Big screen, big performance
What is the Sony XD94?The XD94 is Sony’s flagship Ultra HD 4K TV for 2016 and, unlike the XD93, it uses a full array LED backlight combined with local dimming. There’s only one model in this range, the KD-75XD9405, which uses a 75-inch screen size and retails for a surprisingly reasonable £4,999 as at the time of writing (July 2016). Unlike last year’s KD-75X9405C, the new model has dropped the large forward-firing speakers in favour of a more practical built-in audio solution. This makes more sense when you consider how large those speakers made the previous generation and, whilst the 75XD94 might not sound as good, it’s likely that anyone buying a screen this big will have an outboard audio system.
Along with the loss of the large speakers, the XD9405 also uses the same slim and minimalist design as the new XD9305, so despite it’s screen size it remains surprisingly unimposing. Aside from the cosmetic changes the XD94 is very similar to last year’s model with a 10-bit Triluminos panel for a wider colour gamut, X-tended Dynamic Range Pro with support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K X-Reality Pro. There’s also support for active shutter 3D and Sony’s implementation of the Android Smart TV platform. On paper at least, the KD-75XD9405 looks like a bit of a bargain when you consider the screen size and features but let’s take a closer look.
DesignDespite its huge screen size the XD94 is a decidedly elegant-looking TV with a stylish and minimalist design. The loss of the forward-firing speakers makes this generation far less ungainly and much easier to instal than in previous years. The screen is composed of a single sheet of glass with a 1cm wide black border around the image itself and an attractive champagne gold inlaid trim around the outer edge. Although the XD9405 uses a full array LED backlight the panel is remarkably thin, measuring just 20mm at the top and 40mm further down, where the electronics, connections and speakers are housed. Unlike the XD93, the power supply is built-in with the 75XD94, so there’s no brick-sized power adapter. 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 is where all the connections are to be found, the majority of which can be hidden behind removable panels for tidier cable management. The 75XD9405 sits on an attractive sloped stand with a silver brushed metal finish. It can’t be swivelled, measures 55cm across and at the rear there’s a removable cover with grooves for running cables to keep things 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 XD94, 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 general build quality is excellent and everything has a solid and well engineered feel to it. The overall dimensions are 1672 x 960 x 52mm (WxHxD) and the 75XD94 weighs in at 43kg with the stand included.
Despite its 75-inch screen size the XD94 remains stylish, minimalist and surprisingly slim
Connections & ControlAs with the XD93, the XD94 boasts a comprehensive if rather complex arrangement of connections. These are broken down into three sections, the first of which is a series of inward-facing connections in the middle. Here you’ll find the main connections, including three 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). The next section 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 final section is a series of side-facing connections located a mere15cm from the edge, which means there's a good chance that cables will poke out. However these connections are generally inputs that would only be used occasionally, including three USB ports, a headphone socket, a fourth HDMI input, an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the XD9405 also has a built-in wireless capability. If you’re wondering where the CI (Custom Interface) slot is, that is situated at the top of the rear section, where the air vents and slots for the wall mount are located. Finally, the connector for the power cable is over on the right hand side as you face the screen. The first and third sections have removable covers for tidier cable management.
As with all of Sony’s TVs, you have three choices when it comes to controlling them. The first is to use the basic controls on the TV itself, which are situated at the rear left hand side of the screen as you face it. They aren’t ideal but in an emergency you can turn the TV on, change channels or volume and access the inputs and tuner from these controls. The second choice is to use Sony’s newly designed remote control, which is actually rather good. It is well laid out and comfortable to hold, with a tactile, rubberised finish and low-profile buttons which include dedicated keys to take you to Netflix and the Google Play Store. Your third choice is to use Sony’s TV SideView remote app, which is available free for iOS and Android.
