Uncompromising HDR performance from an ultra-slim 4K TV
Everyone is talking about HDR this year but what exactly is it?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and basically it’s a way of taking the increased resolution of 4K and making it look even better. It does this by expanding the dynamic range, (that’s the difference between the darkest and brightest parts of the picture), to give images more impact and widening the colour palette so that colours are more realistic. Why do you need HDR? Well, when you combine the increased resolution of 4K with the higher dynamic range and wider colour palette, the result is a picture that is much closer to real life. The increased resolution means that you can see every tiny detail in the image, whilst the wider colour palette results in colours that reflect the millions of shades you find in nature.
However it's the higher dynamic range that really makes the difference, with the deepest blacks and the brightest highlights combining to create images that will simply amaze you. If you imagine a campfire scene at night, thanks to HDR the night sky will be pitch black but the light from the campfire will be incredibly bright – just like in real life. What's more you won't lose any of the detail in the brightest and darkest parts of the image, so you'll be able to see the individual flames in the fire and the stars overhead. This huge dynamic range between the darkest and brightest parts of the picture wasn't possible before, making HDR the biggest thing to happen to TV in decades and Sony is uniquely positioned to deliver the best possible experience.
Why Sony? Well for a start they don't just make the 4K HDR TVs and projectors that consumers use in their homes, they also make the professional cameras that are used to film the movies and TV shows that we all enjoy watching. They make the professional monitors that are used in the post-production facilities to complete those films and TV shows, as well as the professional projectors that are used in commercial cinemas to screen all the latest blockbusters. Sony even have their own film studio - Sony Pictures - which means they don't just make the equipment used in film/TV production and distribution but they also create the content that is then shown on the latest 4K HDR TVs and projectors.
Sony is the only consumer electronics company that can deliver a complete 'scene to screen' solution when it comes to 4K and no other company offers as broad a range of products bearing the HDR logo. These include TVs, projectors and soundbars, all of which support 4K HDR; along with Ultra HD Blu-rays from Sony Pictures that make full use of both HDR, wider colour palettes and immersive audio. Whilst a large number of Sony’s BRAVIA TVs will support 4K HDR this year, the company’s flagship series for 2016 is the XD93. This BRAVIA 4K HDR TV comes in two screen sizes of 55 and 65 inches, and you can read the detailed independent AVForums reviews of the KD-55XD9305 here and the KD-65XD9305 here.What makes the XD93 so special? Well it not only delivers the best possible 4K HDR experience but does so using a panel that is incredibly thin. How thin? Try 12mm at the top and only 36mm further down, where all the connections, electronics and speakers are housed. How can an ultra-slim edge-lit TV produce a 4K HDR experience that is comparable to a TV that uses a full array backlight? It certainly isn’t easy, but what makes the XD93 capable of such exceptional performance is Sony’s ground-breaking Slim Backlight Drive.
This revolutionary new technology uses LEDs down each side of the panel, combined with two layers of light guide plates to allow precise local dimming control. The two light guide plates break the screen up into a series of grids that allows for greater precision when dimming different areas behind the image. It’s this design feature that gives the XD93 greater precision, less haloing, superior blacks and better backlight uniformity when compared to a regular edge-lit LED TV.This means that when combined with Sony’s X-tended Dynamic Range PRO backlighting algorithm, the XD93 can deliver a level of quality similar to a full-array LED local dimming backlight, but from an incredibly slim form factor. X-tended Dynamic Range PRO adds to this performance through precise backlight control that makes darker areas darker and brighter scenes brighter, resulting in an improved dynamic range.
The XD93 series uses a 3,840 x 2,160 pixel 10-bit VA (Vertical Alignment) panel that allows for full 4K resolution, greater colour precision and superior black levels. The XD93 series also includes the 4K Processor X1 with a Dynamic Contrast Enhancer which is designed to improve the dynamic range even further by optimising the brightness on a frame-by-frame basis, depending on what is happening on the screen. This single chip solution also intelligently analyses and enhances non-4K sources such as DVD, Blu-ray and TV broadcasts to near 4K resolution.Sony's 'lens to living room' approach to 4K means they are uniquely positioned to deliver the best possible HDR experienceThe XD93 also has the latest version of 4K X-Reality PRO. This powerful 4K picture processing technology analyses the individual parts of each scene and matches them with a special image database that independently addresses texture, contrast, colour and edges. The result of all this image processing is that even non-4K sources can look almost as good on the XD93. So even though there might not be much 4K content at the moment, you can still enjoy all your video sources in the best possible quality.
