Is this the TV of the year?
What is the Sony X9005B?
As far as Sony are concerned it's Ultra HD 4K or bust.The Japanese giant is placing all of its eggs in one Ultra HD basket and the success or failure of the format could well decide their TV division's future. Sony are still making Full HD TVs, of course, but all their R&D muscle is going into the new higher resolution format. The manufacturer clearly feels it has a competitive advantage when it comes to 4K and looking at their line-up, it's hard to disagree. Sony not only produces 4K content via its studio, it also makes 4K cameras for others to use. It manufactures 4K projectors for the professional market and is currently the only company to offer a domestic 4K projector. Sony were also one of the first out of the blocks when it came to 4K TVs and, their highly confusing model numbers aside, the company has continued to refine their line-up over the last two years.The X9005B represents the latest 4K statement from Sony and its immediately clear just how serious the company is when it comes to Ultra HD. The distinctive wedge shape immediately distinguishes the X9005 from the competition and allows Sony to build in better speakers for superior sound. In terms of video, the X9005 includes Sony's 4K X-Reality Pro image engine, X-tended Dynamic Range and Triluminos display. There's also a host of smart features, a new controller and a built-in camera, all wrapped up in a package that promises superior build quality. We're reviewing the 65-inch KD-65X9005B which can be picked up for around £3,300 but there are also 55 and 79 inch models available. So, let's setup the 65X9005 and see if it delivers on all this promise.
Design and ConnectionsIf there's one thing you can say about the designers at Sony, the results of their endeavours are rarely boring. They can often be divisive but they will elicit a response out of consumers, whether it's love or hate. The wedge shape used for the X9005B is just such an example, it will undoubtedly be popular with many but some might find it too leftfield. You can't fault the logic however, and the wider base allowed Sony's engineers to fit larger speakers in, thus improving the built-in audio. In fact, when you combine the larger speaker size with Sony's magnetic fluid technology and mica-reinforced glass fibre cones, the result is a TV that can deliver a sound quality vastly superior to the competition. There's also the option of buying an add-on subwoofer, allowing your new X9005 to deliver full range audio.
The overall look of the X9005 is excellent with a rounded top, a gloss black finish and chrome panels on the left and right. The TV sits on chrome feet that can be attached at two different positions, either at the ends or nearer the middle to give a smaller footprint. If you use the end attachments then the feet are essentially the width of the entire panel, about 170cm, but if you choose the inner attachments then the feet are only 50cm apart, which might prove handy. Despite the wedge shape the X9005 can be wall mounted, although it's worth pointing out that given the screen size, build quality and decent speakers, the X9005 is very heavy at 46kg. It's also quite big with a width of 172cm and a depth of about 4cm at the top and 9cm at the bottom, although it's 32cm with the feet attached. In the top left hand corner there is a very discreet built-in camera which can be used for Skype video calls.
The connections are at the rear left of the panel and are split into two sections, with some facing sideways and others towards the rear. The sideways facing inputs are 30cm from the edge, which is good because it should be far enough to hide the cables. There is also a cover for the recessed area where the rearward facing connections are housed, making the back quite tidy if necessary. In terms of connections you get four HDMI, with support for HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, MHL and ARC. Also at the side there are three USB ports on, a LAN port, a S/PDIF Digital Audio output and a headphone jack. Facing towards the rear there are legacy Scart and Component connections and the X9005 also has built-in WiFi and NFC (Near Field Communication).
The X9005 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a standard Sony design that they have been using for a number of years; it's functional and gets the job done. The other is the new ‘One Flick’ remote, which sports a touchpad controller and an NFC tag on the back for instant pairing with compatible phone or tablet. It is pretty successful in speeding up navigation around the various features and menus but we think the average consumer will get confused by the control system employed, despite the presence of a tutorial, and its speedy content discovery powers will likely go underused.