Features & SpecsAs you would expect from a flagship TV the XD94 comes feature-packed and, as already mentioned, it includes a full array LED backlight with local dimming. It also includes support for High Dynamic Range (specifically HDR 10) and 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 dimming zone of the screen. Thanks to Sony’s TRILUMINOS Display technology the colour gamut is wider and the 75XD94 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 XD9405 supports active shutter 3D, although no glasses are included, and features Motioflow XR 1200Hz for smoother motion.
Sony use the Android platform for their Smart TV system and they appear to have made a much better job of presenting all the available apps and content this year. The addition of a recommendation bar is a definite improvement and now allows for integration with Netflix and BBC iPlayer, among other video streaming apps, not to mention Google Play and YouTube. However the overall platform still feels like two different systems bolted together and it can be confusing at times. At least Sony appear to have increased the amount processing power and the system feels more responsive than last year. It could still suffer from the occasional glitch, causing us to have to reboot the entire TV, but overall the platform worked reasonably well and we found it quite effective in day-to-day use. We’ll be covering Sony’s 2016 Android Smart TV system in more detail in a dedicated review.
The XD94 is as feature-packed as you'd expect from a flagship model with HDR, 3D and Android TV
Sony KD-75XD9405 Recommended Settings
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-BoxAs with all of Sony’s TVs, the XD94 arrives in the Standard Picture Mode but for an image that accurately replicates the industry standards, you should select either Cinema Home or Cinema Pro. We used the Cinema Pro mode for our night time setting and 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 greyscale performance was excellent, with all three primary colours (red, green and blue) tracking closely to each other. There was a slight excess of blue and a deficit of red, especially in the brighter part of the scale, but the overall DeltaE (errors) were all below two and most were around one, making them largely imperceptible. The gamma was also tracking our target curve of 2.4 closely, resulting in an impressive level of accuracy.The colour tracking was equally as good, aside from the fact that the majority of colours were being skewed by a slight blue pull in the greyscale. However the colours were all tracking their saturation points quite closely, so once the greyscale has been calibrated the primary and secondary colours should fall right into place.
Picture Settings – CalibratedAlthough the number of available calibration controls on a Sony TV is less than you will find on much of the competition, what is available is actually quite effective. So you get two- and ten-point white balance controls to make some general adjustments before fine-tuning. As usual with a Sony TV there is no Colour Management System (CMS) but we generally find that, despite this, after calibration their displays can be extremely accurate.We were able to increase red and reduce 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 reference greyscale performance with errors that were all below one, which is well beyond the visible threshold. The gamma was still tracking around our target of 2.4 with a slight dip in the darker part of the scale.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 some minor hue errors in green and magenta, the overall colour tracking was very impressive; which is just as well since there isn’t a CMS. Overall the XD94 was capable of a reference level of accuracy when it came to its greyscale, gamma and colour gamut performance.
The image accuracy was excellent out-of-the-box and reference after calibration
Picture Settings – High Dynamic RangeThe XD94 is not certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance and after testing we could see why. Although the TV uses a 10-bit panel and managed a colour gamut of just over 90% of DCI-P3 (65% of Rec.2020), the peak brightness on a 10% window was only 768nits. For a TV to achieve Ultra HD Premium status, it needs to reach at least 1,000nits of peak brightness on a 10% window. It should be pointed out that although the XD93 also wasn't certified Ultra HD Premium, it did exceed the minimum requirements for certification.The XD9405 delivered an excellent default greyscale performance, with just a shade too much green in the middle part of the image. The EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked close to the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target, with the luminance beginning to roll off at just under 70 IRE. However, using a 10,000nits test pattern we could see that the TV wasn’t correctly mapping the content to the panel’s native peak brightness capability and was clipping content.
Although the XD94 didn’t measure a colour gamut that was quite as wide as the XD93, the actual tracking against Rec.2020 was almost identical on the two models. Overall it tracked quite closely to the saturation targets for Rec.2020, within the limitations of its native colour gamut, and as a result colour accuracy was actually very good. In fact overall the 75XD94 delivered a very good HDR performance, aside from the clipping that we mentioned in the previous section.
