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Sony KDL-55X9005A review

John Archer

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 10

Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55X9005A
  • Sony 55-inch 4K TV

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • Stunning UHD and upscaled picture quality
  • Class-leading audio
  • Fair price for what's on offer

Cons

  • Needs care to get good contrast
  • Very little native 4K content at time of writing
  • Doesn't carry true HDMI 2.0 inputs

Key Features

  • 55-inch LCD TV with edge LED lighting
  • 4K native resolution
  • Local dimming technology
  • passive 3D playback with 4 pairs of glasses included
  • Smart TV platform with online video and DLNA support
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Review Price: £3,300.00

What is the Sony KDL-55X9005A?

The Sony 55X9005A is a 55-inch TV with a native 4K/UHD resolution. Which makes it, tellingly, the third 4K video display we’ve tested in less than a week and an increasing sign that manufacturers continue to push a 4K future, particularly at the top-end of the TV market. The 65-inch Sony 65X9005A has already met with out approval, so we expect similarly excellent things from this TV.

SEE ALSO: What is 4K? 10 reasons why you should care

Sony 55X9005A

Sony KDL-55X9005A: Design and Features

No other TVs around today look quite like Sony’s X9005A series. For starters they’re absolutely huge, gleefully flying in the face of the modern obsession with ‘barely there’ frames. Bold, black glass-finished wings stretch far beyond the left and right sides of the 55X9005A’s 55-inch screen, giving the set a monumental presence as imposing as the enigmatic and emblematic black monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There’s a good reason for the unusual size, too. Sony has used the extra width to fit the 55X9005A with a fantastically potent speaker array by flat TV standards, comprising three front-firing drivers gorgeously integrated into the bodywork. What’s more, as well as firing forwards (most flat TV speakers fire down) for more attack and clarity, the speakers in the Sony 55X9005A use Sony’s recent magnetic fluid innovation to deliver more power and range from the sort of limited cabinet space you inevitably get with slim TVs.

Despite its Space Odysseyesque looks, we can’t promise that owning a 55X9005A will suddenly take you and your family Space Odyssey-style to a new human evolutionary level. What we can promise, though, is that the 55X9005A will take your TV picture quality to the next evolutionary level, thanks to the 3840 x 2160 pixels it manages to fit into its 55-inch screen area. This is four times as many pixels as you get in a normal 1920 x 1080 HD TV.

Whether you call the 55X9005A’s vast pixel count 4K (as Sony wants you to) or UHD (as most other brands want you to) is up to you. What’s not up for debate so far as we’re concerned, though, is the impact 4K/UHD resolutions can have on picture quality.

ROUNDUP: Best 4K TVs

Sony 55X9005A

There do remain, though, questions over when native 4K content is going to arrive in force, and whether the advantages of 4K are readily apparent on anything less than super-huge (as in, bigger than 55-inch) TV screens.

Sony’s spec sheet for the 55X9005A, though, suggests that if any TV should be in a position to address at least the latter of these two questions it’s this one. For starters its picture credentials are instantly bolstered by its use of one of Sony’s top-line local dimming edge LED systems. Experience has shown that while Samsung’s F9000 models run it close, Sony currently delivers the most effective local dimming performance in the edge LED world.

Also extremely promising is the 55X9005A’s use of Sony’s new Triluminos Quantum Dot colour technology. This uses light-emitting nano-particles to produce coloured light, resulting in a much wider colour gamut than you get with conventional LCD colour technology (which passes a white backlight through red, blue and green filters). This could prove invaluable in helping to get the ultimate precision out of the extra resolution 4K has to offer. After all, in providing more pixels 4K pictures can also contain more colour resolution, so the better equipped a TV is to handle this the more likely we are to fully appreciate this oft-ignored 4K benefit.

Experience suggests that Sony’s Reality Creation picture engine should also have a significant role to play in the 55X9005A’s 4K story. As native 4K sources are currently all but non-existent outside of the demo reels we’ve managed to stitch together from assorted manufacturers’ archives, upscaled HD is going to make up the majority of your viewing time. And Reality Creation has shown itself before to be unusually accomplished at the enormously difficult task of adding sufficient new pixels of picture information to convert HD to 4K.

The 55X9005A’s 4K resolution should also come in very handy indeed when it comes to 3D. For by combining its 2160 native lines with the passive 3D format it will be able to deliver passive 3D’s advantages of no flicker and minimal crosstalk without you having to suffer the compromised horizontal resolution you get with normal HD passive 3D TVs.

