Sony KD-75X9405C (X94C) UHD 4K LED TV Review
The picture is awesome, shame about the smart platform
What is the Sony X94C?The KD-75X9405C is Sony's flagship Ultra HD 4K TV for 2015 and represents the zenith of the manufacturer's development of LCD technology. Aside from the huge 75-inch screen, the 75X94C also includes a full array direct LED backlight and built-in magnetic fluid speakers. The X94C supports high resolution audio and incorporates Sony's new smart TV platform, which is powered by Android TV. The latter feature has delayed the release of Sony's TVs this year, so let's hope it was worth the wait. Whilst the X9405C is state-of-the-art, all this comes at a price and it will currently set you back about £7,499 as at the time of writing (July 2015).
The way that Sony allocates model numbers to their televisions can be quite confusing, especially their tendency to use very similar model numbers from year to year. Sitting below the 75X94C in this year's pecking order are the KD-65X9305C (£3,499) and KD-55X9305C (£2,499). Aside from their screen sizes, the only real difference between the X94C and two X93Cs is that the latter use edge LED lighting but the differences in model numbers might suggest an entirely different model which isn't really the case. So let's see if the 75X9405C can justify its price tag and deliver on its promise.
DesignThe X9405C uses a very minimalist design, it's essentially a big black glossy rectangle with a glass front, but there are touches of design flourish here and there. The outer edge has a brushed metal finish and there's a light underneath the central logo (which can be turned off), whilst the feet and sides have a metallic silver finish. Those feet can either be installed at the ends of the panel or towards the centre, which reduces the footprint from 193cm to about 70cm. The nature of the feet mean that the 75X94C can't be swivelled and note that there is only 8.5 cm of clearance beneath the screen. However you do have the option of wall-mounting, just make sure that wall mount is secure because this beast is big, really big.
The X94C measures a whopping 193 x 99 x 11cm (WxHxD) without the feet and weighs in at a hernia-inducing 56kg. Aside from the screen size and glass front, the other reason for these eye-watering dimensions is the inclusion of forward-firing speakers sculpted into the glass on either side. These are made up of two magnetic fluid woofers (mid-range and bass) and a high resolution tweeter, with 12.5W each for the mid-range woofers and the tweeters and 20W each for the bass drivers. This means that the 75X9405C goes from being 4cm deep at the top to 11cm deep at the bottom, although the overall depth is less than last year. However since many people buying this TV will use an out-board audio solution, it would be nice if Sony provided an option without the speakers.
As if the 75-inch screen wasn't big enough, the addition of those speakers makes the X94C even larger.
Connections & ControlThe connections are all at the left rear in a recess with a removable cover for tidier cable management. The majority are sideways facing and perhaps thanks to the side speakers they're 30cm from the edge, making it easier to hide cables. There are four HDMI 2.0 inputs, with support for MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link), ARC (Audio Return Channel) and importantly HDCP 2.2. According to Sony the HDMI ports should be upgradable to HDMI 2.0a with a firmware update later in the year, so the X9405C will be able to accept HDR (High Dynamic Range) enhanced content from sources such as Ultra HD Blu-ray. There are also three USB ports, legacy connections, twin tuners for both satellite and terrestrial broadcasts, digital audio output and a headphone jack. The X94C includes an Ethernet port, along with built-in WiFi, WiFi Direct and Bluetooth.
The 75X9405C comes with two remotes, the first of which is the latest version of Sony's standard black plastic controller. This remote is comfortable to hold and simple to use, with all the main controls within easy reach. There are all the usual buttons but this year the menu system is accessed by pressing the 'Action Menu' button, whilst the 'Home' button takes you into the new smart platform. There is also a 'Discover' button which provides you with recommendations, along with a dedicated Netflix button and a 'Football' mode - although we'd avoid the latter like the plague. The second remote is Sony's 'One-Flick' controller which has a few important buttons, NFC (Near Field Communication) and a touch pad to aid navigation of the smart platform. Of course if you'd rather use your smart device as a controller Sony also offer their TV SideView app for iOS and Android.
