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Sony KD-84X9005 Review

Pros

  • 4k pictures look simply astonishing
  • Upscaled HD pictures look great too
  • Best 3D pictures to date

Cons

  • It costs £25,000
  • Some (likely sample-specific) backlight clouding
  • Not much native 4k source material - yet...

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £25000.00
  • 84in LCD TV with edge LED lighting
  • 4k native resolution
  • Passive 3D playback
  • 4K X-Reality Pro processing
  • Sony Entertainment Network online system

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.
Introduction
Everything about Sony’s KD-84X9005 is big. Most obviously there’s its
screen: 84in from corner to corner, with a good inch of bezel wrapped
around it. Less obvious – until you switch it on, at any rate – is the
enormous number of pixels squeezed into that 84in screen: more than
eight million. For yes, the 84X9005 is only the second TV we’ve ever
tested to boast a ‘4k’ native resolution of 3840 pixels across by 2160
pixels down.

Also remarkably big are the three-way speakers Sony
ships with the 84X9005. These attach via angling brackets to the TV’s
sides, run the full height of the TV, and use every inch of that height
to cram in a seriously potent 50W speaker system that includes 10
symmetrical drivers, a sound range of 60Hz to 200kHz, aluminium
enclosures with five non-parallel walls to reduce standing wave
interference; and silk dome tweeters renowned for their wide dispersion
characteristics.

It’s all a million – no, make that a trillion – miles away from the sort of flimsy speaker system usually crammed into flat TVs.

Sony 84X9005

One
more less welcome big thing about the 84X9005 is its price. At – gulp -
£25,000 pounds it’s clearly way beyond the reach of ‘normal’ folk,
being strictly the reserve of the rich, the famous, and the Premier
League footballer (i.e. both rich and famous – Ed.). Can its combination of raw screen size and 4k
resolution really justify such a price?

Sony KD-84X9005 – Industrial style
Aesthetically
the KD-84X9005 is slightly industrial, but still oddly stylish thanks
to its slim bezel, two-poled metallic stand and unusual ‘corrugated’
finish. The speakers look a touch clumsy in the way they bolt on to the
TV’s extremities, perhaps, but overall this TV looks suitably
high-end.

In any case, it’s the 84X9005’s innards that really
count. For as well as that critical 4k pixel count, it’s also equipped
with a fearsome new image processing engine called 4k X-Reality Pro.
Specially designed for the 84X9005, this chipset’s most important job is
to upscale normal full HD and even standard definition sources to the
screen’s 4k resolution. But intriguingly it also claims to be able to
improve the appearance of even 4k material – no mean feat given how many
pixels any 4k picture processing system is going to have to handle in real time.

Sony KD-84X9005 – 4K meets passive 3D
Another potentially
brilliant feature of the 84X9005 is its combination of a 4k native
resolution with passive 3D technology. The set is the first passive 3D
TV from Sony, and the thinking is that the normal arguments against
passive – visible horizontal line structure, jagged edges and reduced
resolution when showing HD 3D sources – are all negated by the 4k
resolution, thanks to its delivery of twice as many horizontal lines.

Two
pairs of passive glasses are included with the TV – though given the
set’s price, we’d have hoped for at least twice as many. Just as well
you can pick up more passive glasses for peanuts.

Sony 84X9005

Exploring the
84X9005’s picture adjustments reveals a few points of interest. For
instance, there’s an option for turning on 4k photo playback – which of
course we set to on – and a Manual setting for the Reality Creation
system that lets you adjust such niceties as noise filtering and
resolution. More on this later.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Calibration tools could be better
Given
the 84X9005’s price and potential appeal to the custom installation
market, though, it’s a shame it doesn’t sport a truly comprehensive
calibration system. For while you get a simple gain and bias adjustment
for the white balance’s RGB elements there’s no full colour management
system.

Inevitably we couldn’t resist kicking off our tests of
the 84X9005 with the real McCoy: true 4k images, served up via a
10-minute looping video from a PC server attached via HDMI. This show
reel was impressively varied in its content, taking in everything from
shots around Spanish beaches, town squares and grand buildings to a
football match, footage of the Beliner Philharmoniker playing The Ride
Of The Valkyries, and a curious but visually amazing video of a girl
paddling on a beach. And we watched it through three times before we
managed to stop our jaws from hanging open with astonishment.

