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Sony KDL-55X9005A: Picture Quality

John Archer

By John Archer



  • Recommended by TR
Sony 55X9005A


Our Score:


The Sony 55X9005A’s bigger sibling, the 65X9005A, was actually the very first ‘proper’ (as in, not just 4K to serve glasses-free 3D tech as was the case with last year’s Toshiba 55ZL2) 4K TV we tested. So while we were utterly mesmerised by the picture quality it offered, we didn’t have much of a frame of reference to draw on when trying to understand how its pictures might stand up against rival 4K TVs. Now that we’ve seen 4K TVs from all the main brands, though, we’re in a better position to appreciate just how excellent the picture quality of Sony’s 4K debutantes really is.

Sony 55X9005A


Starting with native 4K content, the results are truly lovely. Pictures look clearer and more ‘real’ than HD ones, with zero noise and an astonishing sense of depth (as the extra resolution enables pictures to stay crisp and detailed further into the distance) that’s manna from heaven during views across landscapes and cities.

There’s clearly more detail in pictures too when it comes to seeing individual leaves on trees, blades of grass, writing on newspapers and the like. The impact of this extra detail is a little less spectacular than it is on Sony’s 65-inch X9005A unless you sit closer to the screen than you will probably want to under normal circumstances. But this is not to say that native 4K fails to deliver a noticeable and desirable advantage on the 55X9005A’s 55-inch screen over even the best HD pictures.


The 55X9005A’s ‘killer app’ with 4K, though, has to be its colour reproduction. As hoped, Triluminos does a sensational job of helping the screen render 4K’s extra colour precision thanks to the extreme range and subtlety of the colour palette the quantum dot system can reproduce. We were able to run the Sony 55X9005A head-to-head against a number of other 4K TVs, and it beat the competition hands down in the colour resolution department.

One or two rival sets – those from Samsung and LG in particular – render native 4K footage with a touch more sharpness, but the precision of Sony’s colour reproduction compensates for this, resulting in a 4K image that looks truly next-gen. With this in mind it’s perhaps pity that the HDMIs on the Sony 55X9005A can’t accept 4K signals at any higher frame rate than 30FPS without compromising their colour subsampling. But from what we’re able to watch so far, at least, Triluminos ensures that the 55X9005A’s colours are a level above anything currently delivered by rival brands.

Sony 55X9005AUpscaling

Shifting to the upscaled pictures that will for now unfortunately be your only content for the Sony 55X9005A, Sony’s processing comes up trumps just as successfully as we’d hoped. HD sources – especially Blu-rays, but broadcasts too – are gently sharpened while also, crucially, having the majority of any noise a source might contain removed before the upscaling takes place. This means there’s no possibility for the upscaling to exaggerate source noise.

There’s some deft work when it comes to adding more subtlety to colour blends too, and edges look crisp rather than over-stressed as they would if Sony was too obsessed with just focussing too much on sharpness with its upscaling work.

Motion looks a touch smeary with upscaled footage at times, as the processing occasionally struggles to keep up fully with the speed of image change. For this reason you can try Sony’s motion processing options with upscaled footage, as this kicks in a processing power boost that can restore at least some of the motion clarity you ideally want with images as pure as native 4K.

If you don’t like the effects of any of the motion processing options, however, don’t be too upset, as the smearing we mentioned is actually very low-level and rare even if you leave Sony’s motion processing deactivated.

Remarkably the 55X9005A even manages to upscale standard definition sources quite well. Sure, the image is much softer and enjoys less subtle colour handling, making it very much something to avoid if you can possibly stick with HD. But noise is again removed from the upscaled pictures astutely, and there remain surprisingly few unwanted processing side effects to upset the show despite the vast number of pixels the set is having to ‘conjure up’ in getting pictures from standard definition levels up to 4K.


The only part of the 55X9005A’s picture make up that troubled us initially was its contrast performance. The set uses a passive 3D IPS panel – panels that have consistently struggled to produce strong contrast this year. And sure enough, if you turn off this Sony’s dynamic contrast and local dimming features its black level response isn’t great. Turning on dynamic contrast and local dimming immediately has a dramatically positive effect – yet if you’re not careful with them you can make dark scenes look quite unstable due to excessive brightness shifting and areas of backlight blocking around bright parts of predominantly dark images.

Fortunately, after a little experimentation, we managed to arrive at a combination of contrast settings (detailed in the set up section) that left us feeling more than satisfied. In fact, at this point the 55X9005A’s contrast performance can be considered excellent.

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.


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


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...

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


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.


November 26, 2013, 6:56 pm

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

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. :)


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


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.


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.


November 27, 2013, 12:53 pm


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.


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.


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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