What is the Sony XE93?
Connections & Control
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 Voice Search feature on Android TV gives you easy access to Google search, allowing you to find content across different services without the hassle of time-consuming text entry. You can also get recommendations, so simply asking for “action films” for example, will bring up a list of suitable options. The XE93 also comes with an infra-red (IR) blaster lets you control other devices from the TV remote, so you can use it to control your set-top box for example. The third control option is Sony’s TV SideView remote app, which is available free for iOS and Android.
Features & Specs
The X1 Extreme processor includes dual databases, superbit mapping for 4K and object-based HDR remastering. There is also X-tended Dynamic Range PRO which is designed to lift both HDR and SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content by increasing or reducing the backlight levels for each zone of the screen. Thanks to Sony’s Quantum Dot based TRILUMINOS Display technology the colour gamut is wider and has been enhanced for greater accuracy with HDR as well. There's also Motionflow XR for improved motion handling and a new HDR gaming mode. One feature that is missing from the XE93 compared to last year is 3D, Sony have dropped the format from all their 2017 models.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?
However we still find the entire platform to be slightly confusing, it often feels like multiple systems bolted together and it frequently feels underpowered in terms of processing. The XE93 at least felt more responsive in operation than last year but the platform is still flakey and during the review we had to reboot the TV twice due to various unexplained crashes. Our review sample was still running Android M (6.1) but Sony will be upgrading their TVs to Android N when the Dolby Vision update is released later in the year.
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
One of the big marketing buzz words this year will be colour volume, which is essentially a display's colour gamut and its peak brightness combined to create a three dimensional space or volume. We are now using the latest beta version of Calman 2017 which includes the ability to measure the colour volume of a display in a number of different ways. This is still a work in progress and when the final version is available we should be able to represent the colour volume in a nice graphical form but at the moment we can talk about the basic measurements.
For the purposes of this review we started by measuring the Relative Colour Volume, this takes the display's own peak brightness and measures the colour volume relative to that peak brightness based on the CIE L*a*b* colour graph and 140 data points. For the XE93 we got measurements of 123% against Rec. 709, 83% against DCI-P3 and 56% against Rec. 2020 but these measurements aren't taking into account the peak brightness of the content. It would thus make more sense to measure the relative colour volume against at least 4,000nits, which is currently the maximum peak brightness at which content is graded.
For this reason Dolby have been recommending testing a display's capabilities against the Perceptual Colour Volume which uses the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut measured using 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 and by comparison the XE93 produced an MDC number of 441. As the year progresses and we accumulate more data, we will be able to compare the MDC numbers of various TVs that we review.
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosThe XE93 uses a VA panel and as a result the black levels were excellent, with the Sony measuring 0.026 nits on a 0IRE window with the local dimming turned off. Obviously if you set the local dimming to the Low setting the black level drops to 0.005 nits and in the mid and max settings you get a measurement of 0.0003 nits. The XE9305 also had no problems hitting our target of 120 nits for standard dynamic range content and, as previously mentioned, could reach 1500 nits on a 10% window with high dynamic range content. As a result of these measurements we calculated the native on/off contrast ratio at 4615:1 and the ANSI contrast ratio at 3520:1, which means that once you engage the local dimming you get an even more impressive contrast performance in both a very dark and a very bright environment. The VA panel not only delivered excellent blacks but also did a great job of retaining shadow detail in darker scenes, even when the local dimming was engaged.
Screen UniformityThe screen uniformity appeared to be generally very good and using a 5% full screen grey pattern we were able to confirm this. There was some slight darkening at the very edges of the screen but this was never apparent with actual viewing content. We also checked for dirty screen effect (DSE) and again the XE9305 was impressive, producing a bright image that was largely free of this annoying artefact. The black screen uniformity was also excellent and in a blacked out room with the local dimming off there was only a small patch that was slightly lighter but just turning the local dimming on to Low immediately eliminated it. There was occasionally some very slight banding on camera pans across a uniform patch of colour like a football pitch but, for the most part, when watching football the screen and image were free of any unwanted distractions. Overall it was an impressive performance for an edge-lit TV.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesThe XE93 has Sony's Slim backlight Drive+ which uses two layers of LEDs at the top and bottom, along with two light guide plates to deliver a superior local dimming performance from an edge-lit LED LCD TV. The results were impressive and we would say that the local dimming on the XE93 was even better than on last year's XD93. In fact despite the XE90 using a direct LED backlight, we found the local dimming on the XE93 to be slightly more precise and refined in terms of its effectiveness. There were no signs of blooming or haloing with standard dynamic range content using either the low or medium local dimming settings and even with high dynamic range content, the incidences of blooming or haloing were rare.
At least that was the case as long as you were sat central to the screen, unfortunately as soon as you moved off axis the contrast performance suffered, colours were washed out and the haloing became more obvious. It doesn't really surprise us and is a common limitation of a VA panel, where the trade-off for the great blacks and good shadow detail is a poor off-axis performance. We measured a 30% drop-off in contrast at a 30 degree angle and a 50% drop-off at a 45 degree angle, so to get the best from the XE9305 make sure you're sat in the middle of the screen. The Sony has an anti-reflection layer that is fairly effective and should help minimise reflections in a bright room but where possible also try and avoid light hitting the screen to ensure you get the best results.
