Nothing less than the herald for a new era of TV technology, Sony’s glossy 65-inch Ultra HD KD-65X9005A plays Silver Surfer to the Galactus that is 4K. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Ultra HD offers four times the resolution of today’s Full HD. That’s a mighty 3840 x 2160 pixels compared to 1920 x 1080. While there’s currently no commercial software to really exploit this extra resolution, behind the scenes home entertainment providers and broadcast boffins are working hard devising ways to bring 4K goodness into your home. This is clearly going to take some time. As it transpires, 4K brings big benefits to today’s Full HD content too.
This 65-inch trendsetter may be pricey at £5,999 (or £3,999 for its 55-inch sibling, the KD-55X9005A), but it certainly looks the part. A triumph of design and functionality, it’s the finest-looking TV from the brand in years. Connections include four HDMI inputs, three USBs, SCART, component/composite video, Ethernet and a digital optical audio output. Wi-Fi is built in. The screen offers a choice of tuners, satellite DVB-S2 or Freeview HD, and ships with two remote controls. A stock Sony TV clicker and a finger-thin one touch job which has an NFC chip embedded, which facilitates instant sharing with a compatible smartphone.
But if you’re after voice or gesture control you’ll need to look elsewhere. This set holds no truck which such guff, Indeed, gimmicks generally are in short supply. Everything on board has purpose and import, with performance the name of the game.
Internet TV and beyond
Sony has revised its user interface for 2013, dumping the familiar XrossMediaBar for a snazzier, graphical menu. It’s from here you can hop to connected sources both local and online, and stream internet TV from Sony’s network portal. The choice is wide and includes BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, Netflix, LoveFilm, Sony Entertainment Channel, YuppTV, Crackle, YouTube, DailyMotion plus plenty more. The set is also accommodating when it comes to multimedia files, both from USB and across a network. All popular file types and wrappers are playable.
New for this year is screen mirroring. A great way to throw content from a mobile on to the big screen, you can hook-up with a tap on the NFC chip, or manually.
Ultimately the raison d'être for this sexy beast is picture performance. Obviously testing the panel with 4K video presents particular challenges, so we roped in a 4K media server stuffed with demo clips for the job. We also ran the screen with regular Blu-ray, along with new “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray software and assorted HD sources. In every case, the screen’s performance proved extraordinary.
With native 4K, the KD-65X9005A bristles with detail. Landscapes and textures take on a depth and detail which verges on hyper-real. There’s a photographic quality to its imagery which is striking. 4K is an experience best enjoyed close up. With no pixel structure evident, images take on a window-like appearance. Running through the demo material, we were left hoping that Sony’s mooted PS4 4K download service is rolled out beyond the States sooner rather than later.
The good news is the 4K X-Reality PRO picture engine inside this TV does a sterling job upscaling Full HD. Rather than just interpolate fourfold, the silicon utilises a database of content algorithms to best determine texture and gradation. The result is an image which recalls the density and depth of UHD, often revealing more detail in the picture than might have been initially evident. With Blu-ray as a source, improvements were obvious. Indeed, Sony Picture’s “Mastered in 4K” disc line, had us scratching our heads in disbelief. Taking advantage of residual high-frequency information and a wider X.V.Color colourspace, sequences from The Amazing Spider-Man and Total Recall looked convincingly UHD.
Black level is deep and dynamics are huge, with caveats. The TV is at its best in low ambient light, at which point black depth is profound. In a fully dark room, though, they become more grey. It’s a familiar characteristic of LCD. Gradations are effortlessly smooth regardless. The colour performance of this screen, courtesy of its Triluminos filter, is excellent. Reds in particular pop convincingly.
On this screen 3D is revelatory. Unlike vanilla-flavoured passive screens, the extra resolution on offer means that 3D is delivered without reduced resolution. Whether from broadcast - specifically the Sky 3D channel - or Blu-ray, its stereographic images are smooth, bright and immersive.
Sonically, the set is a wow. The magnetic fluid speaker system, powered by a 2 x 12.5 amp, and bolstered by the 2 x 20W rear-placed woofers, deliver an outstanding audio experience.
If the Sony KD-65X9005A is genuinely the harbinger of a new era of UHD TV, then we're all in for an exhilarating time over the next couple of years. This television sets new standards both in terms of raw picture performance and design, and perhaps the most surprising thing is it doesn’t need native 4K to impress. The 4K upscaled Blu-ray is beautiful and full-resolution Passive 3D could yet make converts of dimensional critics. We rate the KD-65X9005A hands-down the best large-screen TV you can buy right now. Get an audition immediately.