Gorgeously colourful and detailed pictures, extraordinarily good sound quality, good future-proofing, lots of smart apps on board
Its design is huge, Android TV isn’t customisable enough and can cause the TV to be sluggish, a number of backlight lighting flaws
Whatever we end up thinking about the Sony 65X9305C 4K telly, you certainly can’t complain about how much physical hardware you get for your money.
The X93C’s 65-inch screen is hardly a shrinking violet in itself, but Sony has boldly wrapped it in a uniquely huge amount of bodywork. Glassy jet-black wings extend out for many inches to either side, the top and bottom edges are less extreme but still far more chunky than those of most modern TVs, and the set’s rear is also much chunkier than most, at least over its bottom half.
Add in much more weight than most modern flat screen competitors and you’ve got a TV that’s affectionately referred to around the office as The Beast. But is its performance equally beastly, or is this the most beautiful entry point if you’re considering buying a serious 4K Ultra-HD setup?
Sony X93C review: Uncompromising sound
Sony has not, of course, made the 65X9305C such a whopper just for jollies. Tucked away in the left and right wings are six forward-facing speakers – four woofers and a pair of tweeters – pumping out a total 90W of audio power.
Clearly Sony is taking the sound duties of its latest 4K UHD TV considerably more seriously than most rival brands do – a fact underlined by the speakers’ use of Sony’s magnetic fluid technology, used to deliver a scale of sound far beyond the company’s unusually large (for a TV) size.
So potent is the 65X9305C’s audio system, in fact, that the set sports a Hi-Res Audio badge, signifying that it has the power and range to playback high-resolution audio formats like Flac. And if all this isn’t already enough for you, you can even add an optional wireless subwoofer to boost bass response.
All in all, it sounds great. Those magnetic fluid speakers more than justify the physical space they take up by pumping out levels of dynamic range, raw power, soundstage size and distortion-free detailing that no other mainstream TV even gets close to. You could even use the 65X9305C as a pretty serious hi-fi. But it does depend whether you’re ok with buying a TV that sports such a visual arrangement of speakers around its sides.
Sony KD-65X9305C review: Multimedia support
The 65X9305C packs a powerful feature punch in other areas too. For instance, it’s capable of playing multimedia files from USB sticks, networked DLNA devices or Bluetooth, and it can go online to access hundreds of apps via Google’s latest Android TV platform.
Adopting Android TV in place of the previous Sony Entertainment Network smart interface doesn’t prove a total success, though, it must be said. The interface is overpowering, there’s a lack of focus on the sort of features TV users really want, and you can’t customise it enough. Plus the TV sometimes struggles to meet Android TV’s processing demands, leading to moments of sluggishness and even the occasional computer-like crash.
Still, at least the shift to Android puts far more apps at your disposal than a proprietary Sony smart platform ever could, and Sony is sensibly also adding YouView via an imminent firmware update to cater for the UK catch-up TV services not currently delivered by Android TV. We’ve not been able to see this for this review, given the time constraints.
Sony X93C 4K TV review: Picture features
If you’re wondering if Sony has forgotten about the small matter of picture quality amid all its fancy audio and smart TV features, fear not: the 65X9305C has plenty going on with its visuals too.
It enjoys a native 4K UHD resolution, as we’d expect of any relatively high-end TV these days, and its edge-based LED lighting is supported by local dimming, where segments of the lights can have their output controlled independently to boost contrast and present the best blacks.
Its colour palette should enjoy an expanded range of tones too thanks to Sony’s Triluminos technology, and Sony’s new X1 video processing system is on hand to manage every aspect of the 65X9305C’s pictures – including the upscaling of HD and (shudder) standard definition sources (no, really, shudder: at this scale compressed SD doesn’t look great, but that’s the nature of it, rather than this particular TV’s fault).
The X93C will also, excitingly, be able to play high dynamic range (HDR) content following a firmware update due in the next couple of months. Again, we’ve not been able to see the benefits of that at this stage, nor is there exactly throngs of HDR content to get our teeth into just yet, but it’s the kind of future-proofing that high-end, pricey TVs like this need on board.
