Sony launch SD85, XD85, XD93 and XD94 4K HDR TVs

A slice of living

by Steve Withers Feb 4, 2016 at 10:18 AM

  • We got a taster at CES but this week we finally had a chance to see all of Sony's UK TV range for 2016.
    Along with showing us the models themselves, Sony also took the opportunity to explain some of the new technology utilised in this year's Ultra HD 4K TVs, as well as to set the record straight. The market penetration of 4K TVs is expected to reach 20% this year, compared to 4.6% back in 2014, and it's no surprise to discover that the big talking point in 2016 will be High Dynamic Range. So Sony began by explaining that the majority of their Ultra HD 4K TVs will support HDR this year and, more specifically, they support HDR10. When asked about Dolby Vision, the version of HDR adopted by Sony Pictures, the company said that whilst that was a decision made independently by the studio, the consumer electronics division currently has no plans to adopt it on their TVs or projectors.

    Sony also revealed their new '4K HDR - High Dynamic Range' logo which they will use to identify any product in their line-up that supports HDR - such as TVs, cameras, projectors and Blu-ray players. With regards to the latter, Sony confirmed that they will be releasing a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player of their own at some point in their 2016 financial year (which actually runs from April 2016 to March 2017). So we may have to wait for a Sony UHD player but that's certainly good news from the company that originally developed Blu-ray. Sony have taken the decision not to use the UHD Premium logo developed by the Ultra HD Alliance because they feel it is too restrictive and that their logo will identify TVs that support HDR but wouldn't necessarily be certified as UHD Premium.

    However Sony were very keen to stress that their new XD93 and XD94 models, as well as last year's X94C, are capable of meeting the requirements for UHD Premium, which includes a 10-bit panel, at least 90% of DCI-P3 and a minimum of 1,000 nits of peak brightness. Sony then went on to demonstrate the benefits of HDR over standard dynamic range content. They explained that the old standards for television were based around the capabilities of a CRT display and that the new HDR video signal format will take full advantage of the wider colour gamut and higher dynamic range that TVs can now deliver. The evolution of Ultra HD 4K has been a gradual process of developing technologies that can deliver increased resolution, a wider colour gamut and higher dynamic range.

    Video Report

    Sony have been at the forefront of this evolution, initially by increasing the resolution to 4K back in 2012 and then developing X-Reality Pro for effective upscaling of lower resolution content to Ultra HD. In 2013 the company introduced their Triluminos panel to deliver wider colour gamuts and the following year they launched X-tended Dynamic Range to improve the contrast performance of their TVs. Then last year Sony launched the X1 chipset, which combined all three technologies - X-Reality Pro, Triluminos and X-tended Dynamic Range to deliver the next generation of television. This year Sony are adding an improved algorithm to X-Reality Pro and optimising both the colour gamut and the contrast performance for HDR.

    The reason for the development of HDR has been to address the disconnect between the modern capabilities of both production and display and the limitations of a transmission system based on 8-bit video depth, Rec.709 and 100 nits of peak brightness. The new standards for HDR will introduce a much wider colour gamut (ultimately Rec.2020) and an increased dynamic range with at least 1,000 nits of peak brightness. The combination of these two factors (colour space and dynamic range) creates a three dimensional colour volume that is vastly bigger than previously possible. This will result in images that have richer colours, increased specular highlights and greater detail within both the dark and bright parts of the same image.

    Sony talked about the Triluminos panel used in their displays and pointed out that they can cover almost all of the DCI-P3 colour space and in certain cases can go even wider. The TVs will also include precision colour mapping to match the input signal to the display's capabilities. In terms of the HDR content itself, Amazon is already offering it as part of their video streaming services and both Netflix and YouTube plan to offer HDR soon. The BBC is jointly developing an HDR broadcast standard with NHK in Japan and both Sky and BT have conducted tests of their own. Finally the BDA has developed 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray which will support wider colour gamuts and a higher dynamic range; and players and discs will be launched in the spring.

    Sony KD-75XD9405

    However to take full advantage of the benefits of HDR you not only need a TV that has wider colour space, you also need it to be able to deliver peak brightness up to 1,000nits. The best way to do that is with a full array LED backlight but, whilst that approach is superior, it's also expensive. So Sony have developed the Slim Backlight Drive, which allows them to build a TV that is slimmer and cheaper than a full array LED backlight display but can still offer deeper blacks and better local dimming. Sony's Slim Backlight Drive technology works by using two rows of LEDs down each side and two light guide plates, which creates a grid making it easier to more accurately position the backlight where it needs to be and so deliver deeper blacks and brighter highlights. This year's XD93 model uses the Slim Backlight Drive and, when combined with X-tended Dynamic Range Pro, it can deliver better black levels and superior local dimming compared to last year's X90C, despite being almost as slim.

