An ultra-slim panel with an ultra HDR performance
What is the Sony XD9305?The XD9305 is Sony’s flagship edge-lit Ultra HD 4K TV for 2016 and is available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes. At the top of the Sony TV range is the 75-inch XD9405 that uses a full array backlight with local dimming but for most people the XD93 represents Sony’s main model for this year. The XD9305 uses an ultra-thin chassis design that incorporates LEDs down the sides with a new slim backlight drive designed to deliver a superior local dimming experience. For 2016 Sony have dropped the large speakers found on previous generations but they have retained the minimalist black design and sleek lines that made those TVs so attractive. Sony have also dropped the 'One Flick' remote, going for something slightly more traditional instead, and the TV comes with a dedicated bracket for those who want to wall mount.
In terms of other features the XD93 uses a 10-bit VA panel, includes X-tended Dynamic Range Pro and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR 10). There is also 4K X-Reality Pro, Motionflow XR and a Triluminos Quantum Dot display to deliver a wider colour gamut. The XD9305 supports active shutter 3D, which is something of a rarity these days, and also includes Android TV as part of its smart platform. The XD93 comes in two screen sizes, the 55-inch KD-55XD9305 that we have already reviewed and the 65-inch KD-65XD9305 that is the subject of this review. The 65XD93 retails for around £2,800 as at the time of writing (May 2016), which seems quite reasonable when you consider the features and specifications. So let’s see if the 65XD9305 is as good as those features and specifications suggest and whether it delivers in terms of performance.
DesignIf there’s one area where Sony have always excelled it’s design and the 65XD93 is no exception. It retains the minimalist look of last year’s models but loses the forward-firing speakers that made previous generations so large and heavy. There may be some people who will lament the loss of those speakers but frankly we’re not amongst them. Whilst it’s true that the previous Sony models in this range sounded very good compared to just about any other TV, the speakers did make the TVs themselves very cumbersome and heavy. In addition anyone buying a large 65- or, in the case of the XD94, 75-inch TV will probably have some form of outboard audio solution and thus won’t even be using the built-in speakers. As it is we really like the revised design, with its sleek lines and gloss black finish.
Gone are the large forward-firing speakers to be replaced by a gorgeous ultra-slim design.
The front panel is made of hardened plastic but manages not to be too reflective and there is an attractive champagne gold inlaid trim around the outer edge. The screen itself is surround by a 1cm wide black border and around that is a discreet 0.5cm black bezel. The dimensions of the 65XD93 are incredibly slim, measuring just 12mm at the top and 36mm at the bottom where the LEDs, electronics, connections and speakers are housed.
The overall dimensions are 1458 x 891 x 275mm (WxHxD) with the stand and the XD9305 weighs in at 32.1kg. At the bottom middle of the screen, just below the Sony logo there is an indicator light that can be turned off if you prefer. The rear is made of black plastic and this where all the connections are to be found, the majority of which can be hidden behind removable panels for tidier cable management. Presumably due to the panel’s slimline nature, the XD93 uses a power adapter the size of a brick, which you connect to a wall socket and then to the TV.The XD9305 sits on an attractive sloped stand with a silver brushed metal finish; the panel can’t be swivelled but at least it’s mounted upright. The stand measures 45cm across and at the rear has a removable cover with grooves for running cables to keep the back as tidy as possible. If you’re using the stand and plan on adding a soundbar, there is 8cm of clearance beneath the bottom of the image. If you would rather wall mount the 65XD93, then it comes with its own bespoke mount that slots into two holes at the rear of TV where the panel widens and the air vents are situated. The overall build quality of the XD93 is very good and the stand in particular has a solid and well engineered feel. We have seen reports of bent panels but our review sample, which was brand new and sealed on arrival, is as straight as a die. That’s makes it hard for us to comment but we have noticed that in a lot of the photos of bent panels the TVs are wall mounted, so that might be a factor.
