Sony KD-75XE9405 4K LCD TV Review
Bigger and better
What is the Sony XE94?The XE94 is the latest version of Sony's big screen BRAVIA Ultra HD LCD TV that, unlike the edge-lit XE93, uses a full array LED backlight with local dimming. The KD-75XE9405 replaces last year's KD-75XD9405 and uses a flat 75-inch 4K screen along with the same X1 Extreme processor found in the ZD9. The Sony supports High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR 10 and, after a firmware update later in the year, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision. The 75XE94 also includes the latest version of Sony's Android Smart TV platform and retails for a surprisingly reasonable price of £4,399 as at the time of writing (August 2017). We have now reviewed all of Sony's higher end models for 2017, so we have a good idea of what to expect from the XE9405 in terms of performance but the question is how does it perform with HDR and, given it's screen size, does it offer a viable alternative to a projector? Let's find out...
DesignThe design of the XE94 is very similar to last year's XD94 but this year Sony have made some minor changes in terms of the stand and finish. These changes reflect the design ethos introduced with the ZD9, so now there's a two-tone finish to the aluminium frame with the front half black and the rear half dark silver. The panel itself is minimalist and there's a simple 10mm black border around the screen, a Sony logo at the bottom middle and beneath that an indicator light that can be turned off.
The rear panel uses a more natural and neutral colour scheme and there are covers for the connections. There's also a grid like effect at the rear which effectively hides where the removable panels are, thus keeping the appearance clean. These panels cover the rear of the stand, along with the back of the panel where the mounts are for a 400 x 300 VESA wall bracket. There are also covers for the downwards and sideways facing connections as well as cable guides for better cable management.Unlike the XE9305, the power supply is internal on the 75XE94 and there's a hard wired power cable. However it sits on the same sloped stand, which has a brushed metal dark silver finish and columns at the rear with sliding covers over spaces through which you can run cables. The stand is 510mm wide and provides good support although it can't be swivelled and physically moving the TV can be tricky.
That's because the XE9405 doesn't just use a 75-inch screen, it also has a direct LED backlight, so it's very big and heavy – measuring 1673 x 962 x 62mm (WxHxD) without the stand and 1673 x 1037 x 325mm with the stand, and weighing in at 42.8kg without the stand and 47.6kg with it attached. However despite the size and weight, the Sony remains an attractive and very well made TV.
The XE94 uses the same design as the XE93 and ZD9, with an equally impressive build quality
Connections & ControlThe connections are at the rear left of the XE94, as you face the screen, and use a combination of downwards and sideways facing inputs. The downwards facing connections include three HDMI inputs, a USB port, terrestrial and twin satellite connectors for the built-in tuners and an Ethernet port, although the XE9405 also has built-in WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac). All the HDMI inputs support 4K/60p, HDR and HDCP2.2, whilst HDMI 3 also supports the Audio Return Channel (ARC). The sideways facing connections include two more USB ports, the fourth HDMI input, an optical digital output, a hybrid connector for composite and component video inputs and a hybrid output for analogue audio, a connected subwoofer and headphones. Finally in a separate section behind another removable panel there is a Common Interface (CI) slot.There are some basic controls on the TV itself, these are situated at the rear left hand side of the screen as you face it and allow you to turn the TV on, change the channels, change the volume and access the inputs or internal tuners. As far as the remote control is concerned it's business as usual, with the same tactile, rubberised finish and low-profile buttons which have proved quite divisive. Whilst the buttons are sensibly laid out, they can be hard to find in the dark and we occasionally hit the wrong one by accident.
However all the buttons you'll need are there, including dedicated keys to take you to Netflix and the Google Play Store. There's also Voice Search on the remote, using a dedicated button and a built-in microphone. The XE94 also comes with an infra-red (IR) blaster that lets you control other devices from the TV remote, so you can use it to control your set-top box for example. Finally there's Sony’s TV SideView remote app, which is available free for both iOS and Android.
