What is the Sony XE90?
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
However the 4K HDR Processor X1 does include Object-based HDR Remaster and Super Bit Mapping which is designed to take an SDR source and upscale it to near HDR quality. The 65XE9005 also includes local dimming and X-tended Dynamic Range Pro which uses an algorithm to expand the contrast performance of the TV. There's a TRILUMINOS display and 4K X-Reality PRO processing that can bring out all the detail in your sources up to and including Ultra HD. There's also Motionflow XR frame interpolation to help improve motion handling with fast-moving sports content. As with all of Sony's 2017 TVs, the XE90 doesn't support 3D.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?
The new content bar is also useful, allowing you to quickly find the movie, TV show or video that you're looking for and naturally the XE90 offers all the main video streaming services with support for 4K and HDR. Android TV now provides voice search, which saves you having to type in your choices when looking for content. Sony also includes YouView built-in, which provides easy access to all the catch-up TV services and allows you to scroll back through the past seven days. You can also turn your TV into a PVR by adding a USB HDD to record your favourite TV shows. Overall we found the Sony platform to be both robust and responsive, which is a definite improvement on previous years. Finally Sony include an IR blaster which allows you to control other devices from your TV remote control.
Sony KD-65XE9005 Recommended TV Settings
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
Picture Settings – Calibrated
Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
It also managed to deliver a very good level of screen uniformity although how good will depend on whether you are using the local dimming. The screen was certainly free of tinting or dirty screen effect when using a white full screen pattern but when looking at a black screen in a darkened room with the local dimming off there was a bit of unevenness with some slightly lighter patches. Of course these completely disappeared once you activated the local dimming and what was interesting was that the XE90 didn't suffer from the banding that is often seen on TVs that use a direct LED backlight. The reason for this is probably the limited number of actual zones that the XE9005 uses because we only counted 20 zones in total.
Although the number of zones is very small, especially when compared to the 636 on the ZD9, the benefit is that if you're a big football fan then the lack of banding as the camera pans across the pitch will be a definite bonus. The downside is that there is some haloing around bright objects against a dark background. With so few dimming zones the TV was always going to struggle in this area and the increased brightness of HDR means that it becomes more obvious with that type of content. The use of a VA panel only exaggerates the issue if you're sat off-axis and although a drop-off in contrast and colour performance is typical of a VA panel as you move off centre, the haloing does become more apparent. However when sat directly in front of the 65XE9005 the results could be impressive, with the native black levels of the VA panel, the good screen uniformity, the direct backlight and the local dimming all combining to deliver images that were often very impressive.
Once you add in the excellent greyscale and gamma performance and the generally accurate colours, the result is a genuinely lovely picture. The XE90 might not have the X1 Extreme processor but the X1 processor is no slouch, producing highly detailed images from native 4K content and upscaling lower resolution content very effectively. The X-Reality PRO processing could certainly give the impression that images were more detailed but we generally found that they also had an over-sharpened and slightly processed look so we usually turned it off. We also found it was best to avoid using features like X-tended Dynamic Range PRO to create fake HDR content and we would always recommend watching SDR and HDR content as they were originally intended to be viewed. This is because SDR and HDR content is graded differently and thus creating a fake HDR image just results in SDR content looking blown-out and over-saturated.
The motion handling on Sony TVs are generally very good for LCD panels and we measured the XE90’s motion resolution at around 350 lines 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.
We started off by watching some standard definition content, specifically Agents of SHIELD which is about the only standard definition broadcast programme we regularly watch. The XE90 did an excellent job of scaling the content to its 65-inch 4K panel and any compression artefacts were the fault of the broadcaster rather than the TV itself. As a result, better standard definition sources like DVD would naturally look better than broadcast TV and the DVD of the recent horror film Lights Out looked great, with the XE9005 delivering the key dark moments without introducing unwanted artefacts.
Of course once we moved on to high definition content the 65EX90 really had a chance to show what it was capable of and good quality broadcasts looked excellent, with the BBC's nature programmes being the usual litmus test of quality. The images were detailed with deep blacks, good highlights and natural colours. When it came to football, as mentioned earlier the XE90 was free of annoying banding and the motion handling was also excellent, making this a great TV for sports fans. The XE9005 was especially impressive with Blu-rays and it delivered the gloriously trippy images of Doctor Strange with all the detail and colour inherent on the disc. The XE90 certainly delivered some lovely images, with only the occasional halo as a result of the limited local dimming to spoil the party.