    Sony actually demonstrated the capabilities of their new TVs by showing the same sequence in SDR on last year's X85C and in HDR on an XD85. The difference was impressive, the images had more depth and brighter highlights but there was also more detail in the brighter and darker parts of the image, whilst colours appeared more saturated and realistic. We then saw the same sequence again but this time comparing the XD85 with the XD93 and again the difference was impressive, with the latter TV's increased peak brightness and wider colour gamut bringing even greater realism to the image. Sony then demonstrated a sequence showing the Las Vegas strip at night on both the XD85 and the XD93 and the latter's superior backlight control and local dimming was evident; with deeper blacks, more detail in the shadows and brighter highlights.
    Sony will offer four ranges of Ultra HD 4K TVs this year, all of which will support High Dynamic Range.
    After detailing the key technological developments in this year's Ultra HD 4K TVs, Sony then went on to describe some of the more cosmetic changes. First of all the big forward-firing speakers that appeared on last year's X93C and X94C, as well as previous generations, have been removed. This makes the new models slimmer, narrower and a lot lighter; which will undoubtedly go down well with enthusiasts who would probably have an outboard audio solution of their own. The design of the new TVs themselves has been described by Sony as a 'Slice of Living' and no, we don't know what that means either. However the design of the Ultra HD TVs is intended to appear suitable for a contemporary living environment. It uses a sleek, flat bezel and clean geometric shapes. The silver stand is intended to compliment the TV and the SD85, XD93 and XD94 have a champagne gold trim around the outer edge.

    The XD93 is almost as slim as last year's X90C and actually sits closer to the wall than the older model. The XD93 can mount flush to the wall using a bracket that comes included in the box and once mounted there is only 3.7cm of space between the back of the screen and the wall. Sony have also included cable management features to tidy up the rear of your TV and the XD93 and XD94 offer a cable free rear thanks to clips and a panel at the back of the stand that covers both the inputs and the cable runs. Sony currently use Android TV with the OS 5.0 (Lollipop), which has recently seen improvements in stability, and they plan to eventually upgrade to OS 6.0 (Marshmallow). The Android TV experience will include Voice Search via a new remote control and a new content bar to provide instant access to your favourite content.

    Sony KD-75XD9405

    Kicking off Sony's Ultra HD 4K TV line-up is the XD85 which comes in 55-, 65-, 75- and 85-inch screen sizes. It uses a slim crafted aluminium design with a super slim body and thin aluminium bezel that makes it ideal for wall mounting. The flat panel uses edge LED backlighting and sits on an angled silver stand. The XD85 includes support for HDR, incorporates the X1 4K processor with X-Reality Pro, uses a Triluminos panel, has a Dynamic Contrast Enhancer and comes with Android TV. It also includes 800Hz Motion Flow on the 75- and 85-inch screen sizes and 1000Hz Motion Flow on the 55- and 65-inch screen sizes. Then we have the SD85 which comes in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes. It uses a slim curved design and edge LED backlighting and sits on an angled silver stand. The SD85 includes support for HDR, incorporates the X1 4K processor with X-Reality Pro, uses a Triluminos panel, includes a Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, has 1000Hz Motion Flow and comes with Android TV.

    The XD93 is Sony's hero TV for 2016 and comes in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes. It uses an ultra slim design but, thanks to the Slim Backlight Drive, it can still deliver deep blacks and bright images with better local dimming. The XD93 incorporates all of Sony's key design features and includes support for HDR, along with the X1 4K processor with X-Reality Pro, a Triluminos panel, the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, 1000Hz Motion Flow and Android TV. It also adds X-tended Dynamic Range Pro and support for 3D. Finally there is the flagship XD94 which only comes in a 75-inch screen size and uses a full array LED backlight. It incorporates all the design aesthetics found on the XD93 and most of the same features. So we get support for HDR, the X1 4K processor with X-Reality Pro, a Triluminos panel, 1200Hz Motion Flow, X-tended Dynamic Range, the Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, 3D and Android TV.
    Sony will offer three Full HD TV ranges in 2016, all of which include X-Reality image processing.
    The emphasis is clearly on Ultra HD 4K this year but Sony still have three Full HD TV models in 2016 and, in much the same way that the UHD models all include HDR, so all the FHD models include X-Reality image processing. The entry-level Full HD TV for 2016 is the RD4, which comes in 32- and 40-inch screen sizes. It includes X-Reality processing, HDD recording and 200Hz Motion Flow. Then we have the WD6, which comes in screen sizes of 32-, 40- and 48-inches; like the RD4 it includes X-Reality processing, HDD recording and 200Hz Motion Flow but adds video-on-demand services. Finally we have the WD75, which uses a premium aluminium design and, like the XD85, has a silver trim around the outer edge. It comes in 32-, 43- and 49-inch screen sizes and includes X-Reality processing, HDD recording, 400Hz Motion Flow and video-on-demand services.

    Although the prices have yet to be confirmed, Sony clearly don't want a repeat of last year, where the majority of their TVs were delayed until the summer. So this year Sony will begin shipping all their TVs in the spring, well in advance of a huge summer of sport that includes both the Euro 2016 Championships and the Olympics.

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