Sony XBR-55X900F Series Bravia Review
XBR-55X900F, XBR-65X900F, XBR-49X900F
4K HDR TV with Local Dimming
by Robert Wiley
- Excellent Black Levels and Contrast
- Excellent Processing of standard definition content
- Color Accuracy and Realistic Rendition
- Full Array Local Dimming works well
- HDR performance exceptional
- Dark Shadow Detail
- Good Selection of Preset Picture Mode
- Android Smart TV operation is fast, quality, and voice search works well
- Best Motion processing and anti-blur technologies on the market
- Side Angle Viewing
- Sound Quality
The X900F series LED backlit TV takes many of the best qualities from last years model and adds a few more. It has a different, yet new processor included the 4K HDR X1 Extreme engine, which has been redesigned with upgrading content to look more like HDR content in mind. Video signal processing is a particular strength of Sony and has been for years. This TV has the very effective and upgraded full array local dimming variety, one of the best features an LED/LCD TV can have when done right (which the X900F does). The last new feature I'll mention here is the X-tended Dynamic Range Pro 6X, which is a contrast enhancement booster mechanism, and not one of my favorite features, due the fact that it usually makes little difference to the viewer and can add flicker to the picture. All three of these features are extremely robust.
Other features included are a Triluminous display, widened color gamut for HDR, Motionflow XR technology, and 4K X-reality Pro, are all good technologies left over from prior years.
How does the Sony X900F compare with an LG or Sony 4K OLED TV? We love OLED technology, so for a 4K UHD signal we give a strong edge to the LG or Sony OLED. But we believe Sony has the best processing and outer panel of the 4K TVs (maybe a tossup with Samsung), so for 1080p and lower signals we believe this TV outperforms the LG 4K OLED.
Picture Quality Rating: 93/100
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
The focus TV feature for 2018/2019 is once more HDR. HDR extends the range that a pixel in an LCD TV can show. This applies to the brightness and luminosity of images. Contrast is enhanced by increased brightness rather than deeper blacks. Rather than just increase the brightness of the picture overall though, the real purpose of HDR is to increase contrast in various image areas of the picture. It improves the presentation in the brighter parts of the picture and this creates more contrast with surrounding darker parts of the picture. Since picture contrast is one of the primary features in improving perceived depth, HDR is considered a major picture quality improvement even though it may not increase the overall contrast of the panel a lot. Bright colors receive enhanced purity. A good HDR image will show better shadow detail, and the scenes that you will notice the most are those with light illuminating images, especially outside sunlight effects, or a room that has sunlight coming in through a window and illuminating parts of the room (on-screen). HDR content is and will be in short supply for a while. However, Sony is not waiting on HDR content to attempt to show you an HDR quality picture. The X900F is equipped with enough processing firepower to enhance color and light in such a way as to somewhat mimic content that was originally produced in HDR. That's the goal with the included new technologies - full array backlight and X1 processor anyway.
Sony's backlight manipulation is a bit less conspicuous than that of Samsung, which I like.
Triluminous Display - Color Rendition - Contrast
This wide-gamut color technology has been fantastic for Sony for a couple years. It produces much more realism and true-to-life color renditions than most of Sony's competitors, and in general takes less calibration effort to obtain a proper picture solution. The HDR contrast enhancement technology works well with the Triluminous display to provide incredible light flow through colors and enhance areas of the on-screen picture which are lit by windows or lighting. This all adds up to a more 3-dimensional picture quality depth even with HD signals. This is what we're looking for. The colors are not over saturated as they are with some, but they still have plenty of pop and are beautiful. The outer panel on the X900F is what really sets it apart from the lower priced 4K Sony's. It's also what adds to the cost. It creates the depth, richness, and vibrant colors and contrast that make this TV so desirable.
Up-Conversion of HD to 4K (and now HDR?)
