(Pocket-lint) - The Sony KD-XH9505 is, like most high-end LCD TVs, built around a so-called FALD (full array with local dimming) system. This means that its backlighting is placed directly behind the screen rather than around its edges, and zones of those rear-mounted backlights can output their own light levels independently of each other. The idea behind this being, of course, to deliver better contrast.
That's one of the main reasons to consider this LCD telly over an edge-lit equivalent for less money. But as the XH9505 uses around 60 local dimming zones - this isn't a huge number; Samsung's (much more expensive) flagship sets use as many as 480 - does the Sony experience deliver in every way it should?
- 4x HDMI inputs
- 2x USB ports
- LAN and Wi-Fi multimedia options
The XH9505 doesn't feel especially well built by high-end TV standards. There's a fair bit of plastic in both the frame around the screen and the rear panel. This rear is bulkier than most, too, which isn't helpful for anyone looking to hang their TV on a wall.
Most sane people watch a TV's front, though, rather than its back. And from any sort of sensible viewing angle or distance the XH9505 actually looks quite sharp thanks to its angular lines, crisp finish and metallic outer trim.
Handily the XH9505's feet can be attached in two different configurations. They can either go right under each of the TV's corners or closer together - the latter option being useful for anyone looking to place the TV on a stand that's substantially narrower than its screen.
There's no doubt, though, that the XH9505 looks much more elegant with the feet attached under each corner.
It's a shame given how clean and sharp its bodywork looks that the XH9505 doesn't continue Sony's recent habit of providing cable management features. Though this could be a result of the decision to provide two different foot-mounting options.
The XH9505 carries all the connections you would expect of a high-end TV in 2020. Including four HDMI sockets, three USB ports, a digital audio output, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support.
- HDR Support: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
- Processing engine: X1 Ultimate
It's great to see the XH9505 carrying Sony's currently flagship video processor: the X1 Ultimate. Especially as this includes X-Dynamic Range technology: a system of advanced power management that takes power away from dark picture areas which don't need it and diverts it to bright image areas that do.
The X1 Ultimate processor also includes an advanced HD upscaler based around a dual database reference system; advanced colour processing via Sony's Triluminos engine; class-leading motion processing; super bitmapping for smoothing away high dynamic range (HDR) colour striping noise; and even a system for converting standard dynamic range (SDR) pictures to HDR.
The motion processing includes an X-Motion Clarity system that combines black frame insertion (BFI) technology with Sony's local dimming system to deliver BFI's renowned 24fps look without costing the image as much brightness as it usually would.
Sony has obtained a couple of third-party ‘endorsements' for the XH9505's picture quality. First, IMAX has assessed it and declared it good enough to unlock the full potential of the IMAX Enhanced mastering system used on a few 4K Blu-rays and video streams. Second, it carries a Netflix Calibrated mode that calls in picture settings deemed by Netflix as being close to those used by the streaming service's own creative teams.
The XH9505's HDR support covers the HLG, industry standard HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. This is pretty good, but it would have been nice to also find support for the HDR10+ system used by Amazon Prime HDR shows, and a few 4K Blu-rays. Sony says it doesn't believe it needs to support HDR10+, as its own HDR processing can deliver the same level of results without the format's extra scene-by-scene picture information.
Something else the XH9505 doesn't have is much support fo next-generation games consoles. Its HDMIs can't support either 4K 120Hz feeds or variable refresh rates (VRR). It does limit input lag to a very respectable 18.4ms if you call in its Game mode, though.
- Android TV smart system
- Built-in YouView
The XH9505 depends on Android TV 9.0 for its smart features. This isn't particularly great news on one level: it means, after all, being faced with Android's rather clunky operating system - including a home screen that takes over the entire TV screen, rather than letting users keep watching TV while they browse for content.
Android TV's ongoing difficulties with carrying all of the catch-up services for the UK's main broadcasters means Sony has had to add YouView to the XH9505's smarts. Nor is there support for Apple TV+. But there are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+ and Rakuten apps, at least. Along with a vast amount of more niche content for anyone that way inclined.
Sony has simplified the way Android TV integrates with its own TV hardware adjustments for 2020, which is good to see. As is the speed with which both the Android TV and main TV menus run. There's no sign of the sluggishness seen on some previous Sony Android models.
While it's perhaps a bit confusing to have to use YouView rather than Android for UK catch-up TV services, there's no doubt that YouView offers a slick and easy way for people to track down shows they may have missed.
The XH9505's pictures hit the ground running thanks to their startling brightness. In fact, the measured 1000 nits of light output if anything looks conservative. The brightest HDR pictures, for instance, such as reflections of sunlight on metal or bright lamps, look seriously bold and intense. Just as they do in real life.
Maybe even more striking, though, is the high level of brightness the XH9505 hits - and maintains - with full-screen bright HDR images, such as Mad Max: Fury Road's desert scenes. In this respect the XH9505 ploughs fertile HDR ground that OLED TVs cannot.