Features & SpecsThe 75X9405C is feature-packed and includes support for Ultra HD 4K (3840x2160), as well as Sony's X1 4K processor and 4K X-Reality Pro enhancement features. The 75X94C uses a Triluminos panel for a wider colour gamut and also includes Motionflow XR, along with X-tended Dynamic Range PRO - although this latter feature shouldn't be confused with HDR (High Dynamic Range). The X94C doesn't currently support HDR but a firmware update is expected later in the year. The X9405C supports active shutter 3D and comes with two pairs of glasses included. As already mentioned the design is a wedge form factor with magnetic fluid speakers and support for high-resolution audio (WAV and FLAC at 24-bit/96kHz). There's Sony's DSEE HX digital sound enhancement engine, ClearAudio+, S-Force Pro for a wider front soundstage and Clear Phase for smoother reproduction.
The big new feature this year is the addition of Android TV, although the inclusion of this platform has resulted in the launch of Sony's TVs being delayed. Whether the wait was worth it remains to be seen but Android TV will make it easier to enjoy content and apps between different Android devices. There's also Google Cast and Google Play for access to a huge number of available apps designed specifically for your TV. There's also the One-Flick remote for easier navigation, along with One-Flick Entertainment and voice control. There's the ability to record to a USB HDD, as well as one-touch mirroring and Photo Sharing Plus. Whilst it's still early days, the platform does include all the main video streaming services and the addition of YouView in the near future will also add all the catch-up services. So far we have found the platform to be rather disjoined, with too much choice resulting in unnecessary complexity and user confusion. However we will cover the new new platform in greater detail in a dedicated review.
The new Android TV smart platform has so much content that is starts to get slow and confusing.
Picture SettingsThe menu system this year has had a upgrade and is certainly better laid out than in previous models. However we did find that the menu system could be slow and unresponsive and for all you calibrators out there, the menus cover the meter forcing you to exit the menu to make any measurements. We used the Cinema Pro Picture Mode, which we found gave us the most accurate out-of-the-box measurements. We turned both the Auto Picture Mode and Light Sensor off and we're glad to see the latter is now in the picture menu, where it should be. When you select the Advanced Settings, you'll find it's broken down into four sub-headings - Brightness, Colour, Clarity and Motion.
In the Brightness submenu there is the Brightness control, which is Sony's new name for the backlight and whilst it does describe what the control does, it might be confusing because on all other TVs the brightness control does something completely different. However the X94C is a very bright display and we actually used the Min setting for Brightness and could still hit our 120cd/m2 target. We set Contrast to 90, set the Black Level (which is the control that is usually called Brightness, although Black Level is more applicable) to 49 and Gamma to zero. We turned off Black Adjust, Adv. Contrast Enhancer and X-tended Dynamic Range and set the Auto Local Dimming to Low.
In the Colour submenu we left Colour and Hue at their defaults, selected the BT709 Colour Space and turned off Live Colour. This year Sony TVs have a 2- and a 10-point white balance control (which they call Adv. Colour Temp), which allowed us to fine tune the already accurate greyscale. In terms of the Clarity submenu, we used a Sharpness setting of 20 and experimented with Reality Creation in both Auto and Manual. We also turned off the Random Noise Reduction and Digital Noise Reduction features. In the Motion section we used the True Cinema Motionflow setting for movies, although you can experiment with other settings when watching sports content, and we turned Film Mode off.
Pre-CalibrationAfter running through the basic setup outlined in the previous section, we measured the out-of-the-box performance and we were very impressed. Without even resorting to a calibration, the X94C could deliver a very accurate greyscale and colour gamut. If you look at the graph on the left below, you'll see that all three primary colours are tracking close to each other and although there is a slight deficit of blue, the errors are all below the visible threshold of three. The gamma is tracking at precisely 2.3 and overall this is a great performance.
The same was true of the colour gamut, with the X94C delivering very accurate measurements right out-of-the-box. If you look at the CIE chart above right, you'll see that all three primary colours (red, green and blue) and all three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) are hitting their targets for Rec.709. The colour temperature of white is skewed slightly towards yellow due to the deficit of blue in the greyscale but the luminance and hue measurements are spot on. In fact there's only some slight over-saturation in green and yellow that is even worth mentioning.