Black Levels and Contrast Ratios
Thanks to its VA panel the XD94 delivered an excellent black level performance and measured 0.024nits, although that dropped to 0.001nits when the local dimming was engaged, even in Low mode. Using our target nighttime viewing brightness of 120nits, that resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 5,000:1 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 2,471:1. These are impressive numbers for an LCD panel and that's without engaging the highly effective local dimming.
The screen uniformity was as impressive as the black levels and contrast ratio measurements, especially when you consider the sheer size of the panel. There was no obvious clouding, tinting or dirty screen effect and our only negative observation was that on full field test patterns the edges of the screen were slightly darker. However this really wasn't apparent when viewing actual content but what was occasionally visible was slight banding with camera pans across football pitches. This was very minor and we have yet to see a TV with a full array LED backlight that didn't suffer from banding to some degree or another. The XD94 is certainly one of the better performing displays in this area and Sony are clearly doing a good job of minimising the issue.
Local Dimming and Viewing Angles
The combination of excellent black levels and an impressive screen uniformity meant the local dimming had a great base from which to start so, given how good Sony's local dimming implementation is, the results were everything we expected. In fact it 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. The local dimming algorithms were effective at minimising any haloing or brightness fluctuations in the image, even with challenging material such as flickering torches in dark dungeons.
There are four settings for the Auto Local Dimming in the menu – Off, Low, Medium and High. Whilst the high setting resulted in excessive haloing, the Low and Medium settings enhanced the dynamic range of the image without adversely affecting it but the Low setting will probably suffice. Whilst the feature isn't perfect, we generally found that the local dimming delivered excellent results with the majority of material without introducing unwanted artefacts. The viewing angle of the XD94 wasn't bad for a VA panel but as soon as you move off axis by any significant degree then the local dimming haloing becomes more obvious.
The motion handling on Sony TVs is generally very good for LCD and we measured the motion resolution at around 400 lines on the XD94 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, but 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. If motion is a big issue for you then there is always the option to 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.
Standard and High Definition
Last year's X93C delivered one of the best images we tested and this year's version is equally as good, with wonderfully detailed and accurate pictures that demonstrate a marvellous dynamic range. Although standard definition makes up very little of our viewing material these days, the XD9405 did an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling the images to match the TV's native 4K panel. Of course on a screen this big the limitations of standard definition are all too obvious and the amount of compression used by some channels is terrible but with a good standard definition source like a DVD, the results can be surprisingly watchable.
However, even the best processing can't work miracles and on a 75-inch screen you really need to feed it the highest resolution material possible. As a result, as soon as we moved to decent high definition broadcasts the 75XD94 had a chance to show what it was really capable of and squeezed every last pixel of detail out of the 1080i images. The inherent dynamic range, the excellent local dimming and the image accuracy all came into play and produced some beautiful images. This was even more evident when it came to Blu-rays, with high quality 1080/24p images looking stunning on the big Sony and recent purchases like Zootopia taking our breath away.
The 75XD9405 supports active shutter 3D and although it doesn't come with any glasses included, we should probably be glad that it does 3D at all these days. Since Sony didn't actually provide any 3D glasses with our review sample, we resorted to using our trusty Samsung glasses instead. Sadly the XD94 delivered a very similar performance to the XD93 and was a major disappointment. On a 75-inch screen size, 3D has the potential to totally immerse the viewer, especially if it can produce bright, natural and flicker-free images. However artefacts like crosstalk can seriously diminish the 3D impact and take you out of the experience. Sadly this was the case with the 75XD94, which suffered from excessive crosstalk.