The X9005 is also 3D capable and comes with two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. They are light, comfortable to wear, fit over prescription glasses and have wide enough sides to block out ambient light. Overall we found them to be quite effective and a definite improvement on some of Sony's previous efforts.
The stylish design and the outstanding build quality result in a TV of genuine refinement.
MenusSony’s new homepage is all about content discovery so the first few ‘pages’ are dedicated to TV, Movies, Music and Apps. We don’t mind this approach but there should be a way to get at the full menu options without having to scroll all the way across. Once you do get to the Settings, it’s the same familiar XMB layout as in years gone by with, more or less, the same submenu headings. In all honesty, they are convoluted and unnecessarily sprawling making navigation around them a bit tiresome and essentially providing two different ways of accessing the picture controls - through the Settings menu or the Options button.
Thankfully most – but not all – of the key Picture settings can be accessed via the Options button on the remote but colour space, overscan and input signal handling can only be fully got at from the main settings menu. For most accurate pictures, a press of the Options button and navigation to Scene Select will yield the option of the Cinema Mode and we suggest you choose this. Sony still refuse to include a Colour Management System on their TV range but there is a two point white balance control. We also have a Film Mode, Advanced Contrast Enhancer, Motionflow, LED Dynamic Control, Black Corrector and Reality Creation settings to tinker with.
FeaturesSony have placed a great deal of emphasis on the sound quality of their wedge-shaped models and we're glad to say that their engineers have been successful in creating the best sounding TV we've heard to date. The deeper chassis, the magnetic fluid technology and mica-reinforced glass fibre cones combine wonderfully to deliver a detailed and open sound. The forward-firing drivers and larger screen size also help, delivering an excellent sense of stereo separation and a genuinely immersive experience, whilst dialogue always remained clear and anchored to the screen. The X9005 has a great dynamic range, able to go quite loud without distorting and the high frequencies and mid-range are well served. The low-end is also very impressive for a TV but Sony offer the option of adding a wireless subwoofer if you need more bass response.
Sony include a port replicator which allows you to connect devices to it and then run a single cable to the TV itself, which makes for tidier cable management. It isn't as good as Samsung's One Connect box but it's a step in the right direction. Sony also includes an IR blaster with the W95 which lets it control your HDMI connected set top box, be it Sky, Virgin, Freeview or whatever. It will also download the full programme guide for each platform allowing it to present suggested viewing content on the new homepage. The media player – be it USB or DLNA – is excellent, also, and we literally could find nothing it wouldn’t play. Finally, the number of apps available through Sony’s online platform is bordering on bewildering and most of the major on-demand /catch up services are available, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix 4K, Prime Instant Video, 4OD and YouTube. You can find a detailed review of Sony's 2014 Smart TV System here.
The attention to audio quality has paid real dividends, creating the best sounding TV we've heard.
Sony X9005B CalibrationPre-Calibration
Despite our complaints about navigating Sony's menu system, once you have selected the correct Scene and Mode, the results are often exceptionally good for out-of-the-box settings. As usual we performed a basic setup initially, testing for the most accurate option and our recommended settings can be found here.
As the graphs above show, the X9005 delivered an extremely accurate out-of-the-box performance, with the three primary colours all tracking quite closely in the greyscale on the left. Whilst red is slightly under-powered, especially in the brighter part of the scale, even the largest error is only just hitting the point of being visible. Meanwhile the gamma curve is tracking at 2.2, which is ideal for the average living room. The colour gamut is also excellent, with all the colours measuring very close to their targets for the industry standard of Rec.709. All the overall errors are below the threshold of three, luminance is spot on and any remaining errors can be attributed to the slightly under-powered red in the greyscale.