Post CalibrationThis year Sony have included both a 2-point and a 10-point white balance control but the greyscale was so accurate that we only really needed to use the 2-point to get all the errors below two. However since there is a 10-point, we used that to fine-tune the greyscale and get all the errors below one, which in our book is a reference performance. Although Sony have finally added a 10-point white balance control to their TVs this year, there's still no colour management system (CMS).
However in all honesty even if there had been a CMS, you really wouldn't have been able to get the colours much more accurate than they already were. As you can see in the CIE chart above right, the overall errors are bellow one and the luminance and hue measurements remain spot on. There is still a little over-saturation in some of the colours but nothing you would even notice, so we have to commend Sony on being able to produce panels with such impressive levels of colour accuracy.As we often mention in the reviews the colour performance at 100% saturation is only part of the picture, if you'll pardon the pun. What's more important is how a panel's colour accuracy measures at all saturation points (25, 50, 75 and 100%). As you can see clearly in the graph above, the X94C's overall colour accuracy is superb with all the colours at or very close to their targets. In fact the slight over-saturation measured at 100% doesn't apply to lower saturation points, which means the colour accuracy was even better than we first thought. Once again we must congratulate Sony on producing panels capable of this kind of performance.In the Colour submenu there is an option for the Colour Space and we selected BT709 (Rec.709) which is the current standard used for broadcast TV, streaming, DVD and Blu-ray. However things are in the process of changing with new colour space standards being suggested, including DCI (which is used in the cinema) and BT2020 (Rec.2020). So we were interested to see that the X94C had a colour space option for DCI and when we measured it the results were very impressive, with the colour space hitting about 98% of the target. That's the best measurement we have seen to date and suggests that when the standards do change, the 75X94C can take full advantage of the wider colour space. There was also an option for BT2020 but before anyone starts getting carried away, that only measured the same as the DCI setting, about 98% of DCI. We haven't seen any displays that can get near BT2020 but we'll take 98% of DCI - congratulations are in order again Sony.
As is often the case with Sony, there was a superb level of image accuracy right out-of-the-box.
Input LagIt's debatable whether anyone will buy a TV as big and expensive as the 75X9405C just for gaming but if that is your primary interest then there's good news. In the Cinema Pro mode with all extraneous processing turned off we managed to measure an input lag of 63ms, which isn't bad but not low enough for the serious gamer. Once we selected the Game mode the lag dropped to 36ms, which isn't quite the best (Samsung have managed to get it down into the twenties) but is still excellent. Whilst we would never claim to have the gaming skills that require such low input lags, we can certainly see the appeal of gaming on a screen this large as it totally immerses you in the experience. The fantastic picture quality also brought out the best in our PS4 games, so whilst gaming might not be the main reason for buying the X94C, it's certainly hugely enjoyable.
Sound QualityThe sound quality on the 75X9405C is one of its big selling points and there's no denying that all the effort Sony has put into improving this aspect has paid dividends. The use of forward-firing magnetic fluid speakers means that the sound quality is vastly superior to any other TV on the market. Whilst the combination of bass/mid-range drivers and tweeters, along with separate amplification, means that the X94C is capable of a genuinely refined performance. Thanks to the sheer size of the TV the stereo separation and overall front soundstage is excellent, with plenty of width but also precise localisation of instruments and effects. The level of clarity and detail is also impressive and the 75X94C is probably one of the few TVs you could actually use for listening to music, which makes its support of high resolution audio more understandable.
It also handles normal TV programmes well, keeping dialogue anchored to the screen and when it comes to movies the included amplification and overall size of the panel allow it to go both loud and surprisingly deep. If you want, you can even add an optional wireless subwoofer to get some serious bass performance. After complaining about the poor sound on modern TVs for so long, it might seem churlish to moan about the inclusion of decent speakers on the X9405C but the reality is that most people buying one probably won't use the built-in speakers. We applaud Sony for trying to improve the sound quality on their TVs but in doing so they have added to the size and cost. It would make more sense to offer the speakers as an optional extra, that way those who want them can buy them and those that just want the panel with its superb picture can get that instead.
Sony KD-75X9405C Video Review
The 75X94C produced some of the best looking images we've seen from an LCD TV this year.