Motion HandlingWe generally find that the motion handling on Sony TVs is rather good for LCD and so it proved with the XE93. We measured the motion resolution at around 400 lines which is better than average for an LCD TV and obviously this increases to the full 1080 if you engage the Motionflow frame interpolation. This can introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content. You can certainly experiment with the Clear and Custom controls to find a setting that you prefer but the Clear mode uses black frame insertion which will make the picture slightly darker, so you might need to increase the brightness of the image and some people may experience flicker. When it comes to film-based content we prefer using the True Cinema mode which increases the frame rate without introducing interpolation, thus retaining a film-like quality to motion.
Standard Dynamic Range ContentFor our standard dynamic range testing we used a combination of standard and high definition content and we kicked off with Agents of SHIELD which is the only standard definition broadcast programme we regularly watch. Thanks to the superb X1 Extreme processor, XE93 did an excellent job of scaling and deinterlacing the content to match its 4K panel and any compression artefacts were the fault of the broadcaster rather than the TV itself. As a result, superior standard definition sources like DVDs would naturally look better than broadcast TV and the Sony handled our DVD test discs extremely well, correctly displaying the various patterns. However the reality is that very little of our viewing content is standard definition these days and so we were much more interested in finding out how the XE93 handled high definition content.
Once we moved on to high definition content the 55XE9305 had a chance to really show what it was capable of and good quality broadcasts looked excellent, with the BBC's nature programmes being our usual gold standard in this area. Needless to say the images appeared detailed with deep blacks, good highlights and natural colours. When it came to football, as mentioned earlier, the 55XE93 was largely free of banding and the motion handling was also excellent, making this a great TV for sports fans. The XE9305 was especially impressive with Blu-rays and Moana looked simply stunning, with its incredibly detailed computer animated images bursting off the screen. The Blu-ray release of Rogue One was equally as impressive, with the XE93 rendering the detailed picture with remarkable precision and accuracy.
High Dynamic Range ContentAfter performing so well in our high dynamic range tests we were expecting great things from the XE93 and it didn't disappoint with a fantastic HDR performance. Thankfully despite the edge-lit nature of this LED TV, the design of the backlight and the effective local dimming delivered some lovely images, The overall picture was highly detailed, peak highlights popped, colours were accurate and images were free of any banding. The XE93 delivered the specular highlights with precision, retaining impressive black levels and good shadow detail whilst avoiding issues like bright edges or haloing, as long as you're sat central to the screen. The XE9305 tone mapped content graded at 4000 nits to its native 1500 nits capabilities very effectively and the Sony 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 ever-growing UHD Blu-ray collection, with old favourites like The Revenant simply looking stunning. The XE93 delivered every tiny detail, whilst accurately reproducing the wider colour gamut and rendering all the tiny highlights in the image. The same was true of a more recent purchase like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which the 55XE93 displayed in all its nuanced glory. The details in the costumes, production design and effects were simply stunning, whilst a nighttime scene on a wet street looked incredibly realistic as the road surface reflected the headlights of the cars. However the disc that really impressed was Planet Earth II which was just one stunning shot after another, each of which the XE93 delivered with their intense colours and incredible highlights perfectly replicated – very impressive.
Sony KD-55XE9305 Video Review
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 XE93 proved a very competent audio performer but we expect that many people choosing this TV will already have some form of outboard sound solution.
Input Lag & Energy Usage
What was particularly interesting was that the lag time dropped to just over 26ms for a 4K signal, again regardless of whether it was SDR or HDR and whether or not the local dimming was engaged. This is presumably because with a 4K signal the TV doesn't have to upscale the content to match the native Ultra HD resolution of the panel, so if you're lucky enough to be gaming in 4K the input lag is excellent. Regardless of whether you're gaming at 1080p or 4K, always keep the processing to a minimum, that's why it's important to use the Game mode, the other modes increase the lag to over 100ms. You should also avoid using the Motionflow frame interpolation feature because even in Game mode this will increase the input lag to over 100ms.
In terms of the XE93’s energy consumption it proved to be extremely efficient and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 77W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at just 51W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased but even then, the 55XE9305 was only drawing 91W with our optimal settings.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||66%|
|HDMI 2.0b Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||8|
|What do these mean?|
- Excellent contrast performance
- Accurate greyscale & colour gamut
- Impressive HDR performance
- Great video processing
- Effective dimming system
- Good upgrade path
- Attractive design & great build quality
- Limited viewing angles
- Smart platform is still buggy
Sony BRAVIA KD-55XE9305 HDR 4K TV Review
The other area where the 55XE93 surprised was in terms of its peak brightness, which has increased significantly over last year. The XD93 was delivering about 1000 nits of peak brightness in 2016 but the XE93 was hitting just under 1500 nits this year. Thats huge for an edge-lit TV and currently the only other model that has delivered more is Sony's own KD-65ZD9, which uses a direct LED backlight. As a result the 55XE9305 produced lovely images with SDR material thanks to its accurate greyscale, gamma and colours, along with its excellent video processing and motion handling. The backlight uniformity was impressive and the local dimming was highly effective. Thanks to the increased brightness and precise colour tracking, the performance with HDR10 content was equally as impressive, with a detailed and impactful HDR image. The only area where XE93 really struggled was in terms of its off-axis performance but with a VA panel, limited viewing angles are to be expected.
Overall the Sony KD-55XE9305 is an excellent 4K HDR TV that takes the impressive aspects of last year's XD93 and builds on them to deliver a superb all-round performance. It's still early days but it will take a really special edge-lit TV to top the XE93 this year.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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