One last feature that might still interest a few AV die-hards is 3D playback – though if you fancy seeing what your 3D Blu-ray collection looks like on a 65-inch 4K telly you’ll have to cough up extra for however many 3D glasses you need, as none are included for free. The TV’s 3D pictures lack a little brightness, but they make up for this with the amount of detail they show, their relative freedom from crosstalk ghosting noise, some effective motion handling and a strong sense of space.
Sony KD-65X9305C review: Picture quality
The 65X9305C’s pictures make a seriously strong first impression. As usual with Sony’s Triluminos TVs the 65X9305C’s colours are explosively vibrant, especially as they’re driven this year by the extra brightness that Sony’s latest panel designs deliver.
Saturation is spectacularly vivid, and the range of tones the set can reach in bright and dark scenes alike is extreme. This certainly feels like a picture that’s geared up for the next-generation of wide colour gamut/expanded brightness HDR picture technologies coming our way – even if the HDR firmware is taking a long time to turn up.
It’s not just that colours are unusually vibrant, either. Sony’s X1 processor does a sensational job of rendering even the most subtle colour blends without so much as a hint of striping, blocking or other imprecisions.
As well as giving pictures a gorgeously natural finish, the colour precision helps even 2D images look almost three dimensional – and marries perfectly with the screen’s native 4K UHD pixel count to deliver so much detail and clarity that you feel you could just step through the screen into the world beyond.
The 65X9305C processing is so strong, too, that it’s able to upscale HD sources to the screen’s 4K UHD resolution without losing that “window on the world” effect. The processing clearly adds much more perceptive detail to HD sources while simultaneously taking source noise out of the picture (so long as you reduce the picture’s sharpness from its default settings).
In fact, with all the image’s various components (colour, sharpness, noise, detail) taken into account the 65X9305C delivers probably the most successful upscaling engine of any 4K TV brand right now.
Sony X93C review: Motion and contrast
It does no harm to the 65X9305C’s exceptional detail and sharpness, either, that its motion handling is also pretty much as good as it gets, removing judder and motion blur during even the most intense action scenes without causing significant unpleasant processing side effects.
At first glance it seems as if the 65X9305C also excels in the contrast department. Certainly dark parts of the predominantly bright footage we started our tests with seemed rich and deep, and the black areas didn’t seem to lose their intensity excessively even with bright light sources right next to them.
Switching to predominantly dark scenes in low-lit room conditions, however, reveals that the 65X9305C doesn’t deliver a vintage Sony contrast performance. For starters, the set doesn’t deliver such deep, neutral black colours as some of the best TVs out there this year. There’s a gentle grey mist hanging over dark scenes even if you reduce the brightness/backlight setting almost to zero and set the TV’s local dimming system to its highest level.
Setting the local dimming to maximum, though, causes some traces of light haloing around bright objects when they appear against dark backdrops, so it’s probably best avoided. Which means you’ll have to live with a little more greyness.
Sony KD-65X9305C review: Who turned off the lights?
Another issue is the way the 65X9305C turns off its backlighting during extremely dark shots, such as fade to blacks like the scene with The Bride in the coffin in Kill Bill Volume 2. It’s distracting to see the usual residual greyness in dark scenes suddenly jump to total blackness as the lighting is deactivated, while the way the backlighting then flashes back on when some light re-enters the picture almost feels like a slap in the face. Needless to say, this doesn’t make for a particularly immersive movie-viewing experience.
There’s one more problem seemingly caused by the backlight too: colour and light inconsistency at the screen’s left and right edges. Some shots look brighter at the edges than they do at the centre, while others seem to suffer with a slight infusion of purple at their extremities.
These issues aren’t constantly visible, to be fair, and they only appear at the image’s periphery when your focus will usually be on the image’s centre. However, once you’ve spotted the problem it’s hard to stop yourself from scanning the image’s edges looking for it again. That’s just how non-stop TV geek we are in our viewing.
The Sony 65X9305C is an ambitious and, in many ways, supremely talented 4K TV – so much so that it feels like a genuine glimpse into a brave new world of TV excellence just around the corner.
Detailing, brightness and colour resolution certainly all feel like they’re desperate to get their teeth into the sort of high dynamic range, wide colour gamut sources we should start to see more of from 2016. Although, right now, that’s a promise rather than a reality.
It’s just a pity that Sony’s ambition seems to have outstripped the X93C’s current capabilities of its edge LED lighting engine, which shows distracting signs of strain when the going gets tough.