Sony 55X9005A

Shifting our focus from the 55X9005A’s 4K stuff, the set also carries Sony’s latest online/smart functionality, supporting file streaming from connected DLNA PCs, file playback from the USB stick, NFC connection support with compatible devices (like Sony’s Xperia phones) and access to Sony’s SEN web content. This includes a decent (though not comprehensive) suite of video services, including the BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Netflix, LoveFilm and Sony’s own Video Unlimited platform.

There’s no support for multi-screen playback though (as in, squirting tuner programming out to a smartphone or tablet), and the onscreen interface is a little primitive by modern standards. Check out our dedicated Sony Smart TV 2013 review for more information.

As you would expect, the Sony 55X9005A is equipped with a huge array of picture fine-tuning tools – though it must be added that not all of these are presented in a ‘standard’ way, and that Sony hasn’t sought the endorsement of either the THX or ISF third-party groups. Options available include a colour management system, gamma controls, multiple noise reduction tools, a huge array of themed picture presets, and even a welcome degree of control over Sony’s 4K upscaling engine.

One last point to discuss where the 55X9005A’s features are concerned is its HDMI spec. None of the four provided are built to the full new HDMI 2.0 spec sported – currently exclusively – by the Panasonic L65WT600 UHD TV. This means they can’t handle the 18Gbps throughputs necessary to deliver native 4K sources at 50/60Hz and carrying full 4:4:4 colour subsampling. However, Sony has formally declared that the HDMIs on the 55X9005A will be able to handle 50/60Hz 4K sources – just with a lower colour resolution (such as 4:2:0).

Sony KDL-55X9005A: Set Up

The 55X9005A does a reasonably good job of hand-holding you through its initial installation processes, and its graphics-rich menus are a big improvement on those witnessed on past Sony TV generations.

Getting the best performance out of the 55X9005A is a slightly complicated process, though. First, as usual when watching 4K, we’d recommend that you turn off all noise reduction circuits, and with 2D 4K, at least, you get the cleanest results with motion processing turned off as well.

When you’re watching upscaled HD, we’d still recommend leaving the noise reduction systems turned off, and that you calm the sharpening element of Sony’s Reality Creation engine to as low as its 20-25 level so that pictures look less noisy at the cost of only a marginal reduction in sharpness.

Sony 55X9005A

You can try the Clear and Clear Plus motion processing options with upscaled broadcast footage, though we still tended to leave it off for Blu-ray viewing.

The last really key 55X9005A picture set up tools you should definitely get involved with are its contrast controls. For reasons we’ll discuss in the performance section, you need to be quite careful with the set’s various contrast boosting tools. Our preferred combination ended up being leaving the Black Corrector set to low, the Advanced Contrast Control to Low, and the LED Dynamic Control set to low.

Jimmy Ireland

November 26, 2013, 2:00 pm

Ugly as sin though. And I don't get one of the 'cons' being that there is no content yet. Not the TVs fault and it applies to every 4k TV on the market.

Andy Race

November 26, 2013, 3:04 pm

Still nearly two and half grand over what I'd class as affordable I'm affraid. When HD first came out I can remember forking out over £2k for a 720p 42 inch Samsung plasma. I won't make the same mistake again.

JasJw

November 26, 2013, 4:32 pm

Thanks for the very good review but you are completely wrong when it comes to 3D on the 55". You are not getting full HD 3D, You are only getting 540P each each not 1080p.

Because of this you can see the black lines and they are far too many jaggies and a lack of detail in its 3D image.

I own the 55" and I am thinking of returning it because i feel like I've been kicked in thr balls by Sony. They have been very naughty in advertising this as full HD 3D when its not.

540P on a 4K TV is absurd.

please respond. Cheers

Walter

November 26, 2013, 5:52 pm

Has to be in the eye of the beholder, I love how it looks..

Geoff Richards

November 26, 2013, 6:00 pm

Can I clarify this claim for a second? Is it the case that 1080p 3D content (like a Blu-ray) is actually 540p per eye.

From what I was able to research it sounds like you need 4K 3D content to get 1080p per eye, because passive polarised 3D glasses reduce the resolution by half.

But then I also found this on Sony's support forum, claiming 1080p per eye...
http://community.sony.com/t5/4...

I'm not an expert though. Just seeing what I can find.

