Review: Sony’s XR65X93L 4K Mini-LED TV Brings Solid Performance And Value
In viewing Sony’s 2023 X93L 4K Mini-LED TV series, we found the new generation isn’t so much revolutionary as it is evolutionary in what it brings to the table, but the good news is that means Sony’s approach to Mini-LED technology this year is available at an even more affordable value.
Sony’s 2023 X93L 4K Mini-LED TV series offers many of the same benefits as last year’s X95K Mini-LED TV series with a few improvements in smart TV usage and features at a lower price than comparably excellent 2022 Sony Mini-LED models.
The real bang for the buck against the bargain-priced competition comes in the company’s excellent picture, motion and sound processing, which stands on its own in the field, along with a nice complement of advanced gaming features, built-in NextGenTV (ATSC 3.0) over-the-air tuning, and Sony’s traditionally striking contemporary styling design.
The TVs all support Sony’s Bravia Core content streaming service for more engaging pictures coming from the set’s internal XR Processor. The sets also support IMAX Enhanced Content and Netflix Calibrated picture mode for use with Netflix produced and streamed content to better preserve the producers’ intent.
For starters, the series employs native 120Hz refresh rate LCD panels, for more natural appearing smooth-motion processing before other motion clarity processing systems are applied. On top of this, Sony has an excellent track record for producing clear motion images with greater control over soap opera effect.
Note that Sony also offers a lone step-up 85-inch 4K Mini-LED XR85X95L this year at a $5,298 suggested retail price, that further steps up game play using the PlayStation 5 along with even better overall picture and sound performance.
The Sony 65X93L impressed us with its bright, colorful picture, excellent smooth motion and upscaling processing and similarly brilliant HDR tone mapping presentation.
It’s weaknesses remain the same as most LCD TVs — blooming around bright objects on black backgrounds and reduced off-angle contrast and color.
For the past several years, Sony has made a lot of noise about the excellence of 4K OLED TV offerings, and those address many of the shortfalls we point out in the X93L, but for those looking to save a little money, we remain impressed with what the company is doing with this new approach to LCD back light technology.
Mini-LED is one of the more recent display technology applications, that is comprised of thousands of very tiny LED backlights spread across the full array of the LCD panel. Blacks and dark highlights are controlled by local dimming technology that can dim or entirely shut off zones of these Mini-LEDs for deeper blacks and more visible shadow detail.
It’s not quite as good at the latter as OLED technology, but it gets very close while at the same time providing nicely bright peak brightness (from both SDR and HDR) performance and better overall viewing in lit viewing environments.
For our review we first calibrated the set using the latest version of Portrait Display’s Calman calibration software, a Spectracal C6-HDR colorimeter and a Murideo Six G test pattern generator. We used the autocal option in Calman as Sony has one of the best implementations of the capability in its televisions, both for speed and accuracy.
Let’s dive into our review:
The Sony XR65X93L is a solid HDR television with nice bright highlights, life-like HDR tone mapping and the ability to fully support the HDR10, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR profiles. Sony does not support HDR10+ native content, but upon sensing such a signal, the television default to HDR10 and present a excellent picture in a way that most won’t be able to notice a difference.
The television’s Mini-LED LCD backlighting system divides the thousands of Mini-LEDs into more than 430 local dimming zones, by our count.
We were impressed with both the overall look of the pictures as well as the numbers we measured for peak HDR brightness from the 65X93L. Trying to reach the absolute best reading, we put the set in Vivid mode with brightness and contrast cranked up high and got a very strong 1,371 nits from a 10% D65 white window pattern. The Ultra HD Alliance HDR threshold for “Premium UHD TV” performance is 1,000 nits, which it meets handily.
Peak HDR Luminance in calibrated Custom Pro 1 Picture Mode measured in a 10% D65 window using a custom workflow along with Portrait Display’s Calman software.
For more realistic view from real world content and picture settings, we calibrated the TV in Custom Pro 1 picture mode (in a moderately dim room) and measured 1,247 nits of peak HDR brightness in a 10% window – which with allowances for colorimeter performance is close enough for Premium UHD classification by our interpretation.
