Sony XBR-65X900A 3D LCD Ultra HDTV


2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $7,000
At A Glance
: Four times the native resolution of standard HD • Advanced color technology • State-of-the-art 3D

With the introduction of its new 2013 XBR sets, Sony has shown that it’s serious about bringing Ultra HD, popularly referred to as 4K, to consumers at prices that, while still high, are less seizure-inducing than the $25,000 sticker on its 84-inch XBR-84X900 (Home Theater, June 2013).

Technically, 4K is shorthand for a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels—the professional 4K format. Consumer 4K sets, on the other hand, have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, exactly four times the pixel count of full HD 1080p. Regardless of the industry’s plan to refer to such sets as Ultra HD, 4K has already crept into the lexicon as the popular term for 3840 x 2160 home video.

Description
The XBR-65X900A is huge. Its extra width makes room for speakers on either side of the screen (and a “subwoofer” in the back). At modest volumes, the sound is notably better than most flat-screen sets can manage, though a home theater audiophile will still prefer a good outboard audio system. As with the other flat-screen sets we’ve tested (and we only added this test recently), if you connect a source with any form of DTS or Dolby Digital multichannel audio directly to an HDMI input, the Sony will only give you two-channel PCM audio at its TosLink optical digital audio output. This may be a concern if you plan to connect a multichannel powered soundbar to this output.

The Sony XBR has the usual dizzying range of adjustments. The only significant omission (as with other Sony sets) is a color management system (CMS) for fine-tuning the color gamut. But the fixed gamut (with the Live Color feature turned off) is reasonably accurate out of the box.

The Motionflow control engages Sony’s motion-smoothing circuits. Most of its selections employ frame interpolation. The Impulse setting uses dark frame insertion and worked the best of all the options, doing the least damage to the film look of movies. But it produced a dramatic loss of brightness. I left Motionflow off for all my tests and viewing.

Most of the XBR-65X900A’s other capabilities, including its Triluminos (quantum dot) color technology, are similar to those of Sony’s KDL-55W900A (Home Theater, July/August 2013). Check out that review (at HomeTheater.com) for more on this new XBR’s features.

One consideration in any possible purchase of an early 4K set (3840 x 2160) such as this one is that the new HDMI 2.0 standard is coming soon. Our current HDMI 1.4a/b standard is limited to 24p or 30p at 4K. HDMI 2.0 can handle far higher data rates, allowing for 2160p/60 and perhaps other enhancements as well. Whether or not we ever actually see 4K material at 2160p/60 is still an open question; 24p and 30p are currently sufficient for most of our requirements—24p for movies and 30p for most broadcast television (where it could be used in interlaced form as 2160i). The most likely application for 2160p/60 is gaming. But the added data in a 2160p/60 source will be enormous, demanding even more extreme and not yet proven levels of compression. Our understanding is that many of the new Ultra HD sets may not be upgradable to support the higher data rates, though Sony has assured us it has a solution planned for the XBR-65X900A.

Performance: 2D From 1080-Line (2K) Sources
The Sony passed all of our HD upconversion tests (sourced from 1080i/p material) without a hitch. It also passed our 3:2 SD test but failed both 2:2 SD (not an uncommon failing in the sets we’ve reviewed) and Motion Adaptive SD (MASD). The first is largely inconsequential; the second suggests less than optimal upconversion of 480-line sources, which won’t matter if you upscale DVDs with your HDMIconnected disc player.

The XBR-65X900A provided a gorgeous picture from quality 2K (1080i/p) sources. I did spot a trace of blue shift in some very dark material, but it was subtle and never bothersome. The picture was also crisply detailed, though no more so than from a good 2K set. In the settings I chose for the best subjective resolution (the Resolution control in the Reality Creation menu set to 8, Super Bit Mapping on) and all other sharpness/enhancement controls in their default positions), the Sony showed a trace of white-line enhancement on Sharpness test patterns when observed just inches from the screen. But the enhancement was invisible on most program material from my 8-foot viewing distance.

With Sony’s LED Dynamic Control (local dimming) in its Standard setting, the set achieved its best black level and shadow detail. With a full dark screen image, however, which often completely shuts off the LEDs, a single bright spot in the picture such as the pause bug on a Bluray player will light up a topto-bottom band on the screen in the same area as the bug. (The edge-dimming LED lighting is located at the top and bottom.) To put this into perspective, however, the increase in the black level in that area goes from unmeasurable with nothing on the screen to barely measurable (0.001 foot-lamberts) and is rarely noticeable on real program material. When a full black screen is visible as a dark gray, the black uniformity is good—a shade lighter at the sides than in the center, but with no visible streaking or “flashlighting.” White uniformity was also respectable, though in a field of pure white or solid areas of light color, such as a clear blue sky, you might see areas with a barely visible magenta tint if you stare long enough. This is common to all the LCD sets we’ve tested.