There's a decent set of connections and the usual Sony remote control
Features & SpecsThe XE94 uses a 10-bit vertical alignment (VA) Ultra HD 4K LCD panel and it's big selling point is the inclusion of full array local dimming (FALD). This is becoming something of a rarity these days but the XE9405 has rows of LEDs behind the panel which can be independently controlled. We counted 16 rows vertically and 16 columns horizontally, which equates to 256 independent dimming zones. This is less than the ZD9 or the Panasonic DX902 but is still more than most other FALD sets we've tested. The 75XE94 uses Sony's X1 Extreme processor and, as such, it will not only support High Dynamic Range in the form of HDR 10 but, thanks to a firmware update later in the year, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Dolby Vision.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?The X1 Extreme processor also includes dual databases, superbit mapping for 4K and object-based HDR remastering, along with 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 with HDR as well. There's also Motionflow XR 1200Hz (using a native 100Hz panel) for improved motion handling and a new HDR gaming mode but, like all of Sony's 2017 models, the XE94 doesn't support 3D.
Sony use Android as the operating system for their Smart TV platforms and it's been a slightly hit and miss affair over the last two years. The XE94 now runs Android 7 (Nougat) and Sony has gradually improved the system, making it more robust and presenting apps in an accessible manner using a series of tiled layers that you scroll down through and then across. There's a recommendation bar, along with Netflix and BBC iPlayer, among other video streaming apps, not to mention Google Play, YouTube and YouView. However we still find the entire platform to be slightly confusing and it frequently feels underpowered in terms of processing. There are ways to mitigate this by not installing the Samba feature, closing apps and using the app developer setting to speed things up. At least the XE94 felt faster and more robust than in previous years and we didn't need to reboot the entire TV at any point during the review process.
The features include support for HLG and Dolby Vision, along with Android 7
Sony KD-75XE9405 Recommended TV Settings
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-BoxAs is normal for a Sony TV, the XE94 defaults to the Standard Picture Mode, so for an accurate image that better matches 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. For more information on how to correctly set up your Sony TV, you can watch the settings video above or take a look at our PicturePerfect Guide.
The out-of-the-box greyscale was generally very good but, as you can see in the graph above, there was an excess of blue and a slight deficit of red in the higher part of the scale. As a result there was a push towards blue in whites and errors (deltaEs) that just passed the visible threshold of three at the top end. Since the XE9405 includes both a two and a ten point white balance control, we expect no issues when it comes to calibrating the greyscale, and the gamma curve tracked our target of 2.4 quite closely.The colour tracking was actually quite good, aside from the fact that the majority of colours were being skewed by the excess blue in the greyscale. However, as you can see in the graph above, the colours were tracking their saturation points reasonably closely, so once we’ve calibrated the greyscale and removed the excess of blue and brought red back up, the primary and secondary colours should fall right into place. Overall this is a decent out-of-the-box performance but we have seen better from other TV manufacturers this year.
Picture Settings – CalibratedThe XE94 includes a two- and a ten-point white balance control but, as is usual for Sony TVs, there is no colour management system (CMS). However we generally find that after calibration Sony displays can be extremely accurate once the greyscale has been calibrated.
We were able to increase red and reduce blue using the two-point, which immediately resulted in a far more accurate greyscale. The errors were already below the visible threshold but we then used the ten-point to fine-tune the performance, resulting in a highly accurate greyscale with errors that were now all well below one and a gamma curve that was precisely tracking our target of 2.4.As we expected based on previous experience with Sony TVs, once we had calibrated the greyscale the colour tracking fell into line and the result was an excellent level of colour accuracy. As a result, overall the 75XE94 is capable of a near-reference level of accuracy when it comes to its greyscale, gamma and colour gamut.