Even though there is an increasing amount of 4K and HDR content, it's still relatively scarce. Therefore, Up-scaling and conversion is the most important aspect of any 4K UHD TV for 2018/2019, and Sony is the best at it in my view. The reasons are the excellent combination of the 4K X-Reality PRO up-scaling algorithm technology used with the new 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme engine. On the X900F panel a good HD signal just looks incredible. Movies are also excellent and we recommend a room light condition of moderate to low light for this TV to unleash its full capabilities. Try turning on the Reality Creation setting in picture settings on some older DVDs or Blue Rays.
Side Angle Viewing
Up-scaling and conversion is Sony's bread and butter and it's the best attribute of the X850F. The new 4K HDR Processor X1 engine is exceedingly good at up-converting and smoothing the HD signal to the native resolution of the panel. If this were not the case, why buy a 4K TV in the first place except to future proof? There still is not enough 4K content to be concerned with, so up-scaling has to be a preeminent consideration.
Side Angle Viewing
The old Achilles heal of LED backlit TVs cannot be fully remedied, even with an outer panel this absorbent. Color saturation and contrast begin degrading at around 15 degrees off center. On the bright side, it does not degrade severely, nor does it get much worse the further off center you view the TV.
One of the best features worth noting in the X900F is the smooth motion generated by the X-Motion Clarity feature as well as the 120Hz panel. There is very little to no blur present. This is an area the X900F excels in above all other brands and TVs on the market this year. The TV also shows little judder even without the Motionflow feature.
Quick Picture Settings
Below are some picture settings that will get you close to optimal though calibrated picture settings can vary from one TV to the next even for the same model number:
- Picture Mode: Custom
- Brightness (which is really backlight strength or luminance): 3 If you are in a bright room you may want to increase this more.
- Color: 50
- Contrast: 92
- Gamma: 0
- Black Level: 50
- Auto Local Dimming: On Medium
- X-tended Dynamic Range: On Medium
- Color Temp: Expert 1
- Sharpness: 50
- Motionflow: Off (Turning this on may really help with older DVDs, or programming to bring it to life, but generally should be left off. It gives the Telenovella effect when used with newer programming)
- All other settings: Off
Features Rating: 90/100
Sony does not seem smitten by the curved screen craze from Samsung. I agree with them. It's never really appealed to me. Sony's design elements are simple and straightforward but very attractive. This TV will appeal to interior designers. The TV sits low on the new dark silver stand feet, which is a good look, and the stand feet have a cavity for running your cables through to keep it looking neat. Even the back of the TV has a nice contour and patterned design so that the TV looks good no matter where it is situated in the room. The X900F has a very thin black ribbon inside the outer panel so there is no indention for the frame. If you purchase the accompanying Sony mount, it mounts nearly flush to a wall.
The remote is not a fancy touchpad affair this year. The new black remote has hot buttons for Apps like Netflix and Google Play. Again this year, if you're searching on the Smart TV platform we've never seen a better voice search system than the Android TV search function enabled on the Sony 4K TVs. Voice search is now accessed through a button at the top of the remote. The voice recognition search works flawlessly, even in a noisy room. The TVs response time on delivering results is fast and accurate. Give it a try. It's great for searching YouTube, Google Assistant, and Google Play options.
Smart TV/Android TV Operating System Features/Google Assistant
The X900F gets the newest Google Android TV ops system 6.0. Android TV featured Apps include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Crackle and SiriusXM, and around 30 small insignificant Apps. Add HBO NOW, EPIX, Starz Play, Fusion, Pluto TV and a few more to the assortment this year. At first it looks like a limited selection until you delve into the Google Play Music, Games, Movies and TV options. Then lots more content opens up. The quality of the Apps are all over the board, so if there is a negative to the OS, it's that there are lots of low quality Apps to go along with the good ones. What we really like is the operation speed combined with excellent video and sound quality of the Android/Google Play section of the Smart TV offerings. This is differentiated from the competition. The voice search function on the remote works exceptionally well and fast with You Tube and Google Play options. The new Google assistant search works through the mic on the remote as well and is very effective.
Google Cast allows you to show movies, pictures, and TV shows from your IOS or Android based smartphone or from a laptop. We think the best use of Google Play is gaming.
