Sony XBR-55X900B Bravia Review (XBR55X900B)
55 Inch, 4K UHD Smart TV Active 3D
by Jack Burden, Senior Editor
The standout features of the 55X900B are 1) the X-tended Dynamic Range feature which allows for more active zone control of the LED backlighting and 2) the Side Mounted speakers eliminate the need for a surround sound system. The side mounted speaks look a bit retro but the TV otherwise is so striking that overall it's a unique and great look. These speakers do not lack in performance characteristics especially not in the important vocals category.
Picture Quality Rating: 95/100
This is one of the best pictures on the market as of this writing, unless you throw OLEDs into the mix. I'll go as far as saying it's probably the best LED TV if you ignore side angle viewing. We thoroughly enjoyed reviewing this TV and I was surprised how good the picture is after having seen it first at CES. Even after calibrating it away from the over-hyped preset picture modes. The Triluminous Display and the X-Reality Pro picture processing engine are two of Sony's best ever display technologies. The Triluminous display really does perform as promised in presenting truer colors, especially reds, and greens which tend to be more difficult. Throw in the X-tended Dynamic Range and the contrast levels really shine for an amazing picture.
This shot shows excellent contrat and detail while also highlighting the fact that Netflix has 4K streaming
Side angle viewing is a clear weakness in this display. That is nothing new for those familiar with LED TVs, but it is something that can be hard to swallow in a purchase as large as this one. The large screen sizes and proper placement of the TV help with the problem, but sometimes it cannot be overcome.
The key to this TV and any 4K TV is how well it up-converts standard and high definition signals for the 4K screen. This is very important since the amount of native 4K content is still limited and a delivery system is still being developed at this point.
I watched a 480p standard definition DVD on the X900B and was extremely impressed with the way the TV handled upconversion. Sony has good reputation when it comes to tackling these types of chanllenges. Once again, they have succeeded in creating a great picture where many others fail. I would say the picture you see from a decent quality standard definition source signal equates to about 1080p high def in appearance. So you do get an added bump in quality with this TV over a 1080p resolution panel. This in large part is due to the 4K X-Reality PRO engine, which adds a lot of value to the TV overall.
Sony has a 4K content box available for purchase that is loaded with plenty of 4K movies. This puts Sony miles ahead of the other guys with 4K content
Although this excellent TV has tons of great technology built in, it was not able to eliminate the Soap Opera effect (elimination of too much natural background blur) when de-juddering the picture image. It's still best left off for any kind of non-live-sports programming and since it comes set to on you will need to go through and turn it off in the menu (in the Advanced picture settings). The options within the Motion flow setting do make a big difference in the amount of Judder taken out and the effects on the picture vary quite a bit. The choices are: Clear, Clear Plus, Standard, Smooth, and new setting called Impulse. Out of the choices the Smooth or Standard setting seemed best to me.
3D – Active and Super Impressive
This is probably going to be the best looking 3D you've seen. The extra pixels make the definition and depth perception look incredible. Sony went with active 3D on the X900B instead of passive like we saw last year. We've been favoriting passive lately since quality is getting much better and the glasses are more comfortable with a lower price tag. But, the active 3D on this 4K screen is really something. It's better than the theater, it really is. Watching Avatar in 3D on this TV I was mesmerized by the color, depth, and clean edges. You will want the Motionflow feature on for 3D and setting the TV to the dedicated 3D picture mode option accomplishes this. The 3D picture mode is not in the same area as the normal picture mode options. It's down further in the picture menu.
Side angle viewing contrast and color fades with 3D viewing hurting the picture the further you go. The fading starts at around 20 degrees off center but it's not bad until you get to around 25 degrees. Comes with 2 pairs of 3D glasses and additional pairs are around 40 bucks.
Features Rating: 85/100
Sony Entertainment Network
The new layout of the Sony Entertainment Network presents Movies, Apps, Music, and Albums as the layout for content. It's a very attractive easy to use layout and thankfully, operates much better than 2013's SEN. The Apps selections are more interesting than in the past as well and we see lots of improvement from Sony in this area. Here are a few we noted:
A new photo community App with tons of photographs taken by amateurs and pros alike. Very good browsing and enjoyable App.