The XD93 includes an extensive selection of connections but most importantly it has four HDMI 2.0a inputs, which means they support 4K, wider colour gamuts, HDCP 2.2 copy protection and all the benefits of HDR. The XD93 supports HDR 10, the most popular version of HDR, and you can find HDR content on streaming services like Amazon or Netflix via the TV's built-in apps, as well as on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
So why is HDR such a big deal? Well essentially HDR is a combination of three features that, when combined, result in images that are more realistic than ever before. The first important aspect is that HDR uses 10-bit colour depth, as opposed to the usual 8-bit. This means that HDR combined with the XD93’s 10-bit panel, can deliver far great colour precision and accuracy than ever before.
The second important aspect to HDR is that content is mastered with a much higher dynamic range than was previously possible. The dynamic range of an image is the difference between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites and the wider that range the more impact the picture has. HDR not only allows for deeper blacks but it also delivers much brighter peak whites that are ten times brighter than was possible previously.
This doesn’t mean the entire image is brighter, just the highlights, but there is also more detail in these highlights. If you think of sunlight glinting on a chrome bumper, that's an example of a highlight, and HDR’s ability to deliver these brighter highlights makes images appear far more realistic. However HDR can also reveal greater detail in the darker parts of the picture such as shadows and allow both dark and bright elements to appear in the same image whilst retaining detail in both.
Sony's new panel design and Slim Backlight Drive means that the X93 can deliver the deep blacks and extensive shadow detail that you only get on the very best TVs, whilst producing the bright highlights necessary to create a superior HDR experience. As a result the XD93 is capable of delivering the best possible HDR experience for consumers, with deep blacks and bright highlights, and all from an ultra-thin form factor. Sony's expertise proves that you don't have to compromise on picture quality if you also want the most elegant-looking TV on the market.
The final aspect related to HDR is a wider colour gamut, which is basically the colour palette from which the TV creates all the colours in the image. The bigger the palette, the greater the number of colours that the TV can create, and the more realistic the image appears. The XD93 uses Sony’s ground-breaking TRILUMINOS display which allows the TV to reproduce a much wider colour gamut. When you combine this wider colour gamut with a higher dynamic range and increased bit depth, the result is an experience that is much closer to real life and better reflects how our eyes actually see the world.The revolutionary slim backlight drive means the XD93 can deliver uncompromising HDR from an elegant ultra-thin designWhilst HDR might be the hot new topic this year, the XD93 supports plenty of other features such as active shutter 3D, although you will have to buy the glasses separately. The XD93 also includes Motionflow XR which uses frame interpolation, sophisticated processing that analyses the existing frames that make up the picture and inserts extra frames between them, thus creating smoother motion and greater detail for fast-moving sequences. This feature can be especially useful for anyone who watches a lot of fast-moving sports.
The XD93 doesn’t only include cutting-edge technology on the inside, it also offers an equally striking appearance on the outside. The Slim Backlight Drive means that the XD93 uses an ultra-thin panel but is still capable of a level of performance previously unheard of from a screen this slim. However the design isn’t just thin, it also has a minimalist appearance that incorporates a sophisticated black finish and an incredibly slim bezel around the flush flat screen. The attention to design detail extends to the angles of the stand and the way the panel appears to be composed of two layers divided by a pale gold line down the middle. The XD93’s design is not only very slim but also free of any distracting elements. This is best exemplified by the way that cables can be routed through the stand and hidden by removable covers in order the ensure they are concealed from all angles.
Although the tapered aluminium stand with its silver finish is very attractive, some owners will prefer to wall mount their XD93 and Sony have included a clever solution. The TV comes with its own dedicated bracket in the box and there are holes at the rear of the panel for attaching the bracket, which you then hang on the wall. The specially engineered rear vents and the dedicated bracket allow you to mount the panel a mere 36.7mm from the wall, giving the TV the appearance of being an integrated part of your living room.
