13 Winning American Architecture Prize Designs
Unlike one or two other brands I could mention, Sony’s TV division actually seems to be listening to consumers these days.
For instance, after getting widely criticized last year for including poor-contrast IPS panels in its TV range, this year Sony’s range is an IPS-free zone. Even better, someone at Sony seems to have noticed that many TV reviewers (myself included) have come to believe that LCD TVs that use direct LED lighting, where the lights are placed directly behind the screen, are better placed to deliver a good high dynamic range picture than TVs that use LEDs placed around the picture’s edges.
In fact, Sony’s new X900E range (known as the XE9005 range in the UK) goes further than just using a direct LED lighting system; it also offers local dimming, where 20 separate LED zones can output different light levels independently of each other, to suit the demands of the picture.
The Sony 65X900E.
Admittedly 20 is far from a ground-breaking number of dimming zones by today’s standards. But it’s better than nothing and, as we’ll see, it’s enough to help the 65-inch 65X900E we’re looking at here deliver a mostly very impressive picture.
As you’d expect these days, the 65X900E partners its direct-lighting with high dynamic range (HDR) capabilities and a native 4K resolution, while picture processing comes courtesy of Sony’s previously impressive X1 chipset.
This chipset is not as powerful as the X1 Extreme one found in Sony’s step-up X930E, Z9D and OLED A1E models; it doesn’t carry a dual database system for improved HD-to-4K upscaling, and can’t have Dolby Vision HDR support added via a future firmware update. It’s still, though, got more going on than most TV processing systems.
In particular, it drives the local dimming system; Sony’s Triluminos technology for delivering a wider and more subtle color range; and Sony’s Super Bit Mapping feature for tackling HDR color banding problems.
The Sony 65X900E.
As with all Sony’s mid-range and high-end TVs these days, the 65X900E’s smart features are delivered by Google’s Android TV platform. I’m no fan of Android TV for reasons detailed in this separate review of the platform. But it does run more stably and more quickly than it did when it first appeared, and it certainly carries a lot of content. Even if much of that content is pretty much pointless.
Fortunately Sony has sought to work round some of Android’s failings. You get full support for 4K HDR Amazon Video streaming as well as Netflix, while UK users will be pleased to find that Sony has drafted in the YouView platform to deliver the catch-up TV services for the main BBC, ITV, Channel Four and Channel 5 broadcasters.
Firing the 65X900E into action with the best picture source available, a selection of Ultra HD Blu-rays, I initially felt slightly disappointed by what I was seeing. Why? Because the 65X900E’s pictures look much less bright than those of Sony’s step-up 55X930E.
Test measurements reveal the 65X900E managing around 880 nits of light output on a 10% white HDR window, versus the 55X930E’s huge 1450 nits.
To be clear, 875 nits is not actually a bad effort for a 65-inch 4K HDR TV available for $2,300 (or £2,300). But anyone hoping that the X900E range might deliver essentially the same HDR-friendly brightness as the X930E range but from a direct lighting system needs to readjust their expectations.
Sony 65X900E stand detail.
Provided you’re willing to do that, though, the 65X900E is actually a pretty great TV for its money.
Pushing it hard with HDR shots containing bright objects against very dark backdrops, for instance, reveals both impressively deep black levels for LCD technology and, for the most part, fairly tame backlight clouding.
To be clear, faint backlight haloing can appear for a good few centimeters around the most extreme bright highlights (there are only 20 dimming zones, after all). Occasionally, too, this light blooming distractingly encroaches into the black bars you get above and below very wide aspect ratio images, and it also becomes far more pronounced…