The greyscale, gamma and colour accuracy was good before calibration and excellent afterwards
Picture Settings – High Dynamic RangeIn terms of HDR, the measurements below show the HDR Cinema Pro mode after a basic setup and, as you can see, the EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target reasonably closely. The greyscale is quite accurate and thus white is close to its target of D65 but the curve does begin rolling off much sooner than we've seen on other Sony TVs. However the XE94 did an excellent job of tone mapping HDR content and the results were superb with actual viewing material.One of the big selling points of the 75XE94 is the full array local dimming and this resulted in a peak brightness measurement of 1260nits on a 10% window. The Sony was able too maintain this peak brightness for a considerable period of time and it could also deliver 550nits on a full field as well. This allowed the XE9405 to not only deliver impressive highlights but also a brighter image overall, whilst the effective local dimming delivered deep blacks and no apparent haloing, as long as you remained central to the screen.
The XE94 could deliver a wider colour gamut but it wasn't quite as wide as many other HDR TVs that we have tested this year. We measured the XE9405 at 88% of DCI-P3 using xy and 93% using uv coordinates, which equates to 66% of Rec.2020. The graph above shows how the 75XE94 tracked against Rec.2020 and, within the limitations of its native colour gamut, it was reasonably good.
The graph above shows how the XE94 tracked against the DCI-P3 saturation points within the Rec.2020 container and in this test the Sony performed very well, with the primary and secondary colours tracking their targets very closely within the limitations of the panel's native colour gamut. As a result the 75XE94 could deliver accurate colours with HDR content.
We measured the Perceptual Colour Volume of the XE9405, which takes the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut and measures them against the ICtCp colour graph which takes into account human visual perception. This measurement uses 393 data points and delivers a number expressed in Millions of Distinguishable Colours (MDC). So a theoretical display that could deliver 10,000nits of peak brightness and 100% of Rec. 2020 would be able to deliver 997 million distinguishable colours or an MDC number of 997. By comparison the XE94 produced an MDC number of 401, which is one of the highest measurements we've seen this year.
Thanks to the effective full array local dimming the HDR performance was superb
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosThe XE94 uses a VA panel and as a result it was able to deliver an excellent black level performance for an LCD TV with a measurement of 0.025nits, 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 a native on/off contrast ratio of 4,800:1 and a native ANSI contrast ratio of 2,568:1. These are excellent numbers for an LCD TV, especially when you consider that this is without even engaging the local dimming.
Screen Uniformity and Viewing AnglesThe 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 slight banding to some degree or another.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesThe combination of a direct back light with 256 LEDs behind the panel resulted in an impressive local dimming performance from the XE94. Sony's implementation of local dimming has always been very impressive and as a result the 75XE94 was particularly effective 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 algorithm was effective at minimising any haloing or brightness fluctuations in the image, thanks to the larger number of independent dimming zones.
In fact it was so good that we actually found counting the dimming zones quite tricky and in order to make out the zones we had to look at the TV from a fairly extreme angle. There are four settings for the Auto Local Dimming in the menu – Off, Low, Medium and High. The Low and Medium settings were best at enhancing the dynamic range of the image without adversely affecting it and Medium worked best for us – we generally found that it delivered excellent results with the majority of material without introducing unwanted artefacts. The viewing angles of the XE9405 also weren't bad for a VA panel but as soon as you move off axis by any significant degree then the local dimming haloing starts to become more obvious.
Motion HandlingAs a general rule Sony LCD TVs are rather good when it comes to motion handling. We measured the motion resolution at around 300 lines which is what we would expect for an LCD TV using sample-and-hold to display an image. If we selected Standard this increased to 600 lines of motion resolution but also results in the 'soap opera effect' and image artefacts. To increase the motion resolution to the full 1080 without the smoothing effects you can try Clear or Custom both of which apply black frame insertion (BFI) to enhance the motion without resorting to frame interpolation. In the case of the Custom setting you can leave the Smoothness control at zero and set the Clearness control to Max to get the full impact. Whether you choose Clear or Custom, the use of black frame insertion will make the picture darker, so you'll need to increase the brightness of the image and some people may experience flicker. For that reason, when it comes to film-based content we prefer using the True Cinema mode. This increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus improving the motion and retaining a film-like quality without darkening the image or creating flicker.