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With the Backlight and Picture (Contrast) controls set to maximum, the Sony’s 2D peak white output was nearly 70 ft-L. When I instinctively dialed this back to the 30 to 32 ft-L I prefer for viewing movies in a dark or dimly lit room, dark scenes looked rather bland and grayish. But when I turned the Advanced Contrast Enhancer to Medium, and increased the peak brightness level to roughly 40 ft-L (a Backlight setting of 7 and a Picture setting of 86 on our sample), the Sony’s subjective black level and shadow detail improved dramatically. While still not quite offering state-of-theart blacks and shadow detail, the XBR now delivered believably rich, deep, detailed, and satisfyingly saturated images on all but the most crushingly difficult, near-black scenes.

Mastered in 4K?
Sony has recently released a number of “Mastered in 4K” discs designed to take advantage of the increased resolution and wider color range of its new 4K sets while we wait for a wider selection of genuine 4K sources. The XBR-65X900A also has a control in the Reality Creation menu designed to mirror the downconversion Sony used to author its 4K masters onto 2K Blu-rays. While this can’t re-create the true resolution of those 4K studio master files, it just might wring out the best this set can do with a 1080p source.

COMPANY INFO
Sony
(877) 865-SONY
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COMMENTS
SirPoon's picture

Thanks for a detailed review. Do you have the detail calibration settings? 2D and 3D?

Thanks!

maj0crk's picture

The sentence that begins "Switching to a wider color gamut on playback when the source is mastered to the Rec. 709 color standard, however, will merely distort the color choices made by the program producer." reminds me of earlier advertising claims by all manufacturers called "Deep Color." I've not heard this claim for some time. Has "Deep Color" been reintroduced to us under the 4K banner? If so, why haven't you referred to it in your 4K reviews to date?

JustinGN's picture

I think what they're referring to is the actual use of xvYCC/Deep Color by letting the user swap color gamuts on the set itself. I remember PC monitors that supported such a wide gamut had a "sunburn effect" on human skin until color management systems allowed them to process sRGB accurately again, and I think this is a similar setup here. Without having an actual set and instrumentation, this is speculation, but it sounds like the set uses a wide color gamut by default (xvYCC/Deep Color compatible) while using the on-board processor to adjust the image into Rec. 709 should the user desire it.

As for Deep Color coming back under 4K, it makes sense from a marketing standpoint (more color AND resolution? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY, say the serial upgraders). Unfortunately, HDMI doesn't have the bandwidth for both 4K and xvYCC, hence why it was (if I'm reading the article right) passed via a metadata table instead of hard coded into the video stream of the testing material. From a practical standpoint, more color may not be a good idea for living room display; Rec. 709 covers a pretty sizable spectrum as is, and I'm not seeing any producers using the expanded color gamut in digital video (or even in gaming, which seemed a ripe prospect for xvYCC many years ago with the PS3).

aleksandr's picture

excellent review with no bias.

Jarod's picture

More hi-end sets need to have better speakers like the XBR-65X900A appears to have. I have a dedicated HT but in my living room I just have my Pioneer Kuro that comes with the removable soundbar. One of the best sounding tvs ive ever heard. Why dont more companies do that? Even though some people will add a surround sound and never use the internal speakers many live with the tvs internal speakers and more sets need to not try to cram those little speakers in the tiny bezels of the flatpanels of today.

JustinGN's picture

I'm torn. On the one hand, I love the idea of better speakers on the sets themselves, especially for smaller installations like bedrooms or living rooms outside the theater itself. On the other, I loathe such large speaker installs on my sets, because I use my external speakers only.

For TVs of this price range, I'm shocked detachable speakers are no longer an option. Those speakers add so much weight to the set, that I'll need a brand new mount and entertainment furniture for it if I were to buy one. Bleh!

Speakerphile's picture

" As with the other flat-screen sets we’ve tested (and we only added this test recently), if you connect a source with any form of DTS or Dolby Digital multichannel audio directly to an HDMI input, the Sony will only give you two-channel PCM audio at its TosLink optical digital audio output. This may be a concern if you plan to connect a multichannel powered soundbar to this output."

You made this claim with the 55W900A as well, but you were wrong. Are you sure this set actually lacks the ability to pass DD or DTS through optical from an HDMI source?

Thomas J. Norton's picture
You argue that we were wrong but offer no details as to why.

To perform this test we fed both DTS and Dolby Digital audio into each set over HDMI. The set's Toslink output was fed into an Integra pre-pro that indicates either DTS or Dolby Digital on its front panel display when it receives such a signal. The only indication we received was "Dolby Pro Logic II," which indicates a 2-channel mixdown over Toslink.

We provide all of our reviews to manufacturers prior to publication to offer corrections for any factual errors Sony did not contest these results.

Speakerphile's picture

The manual for both models states that they support output of "Dolby Digital" via the optical output. I am not disillusioned enough to think the manual couldn't be wrong, but it would be somewhat surprising if they got it wrong on both. Maybe there was something wrong with the review sample? It would be one of few models that offer this feature, which makes it substantial. Would you guys be willing to investigate this with Sony?

