Sony XBR-65X900B Series 4K Ultra HDTV Review
The Sony XBR65X900B Series 4K Ultra HD TV delights the senses with exquisite aesthetics, superior picture quality, and a built-in gaming experience that doesn’t suck. Even the audio quality, so often an afterthought with modern LCD televisions, shows Sony expresses its engineering creativity by crafting a television that delivers reference quality imagery plus audio reproduction that rivals a premium soundbar.
Our full review, up next.
Style, setup, and sound
A sidelong glance at the 900B reveals a distinct wedge shaped profile that tapers toward a rounded top. Chromed sides and feet add a little sparkle without distraction, and the feet can be relocated from the outside edges, closer to center, for placement on surfaces that aren’t as wide as the TV itself. The unique profile of the X900B doesn’t negate wall mounting, and included spacers ensure adequate clearance with standard mounting hardware. This is a rather hefty TV. Our 64.5 inch tester tipped the scale at 103lbs with the stand attached.
The additional depth afforded by the TV’s chassis provides room for the most impressive looking and sounding speaker system I’ve seen in any television to date. There are three speakers on each side of the screen: an 18mm tweeter, 80mm magnetic fluid midrange, and 80mm subwoofer that’s ported out the rear. The speaker and sub diaphragms are a woven material that appears as tough as it is visually appealing. Total amplification is 65 watts and an optional wireless subwoofer is available for more boom. Even without it, the X900B’s speaker configuration will fill all but the largest rooms with detailed and distortion-free audio reproduction.
Other than the cutouts for the speakers, and a Skype-ready camera in the upper left corner, the X900B’s face is a seamless sheet of glass that won’t stop harsh reflections but it does further enhance its visual appeal, even when powered off.
Ports and networking
The selection of inputs on the rear includes four HDMI ports: one supporting Audio Return Channel (ARC), and two others that are MHL-enabled. Component and composite video inputs are present, as are three USB ports for attaching external devices. There’s also a headphone jack for those who appreciate a more private listening experience. The X900B’s networking options include a/b/g/n wireless (2.4GHz/5GHz) and Ethernet, and the TV supports the standard list of file formats for DLNA content streaming.
The X900B’s edge-lit LCD panel features 3840×2160 pixel resolution. All of the TV’s HDMI ports were compatible with the screen’s native resolution up to 60Hz with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. We verified this with the DVDO AVLab TPG (read our review). The HDMI ports also accepted 4096×2160 video signals from the TPG at up to 24Hz, and 4K PC input at up to 60Hz. The latter being something we were unable to achieve with the Samsung HU8550. (Not a big deal as all 4K UHD sources to date have been 3840 x 2160-ed.)
The X900B series is available in three screen sizes: 79-inches, 65-inches, and 55-inches with the largest model featuring passive 3D technology while the other two are active 3D.
The X900B is currently one of the few ways to enjoy Sony’s new PlayStation Now cloud gaming service. Pair a DualShock controller (not included) with the TV, log in, and enjoy a selection of rental-only titles anytime. PlayStation Now links to the PlayStation Network for high score comparisons with friends and archiving earned trophies.
I sampled the side-scrolling music rhythm game Retro/Grade and found the controls were completely lag free but with an occasional visual hitch. This may have been due to connection issues with the online gaming service. Music orientated games like this one also highlighted the TV’s solid audio capabilities. Overall, having PlayStation Now built into the TV proved easy to use and enjoyable.
For PlayStation gamers who enjoy split screen two player action, the X900B series supports SimulView with supported titles, delivering a unique full screen 2D view to each player when wearing the 3D glasses.
Lag measurement using the nifty Leo Bodnar LagTester revealed a reduction of video delay from 144ms (Cinema 1 preset) to a very acceptable 41ms with the TV’s Game Mode picture preset enabled.
The X900B include two remote controls. One is a baton-style design with an uncrowded layout of clearly labeled buttons. The other is a compact touch pad remote that offered good navigation performance and quick access to content discovery and social features – the latter integrating Skype and Twitter into the TV viewing experience. Compared to LG and Samsung’s compact remote offerings, which feature Nintendo Wii-like cursor control, the Sony touch pad remote felt a bit slower and less ergonomic, but functional nonetheless.
I was pleased with the sensitivity of X900B’s over-the-air (OTA) tuner, which captured my local stations with ease and stability using a quality indoor antenna. The TV’s channel guide provided an expansive view with a grid style layout displaying seven channels at once and six hours of scheduled program information. A press of the remote’s display button provided a useful overlay of current channel details including a brief program synopsis, broadcast format, aspect ratio, and audio format.
