vivid, Standard, Cinema, IMAX Enhanced, Custom, Custom for Pro 1, and Custom for Pro 2. Where a signal contains a flag for Dolby Vision HDR, the picture modes present options for Dolby Vision Bright and Dolby Vision Dark modes. When a signal comes in via an HDMI input, the set also provides picture mode options for game, which turns off processing systems that interfere with the fastest possible lag time.
For this review, we calibrated the set using Portrait Displays’ Calman AutoCal workflow for SDR. This is used as the base setting for HDR performance as well in the Sony set. Along with this we used a Spectracal C6-HDR Colorimeter and a Murideo Six-G test pattern generator. All of the automatic picture processing settings were turned off or to low.
Prior to calibration, the set was tuned to Custom for Pro 1 with a D65 color temperature setting.
Out of the box readings from the television looked quite good for the moderately well-lit test room, although grayscale and color positions were a little off target in some areas, and improved nicely post-calibration with bright, accurate skin tones and color saturation levels.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
With the set in “’Vivid” picture mode, color temperature at Expert 2 and brightness, contrast, gamma, Advanced Contrast Enhancer, Auto Local Dimming and Peak Luminance all on high, we measured peak HDR brightness of 1023 nits, which is excellent and above the 1000 nit peak HDR luminance threshold for a “Premium Ultra HDTV” as specified by the Ultra HD Alliance. However, these settings are not very realistic.
Measuring HDR10 peak brightness after calibration, the set produced a top level of 914 nits running a 10% D65 white window pattern. This dropped down to 621.6 nits measuring a full 100% window pattern. Again, the HDR brightness levels are somewhat lower than found in step-up Mini-LED back-lit 4K LCD TVs in the market, including better Sony BRAVIA models.
The large size of the set’s local dimming zones diminishes its ability to control pure black reproduction in some dark scene conditions. As mentioned, when viewing HDR some issues with haloing/blooming around bright test pattern objects is observable moving across solid 100% black backgrounds. This is boosted or reduced depending on the dimming setting, with greater haloing observed at “High” and “Medium”. However, the set didn’t produce any flash-lighting (light bleeding) into border frames when viewing real world letter-boxed content from Ultra HD Blu-ray movies or streamed widescreen programs.
Viewing the moving star field patterns in the Spears & Munsil 4K HDR test pattern Ultra HD Blu-ray, detail crushing was minimal as were cloud-like blooming artifacts around moving star clusters. However, the brightness levels in the tiny points of “star” light were somewhat more subdued than we’ve seen. Similarly, the intended deep inky black background was elevated slightly into gray.
The handling of shadow detail as tested in the title sequences of the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of “The Martian,” shows a wide field of stars against a black space background, but these appear dimmer than on a Mini-LED-based set like a TCL 6 Series or a step-up 2022 Sony BRAVIA model. In addition, the black in the surrounding space image shows as slightly elevated dark gray, which is more separated from true black than sets with more better local dimming systems will produce.
On the other hand, the television’s LED dimming feature manages to measure “zero nits” on black test patterns in a dark room. The Ultra HD Alliance black level threshold standards for a Premium 4K LED LCD specify 0.05 nits or lower, but the way the set handled these test patterns is not quite true to the way most real world images seem to be displayed.
Smaller bright white circle test patterns on black fields or the tiny white cursors in the Spears & Munsil zone counter test pattern emit a very apparent blooming effect for several inches into the black portion of the pattern, testifying to the set’s tendency to show haloing in certain conditions due to the large size of the dimming zones.
As for real world HDR presentations, watching the first episode of “House of the Dragon,” the prequel series to “Game of Thrones” and first new series to stream in 4K Dolby Vision HDR over HBO Max, the Dolby Vision brightness highlights immediately engaged. As intended by the filmmaker, scenes of torchlight from interior scenes were extremely dark, though the flickering flames in these scenes didn’t present the same bright glow of specular highlights we’ve come to expect from other films (we attribute this to the director’s creative choice). To the contrary, HDR specular highlights from campfires in various scenes from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of The Revenant appear elevated with well saturated orange/yellow colors in the flames.
In SDR 1080p Blu-ray content, we found some black shadow detail crushing in certain scenes, like the massing evil wizard army scene in the standard Blu-ray Disc version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows vol. 2. Here the faint gray/white misty clouds that swirl around the gathering is almost completely engulfed by the surrounding dark rocky background.
The DCI-P3 wide color gamut recommendations measured 96.7% for CIE 1976 uv, which is well above the 90% P3 “Premium HDR” level performance spec established by the Ultra HD Alliance. As mentioned, peak HDR brightness can get up above 1000 nits, for those who prefer a really bright picture at the sacrifice of natural-appearing brightness and colors.
Just for grins, we measured for the aspirational BT-2020 wide color gamut coverage (which no flat-panel TV currently achieves in full) and found the Sony XR65X90K measured an excellent 74.21% of the CIE 1976 uv BT.2020 color space.
Standard definition ST.709 color gamut was fully covered and similarly excellent after calibration, showing an average Delta E error of 1.1 (where anything under 3 is considered imperceptible), and a maximum Delta E error reading of 2.4.