Picture QualityThe 75X9405C uses a full array direct LED backlight and this meant that the uniformity was excellent with no evidence of clouding or bright corners or edges. There was also none of the banding or dirty screen effect that you sometimes see with TVs that use a direct backlight. In fact the X94C had the best implemented backlight and uniformity that we have seen from a LCD TV in recent years.
Video ProcessingSony have always prized themselves on the quality of their video processing and the 75X9405C is no exception, handling all of our tests with ease. Despite the gradual move towards an Ultra HD 4K future, good video processing remains vital because most of the content you’ll be watching will still be upscaled Full HD and sometimes even standard definition content. The X94C incorporates the new X1 4K processor along with 4K X-Reality PRO and Sony's research has clearly paid dividends.
The X9405C delivered a fantastic all-round performance, scaling content effectively without introducing any obvious artefacts. The Sony passed all of our usual video processing tests and overall the quality of the deinterlacing and scaling was excellent thanks to the X1 processor and X-Reality PRO. The 75X94C also includes Sony's Reality Creation feature, which can give the impression of greater detail on upscaled content. Whilst this feature can be quite effective it can struggle with content that has excessive grain, so we would recommend experimenting with it and not using the feature too aggressively.
Motion HandlingThe native motion handling of the 75X94C was actually quite good for an LCD TV with up to 400 lines of motion resolution in our benchmark test. You can improve this to the full 1080 lines of motion resolution by using the Motionflow frame interpolation feature but as is always the case the motion becomes overly smooth and takes on a video-like appearance. So for film-based content or TV dramas we would recommend using the True Cinema setting which just increases the frame rate to reduce flicker without introducing any interpolation. However for fast sports-based content, which is shot on video cameras anyway, there is room for experimentation.
Black Levels & Contrast RatiosThe 75X94C uses a VA or, as Sony like to call it, a Deep Black Panel with OptiContrast and it certainly delivered the goods. We measured 0IRE at 0.025cd/m2 with the local dimming off and for an LCD panel that's an excellent native black level. Using our usual target of 120cd/m2 for 100IRE that equates to an on/off contrast ratio of 4,800:1. Using a checkerboard pattern we measured an average black level of 0.067 and an average white level at 154cd/m2 which gives an ANSI contrast ratio of 2,299:1, which is also excellent for an LCD panel. The panel is also seriously bright, we could get 120cd/m2 from the minimum Brightness (backlight) setting and with everything maxed out the X94C could produce a whopping 534cd/m2. Sony are planning a firmware update to add HDR (High Dynamic Range) support later this year and based up these measurements that won't be a problem.
As soon as you set the Auto Local Dimming to Low the measurement for 0IRE immediately drops to 0.001cd/m2 and using a checkerboard pattern we measured an average black level of 0.048cd/m2 and an average white level of 157cd/m2. This equates to an ANSI contrast ratio of 3,340:1 which, whilst good, doesn't tell the full story. We actually found that the local dimming was very effective, delivering deep blacks but also maintaining shadow detail. The X9405C handled all our usual test scenes with ease, producing a wonderful sense of dynamic range. There was no obvious haloing, although for the best results you needed to sit in a fairly narrow viewing angle. As is often the case with a VA panel, as soon as you start to move too far off centre the contrast is reduced, the local dimming shows more obvious haloing and colours are washed out.
Ultra HD 4K PerformanceSadly our selection of 4K content remains limited and unfortunately we are currently unable to take advantage of the Ultra HD content available on Netflix and Amazon Instant. However both those services have now started to stream 4K content with HDR, so for those with a fast enough broadband connection the immediate future looks better. The rest of us will have to wait patiently for the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The Sony doesn't support MOV files, which reduced our already limited choice of 4K content but luckily we had a few other files in reserve. The 75X94C did a superb job with the content we could play, taking full advantage of its native 4K resolution and demonstrating its wonderful picture accuracy. As we went through the various test footage we were always impressed by the astonishing level of detail, the impressive dynamic range and the natural looking images.
