Sony KD-65X9005A £6000
18th Jun 2013 | 15:10
Sony ups the ante in the 4K arms race
The Sony KD-65X9005A is more than just another svelte Internet-enabled TV. Along with the lookalike 55-inch KD-55X9005A, this 65-inch flatscreen is the first 4KUltra HD format TV that genuinely has an eye on your living space.
Sony's opening 4K gambit, the 84-inch KD-84X9005 may have been first out of the gate, but priced at £25,000 it was never anything other than a rich man's plaything. This new model, priced at £6,000, is a far more realistic (!) proposition.
Make no mistake, the KD-65X9005A is a breed apart from the massed ranks of Full HD widescreens which clamber for space in high street electrical stores and supermarkets. With a resolution of 3840 x 2160, it's able to deliver images four times as detailed as routine 1080p models. This is comparable (give or take some pixels) to the kind of image density you'll see at a cutting-edge movie theatre.
There's more to this set than just Ultra High Definition of course. It's also equipped with a best in class sound system and all the usual Smart TV functionality.
Not that this big screen needs technology to turn heads. As a piece of minimalistic design it's downright stunning. As part of its 4K proposition, Sony has brought TV audio back into the limelight. The set features forward facing stereo speakers which sandwich the display, sculpted into a single sheet of edge-to-edge glass. The result is a sleek, shiny black shard which measures 168.2cm across. The panel itself sits atop a circular chromed stand. For a 65-inch screen, it wears its size extremely well and doesn't feel at all imposing. The screen is just 40.5cm deep
Back panel connectivity comprises four HDMI inputs, three USBs, SCART, component/composite video, Ethernet, a digital optical audio output and CI slot. Wi-Fi is built in. However unlike some Full HD rivals, the set offers only a single tuner (you can choose from Freeview HD or generic satellite). Still you do get two remote controls. A simplified one-touch zapper and a routine IR doofer. Given the premium build of this TV the latter seems particularly lightweight and inappropriate.
The panel itself features Dynamic Edge-LED backlighting, which offers remarkable consistency given the size of the display.
Specification-wise, the KD-65X9005A apes the rest of Sony's 2013 Smart TV line-up. A revised horizontal user interface offers thumbnails for key IPTV services along with an app shortcut to the whole shebang. These appear within a grid, which quickly descends into something of a jumble.
Services include BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, LoveFilm, Netflix, Qello, YuppTV, Crackle, YouTube, Blinkkx, DailyMotion, The Sony Entertainment TV channel, plus plenty of others that you'll never feel the need to look at. The TV also supports Skype, although you'll need to invest in a separate webcam, it's not built-into the frame (just as well, it would ruin those clean designer lines).
The TV offers decent multimedia support, both from its local USB media reader and across a network. All key codecs and containers are catered for, including MKV, AVI, WMV, MPG, MOV, MKV, MP3 and WMA.
Naturally the set is 3D compatible too. It uses Passive technology and comes with four pairs of lightweight polarising glasses. However, this isn't the same Passive 3D we've seen elsewhere in the LCD market. Utilising the inherent resolution of the 4K display, this set's passive images are delivered with full 1080 line clarity. The result is a 3D viewing experience unlike anything outside a commercial theatre.
Picture and sound quality
3D picture quality
The evolution from 1920 x 1080 to 3840 x 2160 resolution has beneficial impacts across the board on the KD-65X9005A, and not just in the most obvious ways. 3D is a dramatic case in point.
Until now, the 3D viewing experience at home has always been a compromise. Passive screens employ cheap glasses which are comfortable to wear, but the image resolution is sacrificed resulting in obvious jaggies. Active Shutter HD delivers a Full HD 3D image, but the glasses are expensive and suffer from strobing effects.
Here, the extra resolution offered by 4K means that Passive 3D is rendered at 1080p. You get to wear the same lightweight specs, but there's no sense of image degradation. Stereoscopic pictures are bright and immersive, and that huge screen really pulls you in. In fact, the KD-65X9005A delivers the best 3D we've ever seen on a consumer telly.
2D Picture quality
Clearly to see this screen at its very best, you need native 4K video content. And there's not an awful lot of that about (well, at the time of writing there's none actually). So to help appraise the screen we borrowed a media server packed with 4K files, specifically a collection of travelogue and artsy stuff, plus 4K trailers for Total Recall and After Earth.
The result is jaw-on-the-floor stuff. Having a super-large 4K display invites you to sit closer, rather than further away, and when you do the incredible amount of detail that can be found in its images is mesmerising. Full HD looks like a rusty Kinetoscope in comparison (a slight exaggeration perhaps, but you get our drift).
But is there any point buying a 4K screen when there's no native content to view? Well, yes, surprisingly there is. What the KD-65X9005A does with both broadcast HD and more significantly Blu-ray is quite extraordinary.
