Sony 65in 4K/UHD TV (X9000B) review

Blows LG and Samsung in a side-by-side picture test

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Sony X9000B
  • Sony X9000B
  • Sony X9000B
  • Sony X9000B
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Superior picture quality
  • Leading audio quality
  • Strong connectivity technologies

Cons

  • UHD support remains weak

Bottom Line

Rival television companies tout motion-enabled remotes and voice controlled sets, but these half-baked features are more gimmick than value add. Sony’s focus on sound and picture quality has less appeal on paper, but it makes a great difference to watching TV. The upscaling engine effectively uses the additional pixels to make all kinds of content look better on its bigger screen, plus the peak design paves the way for atmospheric sound.

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Customers interested in buying a Sony Ultra high-definition television will probably end up with one of its X9000B sets. Pricing starts at $4999 for a 55in set, rises to $6999 for a 65in set and reaches $10,999 for one spanning 79in. Those pretty pennies wrap the latest iterations of Sony’s visual technologies, the company’s lauded magnetic speakers and its versed software into a design complementary to any lounge room.

Peak design, Ultra high clarity

Sony has adopted an unusual shape for its X9000B range of televisions. The top is rounded and the sides widen to form a flattened triangular prism. Method rests behind Sony’s madness as the thicker bottom makes it possible to fit voluminous speakers, while lowering the television’s centre of gravity.

Really the only add-on purchase the X9000B needs is a little pop-corn

The speakers — of the magnetic-fluid variety — are proudly flaunted on the front of Sony’s television. They rest flush against a sheet of glass that is bonded to the LCD panel. Bonding the glass to the panel rids any air gaps for no chance of dust and less light refraction.

The X9000B series of televisions support UHD (3840x2160) resolution and uses LED arrays arranged alongside the edges to light the LCD panel. Sony claims clever software makes it possible for the X9000B to deliver twice the brightness range of ordinary LED televisions.

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Sony’s UHD content plan

Content supportive of the nascent UHD standard is scarce. Available movies cost roughly $100 and necessitate the kind of large volume memory afforded by an external hard drive. Sony’s solution to this shortcoming is to upscale the quality of existing content.

Watching television on a 55-inch screen or larger is undermined by being able to spot individual pixels, and that prevents an immersive viewing experience. The X9000B’s upscaling engine makes Full HD content feel cinematic by effectively putting the extra UHD pixels to work. It might not be as good as native UHD content, that is content recorded at 3840x2160 resolution, but Sony’s upscaling engine has bridged most of the divide.

The image noise would have been less noticeable on a Full HD television

A wider colour palette and the ability to moderate backlighting with fluency edges the X9000B ahead of its rivals. Adding more colours to the palette helps colours transition from one tone to the next with crispness, while curating light to colours and taking it away from others helps produce an image that is dynamically vibrant. We savoured the way this tech worked while watching the movie 47 Ronin, an episode of Game of Thrones and some Big Bang Theory.

47 Ronin in particular pushed the X9000B’s limits with its beautiful landscapes, bold colours and rapid motion. Stunning visuals and bodied audio easily sucked us into the movie’s action.

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But a few brief moments undermined the experience. Dimly lit and shadowy scenes in 47 Ronin were let down by some image noise. The image noise would have been less noticeable on a Full HD television, but the extra pixels of UHD reveal the camera used to record the content struggled with the lighting conditions. Noticing it does momentarily takes you out of the otherwise immersive viewing experience.

How well the upscaling works depends on the content being upscaled. Even 480p content can be watched comfortably on the X9000B, but a Full HD Blu-ray gives the television’s additional pixels more information to work with.

Good Gear Guide compared the top-of-the-range 65in televisions from Samsung, Sony and LG. Blacks are generally on par between the three with the Sony edging ahead on account of displaying a touch more detail. The margins in colour were far wider: Sony’s was well ahead with more vibrant hues and an astute attention to detail.

Sony has clearly focussed its efforts on improving its audio and visual repertoire, as opposed to stocking its televisions with unnecessary smarts.

Sound-ing its way to the top

Having great picture alone isn’t enough to deliver a compelling television experience, especially when smartphones and tablets deliver too easy a distraction.