Specially designed air vents and an included dedicated bracket mean that you can mount the XD93 just 36.7mm from the wallAlthough the XD93 is only 36mm deep at the bottom where the built-in speakers are housed, Sony hasn’t compromised in terms of sound quality. The built-in speakers include 4 x 7.5W of amplification but if you want to beef up the bass performance, you can also add an optional wireless subwoofer. The speakers also employ a powerful computer model to analyse and compensate for any inaccuracies in the speaker response. It does this by ‘sampling’ the speaker frequency with higher precision and this information is fed back to cancel out any peaks or dips in the speaker’s natural sound, creating a superior performance.You might have noticed that low-resolution Internet video, catch-up TV and other heavily compressed audio files don’t always sound very good. A large amount of information gets lost when digital audio is compressed but, with the XD93’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE), lost frequency components (especially high frequencies) are restored for a natural sound with a more spacious feel. In addition ClearAudio+ fine-tunes the TV’s sound for an immersive experience that seems to surround you. That means you can hear music, dialogue and surround effects with greater clarity and separation, regardless of what you're watching.
Finally the S-Force Front Surround mimics the way the brain correlates sound sources to create proper volume, time lag, and sound wave spectrum – using only left and right speaker channels. By naturally emulating three-dimensional sound fields, the XD93 can create high-fidelity audio across a wider listening area that sounds more immersive. The overall result is an audio performance that is as striking as the XD93’s looks and as impressive as its picture.Whilst the XD93's picture quality is paramount, it also delivers superior sound quality thanks to Sony's audio expertiseThe XD93 isn’t just smart on the outside, it’s smart on the inside and all the things you love doing on your smartphone or tablet, you can now do on your TV screen. The latest version of Sony’s Android TV lets you connect and enjoy any content, from apps to movies, between different Android devices in the simplest and easiest way ever.
To make navigating the smart platform easier, the XD93 comes with a newly designed voice remote control that is comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. It has a tactile, rubberised finish and low-profile buttons which include dedicated keys to take you to Netflix and the Google Play Store. It also includes voice search as part of the Android TV platform, which provides you with access to Google search, allowing you to find content or ask for recommendations across different services without the hassle of time-consuming text entry.
If you don’t want to use the XD93’s provided controller, there’s also Sony’s excellent TV SideView remote app, which is available free for iOS and Android. You can can use your tablet or smartphone to see the latest TV schedule as well as view the most popular TV programs currently trending. Once you’ve found what you want to watch, you can set an alarm so you never miss the shows you love. You can also live tweet your reactions and see what other viewers are saying.
As part of the new platform the unobtrusive content bar quickly lets you find the movie, TV show or video you’re looking for. You can call up the content bar and still keep watching, while you scan through live TV, videos on demand, downloaded TV shows and much more. You can even customise the content bar to show you the content you go to most often first.The super-smart XD93 has YouView built-in, so you can scroll back up to seven days to watch shows from BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5. You can also access an extensive library of on-demand content. Simply connect the XD93 to an aerial and broadband connection and you’ll be ready to start using YouView.
The XD93 is Google Cast ready so you can easily cast your favourite entertainment like YouTube from your personal device on to the stunning the TV’s big screen. You can cast from Android, iOS, or your laptop. There’s also Google Play, which allows you to discover movies and TV shows, games and much more. Enjoy a huge and ever-growing choice of apps on your XD93 including Amazon and Netflix, the two best sources of HDR content for your new TV.
Finally, if gaming is your thing, you can even play selected PlayStation 3 games directly through your XD93 with no console required. PlayStation Now brings streaming technology to the immersive world of PlayStation gaming, all you need to do is pair a DUALSHOCK 4 controller with theXD93 and you’re ready to play with the same speed and responsiveness as on a console.
The XD93 is the most sophisticated edge-lit LED BRAVIA 4K TV that Sony have ever produced with a gorgeous design, an incredibly effective smart platform and ground-breaking technology that delivers a superior performance with 4K HDR. You simply won’t find a better designed TV to compliment the sophisticated look and cutting-edge technology that is synonymous with contemporary living.
For more details on the XD93 range of 4K UHD HDR TVs from Sony click here.
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