The most surprising thing about the XH9505's brightness, though, is the extent to which it holds up during predominantly dark scenes. In other words, where bright objects appear against a very dark backdrop, the XH9505 barely compromises the intensity of the bright objects at all. Many FALD displays, by comparison (especially those from Samsung) opt to dim bright parts of mostly dark images, in a bid to stop the dark parts of the image from becoming grey or affected by backlight 'blooming'. The fact that the XH9505 does not dim standout bright objects in this way contributes to a strikingly consistent - and consistently aggressive - HDR experience.
The XH9505's brightness feeds into its colour performance, too, helping it unlock the full scope of its wide colour gamut panel. Ultra bright colours such as sun-drenched blue skies, orange sunrises or neon lights look both heavily saturated and strikingly authentic. There's lots of tonal subtlety in the brightest colour areas too, avoiding that bleached out look sometimes seen with TVs that push brightness hard.
The consistent brightness pays off during dark scenes, too, making sure that even the darkest shades of any given colour is rendered faithfully. There's none of the colour tone 'dulling' effect FALD TVs can suffer with when trying to show dark colour tones. Nor is there much evidence at all of subtle shadow detail being lost in dark areas.
The exceptional range and control of the XH9505's colours also helps pictures look rich in texture and detail. Especially since Sony's MotionFlow video processing does a brilliant job of reducing resolution loss and hardware-induced judder when rendering moving objects. All the main TV brands have made strides with their motion handling for 2020, but Sony still holds the edge.
There are TVs out there that look slightly sharper with 4K than the XH9505 does with any of its default picture presets. The precision and subtlety of the picture compensates for this, though. Plus there are tools within the TV's Reality Creation processing toolset that can boost sharpness without the image looking excessively artificial.
It's not just native 4K content that looks clean and detailed on the XH9505. Its upscaling of HD sources is outstanding, too, delivering a substantial step-up in detail from a normal HD picture while also doing a great job of removing source noise.
The XH9505 doesn't just enhance the detail of non-4K HDR content, either. In most of its picture modes (Vivid, Standard, Cinema) it automatically converts SDR sources into HDR. Normally this would be a concern, given the quite iffy results such conversion systems usually create. However, Sony's system works so well, choosing subtlety over aggression and applying different levels of HDR enhancements on an exceptionally intelligent and local level, that most users will likely be completely happy with it.
The KD-XH9505 also gets the latest refinement of Sony's X-Wide Angle technology. This makes it possible to watch the screen from a much wider angle than usual with LCD TVs without colour or contrast taking a heavy hit. It delivers on its promise, too, with pictures really being watchable from a wider angle than most LCD TVs without losing contrast or colour.
So what's the catch? Simply that even though it's a FALD LCD TV, the XH9505's love of brightness requires some sacrifice when it comes to dark picture areas. With HDR material, in particular, dark areas of scenes that contain a mix of light and dark material can look a bit grey. Certainly in comparison with Samsung's high-end FALD TVs.
What's more, while Sony's local dimming system is remarkably clever considering it only appears to have 60 zones to work with, there can be sizeable - though typically quite faint - halos of light around stand-out bright objects. These become more noticeable/distracting when they seep into the black bars you get above and below film images that have a wider aspect ratio than the TV.
You can reduce the impact of these two backlight issues if you keep a touch of ambient/bias lighting in your room, though. Which is something you can afford to do with the XH9505 given how bright it is.
The XH9505 benefits from a couple of impressive new audio features. First, two side-firing tweeters built into the top left and right sides of the screen do an excellent job of populating the TV's soundstage with clean, well-positioned detail. What's more, because they sit so high up the screen, the tweeters help to add a sense of height.
The other new sound feature is a so-called X-Balanced speaker design that Sony claims can produce a wider, more dynamic, more impactful sound from the sort of small enclosure spaces available in LCD TVs. This, too, turns out to be much more than mere marketing hype. The sound is powerful enough to fill even a pretty big room without becoming fragile or thin. There's enough bass to stop action movies sounding thin or harsh, too. Yet this is achieved without bass becoming overwhelming or phutty, and without the speakers succumbing to distortions and drop outs.
The XH9505's sound is so good, in fact, that it really contributes to making the TV's asking price seem better value. Not least because there's much less need to factor in the price of a soundbar than there is with most TVs.
The KD-XH9505 is an excellent TV for anyone who wants to experience the sort of high brightness and rich colour that HDR is capable of delivering. Especially if the TV will be going into a room that typically has at least a little ambient light in it, where this screen's slight black level shortcomings will be much less noticeable.
Alternatives to consider
A new power management system delivers the best contrast ever seen from one of LG's typically low-contrast IPS types of LCD panel. This helps it unlock much more of the potential of LG's excellent NanoCell colour technology.
This Samsung set delivers some of the richest, most consistent black levels ever seen from an LCD TV, as brightness peaks can hit a huge 2000 nits. The 55-inch model costs slightly more than the larger Sony XH9505, though, and preserving Samsung's class-leading black levels requires the screen to dim down standout bright objects quite heavily.