HDR specular highlights and tone mapping were excellent, with camp fire scenes from the Ultra HD Blu-ray versions of The Revenant brightly standing out from the dull gray woodland scene backdrop.
Measured Black Level from the calibrated X93L using a custom workflow inside Portrait Display’s Calman calibration software.
We measured black level of 0.0136 nits (0.05 nits is the threshold for premium UHD performance) measuring center black inside a target pattern of graduated concentric rings of gray, and Zero nits measuring a center black test pattern with 2% HDR white windows in each corner to ensure the back light remained on.
In real world viewing, the black of deep space in the opening title sequences of the HDR UHD Blu-ray presentation of “The Martian” were deep and inky, with very little crushing of the vast star field. However, the number of visible stars is reduced slightly turning on the light going from a dark room to a bright room. Viewing in a dark room makes blooming/haloing issues around on-screen bright objects stand out more against black backgrounds. Inversely, the blooming effect diminishes with room lights on.
Using the 2023 Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Test Pattern UHD Blu-ray Disc set, we observes some cloud-like blooming around out star clusters in the movie star field test pattern sequences. This is to be expected with most LCD TVs, but it due to the X93L’s excellent brightness level the artifact is a little more pronounced than on Samsung’s 65QN90C. This tends to make the surrounding black field take on more of a blueish hue.
The blooming also intensifies when viewed off center axis, both side to side and above or below the center viewing angle.
We also observed that the Mini-LED backlighting system in X93L gets a bit warmer than some other Mini-LED TVs from brands like TCL and Hisense.
The difficult-to-handle faint white mist that encircles the amassing evil wizard army at 45:49 into the standard Blu-ray Disc of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II was pretty much crushed into the black surrounding shadows of night at our SDR calibrated brightness settings of 200 nits. But the picture processing didn’t transform it into the black amorphous blob as we’ve seen on some displays.
However, we found reflections from screen glare to be somewhat distracting when lights in the room are on trying to view dark scenes like this.
The television does a nice job of keeping the blooming from bleeding into on-screen letter boxed border bars, however.
As we mentioned, the television handles both HDR and SDR versions of well lit and daylight scenes of most content extremely well, including rich color detail even in bright specular highlights.
Most viewers should be pleased with the vast majority of real world viewing scenarios, but if you watch a lot of dark horror or sci-fi movies, this might be something to consider.
We found the XR65X93L presented HDR colors that dazzled with vividness in the coral reef sequences from the BBC’s UHD Blu-ray of “Blue Planet II” and just about everywhere else.
HDR Color showing DCI-P3 wide color gamut coverage as measured in the HDR Evaluation workflow from Portrait Display’s Calman calibration software.
Using the HDR Evaluation work flow of Portrait Display’s Calman calibration software we measured the P3 wide color gamut of 95.24% for cie 1976 uv and 91.27% for cie 1931 xy. The Ultra HD Alliance UHD Premium performance threshold is 90% of the P3 gamut, which this set passes easily. The excellent color performance is thanks to Sony’s XR Triluminos Pro color processing approach, which keeps the set right in step with of better than the best Quantum Dot displays we’ve tested.
Pre-calibration and post-calibration (below) views of the Sony X93L’s SDR measured in Portrait Display’s Calman calibration software after running the Sony autocal workflow.
For post-cailbrated SDR, Calman measured average Delta E color errors of 1.2, where anything under 3 is considered imperceptible. Even out-of-the-box average Delta E SDR measurements were quite good 2.
With its stellar motion processing and low-resolution content upscaling, excellent tone-mapping, and color accuracy, this is absolutely a premium TV with all the markings of a Sony. What’s new for this TV this year is an Eco Dashboard that makes it easy to manage eco settings, with an eco settings prompt in the setup phase that lets you disable it right off the bat for the best performance, and a new gaming dashboard that lets you turn VRR on and off, toggling between VRR and 60Hz or 120Hz, depending on the game.
There also is black-frame insertion available when VRR is off, if you want reduced motion blur. Local dimming is active in VRR mode, but you can’t have VRR and BFI at the same time — that just isn’t doable when you’re backlight blinking. There’s also a black level adjustment here so it’s easier to see in the dark scenes and a crosshair option that you can use if you don’t like your game’s crosshair. You can change the style and the color as well.