Standard Dynamic Range Performance
The XE94 proved to be an excellent performer when it came to standard dynamic range content (SDR), primarily because it's a solid TV that gets the basics right. First of all there's the decent native black levels and the effective local dimming which, when combined with a good level of screen uniformity, produces images with an excellent inherent dynamic range. Then there's the superb image accuracy in terms of the greyscale, gamma and colour gamut, these form the basis of any image and as a result the 75XE94 looked extremely natural. The video processing is also impressive, particularly the upscaling, which is very important on a screen this size. The X1 Extreme processor can't work miracles, if the source content is heavily compressed there's only so much that can be done, but with a decent quality signal the XE9405 can deliver lovely images on its big 75-inch screen.
As a result, superior standard definition sources like DVDs looked great, especially when compared to broadcast TV and the XE94 handled our DVD test discs extremely well, correctly displaying the various patterns. Moving on to high definition content and things immediately improved, with good quality broadcasts looking excellent with plenty of detail, deep blacks, nice highlights and natural colours. When it came to football, as mentioned earlier, the XE9405 was largely free of banding and the motion handling was also excellent, making this a great TV for sports fans. The Sony was obviously impressive with Blu-rays and Moana looked simply stunning, with its incredibly detailed computer animated images bursting off the screen. The XE94 was equally as impressive with live action and the beautiful photography of The Lost City of Z was rendered with great precision and accuracy, resulting in a genuinely cinematic big screen experience
High Dynamic Range PerformanceThe XE94 performed extremely well in our high dynamic range tests, so we were expecting great things when it came to actual content and it didn't disappoint. The 75XE94 delivered fantastic HDR images, in fact it's one of the best performers we've seen in terms of HDR. The highly effective local dimming delivered deep blacks and very bright peak highlights, whilst the colours appeared natural and the whites looked correct. As a result the Sony produced some lovely images, delivering the specular highlights with precision, whilst retaining plenty of shadow detail and avoiding issues like bright edges or haloing – as long as you're sat central to the screen. The XE9405's tone mapping was particularly impressive and it handled content graded at 4000nits very effectively, correctly displayed the 'Arriving at Neverland' scene on the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Pan.
In fact we were hugely impressed by the HDR performance as we made our way through our current list of favourite 4K test discs. The Revenant simply looking stunning, whilst Life was especially impressive because it not only contains a staggering mount of detail in its photography and effects but also has plenty of scenes where bright white spacesuits are juxtaposed against the pitch blackness of space. Not only did the whites appear accurate but the dynamic range inherent in these scenes was simply breathtaking at times. The XE94 also delivered every tiny detail in the image, whilst accurately reproducing the wider colour gamut and rendering all the tiny highlights in the image. Planet Earth II was equally as impressive and the superb local dimming on the XE94 handled the hyenas at night sequence especially well, resulting in a perfect example of the overall benefits of HDR.
The overall picture performance was excellent, with the large screen adding to the experience
Sound QualityThanks to the sheer size of the XE94's screen and the deeper chassis, the sound quality was much better than we would normally expect from a modern TV. The 75-inch screen size meant the XE9405 could deliver a greater sense of stereo separation, whilst the two front-facing three-way (tweeter, mid-range and woofer) speakers use 10W of amplification for each tweeter, and 10W a piece for each mid-range driver and woofer. That's 60W in total, which means the 75XE94 can go quite loud without sounding brittle, and there was a good mid-range response, whilst the higher frequencies managed to avoid sounding shrill and there was a decent amount of bass presence. Although if there isn't enough bass, Sony do offer an optional wireless subwoofer that would be useful for enhancing the 75XE94’s inherent low frequency performance.