Whilst Sony don't include as many calibration controls as the competition, the reality is that their TVs can often deliver incredibly accurate images despite this apparent disadvantage. The X9005 was a good example and despite only having a two-point white balance, we had a reference greyscale and gamma after only a couple of clicks of the control. There is no colour management system but given the initial accuracy of the colour gamut, once we had calibrated the greyscale the X9005 delivered a near reference performance here as well. In fact aside from a minor error in the hue of red and the saturation of blue, there was nothing worth mentioning. Perhaps more importantly this accuracy extended down to lower saturation points, as well, and overall this is a superb performance from the X9005.Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Screen Uniformity
As soon as we turned the X9005 on we were impressed by the black levels and this admiration only improved after we had setup the Sony correctly and calibrated it accurately. Sony use an MVA panel which offers an improved viewing angle, around 90 degrees, but also delivers much better native blacks. So it proved to be with the X9005, which measured a full black screen at 0.06cd/m2., although selecting the Low setting on the LED Dynamic Control (local dimming) immediately brought that down to 0.017cd/m2 and the Standard setting was 0.001cd/m2. It wasn't just the blacks that impressed, the X9005 can go seriously bright and hit 120cd/m2 with the backlight only set to three. That means the TV has a serious amount of dynamic range and the on/off contrast ratio was 2,067:1, whilst the ANSI Contrast Ratio hit a very respectable 1,653:1. This was achieved without resorting to local dimming but that combined with the X-tended Dynamic Range delivered a breathtaking performance that approached the kind of images we're more used to seeing from a plasma. The backlight uniformity was also excellent with no clouding or bright corners and edges. There was also no dirty screen effect and aside from the merest hint of banding on the odd camera pan, it was a near flawless performance.Video Processing
As with any 4K TV, the video processing is vital because almost all the content you will currently be watching will need to be scaled in some way. Thankfully Sony is almost always excellent in this department and the X9005 didn’t disappoint. It passed the standard definition film cadence detection tests for both 2:2 (PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC), with Film Mode set to Auto, and scaling of standard definition signals was surprisingly good when you consider how much of the image is essentially guesswork! When it came to high definition content, the results were spectacular with the processing taking full advantage of all the extra pixels and delivering images that looked so good you almost thought they were 4K. The motion handling was excellent for an LCD panel and as with previous years, there are a number of options when it comes to Motionflow, with 'Standard' and 'Smooth' far too aggressive for us but Clear is usable on the likes of sport content or anything shot on video. For any 24p content the True Cinema setting produces a 4:4 frame pull-down without interpolation so it’s desirable but beware it can cause issues with non 24p material. However, overall the X9005 aced all our video processing and image tests and added another feather to its already rather full cap.
Sony have been producing some incredibly low input lags from the Full HD TVs and whilst the X9005 didn't manage to reach those levels, it was still quite good. In the Game mode we measure the input lag at 60ms, which might be too high for serious gamers but is among the lowest we've seen from a 4K TV. The increased level of processing is bound to add to the input lag but for the majority of people the X9005 will be fast enough. We certainly didn't find it to be an issue and the combination of the superb images produced by the X9005 and the superior graphics of the PS4 resulted in a hugely enjoyable big screen gaming experience.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 96W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 89W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 100W
Sony X9005B Video Review
Sony X9005B Picture QualityRegardless of what you intend to watch on the X9005, it will deliver an absolutely fantastic picture but clearly the better the source the more impressive the results. The combination of an accurate greyscale, natural colours, great video processing, deep blacks and good uniformity mean that just about anything will look excellent on the X9005. We don't watch that much standard definition content these days but what we did watch was surprisingly good when you consider how much of the image is being interpolated. Any limitations in standard definition Freeview broadcasts were more the fault of the broadcasters than the X9005 and with a well transferred DVD the images were extremely watchable.
Once we moved up to high definition broadcasts the picture quality immediately stepped up a gear and the video processing took full advantage of the extra pixels of the native 4K panel to deliver a superb upscaled image. We were lucky enough to watch the World Cup final on the X9005 and the superb picture quality and large screen size resulted in an immensely enjoyable experience. There was loads of detail in the image, the dynamic range was excellent and the motion handling was great, even with Motionflow turned off. The constant panning of the camera did reveal the merest hint of banding but this was the only time we noticed this and it certainly didn't detract from a stellar image.