All connections, except for power, are located on the rear of the left side of the television.
The X93L has four HDMI inputs two of which support HDMI 2.1 features including 4K/120fps speed (one of which supports eARC). Three of the HDMI ports including both high-speed ones face down, and one HDMI faces out to the left side. Other ports include a USB port, an optical audio output, a 3.5mm RS-232C port, an Ethernet port, and an antenna/cable connector.
Sony provides six plastic covers that lock into place on the back of the set to hide the ports and the mounting points for the table stand while providing cable management.
The XR65X93L’s remote is pretty much in line with other recent Sony remotes. It made of mat black plastic and measures just under 7-inches long and 1.5 inches wide. A circular navigation pad is positioned toward the top of the button layout, at the bottom of which are six quick app access buttons for Bravia Core, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, YouTube and Crunchyroll. The remote is designed to coordinate with the Google TV on-screen interface and includes a mic and mic activation button for Google Assistant voice control. On the back of the television is a switch to also turn off or on the on-board far field mics to make the voice input easier.
This year’s implementation of Google TV seems snappier and more responsive than ever. Set up of apps and connection to an in-home Wi-Fi network was a breeze using a mobile device. The television quickly identified all of our connected devices including a connected eARC AVR and tethered source components.
Google TV supports most of the leading premium streaming apps, and once the set has identified your subscribed services it loads the rows of on-screen picture titles with programming suggestions that it things are appropriate for the viewer. It also include advertising for some of the content it wishes to push at you, presumable at the request of Google/Sony sponsors.
The Google TV platform further supports Google Cast that will allow streaming from Android and Chrome devices. The platform further supports Apple AirPlay to enable streaming from iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
If you are of the mind to make video calls through the biggest screen in the house, the X93L supports video calls with Zoom which connected to an optional $199.99 Bravia Cam accessory that wirelessly connects to the top of the TV. In addition to Zoom calling, the camera supports various app services and provides input for gesture controls to control the volume and other basic TV functions with hand movements.
The television includes a built-in 2.2-channel 60 Watt sound system supported by two pairs each of midrange drivers, subwoofers, and tweeters. The tweeters are positioned high up on the sides of the screen to help create the illusion that voices and sound effects are coming from out of the screen itself. Voices remain clear and music and sound effects are quite full sounding for TV speakers. Sony further supports the experience with a built-in audio calibration tool that adjusts the volume and tone of the emitted sounds to the acoustics of the room, by measuring the sound reverberations through the mic built into the remote.
For those who would like to integrate the TV’s sound into a fuller home theater set up, the X93L’s speakers can be set to at as the center-channel audio in a multi-speaker arrangement.
Gamer will find the X93L supports most of the latest display tools including: Auto Low Latency Model (ALLM) and variable refresh rate (VRR) after a firmware update, but not AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync PC gaming VRR. The game mode further provides users with a toolbar to make critical picture settings adjustments and to access helpful implements like on-screen crosshairs. This isn’t the speediest gaming display with an 1080/60p input lag time of 9.8 milliseconds, but it’s still plenty fast for today’s cutting edge titles.
The Sony 65X93L has a similar design to its upscale models from a year ago, including a supplied multi-position table top stand that allows the screen to sit less than an inch off of the mounting surface of elevated several inches to provide clearance for a sound bar in front of the screen. The edges of the screen are made of a faux chrome thin bezel trim that is invisible when looking at the screen straight on. Pencil-thin black bezel edging frames the picture in a way that makes the screen appear nearly edgeless, except for a half-inch bottom chin.
The Sony 65-inch XR65X93L offers excellent picture quality for most television programs and movies, and provides a host of the latest smart TV and gaming features. Purchasers will find a nice bright picture and the color and picture processing that has come to make Sony televisions at the top of the class. Further, it brings the latest 4K UHD Mini-LED technology down in price to appeal to a wider audience. We’ve shaved a half-heart off for the blooming, which in fairness all LCD TVs will have issues with, but most everything else about this set is fantastic.
This television is an HD Guru highly recommended buy, and we therefore award the Sony XR65X93L 4K Mini-LED LCD TV 4.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Sony XR6593L used for this review was a company loan.
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By Greg Tarr
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