Sony XBR-65X900E LCD Ultra HDTV Review Page 2

Along with Color Space and HDR mode options, the XBR-65X900E provides 2-point Gain and Bias controls to adjust grayscale, along with a more advanced 10-point fine-tune adjustment that I didn’t find necessary. There are no color management system controls, as is typical with Sony TVs; fortunately, the color points were accurate out of the box (see Test Bench). Local dimming of the TV’s backlight can be set to Low, Medium, High, or Off, and the same options are supplied for X-tended Dynamic Range Pro. A total of seven Gamma presets are also provided.

1117sonytvfl.rem.jpgThe Clarity menu contains the TV’s adjustments for Reality Creation, which can be used to enhance the apparent detail of everything from standard-definition to Ultra HD sources. I generally tread lightly when it comes to such adjustments, but in this case, I found that correctly setting the Sharpness control in its Clarity menu was crucial for getting crisp-looking images. Many TVs will let you set Sharpness to minimum with no picture-resolution penalty. On the Sony, however, adjusting Sharpness below the +20 threshold had a definite softening effect—something I verified with video resolution test patterns.

During a period of casual movie-watching before I jumped in for serious critical evaluation, I found the TV’s picture quality to be impressive: Blacks looked deep, colors looked accurate, and high-def sources brimmed with detail. That was also with the set’s local-dimming feature turned off and before I did a full setup and calibration. My takeaway was that the LCD panel Sony uses for the X900E series has excellent native contrast, and that the TVs ship with well-tuned picture mode presets.

Watching movies post-calibration, I continued to be impressed. When I checked out the Criterion Collection’s recent Blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish, the Sony conveyed the rich range of gray tones contained in the black-and-white image. Shadow detail was also very good: In a scene where the hung-over delinquent Rusty James enters his high school, late as usual, details like rows of trophy cases lining the halls could be clearly seen in the dim building interior. Bright and medium-bright exterior shots showed the TV’s picture uniformity to be very good, although its contrast faded to a degree when the picture was viewed from an off-center seat—a typical limitation with LCD TVs that use a vertical-alignment panel such as this one.

In another scene from Rumble Fish that takes place at an outdoor dance, the nighttime sky came across as a deep, uniform black, while strings of bright lights crossing the area lent the image a sense of dynamic pop. Switching on X-tended Dynamic Range Pro helped to increase contrast without adding any artifacts, although I was satisfied with the set’s performance even with the feature turned off.

Another recent Criterion Blu-ray, Blow-Up, provided a good demonstration of the Sony’s accurate color rendering. In a scene where Thomas the photographer zips through the London streets in his sports car, both a line of bright red buildings and the driver’s forest-green corduroy jacket had a rich, satu-rated look. Details such as the texture of the jacket came through clearly. Film grain in the image was also handled well by the Sony’s 4K video upconversion, which allowed fine detail to come through without adding any enhancement or noise.

To check out the Sony’s handling of HDR, I first watched an Ultra HD Blu-ray of the movie Passengers. In a scene where Aurora and Gus discuss their precarious situation in front of a hologram of the ship, the hologram had a vivid appearance—something that definitely didn’t come across when I watched the same scene with HDR turned off. In another scene, where both characters peer into the ship’s vast engine room after yet another system breakdown, the lights illuminating a grid of servers extending back into the room looked both detailed and intense, and there was a wide range of detail visible in dark areas near the back of the cavernous space. The overall effect of HDR here was to create a convincingly deep, 3D-like rendering of the image.


Turning to Netflix for more HDR, I watched an episode of Marco Polo. While the HDR in this program had a more subtle impact than what I witnessed with Passengers, scenes that take place in rooms where Kublai Khan confers with his advisers showed a strong contrast between dark backgrounds and candlelit objects in the space. And in a later scene where Marco ventures into a village at night and witnesses paper lanterns being launched, the lanterns had a vivid look and showed plenty of highlight detail, which made for a nice contrast with the pitch-black sky in the background. I appreciated that I could apply the Custom HDR picture mode (which I had dialed in for watching Ultra HD Blu-rays) to the Sony’s streaming input; a few other UHDTVs I’ve tested don’t provide the same level of flexibility when applying picture presets to content that’s streamed internally.

New Sony TVs like the XBR-65X900E may have been overshadowed by the company’s recent OLED introduction, but there’s still much to be excited about when it comes to Sony’s non-OLED sets. This one’s wide assortment of streaming apps makes it easy to access just about any content you’re looking for, while its Chromecast built-in feature lets you use your smartphone or tablet for browsing, instead of the TV’s remote control. And with its ultra-slim bezel and small-footprint stand, the set looks about as hightech as any other high-end TV out there, yet its $2,000 or less price is comparable to that of midrange models from other manufacturers.

The real story behind this TV, however, is its performance. Granted, Sony’s new midrange XBR set doesn’t hit the same HDR brightness peaks as the XBR65Z9D that Sound & Vision tested in 2016— a model that costs twice as much and then some. But this set’s light output is impressive for an Ultra HDTV in its price range, and its full-array local-dimming backlight delivers images with strong contrast and detailed shadows. The TV also provides accurate out-of-box color, clean video upconversion for both standard- and high-def sources, and very good overall picture uniformity. You could easily spend much more on a new TV, but I’m not sure you really need to.


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