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 sound 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 XE9405 proved a competent audio performer, although we would expect anyone buying a TV with a 75-inch screen size to almost certainly have some form of outboard sound solution of their own.
As with other Sony TVs this year the input lag varied between 1080p and 4K gaming
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionWe measured the input lag on the XE94 using our Leo Bodnar tester, along with an HD Fury Integral to inject HDR metadata and an HD Fury Linker to upscale the signal to 4K. As with other Sony TVs we have reviewed this year the results were mixed, with the XE9405 delivering a 1080p lag time of 39ms, regardless of whether the signal was SDR, HDR or the local dimming was engaged. However the lag dropped to 25ms for a 4K signal, again regardless of whether it was SDR or HDR and whether or not the local dimming was used.
Presumably this is because with a 4K signal the TV doesn't have to upscale the content to match the native Ultra HD resolution of the panel but other manufacturers this year have managed to get input lags in the low 20s for both 1080p and 4K gaming. Whether you're gaming in 1080p or 4K it is important to use the Game mode because the other modes increase the lag to 88ms and you should also avoid using Motionflow because even in Game mode this will increase the input lag.
In terms of the XE94’s energy consumption it proved to be extremely efficient considering the screen size and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 120W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at just 89W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased and the 75XE94 was drawing 270W with our optimal settings.
Sony KD-75XE9405 Video Review
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 66% 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 black levels
- Effective local dimming
- Superb HDR performance
- Impressive image accuracy
- Great video processing
- Decent sound quality
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Colour gamut could be wider
- Narrow optimal viewing angles
- Android remains an acquired taste
Sony KD-75XE9405 4K LCD TV Review
Should I buy one?The XE94 is an impressive addition to Sony's 2017 line-up of 4K Ultra HD TVs and the use of full array local dimming certainly pays dividends when it comes to HDR. The 75-inch screen size means that you get plenty of big screen action and yet the design remains minimalist and attractive. There's a decent set of connections and Sony's usual remote control, whilst the update to Android 7 has improved the performance of the smart TV platform. The 75XE94 boasts plenty of features including support for HDR10 and the promise of Dolby Vision and HLG to be added in the near future. The sheer size of the XE9405 means that the sound quality is surprisingly good but the input lag is a bit of a mixed bag, depending on whether you game in 1080p or 4K.
The out-of-the-box image accuracy is good, although we have seen better this year, and near reference after calibration. As a result the performance was very impressive with natural colours and plenty of detail thanks to some excellent video processing. The local dimming was extremely effective, delivering peak highlights and deep blacks that gave all images greater impact but were especially good with HDR content. The motion handling was also excellent, given the limitations of LCD technology, whilst the screen uniformity was equally as good although the optimal viewing angles are limited. However overall the 75XE9405 delivered a very impressive performance and, when it came to HDR, it produced some of the best images we have seen to date.
The Sony KD-75XE9405 represents a great choice for anyone looking for a large screen TV that can deliver a fantastic performance with both SDR and HDR content at a realistic price point and as such it comes highly recommended.
What are my alternatives?If you're looking for big screen entertainment but don't want to take the projector route, then your choices are somewhat limited. The XE94 certainly would make a viable alternative to a projector for anyone who wants a big screen but perhaps doesn't have sufficient space. The 75XE94 would also easily beat any projector when it comes to HDR content, so that's certainly worth considering. In terms of other large screen FALD TVs this year they are fairly thin on the ground and you're basically going to be looking at another Sony. If you've got the budget then the superb ZD9 has to be worth considering but the 75-inch model will set you back £6,599. However as an alternative there's also the XE90 which whilst not quite as good as the XE94 in terms of local dimming, does use a direct LED backlight and can be picked up for a very reasonable £3,599 in a 75-inch screen size.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £4,899.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money9
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