While all the Ultra HD/4K LCD screens at CES 2013 have blown us away with their picture quality, none have managed to get us quite as enthused about the prospect of a 4K future as Sony's 65in LED 4K model, the KDL-65X9000A.
There are many reasons we say this. The first, of course, relates to the TV's picture quality. Sony had a large number of 65X9000As up and running on its CES stand, showing native 4k (3,840 x 2,160 resolution) content ranging from coverage of a football match to nature footage, movies (The Amazing Spiderman), and digital stills photography (rendered through the now 4K-capable version of the PS3's PlayMemories software). And in all cases, the resulting pictures looked not just stunning, but perhaps slightly more stunning than they have on the other non-OLED 4k displays in town.
The main reason we make this call in Sony's favour is the remarkably vibrant colours delivered by Sony's new (to edge LED backlighting, at any rate) TriLuminos technology, which introduces new RGB filters to the edge LED system.
Also, of course, there's the heart-melting fine detailing in both ‘near’ and ‘far’ objects in scenes, endlessly subtle colour tones, and stunning texturing associated with 4k screens. Sony has additionally improved its X-Reality Pro 4K upscaling engine since we tested the 84X9005, and wasn't afraid to show off the seriously impressive results in a special section of its stand.
In fact, Sony was keen to claim that Blu-rays created using 4k masters can be upscaled on the 65X9000A with particularly accurate results, thanks to the processing simply being able to 'put back in' the resolution that had to be removed to get the film onto a Blu-ray.
This claim sounds hard to swallow, we'll grant you - but we've seen demos that suggest there is at least an [upscaled? – Ed.] grain of truth in what Sony is saying. At any rate, Sony feels sufficiently confident about its claim to have introduced a new 'Mastered in 4K' label to go on the boxes of relevant Blu-ray films.
Sony was also showing the startlingly attractive 4K server box it ships with the 84X9005 in the US, giving us another reminder - along with Sony's promise to deliver 4k downloads as soon as it possibly can - that Sony, more than any other brand right now, is trying to deliver genuine 4K content already, rather than in some distant dream future. It's just a shame there still aren't any plans to bring this 4k server/downloader to the UK.
Rounding out the sense Sony is presenting of just how imminent a truly 4k world could be, is the extent to which the 65X9000A feels like a fully finished and extraordinarily well-rounded product.
For starters, it looks a million dollars thanks to the way its luscious high gloss black finish extends out far enough from the screen's left and right edges to incorporate a set of Sony's extraordinary new ‘magnetic fluid’ speakers. These are designed to deliver levels of power, clarity and bass without needing the sort of deep rears normal speakers do.
Run in conjunction with a couple of woofers on the TV's rear in a dedicated CES demo room, these magnetic fluid speakers delivered quite simply the finest sound-quality we've ever heard from a TV. Honestly.
Bass levels were extreme, the mid-range was stunningly open and expansive, and treble detailing was reproduced with total, harshness-free precision. The result is movie soundtracks that sounded like they were coming out of some decently high-end separates system, and music that can only be described as genuine hi-fi.
The icing on the cake comes from swanky-looking - and long overdue - new operating menus and a redesigned Smart TV engine that now includes extensive 'SideView' technology for enhanced communication (including NFC) and content sharing with external tablets and mobile phones.
In short, the overall impression we took away from our time with Sony's 65X9000A was of not just a remarkably well-rounded and high-performance TV, but also a genuine Sony 4K eco-system that's much closer to becoming a reality than we'd previously thought possible.