Once we moved up to Blu-ray the results were just sublime and it was easy to almost convince yourself that the images were native 4K, so good was the video processing. The motion handling with 24p discs was excellent, thanks to the True Cinema Motionflow setting and the level of detail was breathtaking. The colours were spot on and the wonderful blacks gave the image a solidity and depth that was quite remarkable for an LCD TV. The local dimming is a triumph, handling torture tests like the attack on Bin Laden's camp in Zero Dark Thirty with great aplomb. The X-tended Dynamic Range also worked exceptionally well and a film like The Conspirator, which has a lot of high contrast shots with bright objects and dark backgrounds, looked fantastic.
We ended up watching quite a few Blu-rays on the X9005 and the Sony never disappointed, often looking more detailed than a Full HD TV, even though we know you can't add what isn't there. However, once we switched to our limited supply of actual 4K content the increased resolution became immediately apparent. The bigger the screen, the greater the impact and on the 65-inch Sony, 4K looked amazing; now all we need is a faster broadband connection so we can start watching Netflix 4K. The continued absence of 4K Blu-ray is a concern but at least there are companies like Netflix who are prepared to lead the way. It might not be ideal but it's a start.
Finally we watched some 3D content and here the incredibly bright panel really came into its own. In 3D the backlight defaults to Max and can't be changed, so we needed to ease the contrast back because, and we never thought we'd say this, the 3D was too bright. However once we had set everything up correctly the results were excellent with natural colours, plenty of detail and depth, no shortage of brightness and great motion handling. As with any active shutter system, some people may suffer from flicker or eye fatigue but personally we found the X9005 to be a great 3D performer. The 65-inch screen size helps create an suitably immersive experience, whilst the 4K panel gave the image so much detail that it added to the perception of depth. Our current 3D favourites - The Lego Movie and Stalingrad - both looked superb, giving the X9005 a clean sweep as far its picture performance is concerned.
The picture quality is superb, with natural colours, great video processing and deep blacks.
- Superb picture quality
- Very accurate images
- Fantastic black levels
- Great screen uniformity
- Excellent video processing
- Impressive sound quality
- Solid build quality
- Attractive price
- Design might not appeal to everyone
- Merest hint of banding
- Input lag a bit high for some
- It's big and very heavy
Sony KD-65X9005B (X9005B) Ultra HD 4K TV ReviewThe Sony KD-65X9005B is an absolutely superb Ultra HD 4K TV, that represents the very zenith of modern design and technology. Whilst its wedge shape may not be for all, there's no denying that its minimalist appearance and marvellous build quality mark the X9005 out as a TV of distinction. The increased chassis depth means that Sony can employ larger speakers and the use of magnetic fluid technology results in a superior audio performance. That's not all, you even have the option to add a wireless subwoofer if you want to improve the bass response. The X9005 also includes a clever foot stand that can be moved inwards to reduce the footprint, although it is worth mentioning that this TV is very wide and very heavy. In terms of other features you get Sony's latest Smart TV platform, with the emphasis on content, along with a One Touch controller, a built-in camera and two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses.
The out-of-the-box colour accuracy was excellent and after calibration the results reached a reference level, which was immediately obvious with actual content. The native blacks were excellent and the local dimming worked superbly, improving the blacks still further without losing shadow detail. The dynamic range was also impressive and the resulting images were at times breathtaking. Once you added in the excellent backlight uniformity and the top-drawer video processing the result was a gorgeous image. In fact our only negative comment would be the merest hint of banding on some camera pans. The picture quality with 4K content was incredible but upscaled high definition was equally as impressive. The 3D picture quality was also excellent and overall the X9005 barely put a foot wrong, delivering a near flawless performance. Once you add in the remarkably efficient energy consumption and an input lag that will be low enough for most owners, the result is a TV that is easily in the running for the best of the year.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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