Connections & ControlThe 65XD93 boasts one of the most complicated input configurations we’ve ever seen, with three different sections depending on the connections intended use. At the far left as you face the screen you’ll find a series of side-facing connections which are only 15cm from the edge. However these connections are generally inputs that would only be used occasionally and include three USB ports, a headphone socket, one HDMI input, an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the XD9305 also has a built-in wireless capability. There is a removable panel that covers these connections when they aren’t being used. Towards the centre there is a rearward-facing panel for all the legacy connections and here you’ll find component and composite video inputs, a SCART connector and analogue stereo inputs.
The complex but comprehensive set of connections includes covers for tidier cable management.
In the middle there are the main inputs which are sideways-facing as well but point inwards rather than outwards. Here you’ll find three more HDMI inputs, the terrestrial connector and twin satellite connectors. All the HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.0a with support for HDCP2.2 (as confirmed using our Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator) and HDMI 4 supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). In case you’re wondering there is a CI (Custom Interface) slot as well but this is at the top of the rear section, where the air vents and slots for the wall mount are situated. Finally, the connector for the power adapter is over on the right hand side as you face the screen.In terms of controlling the XD93 there are three options. First of all you have some basic controls on the TV itself, which are situated at the rear left hand side of the screen as you face it. You can turn the TV on, change channels and volume and access the inputs and tuner from these controls. Secondly there is Sony’s latest remote control, which is a return to a more classic design after the previous ‘One Flick’ model. That’s actually a good thing as the ‘One Flick’ controller wasn’t particularly good and the new remote is well designed and comfortable to hold. It has a tactile, rubberised finish and low-profile buttons which include dedicated keys to take you to Netflix and the Google Play Store. Thirdly you can use Sony’s TV SideView remote app, which is available free for iOS and Android.
Features & SpecsThe 65XD9305 comes with a number of key Sony features such as their Slim Backlight Drive technology which works by using two rows of LEDs down each side and two light guide plates to create a grid. This not only allows the XD93 to use an incredibly slim panel but also makes it easier for the TV to more accurately position the backlight where it needs to be and so deliver deeper blacks and brighter highlights. Naturally since this is 2016 there is also support High Dynamic Range and, more specifically, HDR 10. There is also X-tended Dynamic Range PRO which is designed to lift both HDR and SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content by increasing or reducing the backlight levels for each zone of the screen. Thanks to Sony’s Quantum Dot based TRILUMINOS Display technology the colour gamut is wider and has been enhanced for greater accuracy this year. The 65XD93 also includes Sony’s 4K X-Reality PRO chip which uses algorithms from an image database to improve the scaling, interpolation and resolution of a multitude of sources such as broadcast TV, DVD, Blu-ray, Internet video and digital photographs. Finally the XD9305 supports active shutter 3D, which is something of a rarity these days, and Motioflow XR frame interpolation for smoother motion.
Sony adopted Android as the base for their Smart TV platform last year and it’s fair to say the roll out was less than successful. Not only did adopting Android delay the release of their 2015 line-up but the initial platform was slow and bug-ridden, resulting in a highly unsatisfactory experience. Sony appears to have made a much better job of presenting all the available apps and content this year. The recommendation bar is a big improvement and now allows for integration with Netflix and BBC iPlayer, among other video streaming apps, not to mention Google Play and YouTube. However we still find the entire platform to be slightly confusing, as if it’s two different systems bolted together - which isn’t far from the truth. The XD93 appears to have more horsepower under the hood at least, so it isn’t as slow, but the platform is still flakey. In the two weeks we were using the TV, it rebooted itself twice for no reason, we couldn’t use the Action Menu on two occasions and at one point the volume control stopped working. Come on Sony, after a year these sorts of things shouldn’t be happening. We’ll be covering Sony’s 2016 Android TV system in more detail in a dedicated review.
There's an extensive feature set and some impressive specifications but the smart platform remains buggy.