There’s a reason why Sony’s televisions showcase the speakers without grilles — it wants to show them off

Flatter televisions aren’t helping the cause. Sound requires space and the current flat trend proves counterproductive. Many resort to a 5.1 channel sound system for deep audio, but is there a point to saving space on a screen when speaker towers will ultimately clutter your living room?

Tackling this dilemma is the X9000B’s design. The television is thicker at the bottom than it is at the top. Large magnetic-fluid speakers take advantage of the space — a tweeter, mid-driver and bass-driver on each side — and together they produce sound that is atmospheric.

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Sony’s magnetic-fluid speakers were first debuted on the company’s 2013 range. The magnetic liquid in the chamber of the speaker keeps drivers cool and makes it possible to reach louder frequencies, all the while keeping the speakers as small as possible. There’s a reason why Sony’s televisions showcase the speakers without grilles — the company wants to show them off.

A side-by-side comparison of the equivalent LG and Samsung televisions proved Sony’s X90000B superior. The rivals deliver decent sound, but Sony’s TV benefits from more depth, sharper dialogue and the bodied audio only afforded by a spacious sound stage.

Buying a flat screen no longer necessitates more to be spent on stand-alone speakers as the X9000B delivers enough volume. Crisp bass adds dimension to the on-screen action, while the tweeter and mid-range speakers flesh out higher frequencies. Even large living rooms will be well served by the X9000B’s proficient audio.

The bass driver has a separate chamber running horizontally to the mid-ranges vertical chamber
The bass driver has a separate chamber running horizontally to the mid-ranges vertical chamber

Content sharing, Interfacing

The X9000B is selective in which smart features it stocks.

Navigating the menu depends on what you want to watch; headings include movies, album, music and apps. Sony’s software is quick, simple and attractive.

Strong connectivity makes sharing content between devices easy

Each of these menus are subdivided by local USB storage and Sony’s proprietary content services. Application support is rich with the video-on-demand services of note including Quickflix, Crackle, Yahoo7, ABCiView, TenPlay, SBS on demand, to name a few, in addition to Sony’s own Video Unlimited, Music Unlimited and Play Unlimited services.

Strong connectivity makes sharing content between devices to the X9000B easy. The television comes with in-built support for Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi direct and a remote control equipped with NFC. The back of the TV accommodates 4 x HDMI 2.0 ports (of which two support smartphone-friendly MHL), 3 x USB 2.0 ports, component, RGB Scart, aerial and satellite sockets, LAN and audio outputs.

The X9000B comes with an Opera web-browser
The X9000B comes with an Opera web-browser

Sony’s focus on sound and picture quality has less appeal on paper, but it makes a great difference to watching TV

A port replicator comes bundled with the X9000B. BAsically multiple inputs plug into a hub on one side, and all of them are relayed over one clutter-free cable on the other end.

Watching UHD content can be done by plugging in a USB drive and by playing UHD content on a smartphone connected over MHL.

The wireless display standard Miracast is supported by the Sony television, but wirelessly sharing content from our LG G3 to the television was not without trouble; we could locate the smartphone and connect, but the television would time out before our content could be ‘thrown’ to the television. Sony’s product ecosystem has matured and we believe it would’ve been easier to share content over a Sony Xperia series smartphone or tablet.

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Conclusion

Rival television companies tout motion-enabled remotes and voice controlled sets, but these half-baked features are more gimmick than value add. Sony’s focus on sound and picture quality has less appeal on paper, but it makes a great difference to watching TV.

The upscaling engine effectively uses the additional pixels to make all kinds of content look better on bigger screens. This is reason enough to upsell someone from a large screen TV to a Sony UHD model. Going one step further is the enhanced quality of rich content, such as a Full HD Blu-ray, which, even just a metre away, is spellbinding.

Sony’s peak design isn’t the most attractive, but it’s a small price to pay for the atmospheric sound quality. Audio depth of this calibre is foreign to any other television in the X9000B’s category and, although the television is a tad bigger, it does negate the need for a soundbar or a home theatre system. Really the only add-on purchase the X9000B needs is a little pop-corn.

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Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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