We started by testing with our Spears & Munsil Blu-ray and the level of crosstalk on the various test patterns was immediately apparent. When we watched the demo footage on the disc in 3D we could not only see excessive crosstalk at the top and bottom but there were also artefacts in deep backgrounds that we found annoying. Moving on to our usual test discs like Avatar, the 'seeds of the sacred tree' sequence revealed excessive crosstalk when the floating spores were near the top or the bottom of the image. It was a real shame because there were times when the 3D on discs like Zootopia looked excellent but there were others where it was almost unwatchable. Unfortunately Sony can be very hit-and-miss when it comes to 3D and sadly the XD9405 is a miss.
High Dynamic Range
Despite our reservations about the limited peak brightness of the XD94 and the fact that it clipped our test patterns, the Sony actually delivered a very enjoyable HDR experience. It should be pointed out that when the XD9405 first detects an HDR signal it immediately goes into the HDR Video mode, although it doesn't actually inform you of that fact. You can only tell by the increased brightness or by going into the picture menu, where many options are greyed out, making setup relatively straight forward. The Auto Local Dimming and X-Tended Dynamic Range controls are locked with HDR but the White Balance control is available, so there is the opportunity to calibrate the greyscale
In testing there was no doubt that the image lacked the full impact that TVs with a peak brightness of over 1,000nits can deliver, such as Samsung's KS9500. However the combination of a full array backlight, an effective local dimming system and a lower peak brightness did mean that the 75XD94 could deliver HDR without introducing haloing, thus making the experience more organic and realistic. The first clip that we watched was the 'arriving at Neverland scene' in Pan because this can immediately show up any problems with clipping. As we expected from our test patterns, the sun behind the mountains of Neverland lacked the clearly defined circle that should be visible if the display is correctly mapping the content.
However the limited brightness and clipping aside, the Sony was still able to deliver a decent HDR experience that was made all the more visceral by the size of the screen. The naturalistic photography in Wild was particularly effective on the XD9405 and the epic landscapes in The Revenant were stunning. The larger screen size took full advantage of the native 4K source to deliver breathtaking detail and incredibly realistic colours, whilst highlights had more pop and dark scenes had more detail when compared to the regular Blu-ray. The motion handling was excellent and the wide open skies and desert vistas of Sicario were free of any posterisation, revealing the excellent gradations in the XD94's image.
Sony KD-75XD9405 Video Review
Sound QualityAlthough we weren’t sad to see Sony remove the large forward-firing speakers found used on previous generations, there was no denying that they sounded good. With the loss of the speakers and the slimmer chassis, the sound quality wasn’t as impressive but it still sounded very good. The sheer size of the screen meant that the 75XD94 could deliver a large amount of stereo separation but at the same time the dialogue always remained clear and focused. The mid-range was well represented, the higher frequencies managed to avoid sounding shrill and there was a decent amount of bass presence. Although if it isn't enough, Sony do offer an optional wireless subwoofer that would be useful for enhancing the XD94’s inherent low frequency performance.
The built-in speakers use four drivers with 7.5W of amplification for each one and they proved more than adequate for normal TV watching. Sony include a number of audio features such as Clear Audio+ and S-Force Front Surround, both of which are intended to provide a more immersive experience. We found that these features tended to make the audio sound rather echoey and preferred the Music sound mode for a more neutral experience. There’s also the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) and Clear Phase which are designed to get more from your streaming music sources. Overall the XD9405 proved a competent audio performer but we expect that anyone buying a TV with a 75-inch screen will almost certainly have some form of outboard sound solution.
The sound is big but the input lag and energy usage are pleasingly low
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionWe tested the XD94 with our Leo Bodnar tester and in our calibrated Cinema Pro mode with the local dimming off and got 64ms. However, as soon as we selected the Game mode that dropped to 35ms 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 because if you turn it on the input lag behaves quite strangely and gradually increasing from 35 and 52ms before cycling back to 35ms and repeating. We’re not sure why it should be doing this but it doesn’t happen when the local dimming is turned off so, if you’re a serious gamer, we would recommend that approach.