Sony KD-65XD9305 Recommended Settings
Picture Settings - Out-of-the-BoxThe XD9305 ships in the Standard Picture Mode but for an accurate image select either Cinema Home or Cinema Pro, which will immediately get you in the ball park. We chose the Cinema Pro mode for our night time setting and used the Cinema Home mode to create a daytime setting. All our measurements were done with a Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. You can find our recommended picture settings for day, night and HDR modes in the video above. Although if you would rather just set the TV up yourself then you can follow the steps in our PicturePerfect Guide.The out-of-the-box performance could definitely have been better, with a deficit of red energy in the greyscale and an excess of both green and blue. As a result whites were being pushed towards cyan and there were some noticeable errors. The gamma was better, tracking around our target of 2.4 but there was a slight peak at 10IRE, resulting in a bit of crush in the shadows.The colour tracking was actually quite good, aside from the fact that the majority of colours were being skewed by the cyan push in the greyscale. However the colours were all tracking their saturation points quite closely, so once we’ve calibrated the greyscale and removed the excess of green and blue and brought red back up, the primary and secondary colours should fall right into place.
The out-of-the-box measurements could have been better but the results were near-reference after calibration.
Picture Settings - CalibratedCompared to much of the competition, the number of available calibration controls on a Sony TV is minimal, although Sony did finally add a ten-point white balance control last year. So we will use the two-point white balance control to make some general changes to the greyscale and then fine-tune the performance with the ten-point control. As usual there is no Colour Management System (CMS), so we will have to hope that correcting the greyscale and gamma is sufficient.We were able to increase red and reduce both green and blue, which immediately resulted in a far more accurate greyscale. We then ran through the ten-point fine-tuning the performance. The result was a highly accurate greyscale with errors that were now all below one, which is well below the visible threshold. The gamma was still tracking around our target of 2.4 with a slight bump at 10IRE.As we suspected, once we had calibrated the greyscale the colour tracking fell into line and the result was an excellent level of colour accuracy. Aside from a slight over-saturation of red at 50 and 75%, the overall colour tracking was very impressive, which is just as well since we don’t have a CMS. Overall the XD93 is capable of a near-reference level of accuracy when it comes to its greyscale, gamma and colour gamut.
Picture Settings - High Dynamic RangeThe XD9305 is not certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance but Sony were keen to stress that was a deliberate decision on their part and that if they wanted to they could have got the XD93 and XD94 certified. We tested the 65XD93 and it does indeed meet the criteria for Ultra HD Premium certification, with a 10-bit panel, a colour gamut that is over 90% of DCI-P3 and 0.05 to 1,000nits of dynamic range. In fact we measured the colour gamut at just over 91% of DCI-P3, we also measured the native black level at 0.013nits and the maximum brightness on a 10% window at over 1,000 nits.The 65XD9305 delivered an excellent default greyscale performance, with just a shade too much green in the brighter part of the image. However the EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked almost exactly against the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target, which means the HDR performance is nearly optimal. The luminance starts rolling off at just under 80 IRE but using a 10,000nits test pattern we could see that the TV was mapping the content to the panel’s 1,000nits capability without clipping the brighter part of the image and thus not losing any detail.Although we are still a long way off TVs being able to cover the full Rec.2020 colour gamut, it is used as a container for sources such as Ultra HD Blu-ray. So it's important that an Ultra HD TV can track to the saturation points for Rec.2020 up to the limitations of the panel's native colour gamut. The 65XD93 managed to cover nearly 67% of Rec.2020 and was tracking the saturation points quite closely within the limitations of the panel's native colour gamut. So overall the XD9305 could deliver an excellent HDR performance in terms of our tests and this was borne out by out actual viewing experiences with HDR content.
The XD93 delivered a great picture with Full HD, Ultra HD or HDR content but it's a pity about the 3D.
Black Levels and Contrast Ratios
The XD9305 uses a VA panel, so even without engaging the local dimming we were getting some impressive black level measurements. In fact we measured the Sony’s native black level at 0.013nits which is impressive for an LCD panel and if you engaged the local dimming that immediately dropped to 0.001nits even in the low mode. Using 0.013nits and our standard dynamic range target of 120nits for peak brightness that resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 6,316:1, whilst the ANSI contrast ratio measured at 3,479:1. These are excellent results for an LCD panel and that’s without even engaging the highly effective local dimming.