Obviously, if you're not content with the choices, you can always connect a Roku box, which still has the best offerings anyway. Then you get both.
Film/Cinemotion Mode – Keep it Low or Off to prevent Soap Opera Effect
The Film or Cinemotion (depending on software update) Picture Setting is located in the Picture Setting Adjustments menu, under Advanced Settings, under Clarity. The setting combined with the Motionflow setting has an impact on whether your picture is over-clarified by eliminating too much natural background blur. This creates the dreaded “Telenovela effect”. It's easy to prevent on the X900F. All you have to do is keep the Motionflow Smoothness setting at level 3 and Clearness setting at level 2 and tune the Film/Cinemotion setting to Off or Low. The feature only provides frame compensation to remove judder at the top two settings of Medium and High. All of that said, The Telenovela Effect is not nearly as pronounced and distracting in the X900F as with many TVs on the market such as the Samsung's.
The TV menu interface is clean looking (albeit confusing) and there are tons of preset picture options (7 not counting photo.) The Cinema Pro and Cinema Home settings are good right out of the box. But operation of the menu system is quirky and difficult and there are some mis-titled settings such as Brightness rather than Backlight. The processor also had a tough time handling commands given too quickly. The Smart TV layout is easily accessed by the Home button on the remote. This brings up all the Smart TV Apps and Google Play options.
One of the best features worth noting in the X850F is the smooth motion generated by the X-Motion Clarity feature as well as the 120Hz panel. There is very little to no blur present. This is an area the X850F excels in above all other brands and TVs on the market this year. The TV also shows little judder even without the Motionflow feature
Film/Cinemotion Mode – Keep it Low or Off to prevent Soap Opera Effect
The Film or Cinemotion (depending on software update) Picture Setting is located in the Picture Setting Adjustments menu, under Advanced Settings, under Clarity. The setting combined with the Motionflow setting has an impact on whether your picture is over-clarified by eliminating too much natural background blur. This creates the dreaded “Telenovela effect”. It's easy to prevent on the X850F. All you have to do is keep the Motionflow Smoothness setting at level 3 and Clearness setting at level 2 and tune the Film/Cinemotion setting to Off or Low. The feature only provides frame compensation to remove judder at the top two settings of Medium and High. All of that said, The Telenovela Effect is not nearly as pronounced and distracting in the X850F as with many TVs on the market such as the Samsung's.
Sound quality from the 10watt X 2 speakers is a drawback. Sound can be tinny and lacks bass. It's not the worst, but it's not equivalent to the excellent performance of the picture.
Input lag registers a solid 24ms for most 4K input signals, but is slower for 1080p sources at around 41ms once again not a strong suit compared to other brands.
Value Rating: 93/100
This certainly will not be your most inexpensive option, buy Sony has become much more competitive price-wise over the last couple of years and these prices represent great value. Most of the features from last year have been upgraded. I have to give this TV very strong value ratings for reliability, features, and price combination.
Overall Rating: 92/100
- 4K Resolution
- X-tended Dynamic Range enhances HDR and non-HDR content
- Full Array Backlight Drive with Precision Grid Array Backlighting
- 4K X-Reality PRO picture processing helps with upconversion
- 4K HDR Extreme X1 (enhances 4K images)
- TRILUMINOS Display accurately reproduces color, clarity and detail
- ClearAudio+ Digital Sound Processing (DSP) with S-Force Front Surround
- HDMI 2.0 and HEVC codec playback 4K content at 60p
- Built-in Wi-Fi for Smart TV features
- MHL 3.0-enabled for mirroring second screens
- 10watt X2 speakers
- Google Assistant
- Android TV Smart TV with Google Play
- Alexa Enabled
- Dimensions without stand 55X900F 48 3/8 x 27 7/8 x 2 3/8"
- Dimensions with stand 55X900F 8 3/8 x 30 1/2 x 10 5/8"
- Dimensions without stand 65X900F 57 x 32 3/4 x 2 3/8"
- Dimensions with stand 65X900F 57 x 35 1/4 x 10 5/8"
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine... Wiley does. Read more about Robert|