JustinGN's picture

I'm just going to swipe this from Mr. Norton real quick...

The manual isn't wrong, but it isn't entirely right either. Technically the sets do pass Dolby Digital...so long as it comes from the ATSC tuner built into the set itself. As was explained, when they sent a DD & DTS signal over HDMI into the display, the TOSLINK output only output PCM stereo, rather than the DD/DTS track being sent from the source component. If they had switched to a terrestrial antenna for testing, and picked up a channel using Dolby Digital for audio, the display would've output the signal fine.

Short version: the displays do support output of Dolby Digital, but only when used with a specific source, in this case being the ATSC/Antenna input.

bsd107's picture

OK, I just bought a 65x900 two weeks ago. As my Sony 5300ES AVR does not support ARC, and my family greatly prefers to use the TV itself to switch between components (I.e. have all my devices connected directly to the TV via HDMI, I was greatly interested im the answer to whether surround is passed through the TV.

What I have found is the following, using my devices connected via HDMI to the TV, and using optical out from the TV to the AVR:

XB360 Slim: the AVR sees DD5.1 or 2-Channel PCM.
PS3 Slim: the AVR sees DD5.1 or 2-channel PCM.

Any game or movie disk on either sends DD5.1 to the AVR, and I have verifies that I am indeed getting discrete audio to the rears (not simulated).

Using the PS3 HDMI setup (I think it's called "Video Settings", the PS3 reports the TV as being both DD5.1 and 2-channel PCM capable. Standard DTS is not selectable, which I think means the TV is reporting that is not compatible with DTS.

One key point: I have the TV configured to use external audio and NOT the internal speakers (which get disabled in this mode). That may be a key requirement to pass through DD5.1.

Note also that I received an updated firmware as soon as.I installed the TV. Possible that this changed the audio passthrough, but my bet is that you did not defeat the internal speakers when testing.

I have not used the TV's built-in tuner at all, so I can't speak to that.

Hope this helps. I know I was thrilled to find the DD5.1 being passed through, as it will hold me off until I can get a HDMI 2.0 AVR.

MrSatyre's picture

"Pause bug". That's a good one. I'll have to remember that. Thanks!

Nikotod's picture

Great review! Thank you!
I'd really appreciate SHARP LC-90LE757E review :)

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Sony is touting the capability to display x.v.Color (also known as xvYCC) in its new 4K sets, but that's not the same thing as Deep Color. Nor is it as yet certain that a new 4K delivery system will include either x.v.Color or Deep Color.

x.v.Color produces color beyond the current HD standard Rec.709 color gamut. Deep Color increases the number of bits used to represent color. Our current consumer system uses 8-bits per color (8-bits each for red, green, and blue). Deep Color uses 10-, 12- or even 16-bits per color. While there has been talk about providing such enhancements in a 4K format, the number of total bits required to add x.v.Color and Deep Color to 4K will result in a huge increase of data over a 4K system that otherwise adheres to our current HD standards. Whether or not this will be possible without creating other issues is still an open question, given the added compression required. More compression brings its own tradeoffs.

JustinGN's picture

I like the idea of xvYCC color being presented as metadata, rather than hard-encoded into the video stream (which, as you mentioned, would dramatically increase the bandwidth necessary). Would it be as accurate as the raw stream being encoded in xvYCC? Likely not, but if the mastering and compression software doesn't botch the job, it could be an interesting way of increasing fidelity of the picture on supported displays/sources without completely redefining HDMI again (though aren't we due an HDMI 2.0 spec any time now?).

Thomas J. Norton's picture
JustinGN, thanks for the clarification. That's entirely possible. For buyers who use on-board HD tuners this will be a useful feature. But these days few viewers use these tuners, so we don't test them in our reviews. Nor to our knowledge does any other review publication. And even if we did such tests it wouldn't tell a buyer how the set's tuner would perform under his or her unique reception conditions.

In future reviews I'll clarify that we're testing for the pass-through of DD or DTS from an HDMI input to the Toslink output.

JustinGN's picture

Oh, I found the review perfectly clear, though I suppose it's only because I'm all too familiar with that problem myself from my early foray into digital AV with HDMI; I can see how it's an even bigger problem today with the prevalence of soundbars.

Great review otherwise, well worth the read! Despite its immense value, I'm going to have to take a rain check on this Sony set and wait for either DP 1.2 MST support (unlikely) or an HDMI spec supporting a base 60Hz refresh rate at the 2160p resolution of the panel. It just feels like a bad idea jumping into 4K when you'll be limited to 24/30Hz, depending on the signal being passed (since I'm a gamer, that's a larger point of contention to me).

Macahan's picture

Right now I have a chance to buy the Sharp Elite Pro60X5FD new in the box, or I could get the sony. I'm not interested in 4K at this time and both tv's cost $5,000. What would you guys do in my place?

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