When you consider the size of the screen and slim nature of the panel, Sony have done a remarkable job of ensuring a high degree of screen uniformity. There was a slight hint of dirty screen effect but you really had to go looking for it and for the most part the 65XD9305 delivered a nicely uniform image with both dark and bright material. There was also no evidence of banding on horizontal pans, which is sure to please any sports fans out there. The screen managed to avoid any undue backlight bleed and clouding, which again is remarkable considering the size and depth of the panel. It would seem that Sony’s slim backlight drive really works and is a huge improvement on last year’s X90C with its columns of light. Of course screen uniformity is often a lottery when it comes to LCD panels and we can’t guarantee that it will be as good for every unit but it was certainly impressive on our review sample.
Local Dimming and Viewing Angles
The Auto Backlight Dimming on the 65XD93 was very effective and, as we mentioned in the previous section, it delivered an excellent performance when it came to screen uniformity. Overall we found that the local dimming worked extremely well at improving the perceived dynamic range, with deep blacks that didn’t unduly crush shadow detail and bright whites that gave images a real depth and impact. It’s not perfect of course and you could on occasion see halos when bright white objects were against a black background, which primarily meant film credits. The local dimming could also occasionally pulse when dealing with flickering lights in dark scenes and shows like Marco Polo and Game of Thrones were very good for revealing this. However overall we found the local dimming to be extremely good, so for the most part we would recommend using the feature. Our only caveat relates to gaming but we’ll cover that in a later section.
Unfortunately when it comes to LCD technology there’s no such thing as a free lunch and whilst the black levels on the VA panel are very impressive, the viewing angles are fairly restrictive. How much so will depend on whether you sit central to the screen and how far back from the screen but with a 65-inch model it shouldn’t be too hard to sit in the sweet spot. If you are sat dead centre the image is very impressive with deep blacks, great uniformity and an image that has real impact. Once you start to move off-axis by more than 20 degrees, then the image quality begins to degrade and the grid structure of the slim backlight drive becomes noticeable. However this really applies to all TVs that use VA LCD panels, and that’s most TVs these days, so it’s just something that has to be accepted to get those great blacks. If you have a large family, just make sure you’re the one sat in the middle.
We generally find that the motion handling on Sony TVs is rather good for LCD and so it proved with the XD9305. We measured the motion resolution at around 400 lines which is better than average for an LCD TV and obviously this increases to the full 1080 if you engage the Motionflow frame interpolation. This can introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content. You can certainly experiment with the Clear and Custom controls to find a setting that you prefer but the Clear mode uses black frame insertion which will make the picture slightly darker, so you might need to increase the brightness of the image and some people may experience flicker. When it comes to film-based content we prefer using the True Cinema mode which increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus retaining a film-like quality to motion.
Standard and High Definition
We don’t have much cause to watch standard definition content these days but if it still forms a large part of your viewing experience you’ll be glad to know that the 65XD93 does a very good job of deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content to match the screen’s native 4K resolution. Naturally the better the source content the more impressive the image and the Sony’s processing can’t work miracles but when you consider the size of the screen and the amount of the image that is essentially being guessed the results were very good. The better standard definition channels looked quite watchable, although there is little even Sony’s excellent processing can do about some of the worst offenders, and a high quality DVD could look surprisingly good. Ultimately all of the XD93's key image features combined to produce natural-looking images that appeared accurate.
Once we moved on to high definition content, the performance naturally kicked up a gear and when watching high definition broadcasts the XD9305 did a marvellous job of deinterlacing and scaling the images, delivering some wonderful looking pictures. The current glut of BBC nature documentaries that seem to be on every night looked stunning at times whilst close-ups of the food on Masterchef could be mouth-watering. Once we moved on to Blu-ray the results were even more impressive, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens looking absolutely gorgeous and retaining a delightful film-like quality. Although if you like your images pristine, the digital CGI of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur showed the full potential of Blu-ray. We might be moving into an Ultra HD brave new world but there’s still plenty of life left in high definition.