All content sources are mapped to the denser display. This 65-incher and its smaller sibling employ a two-chip 4K X-Reality PRO image engine which comprises an unfeasibly large image algorithm database to upscale content, and impart smooth, nuanced texture to images.
Blu-ray content looks absolutely stunning. There's a level of depth to the picture which is just engulfing. Of course, Sony's silicon can't work miracles, and with SD sources and some broadcast content, there're rough edges to be seen, but for the most part the process is remarkably successful.
It's not just image detail which astounds. The colour performance of this TV is outstanding. A Triluminos display, the panel uses Color IQ semiconductor-based filtering to give a wider colour gamut. With content that's X.V.Color enabled, you get exceptionally deep reds and more vibrant greens.
Sony's upcoming Mastered in 4K Blu-ray titles have all been created with this extended colour space and the results are amazing. However, the TV doesn't need an X.V.Color source to deliver amped up vibrancy, it does so with all content.
The panel is also extremely dynamic, with deep black and bright peak whites. As we've come to expect from the brand, motion handling is a particular strength. The set employs the faster 800Hz iteration of Motionflow processing, retaining maximum detail with fast moving content. For a more filmic look, you can either turn Motionflow off, or select the True Cinema preset.
Very much bucking the trend for thin, ineffective TV audio, the sound system on this set is full-blooded and borders on hi-fi standard. The magnetic fluid drivers are fast and musical, while a ported bass creates a solid mid-range. Stereo imaging is pronounced and there's no shortage of volume.
Usability and value
There's much to like about Sony's 2013 user interface. It's crisp and easy to navigate. We can even forgive the brand's attempt to push unwanted promotional content at us through the 'Featured' menu strand, as this can be turned off in the settings.
Browsing the EPG is simplified with an optional Fast Zapping mode. This minimises the TV picture, allowing you to click up or down the channel listing. Merely alighting on a station causes the channel to flip. You can also navigate using the stock Freeview programme guide.
Smartphone integration is good. NFC (Near Field Communication) simplifies throwing content from a mobile device onto the screen, although you don't need to use this to achieve screen mirroring from regular smartphones.
One less obvious point about the set is that it's completely silent in operation. Despite its size, there's no intrusive fan noise, the panel runs coolly and efficiently. Similar-sized plasma panels can't claim the same.
On the debit side, the screen itself is extremely reflective. Owners will need to think carefully about where they want to place it, because mounting it facing any direct light source could prove ruinous.
As the first in a new generation of 4K displays, conventional observations about value for money don't quite apply. Inevitably, a groundbreaking TV like this will come with a price premium.
However Sony rewards early adopters with a high-end build that's never going to translate down the line as cheaper 4K panels begin to ship. The design and finish on the KD-65X9005A is sensationally good (and not really done justice with online images).
The KD-65X9005A is much more than just another large screen telly. The poster boy for a new generation of broadcast technology, it delivers a picture experience quite unlike conventional Full HD screens.
Image quality with native 4K content is simply astonishing, both in terms of absolute fidelity and image depth. But perhaps the biggest surprise is just how beneficial its panel density is with Full HD too.
Upscaling is extremely effective, and with Blu-ray (particularly Mastered in 4K discs), it simply shines. There's been considerable debate as to whether the 4K at this screen size is an appreciable advantage in the average home. Well we can confirm it most definitely is. Debate closed.
The KD-65X9005A impresses even before it's powered up. The set has a beautiful design that accentuates its upfront sound system.
Image quality is similarly sublime. Pictures have a smoothness and clarity which is unrivalled. The good news is that it upscales Full HD sources with equal aplomb.
The set's Passive 3D picture performance is also a revelation, both with broadcast 3D and from Blu-ray. The set even has a kick-ass sound system, so there's no need to worry about adding a soundbar just to keep things coherent.
The cheapo remote rather undermines the KD-65X9005A's imperial nature. It's a shame Sony couldn't come up with something a little more substantial than this plastic wand to keep things under control.
Timing hasn't really helped this 65-incher, as the new HDMI interface isn't yet ready for primetime, which has implications if and when the Blu-ray standard gets an overhaul to accommodate 4K content.
As it stands, the set is limited to 4K at 30Hz; HDMI v2 is expected to support 4K up to 60Hz. Will this prove significant in the long term? It's difficult to say, although we think it's unlikely that high framerate 4K is going to become the norm anytime soon.
The KD-65X9005A is flat-out the most exciting big-screen TV released this year. With stunning design and advanced picture processing, this 4K debutant impresses with photographic-like image quality, the best consumer 3D we've ever experienced and a top class sound system.
As the harbinger of a new era of broadcasting, it's also surprisingly relevant to today's TV world.
Rival 4K screens are thin on the ground at present, although we know that LG, Samsung and Toshiba have all vowed to launch rival products by the end of the year.
The KD-65X9005A's most immediate rival though has to be Panasonic's reference grade TX-60PZT65. This NeoPlasma is the last word in Full HD image quality, and native 4K content aside, gives this big Sony a great run for considerably less money.