JasJw

November 26, 2013, 6:11 pm

only the 65" is Full 1080p per eye, the 55" is 540p. And it makes a massive difference. I'm so tempted to return my 55 for the W9 and save the cash.

JasJw

November 26, 2013, 6:56 pm

here is the shocking prove. www.youtube.com/watch?v=4znn0y...

Geoff Richards

November 26, 2013, 9:46 pm

That's a bit concerning. I guess when they say "Every picture setting including resolution for 3D was optimized for each model." they think 540p is acceptable on a 55 (or that people wouldn't notice?) while the 65 is big enough that it warrants 1080p per eye.

I really can't think of a (good) technical reason to do that... but vote with your wallet. :)

Ashley

November 27, 2013, 3:41 am

Just so you know Sony does have a true 2.0 HDMI. Intact they are the only one that does. Also if you'd doesn't you can call Sony and have someone come to your home and PR one in for free

andyvan

November 27, 2013, 9:53 am

Hmm, 'PR one in for free'? I don't follow at all, and your statement is untrue. Panasonic is the only company to have true HDMI 2.0 and so as we're aware an update for Sony's 4K TVs hasn't come out yet.

Karl Rainer

November 27, 2013, 10:01 am

With no 4k movie content available or streaming in the UK, and sub par 1080i/p motion (which will be most peoples primary source material) and black levels that don't compare with the best plasmas such as the panny vt65 or zt60, i don't see how this could be worth buying at least for now. Also the benefit of 4k at most peoples viewing distance of 9 foot plus would be small on a 55". Maybe wait for OLED to come down.

mode11

November 27, 2013, 12:13 pm

It might apply to all 4k TVs, but it's still worth pointing out that despite the huge cost, you can't fully use it's capabilities.

It's like making a super-efficient car that runs on hydrogen and gets great reviews, but it's a bit moot if you can't buy the fuel for it.

JasJw

November 27, 2013, 12:53 pm

Incorrect.

The Panasonic WT600 is the only TV to have full 2.0 HDMI compatibility. Sony plan to upgrade their sets to 2.0 later this year with a firmware update but it will only be 2.0 Light. It will only be able to pass 8 bit color at 60Hz 4k, as apposed to full 36 bit.

TBH most people wont notice but it kinda defeats having a wider color gamut when it cant be used to its full potential.

JasJw

November 27, 2013, 1:00 pm

Like I say I have this set in 55" and you are right about the motion, As its only 100Hz its motion and response time are well below average for top end TV's. Its a disgrace to be honest for a TV costing over 3 grand. The first thing I noticed was how fine details get blurred out with any kind of movement.

Sony advertise this set as 800Hz which is the same as its younger brother the W905 but that's just an advertising ploy. The real figures are 100Hz on the X9 and 200Hz on the W9 and the W9 is much much better in this regard.

As for the black levels yeah the plasma's are always going to win that battle but the X9 is no slouch. It has the best blacks I've seen on an LED TV and Ive owned most. The great thing about this set is its ability to hold its black level even off axis as the viewing angles for an LED are excellent. Add a little ambient lighting on an evening and the blacks are jet black.

JasJw

November 27, 2013, 1:02 pm

I do think the review needs to be corrected regards to 3D as they has already been enough people buy this TV thinking its full 3D HD only to get it home and find an image full of black lines and jaggies.

Don't get me wrong its still brilliant for 3D, Its so every to watch and has great depth but its not pristine and full resolution unlike its big brother, That beast is a whole different story, I just wish I had the space for one.

Grandad Doug

January 7, 2014, 5:00 pm

I bought one of these TV's just before Christmas. I think it is brilliant and I'm still slowly learning all it's tricks. I have not had a 3D TV before, so I'm new to the picture quality. That said, it seems very good to me. The one big problem I have with it, is using BBC i-Player, which to be totally honest is absolutely un-watchable. It buffers for minutes and then plays for a few seconds! I thought it was by broadband speed but my PC, my laptop, my tablet and even my HD-mobile, will all play BBC i-player content though the same broadband connection perfectly, with no buffering at all! I've even hard-wired the TV to the router and still have the same problem. YouTube content, even 4K, plays OK with an initial buffer, but then nothing. So it really does look as if it's just BBC i-Player on this Sony TV that has the problem! I then asked Sony 4K support, what was wrong. Their response is that they have raised the issue with BBC i-Player tech support and are awaiting their reply. In the mean time, i-Player continues to be un-watchable! Ha anyone else had this problem or know how to resolve the issue?

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