Colors in both SDR and HDR content look well saturated and natural. Outdoor daylight action scenes were quite good, with minimal judder and blurring. The Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc version of the “BBC Blue Planet II” was filled with rich, vibrant colors from the coral reef sequences teeming with brilliantly colored fish.
The 2022 BRAVIA Google TV’s measurables for console gaming performance weren’t the best we’ve seen but better than many mid-range 4K LED LCD TVs out there. With the picture mode set to “Game” the input lag over HDMI (HDMI 2.1 port 3) measured a good 22.6 ms running a 1080/60p signal from the Leo Bodnar input lag tester. This is slower than some higher-end models. When connected to a next-gen gaming console or PC graphics card, the supported HDMI inputs offer Auto Low Latency Mode that automatically switches the television into Game Mode upon detection of a supported signal. The television will also support generic Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) with a firmware update.
Picture processing, including upscaled standard definition material, was better than we would expect of a mid-range television. Motion smoothing and judder can be dialed down by the Motionflow and CineMotion processing functions, respectively.
With noise reduction turned on, the elevated low-light noise in the opening “Sinkapore” Harbor sequences from the standard 1080p Blu-ray version of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” was nicely reduced while keeping the natural film grain. Even with noise reduction engaged, the Soap Opera Effect was minimal, and the nice natural colors of the image were preserved.
Similarly, the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc version of the “BBC Blue Planet II” remained filled with rich, vibrant colors with motion processing turned off and only the 120Hz native refresh rate panel to handle blurring and judder. Watching in calibrated Custom Pro I picture mode was impressively free of the judder we often see in the disc set’s opening sequence, where the camera pans around the bow of and on-coming ship as the camera zooms in for a close-up on narrator David Attenborough standing against a ship’s railing. Even on some premium TVs we’ve tested, the railing balusters in this scene will studder step across the frame, but the panel of the BRAVIA 65X90K kept these elements naturally stable, even with motion smoothing and CineMotion turned off.
Upscaling DVD SD content was also quite good. Watching the DVD version of Alfred Hitchcock’s black-&-white classic “Psycho” presented as we would expect to see it on a cinema film screen, along with the natural film grain and minimal title blocking artifacts around overlaying credits.
Sony does an excellent job of integrating the Google TV smart TV user interface (UI) into its televisions. The latest version has a wide selection of popular apps—including VUDU/Fandango and Amazon Prime that are sometimes omitted from competitive smart TV platforms– and presents relevant programming selections in thumbnail selection ribbons on the home screen to quickly get into watching a relevant movie or TV show. The integrated Google Assistant voice control feature is nicely responsive and effective when searching for content, even from inside popular apps like YouTube.
AI Voice Control can be activated by a push-button mic switch on the remote or, depending on user preference, via hands-free spoken commands.
The platform does a nice job of presenting on-screen picture tiles of programming selections from favorite user apps.
Making program selections was relatively snappy. Overall, I felt the Google TV interface was quite useful, intuitive, and satisfying in manual searches using the remote or in making audible commands. The diminutive Sony remote navigates the menu options easily.
As with virtually any television today, to get the most immersive movie experience at home, we recommend purchasing a soundbar or home theater surround sound package to go with this television’s eARC HDMI port. Where that’s not possible the television’s onboard speakers and sound system is quite good.
The internal speaker array delivers very clear dialog and but movie sound effects and music volume peaks are sometimes clipped, and the overall sound tends to have a boxy hallow quality that comes from the constraints of using tiny speakers inside a plastic thin-panel TV cabinet.
Sony calls the sound system its Acoustic Multi-Audio system with an XR Sound option to convert stereo signals to virtual 5.1.2-channel surround sound, but without great depth or the bass punch of an external subwoofer. The system does a nice job of expanding the sound stage, however.
The Sony X90K also lacks an analog audio output for headphones or basic add-on speakers, but it does provide an S-Center Speaker connection to use the TVs speakers as a center channel in an external surround sound speaker system.
The BRAVIA XR65X90K sound settings offer six “Sound Mode” presets — Standard, Dialog, Cinema, Music, Sports and Dolby Audio. The labels accurately describe the delivered effects, with Dolby Audio delivering a wider virtual surround experience. Each offers clear, understandable dialog but the Dialog mode gives voices a slight volume boost over the levels of background effects. As mentioned, in all modes, onboard bass tones are a bit thin and the overall sound of the set is a bit hollow and boxy. The on-board system deliver a acceptable level of sound for many viewers, but a soundbar or surround sound system is a recommended addition, where space and budget allow.
The Sony BRAVIA XR65X90K offers generally very good overall HDR and SDR picture quality for a higher mid-range 4K QLED LED-LCD TV. Picture brightness isn’t quite as high as you’ll find in full-array mini-LED LCD TVs that typically offer many more for LED backlights and zones, and HDR haloing does appear in certain scenarios, but overall SDR contrast is quite good for a television of this price. Colors also pop and present P3 color gamut coverage equivalent to or exceeding that of a good quantum dot TV. The X90K television overall provides premium level TV performance from a reasonably priced 65-inch 4K TV.
We therefore award the Sony XR65X90K 4 out of 5 hearts, and a buy recommendation for a good mid-range 4K LED LCD TV.
The Sony XR65X90K sample used for this review was a company loan.
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By Greg Tarr
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