Rather than get straight into the minutiae of what makes the 84X9005’s
native 4k pictures truly, magnificently special, it feels necessary to
first try and explain the overall experience of watching high quality
4k. The thing is, it pretty much completely breaks down the usual ‘wall’
between you and what you’re watching.

If you’ve never seen 4k
before, you probably don’t even realise that there is a wall between you
and a normal full HD picture. But after seeing 4k it becomes clear when
going back to normal HD that you can’t engage with it quite as fully,
thanks to a relative lack of detailing over background objects; a
shortage of depth caused by the ‘smudging’ of distant objects; and a
reduced sense of object solidity and colour realism caused by some
inevitably less subtly rendered colour blends.
 
Sony KD-84X9005 – The beauty is in the detail
Plus,
of course, even the best 1920×1080 HD doesn’t deliver the sort of
detailing your retinas are capable of rendering, so there’s always a
detail ‘gap’ between an HD picture and your visual acuity.
Sony 84X9005
With a
true 4k feed shown on a true 4k screen – especially one as huge and
talented as the 84X9005 – all of these problems melt away. So you’re no
longer watching something through a screen; you’re actually there, on
the film set, in the sports arena or in the TV studio.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Small talk
From
here we could easily bang on about being able to see such minutiae as
flaws in the polish of an orchestra’s violins, individual leaf details
on cliff-top trees seemingly miles in the distance, and colours so
intensely vivid but also subtle that they seem to have come from another
AV planet. But actually 4k’s impact is much more than just the sum of
such parts.

At which point, of course, we need to reflect that
sadly the only 4k content most people will be able to see on the 84X9005
is still photographs from a digital camera. Such photos do indeed look
amazing, and further 4k photography support will come from a new 4k
version of Sony’s PlayMemories PS3 software that’s supposedly finally
going to be available for free in December.

If you want 4k versions
of your favourite films and TV shows, though, for now there’s only one
option on the 84X9005: upscaling.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Talented upscaling
Just
as well, then, that while no rival for the sheer majesty of true 4k,
the 84X9005’s upscaled pictures are outstanding. Successfully
calculating the best appearance of the huge amount of extra pixels
required to convert 1920×1080 to 3840×2160 in real time is no easy task,
but the X-Reality Pro engine does it supremely well, resulting in
upscaled pictures free of colour striping/blocking that are also
immensely detailed and sharp.

Sony 84X9005

The processing is also remarkably
clever at distinguishing between unwanted source noise – which it takes
out – and deliberate ‘noise’ it needs to keep in, such as the grain used
in some film transfers.

As you might gather from all the above
goodness, the 84X9005’s ground-breaking processing makes your Blu-rays
and even DVDs look far better than they ever could on a standard HD TV.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Calm down dear
The
only rider to this is that if you stick with the Reality Creation
system’s Auto option it can operate a little over-aggressively, leaving
pictures looking slightly ‘pixellated’. We found that slightly nudging
the Resolution Reality Creation element down from its preset and the
noise filtering component up improved things nicely without
substantially softening proceedings.

One last point to raise
about the 84X9005‘s Reality Creation circuitry is that remarkably it
doesn’t just deliver tangible benefits with 1920×1080 or standard
definition sources. Toggling the processing on and off while watching 4k
revealed that remarkably it can even make native 4k feeds look sharper
and more detailed. Which is actually pretty mindblowing.

The good times continue to roll when you don a pair of passive 3D
glasses, as the 84X9005 produces the single most convincing and
enjoyable 3D picture we’ve seen outside of a commercial cinema. The
thing is, its 4k panel allows it to deliver all the traditional
advantages of passive 3D – no flicker, practically no crosstalk, a more
relaxing viewing experience, more brightness, richer colours – without
the usual negatives of reduced resolution, jagged edges, and visible
horizontal line structure.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Passive 3D gets serious
Essentially,
providing double the resolution lets you watch
genuine full HD passive 3D pictures – and the results are jaw-dropping.
Everything from the 3D trailer for the latest Spiderman film to Tangled,
Avatar and the recent Titanic 3D release looked nothing short of
stunning on the 84X9005, as the combination of the huge screen,
genuinely HD flicker-free images and a superbly natural sense of depth
draw you into the action like no other 3D TV before.