In terms of the XD94’s energy consumption it proved to be surprisingly efficient for such a massive TV. Using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 120W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 85W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased, with the XD9405 drawing 170W with our optimal settings.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 65% 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
- Excellent local dimming
- Superb image accuracy
- Great video processing
- Fantastic sound quality
- Clipping with HDR 10 material
- Smart platform still needs work
- 3D suffers from crosstalk
Sony XD94 (KD-75XD9405) Ultra HD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
If you're looking for a really large screen TV then the Sony KD-75XD9405 should definitely be on your list and at £4,999 it might well be the only one on your list. The XD94 isn't only very reasonably priced, it's rather pretty and despite the 75-inch screen and the full array LED backlight, it remains both stylish and surprisingly thin. The unimposing nature of this big screen TV is partly thanks to Sony's minimalist design but also thanks to the manufacturer dropping the big forward-firing speakers found on previous generations. However despite this, the 75XD94 still sounds good, although we would expect anyone buying a screen this large to have an outboard audio solution.
Along with the new look, the XD9405 also includes a comprehensive set of connections, including four HDMI 2.0a inputs with support for HDCP 2.2. There are also twin satellite and terrestrial tuners, three USB ports and built-in WiFi; along with covers and grooves for tidier cable management. The XD94 comes with Sony's newly designed controller, although there's also a free remote app for iOS and Android, and the latest version of Android TV. Whilst the processing power has been improved and the recommendation bar is a nice addition, the platform still feels disjointed and is prone to the occasional glitch. The input lag is a reasonable 35ms and the energy consumption actually quite low considering the sheer size of the screen.
The out-of-the-box image accuracy was excellent before calibration and reference afterwards, with impressive black levels and a highly effective local dimming system. The video processing was also very good, as was the motion handling and the XD94 delivered the goods with both standard and high definition content. Sadly the Sony wasn't as impressive when it came to 3D, with excessive crosstalk ruining an otherwise good image. The HDR performance was largely very good with a great dynamic range and a decent level colour accuracy. However the peak brightness was limited to around 760nits, which would explain why the XD94 doesn't have Ultra HD Premium certification and the display was also clipping test patterns and certain HDR 10 content.
Despite this, the XD94 could still deliver a great picture with HDR content and when combined with the fantastic-looking high definition material, the screen size and the price, the Sony does start to look like a real bargain. So if it's big screen entertainment that you're after, then the Sony KD-75XD9405 is just the ticket.
What are my alternatives?
If you're looking for a TV with a full array LED backlight then you essentially have two choices – the Panasonic TX-65DX902B or the Samsung UE65KS9500. The former can currently be picked up for a very tempting £2,999 and offers a flat 10-bit VA panel with 512 local dimming zones and Ultra HD Premium certification. It supports HDR 10, has a colour gamut of nearly 100% of DCI-P3 and a peak brightness of over 1,000nits. The DX902 also supports 3D, can deliver exceptional colour accuracy and certainly impressed when we reviewed it.
The Samsung UE65KS9500 costs around £3,799 and offers many of the same features as the Panasonic DX902 with a 10-bit VA panel, 150 local dimming zones and Ultra HD Premium certification. The KS9500 uses a curved panel but it also supports HDR 10, has a colour gamut of nearly 100% of DCI-P3 and a peak brightness of over 1,000nits. The KS9500 doesn't support 3D but it has an incredibly low input lag and certainly delivers an impressive level pf performance.
As an alternative to an LED LCD TV, there's also the option of the LG 65E6 OLED TV which costs £4,999, is Ultra HD Premium certified and features support for both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. The E6 delivers the deep blacks expected of an OLED TV but also includes support for 3D, has a built-in soundbar and uses the excellent WebOS Smart TV platform. However if it's a really big screen that you're looking for then the closest option is the curved 78-inch Samsung UE78KS9500 but that will set you back £8,299, which gives you an idea of the amazing value offered by the Sony KD-75XD9405.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality6
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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