Finally we tested the 65XE90 with a number of Ultra HD Blu-rays and here the direct LED backlight got a chance to shine, if you'll excuse the pun. The Sony handled the violent comic book antics of Deadpool perfectly, whilst the landscapes of The Revenant looked suitably natural. The blood-soaked mayhem on the battlefields of Hacksaw Ridge flowed a deep red but the greens of the army fatigues also had a realistic depth to them, whilst the explosions retained all their detail. The 4K HDR images really popped off the screen and looked far superior to the Blu-ray version. The direct LED backlight not only meant that the XE90 could deliver bright images but also avoid problems like bright edges or washed-out black bars on letterboxed films. However the limitations of the local dimming did mean that there was haloing on occasion, especially with a bright object against a dark background, such as the tunnel sequence in Hacksaw Ridge. We also watched Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and whilst we don't necessarily agree with Ang Lee's use of high frame rate, the XE90 had no problems showing the full 4K HDR images at 60p and they looked incredibly detailed with lovely saturated colours.
Sony KD-65XE9005 Video Review
Input Lag & Energy Usage
In terms of the XE90’s energy consumption it proved to be surprisingly efficient for such a large and bright TV. Using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Standard picture mode at 82W and our calibrated Cinema Pro mode at 78W. Of course once we moved on to HDR the level of energy consumption increased, with the 65XE9005 drawing 164W with our optimal settings.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best)||65%|
|HDMI 2.0a 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?|
- Direct LED backlight
- Accurate greyscale and colour gamut
- Great performance with SDR and HDR
- Good motion handling
- Low input lag
- Decent set of features
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Local dimming limited
- Colour gamut could be wider
- Narrow optimal viewing angles
Sony BRAVIA KD-65XE9005 HDR 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
The KD-65XE9005 is the first new Sony Ultra HD 4K TV that we've reviewed in 2017 and it's an excellent way to start the year. The design is attractive and the build quality is impressive, whilst there are all the connections you'll need including four HDMI inputs. The remote control is well designed, even if we're still not fans of the rubberised surface, and the Android TV operating system gets better each year with a responsive and robust platform at last. There's an excellent set of features on the XE90, with the use of a direct LED backlight grabbing the headlines, the sound quality is decent and the energy consumption low. There's no 3D this year but there's good news for gamers with the 65XE90 not only offering a game mode for both SDR and HDR gaming but also delivering an input lag of just 32ms. The XE90 uses the X1 processor rather than the X1 Extreme processor, so there's no upgrade path to Dolby Vision, but it does support HDR10 and Sony will be adding HLG later in the year.
The XE9005 performed well in our tests, producing an accurate greyscale, gamma and colour gamut – especially after calibration – with excellent processing and motion handling. The VA panel delivers impressive native blacks for an LCD TV but the optimal viewing angles are limited, and there are only 20 local dimming zones. As result there is an issue with haloing on occasion, when bright objects against a dark background appear to glow and this is exaggerated when viewing off centre. However the small number of zones does mean that the XE90 doesn't suffer from the kind of banding often seen on other direct LED TVs, making it a great choice for football fans. The performance with both standard and high definition content was extremely good with natural colours and plenty of detail, whilst 4K content looked particularly impressive. The direct LED backlight paid dividends when it came to HDR and although the colour gamut could have been wider, the HDR images that the 65XE90 produced were excellent.
Although the Sony KD-65XE9005 isn't perfect, it certainly delivers a great picture and feature set for the money. So if you're looking for a good HDR display or you're a football fan or a big gamer, then the XE90 could well be the TV for you. Recommended.
What are my alternatives?
In terms of 2016 models the obvious alternative is the Panasonic TX-65DX902B which can be picked up for £2,299, making it even better value than the XE90. This TV uses a direct LED backlight with 540 dimming zones, it has incredible picture accuracy and a fantastic HDR performance. The DX902 also has THX and Ultra HD Premium certification and Panasonic will be adding HLG support this year. As far as this year goes, since the XE90 is the first new TV that we've reviewed in 2017 it's hard to say what the best alternatives are. However based upon the new LED LCD models announced, the Sony XE93 with its slim design, X1 Extreme processor and Dolby Vision upgrade path looks interesting, although the XE93 uses edge LED backlighting and costs £700 more, so the XE90 would seem to be better value for money. If you're still thinking of Panasonic then the EX750 looks like a possibility, whilst Samsung will have their Q7 entry-level QLED TV and LG will be releasing their new range of Super UHD TVs as well. It's certainly going to be an exciting year in terms of the choice of quality TVs available but Sony have already set the bar fairly high with the KD-65XE9005.
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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