Sony 84X9005

We guess
that should 4k 3D titles ever appear, then the 84X9005’s passive
approach won’t show them at their maximum resolution. But given the
problems with getting even 2D 4k content delivered into homes, the
prospect of insanely data intensive 4k 3D sources currently seems very
distant indeed.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Wherefore art thou, 4k content?
Actually,
the lack of any sort of 4k content right now clearly represents a problem for the
84X9005, especially given its enormous price. But of course, without 4k
screens, 4k content will never come. And with Sony itself being such a
major player in the TV and movie world, the more stellar 4k TVs like its
own 84X9005 appear, the more inevitable it will be that 4k content will
arrive at some point – possibly sooner than you think.

While
the 84X9005 regularly produces pictures that are simply miles ahead of
anything we’ve ever seen from any other TV, there was one notable
picture flaw with our review sample: Quite obvious backlight
inconsistencies during dark scenes, where parts of the picture look
slightly cloudy.

We reduced the impact of this issue by taking
down the backlight and making sure the set’s dynamic backlight feature
was set to Low. But we never got black levels looking as consistent as
we’d like.

Sony KD-84X9005 – Sample flaw?
However, Sony had told us
before we started our review that it wasn’t happy with the backlight
performance of our test sample (which understandably couldn’t readily be
swapped out at short notice). Also, luckily, we’d seen three other
84X9005 models running in a darkened behind-the-scenes room at the
recent IFA trade show, none of which suffered backlight clouding issues nearly as
badly as the test sample we used. So we’re willing to believe that at
least some of the backlight flaws experienced during this review are
unique to this one sample.

Sony 84X9005

Sony KD-84X9005 – Audio magic
With so much to talk about where the
84X9005’s pictures are concerned, we’ve almost forgotten those huge
speakers down each side. Which is grossly unfair, as they actually sound
crazily good compared with the flimsy ear-crud dispensed by most TVs.

The
mid-range, for instance, is extremely wide and open, helping the TV
deliver even action scenes with power and clarity to rival a half-decent
separates system. There’s far more bass than you usually hear with a
TV’s audio system too, and treble detailing is excellent and completely
free of harshness.

The only downside to the audio system is that
it has a rather small sweet spot whereby if you don’t sit in exactly the
right place, vocals distractingly sound like they’re coming from the
left or right side of the screen, rather than the correct position on
the screen.

Verdict
Thanks to its beautifully realised
4k capabilities, the 84X9005 is quite simply the best TV we’ve ever
tested. Nothing else comes close – not even the Toshiba 55ZL2 due to that
4k TV being nearly 30in smaller and not driven by Sony’s sensational
X-Reality Pro picture system. What’s even more startling about this is
that while Sony was happy for us to formally review the 84X9005 sample
we saw, the brand also believes that it will be able to improve picture
quality even more before the set finally starts to ship.

Clearly
there aren’t many people able to spend £25k on being ready for a video revolution that could still take two or three years to
bear serious home cinema fruit. Indeed, some people will even argue
that the 84X9005’s price merely underlines how far off widespread 4k in
the home remains.

Dedicated lovers of picture quality that we
are, though, we personally can only salute Sony for a) pouring so much
of its heart and soul into making its first 4k TV so outstanding and b)
making the prospect of 4k content turning up sooner rather than later
that much more likely.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Features 9
  • 3D Quality 10
  • Value 6
  • Design 8
  • 2D Quality 10
  • Sound Quality 9

Features

Size (Inch) 84in
Display Type LED
Full HD 1080p Yes (actually 4k!)
Digital Tuner Yes
Freeview HD Yes
3D Ready Yes
Refresh Rate (Hertz) 800Hz

Connectivity

HDMI 4 (v1.4)
Component 1
Composite 1
Scart 1 (RGB)
Digital Audio Out 1 (optical)
Headphone 1
Ethernet 1
WiFi Yes (built-in)

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