This new features allows the Sony TV to show content displayed on a Tablet (or maybe just a Sony tablet).
The selection of apps on the Sony Entertainment Network is pretty good. Most of the services have good content to offer
Social Viewing Feature
One of the most interesting features on Sony TVs for 2014 and beyond is Social Viewing. You can turn on the Twitter scrolling feed feature to find out what people are tweeting about the programing you are viewing. For many shows like The Voice or The Bachelor or many reality TV shows that creates some fun.
But perhaps the best part about this feature from my perspective is to be able to Skype with a split screen and talk to someone about what you are watching. Keep in mind that your company on Skype will also need to have this functionality in their TV either a Sony with Split screen Skyping or something similar from another brand.
This is the layout of the Soical View feature for the XBR-55X900B. The program in the largest window with a webcam feed on the left and live Twitter updates on the bottom of the screen
For example, imagine watching that intense college football game while talking to your best buddy about it on Skype right there on the same screen. Fun. Or imagine talking to your friend while watching one of your co-favorite reality shows. You can see where this would definitely add a social aspect aspect to watching TV. In our view of the feature it worked very well.
Sound Quality – Packs a Punch
Given the large side speakers I was surprised at how subdued the sound quality was initially, but Sony's emphasis on producing great sound quality with this TV has not been lost, as there is a great degree of separation between background and voice and it produces the best sound quality of any TV on the market fairly easily. The 2 tweeters and 2 woofers create a good range of sound that will do for just about any movie or sporting event. The woofers have a new magnetic fluid technology which allows for a more efficient yet high-fidelity sound quality. Compare the 65 watts of this TVs speakers with the typical 20 to 30 you normally get and you can understand the jump in quality.
Appearance and Design - Unique
Well, if anything the design of this TV stands apart as unique with the significant side speakers of about 3 inches wide on the sides of the TV. It's still really good looking, with a piano black gloss finish and a wedge design to house the speakers. It's very similar to last year except for the stand. It has a silver 'y' shaped leg at each end making the overall base pretty wide. If it is too wide for your TV stand wall mounting is always a good option.
The Wedge Design of the XBR-55X900B creates enough depth to house the speakers positioned on the side of the display
Value Rating: 82/100
We know that Sony has a lot of practice with 4K technology. The XBR-55X900B does not disappoint in the picture quality department at all. We have also seen a pretty decent price drop for these 4K TVs. Pricing for the 55-inch starts at $4000. That's a lot more than similar falt 4K TVs like the Samsung UN55HU8550, or the LG 55UB8500 which are both nearly half the price. These other TVs don't have the superior picture qulaity or sound.
Overall Rating: 87/100
- Screen Size (measured diagonally) :54.6"
- Immersive 4K Ultra HD picture quality with four times the resolution and clarity of Full HD 1080p
- X-tended Dynamic Range in combination with the Edge LED lighting delivers brilliant picture quality
- 4K X-Reality PRO picture processing helps with upconversion
- TRILUMINOS Display accurately reproduces color, clarity and detail
- Motionflow XR 960
- Wedge design allows space for the front-facing Magnetic Fluid speakers that produce a full range of sound
- Audio Power Breakdown : 12.5W + 12.5W + 20W + 20W
- Speaker Configuration : 2.2ch, Two way speaker [Tweeter(18 mm) x 2, Woofer(Magnetic Fluid Speaker, 80 mm) x 2] ; Subwoofer(80mm)x2
- Speaker Position : Side
- ClearAudio+ Digital Sound Processing (DSP) with S-Force Front Surround
- Optional subwoofer SWF-BR100 available
- HDMI 2.0 and HEVC codec playback 4K content at 60p
- Built-in Wi-Fi for Smart TV features
- Screen Mirroring via NFC OneTouch Mirroring
- MHL 3.0-enabled for mirroring second screens
- Active 3D capable (2 pairs of glasses included)
- 3 USB ports, 4 HDMI inputs
|Jack Burden joined the review staff of CEAG Inc. in May 2003 after finishing his graduate work at Harvard University. He has been reporting on consumer electronics and conducting product reviews for more than seven years... Read more about Jack