Apps and media
The X900B features a solid library of apps to choose from, including Netflix’s slowly growing selection of 4K content. Sony’s Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited streaming services are prominently featured, as are related services like Crackle and Vevo. The TV’s USB/home network media player supported all the H.264 and MKV files I threw at it, including some that featured 4K at 60Hz video content.
Picture setup options
The X900B features a staggering number of video controls to tweak. Purists can ignore the majority of the TV’s ten picture presets (aka Scene Select) and go straight to Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 which are factory optimized for a 2.4 and 2.2 gamma setup respectively. Cinema 1 being the mode I selected for further calibration and testing.
I would have preferred that picture overscan controls not be placed in a separate menu, accessible only from the TV’s home screen, but these controls did prove effective at eliminating this video scourge for all HD formats including programs received via the OTA tuner.
In the lab: color quality
Compared to other 4K LCDs I’ve tested recently, including Samsung’s excellent HU8550 series, the X900B’s calibrated picture delivered superior color quality. Using SpectraCal’s CalMAN ColorChecker tool I recorded an average dE2000 (Delta E 2000 formula) of 0.99 (values under 3.0 being ideal) – this is the most accurate result I’ve seen to date. The previous best result that I recorded with ColorChecker was 1.68 with the LG EC9300 OLED TV (read our review). All the more remarkable about this result was that the X900B has no color management setup, and its picture optimization was performed using only a two-point white balance control. Some TVs feature a 10 or 20 point white balance setup, but that didn’t seem to be needed here.
precalibration, precolor,postcal, post color, color check. post cal saturation
The classic 1080i HQV benchmark Blu-ray test discs quickly revealed that the X900B lagged behind its competition, showing jaggies along angled edges in the moving bar and violin strings tests – likely a sign of weak per-pixel edge processing. The benchmark’s film resolution loss test indicated that the TV was performing motion-adaptive processing, but that it was not maintaining a consistent lock on 24fps and 30fps sources. However, the TV’s processing did effectively eliminate flicker, and related loss of detail in a selection of interlaced movies that were examined.
The X900B’s Reality Creation (ahem) picture setting can be configured to enable an expanded color gamut for the handful of ‘mastered in 4K’ Blu-ray movies that are available. This setting also contains a ‘resolution’ enhancement option that appeared to do a better job than simply cranking up the sharpness control, but I advise you to skip the ‘detail enhancer’ option in the separate advanced menu as that degraded resolution test patterns.
Edge-lit TVs like the X900B have difficulty producing a uniformly bright picture. Solid dark backgrounds did reveal some slight uniformity issues, but nothing that was particularly obvious in general video viewing. The TV’s local dimming technology did a good job of minimizing halo artifacts and maintaining dark letterboxed bars.
Overall viewing angles and dark room performance exhibited less degradation and distraction than was the case with the Samsung HU8550.
The X900B features selectable levels of black frame insertion (BFI) and motion interpolation through its Motionflow picture control. Increasing BFI reduces light output but improves the clarity of moving video objects. At its maximum setting (Impulse), the TV’s light output is reduced to levels suitable for rooms with little ambient illumination, but it delivered perfect clarity with 1080-line video benchmarks.
Brighter Motionflow presets like Clear and Clear Plus were able to reach about 950 lines of detail, making them suitable for content like sports programming. Unlike the Samsung HU8550, the X900B was unable to enhance the clarity of film-sourced (24fps) content without unnaturally smoothing the on screen action.
With a superbly calibrated picture, the X900B is a delight to watch. The naturally-lit time lapse scenes featured in the Samsaru Blu-ray were well-contrasted, and its many colorful visuals highlighted the TV’s superb color accuracy.
Dark detail on this edge-lit display was also very good, as noted in my go to scenes from The Dark Knight and Mission Impossible 3. Regardless of a scene’s lighting, skin tones remained natural and gradients consistent. Also, broadcast and streamed content pleased (nearly) as much as 1080p Blu-rays.
The 3D performance of our this active model proved quite good, although we suspect passive 3D on a 4K screen would have provided increased picture brightness while delivering greater-than-full Blu-ray 3D resolution to each eye.
Viewing the 3D classic Hugo revealed a hint of image crosstalk that was particularly noticeable along the edges of the station inspector’s uniform and in some faces, but this mirrored observations with the Samsung HU8550’s performance in these particularly challenging instances.
The XBR65X900B ‘s unique design, impressive audio, and superior picture potential don’t come cheap. The 64.5 inch model that was detailed in this review sells for $3800 while the larger and smaller versions are $8000 and $2800 respectively.
As a product that delivers an audio and visual experience with 4K, HD, and streaming sources, I cannot think of another LCD television that has impressed my ears and eyes more than the Sony XBR-X900B series.
HD Guru awards the Sony XBR65X900B 4 out of 5 hearts.
Disclosure: Review sample was obtained as manufacturer’s loan.
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