High Dynamic Range Content
We have reviewed a number of Ultra HD TVs with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and the XD9305 delivered the best performance we have seen to date. The large 65-inch screen could really take advantage of the increased resolution on offer from the Ultra HD Blu-rays that use a native 4K transfer such as Sicario and The Revenant. Having said that even the UHD Blu-rays that use 2K sources looked absolutely stunning with Exodus: Gods and Kings and X-Men: Days of Future Past being good examples. The wider colour gamut and the decent colour accuracy demonstrated in our testing certainly proved to be the case with actual content and both The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road looked impressive in the new format. The slim backlight drive also delivered the goods, producing wonderfully dynamic images that retained detail in the shadows whilst adding plenty of impact to those specular highlights. Our current reference disc is The Revenant and it simply looked stunning with incredibly detailed images, wonderfully realistic colours and a dynamic range that gave the images an almost immersive quality - which is just what the director intended. Based on our experiences, there’s no doubt that the 65XD93 will deliver a fantastic HDR performance that will allow Ultra HD content to really shine on its big 4K screen.
The XD93 supports active shutter 3D, which is becoming something of a rarity these days, although it doesn't come with any glasses included so you'll need to buy those separately. As is usual these days, Sony failed to provide any glasses for the review but we found our trusty Samsung models were able to sync with the XD9305. The irony that we were using glasses made by a manufacturer who no longer produces 3D TVs wasn't lost on us. With so many manufacturers reducing the number of 3D models or dropping the format entirely, a TV that actually supports 3D is becoming all the more important to fans of the format. Unfortunately if 3D is still important to you then the Sony won’t be your best choice. Despite delivering a fantastic picture in just about every other aspect, the 3D performance of the 65XD93 was a major let-down.
We started by testing with our Spears & Munsil Blu-ray and the level of crosstalk on the various test patterns were immediately apparent. When we watched the demo footage on the disc in 3D we could not only see excessive crosstalk but there were also artefacts in the deep backgrounds that we found annoying. Watching our usual test discs such as Avatar, the 3D experience varied from passable to unpleasant depending on the amount of depth in the scene. A lot of modern 3D movies don’t actually use much depth, especially those that are converted in post-production but any film where there is a great deal of negative or positive parallax will demonstrate excessive crosstalk. Unfortunately unlike with the input lag, we found that turning off the local dimming didn't improve the 3D performance. Sony have always been very hit and miss when it comes to 3D but if this is the best they are capable of, then we would rather they just dropped the format entirely.
Sony KD-65XD9305 Video Review
Sound QualityWhilst we’re glad to see the back of the large forward-firing speakers that graced previous generations such as the X93C and X94C, there’s no denying that they did sound good. With the loss of the speakers and the much slimmer chassis, the sound quality has been downgraded but it is still passable for a modern slimline TV. The sheer size of the screen means that the TV can deliver a decent amount of stereo separation, whilst dialogue always remained clear and focused. The mid-range was reasonable and the higher frequencies managed to avoid sounding shrill but the bass was obviously lacking. However Sony do offer an optional wireless subwoofer that would certainly help beef up the lower frequencies if you plan on using the TV’s built-in speakers a lot.
These speakers use four drivers with 7.5W of amplification for each one and although that is fine for watching normal TV, it will never pass the muster for those big blockbuster films. Sony also include a number of audio features in the XD93 including Clear Audio+ and S-Force Front Surround, both of which are intended to provide a more immersive experience. We tended to find that these features just made the audio sound rather echoey and preferred the Music sound mode for a more neutral experience. There is also the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Clear Phase which are designed to get more from your streaming music sources. However we expect that anyone buying the 65XD9305 will probably use some form of outboard audio solution.