Full HD PerformanceThe 75X94C delivered a perfect storm of performance when it came to high definition content, as all the factors we've already mentioned came into play. The use of a direct LED array resulted in excellent backlight uniformity with no clouding or banding and the VA panel itself delivered deep native blacks. Once you added the impressive local dimming and superb image accuracy, you started to realise why the picture looks so good. The video processing and motion handling also played their part, whilst the inherent brightness and dynamic range helped deliver images with real impact. All of this is good news because despite the arrival of 4K streaming services, our main viewing content for the foreseeable future will remain in high definition.
When watching 1080i broadcasts the images looked both natural and detailed, although the huge screen meant that any compression artefacts were fairly obvious. Despite this Netflix was a revelation with Sense8 and Monsters: Dark Continent looking fantastic in 1080p; whilst even True Detective and Hannibal on NOW TV at 720p managed to look really good. Once we moved onto 1080p/24 Blu-rays such as Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy the X9405C really had a chance to shine, delivering some of the best images we have seen on an LCD TV. In fact at times they were simply breathtaking in their detail and dynamic range - very impressive and excellent work overall from Sony.
3D PerformanceAs is often becoming the case these days, the PR company didn't even bother to send any 3D glasses with the 75X94C review sample. Thankfully the consumer electronics industry saw sense a couple of years ago and agreed a standard for RF active shutter glasses; as such we were able to use our trusty Samsung glasses when testing the Sony. Which is just as well because the X94C delivered a fantastic 3D performance with bright but accurate images that popped with depth and detail. There was no sign of any crosstalk and on regular test discs such as Gravity, Hugo and Avatar the Sony delivered a wonderful sense of depth. The sheer size of the screen also added to the enjoyment, really immersing you in the dimensionality of the image. It's an indication of how bright the X9405C is that, because the Brightness (backlight) control defaults to Max in 3D, we actually wished we could turn it down.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 98% 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) 9 What do these mean?
- Impressive black levels
- Wide dynamic range
- Excellent local dimming
- Superb image accuracy
- Great video processing
- Fantastic sound quality
- Smart platform confusing
- Menu response was slow
- Speakers unnecessary
- Very large and heavy
Sony KD-75X9405C (X94C) UHD 4K LED TV Review
Should I buy one?Well the more pertinent question might be - can I afford to buy one? However assuming you have over seven grand to spend on a TV and you're not tempted by a native 4K projector such as Sony's VPL-VW500ES, then the answer is definitely yes. In terms of picture quality you won't find a better looking LCD TV this year than the Sony KD-75X9405C. The use of a direct LED array results in excellent backlight uniformity and the VA panel delivers deep native blacks. Once you add the impressive local dimming and superb image accuracy, you start to realise why the picture is so good. The video processing and motion handling are just the icing on the cake and whether it's FHD or UHD, 2D or 3D the results are just stunning. For those worried about future-proofing, the X94C can hit 98% of DCI, there are HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 and HDR support will be added via a firmware update later in the year.
Whilst we question the logic of including built-in speakers on a screen this big, especially as it just adds to the already large size and cost, we can't fault the performance. The 75X94C sounded great, it can support high resolution audio and there's even the option of a wireless subwoofer. In fact the only area where we can criticise the X94C is in terms of the new smart platform, so it's ironic that Android TV should be the reason that Sony had to delay launching their TVs this year. We found the platform fragmented and confusing, with too much choice and multiple ways of doing the same thing. We can only assume things will get even more complicated when YouView is added but as it stands the platform feels like multiple systems laid on top of each other and the new menus are also slow and unresponsive.
What are my alternatives?Well at this screen size your alternatives are fairly limited but as we mentioned in the previous section, if you want 4K on a big screen you could consider the Sony VW500 projector for about the same price. However if it's a TV you want and you don't have an issue with a curved screen, then Samsung's excellent UE78JS9500 is your best alternative. The Samsung might be a bit more expensive but it does have a slightly larger screen and it doesn't feel as big or bulky. Otherwise the two are very similar in terms of performance, with the JS9500 also using a VA panel and including great colour accuracy, superb local dimming, excellent video processing, a wider colour gamut and support for HDR. Whatever you choose to do one thing is for sure, based on the fantastic performance of the Sony 75X94C, we can't wait to take a look at the cheaper and more sensibly sized 65X93C and 55X93C.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £7,499.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
3D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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