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionUsing our Leo Bodnar tester we initially measured the XD9305 in our calibrated Cinema Pro mode with the local dimming off and got 63ms but as soon as we selected the Game mode that dropped to 37ms which should be low enough for all but the most demanding of gamers. However, you will need to make sure that the local dimming is off to actually get this kind of input lag because if you turn it on the the lag increases.
In fact with the local dimming on the input lag behaves quite strangely and gradually increases from 51ms to 67ms before cycling back to 51ms and repeating. We’re not sure why it should be doing this and have never experienced this with any other TV but it must be due to the slim backlight drive since it doesn’t happen when the local dimming is turned off. As a result if you’re a serious gamer we would recommend turning the local dimming off for gaming, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the excellent native black levels of the VA panel.
In terms of the XD93’s energy consumption it proved to be surprisingly efficient for such a large TV. Using a full window 50% white pattern we measures the Standard picture mode at 81W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 76W. Naturally once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased but even then the XD9305 was only drawing 126W with our optimal settings.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 67% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 8 What do these mean?
- Excellent contrast performance
- Accurate greyscale & colour gamut
- Impressive HDR performance
- Great video processing
- Largely effective dimming system
- Plenty of good features
- Attractive design & great build quality
- 3D performance poor
- Limited viewing angles
- Smart platform is buggy
Sony XD93 (KD-65XD9305) Ultra HD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
The Sony KD-65XD9305 is marvellously engineered TV that combines an attractive appearance with features and specifications that have resulted in a great flagship TV. The minimalist design is striking, with an incredibly thin panel, whilst the build quality is excellent and we had no issues with a bent screen. There’s a comprehensive set of connections including four HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 and useful cover panels for tidy cable management. The new remote control is an improvement on the previous ‘One Flick’ version but the menu system remains annoyingly fragmented. Whilst there have been useful improvements made to the Android Smart TV platform, we still found Sony’s operating system to be buggy at times.
The 65XD93 was surprisingly energy efficient for such a large screen and at 37ms the input lag should be low enough for most gamers, just make sure the local dimming is turned off. However, the rest of the time the local dimming proved highly effective thanks to Sony’s slim backlight drive, which resulted in a uniform backlight with virtually no clouding, dirty screen effect or bright edges. The local dimming did occasionally struggle with some on-screen content but overall it proved to be genuinely impressive. The viewing angles were limited, although that’s to be expected with a VA panel, but the native black levels were excellent, as was the greyscale and colour accuracy after calibration.
The motion handling was also very good for an LCD TV and when all these factors were combined with some genuinely impressive video processing the results could be marvellous. The XD9305 handled standard definition very well and kicked up a gear with high definition content. However it was with Ultra HD and HDR that the Sony really showed its full potential with some truly stunning images being produced. Although the XD93 isn't certified Ultra HD Premium, this is a conscious decision on the part of Sony and the TV could achieve the level of performance required for certification. The only area where the 65XD93 let itself down was with 3D content, which suffered from excessive crosstalk. However that issue aside, the Sony KD-65XD9305 produced some of the best images we have seen so far this year and it does so whilst remaining stylish, as such it is worthy of a highly recommended badge.
What are my alternatives?
Presently there are a number of interesting alternatives available but the obvious candidates are either Samsung's curved UE65KS9000 or, if you prefer your screen flat, their UE65KS8000. Aside from the shape of the screen, these two TVs share the same features and offer excellent performance with high definition and Ultra HD and HDR content. They are Ultra HD Premium certified and sport an attractive design with a very slim panel, as well as an excellent Smart TV platform and plenty of great features. However they don’t support 3D, so if that feature remains important to you then the excellent Panasonic TX-65DX902B is your best bet, even if its 3D isn't much better than on the Sony. However it does have a full array backlight with local dimming and it is certified by THX and as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance. There's no doubt this is an exciting year for TV technology, there are a number of excellent alternatives available but whichever TV you choose, the Sony KD-65XD9305 is certainly amongst the best.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality6
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money9
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