Remember way back in the '80s and early '90s when Sony TVs were synonymous with the best of the best? Sony was to televisions as Xerox to copy machines and Kleenex to facial tissue--in other words, pretty much the reference standard. I could never afford a Sony TV back then, mind you (not on my $4.15 an hour movie theater projectionist salary), but that didn't stop me from wanting one. Then in the mid '90s, something happened: Sony's patent on their Trinitron technology expired, and overnight it was as if everyone else figured out how to make TVs too. Suddenly there wasn't but one choice, there were many. And all of a sudden, we had a genuine AV arms race, bringing an end to Sony's reign over the market and in many ways destroying their dominance, relegating them to also-ran status. But change is afoot once again, and while Sony may not be the OG of some of the technology it employs these days, its ability to elevate or enhance existing platforms while reminding consumers of its brand cache has given rise to a new Sony.
It's easy to extol the virtues of a brand's flagship offering and claim victory through trickle down technology. But wars are won on the battlefield of consumer showrooms, and if any brand, even Sony, hopes to survive they must win where it counts: consumers' wallets. And what speaks to consumers isn't another overpriced display for the one percent; it's a display that delivers the lion's share of performance for 99 percent of the population. Enter Sony's X900F Series reviewed here; not quite cheap enough to have to battle it out with the likes of TCL but not so expensive as to be considered elite. The X900F Series sits smack dab in the middle of the ever-shrinking sweet spot balancing performance and affordability.
Sony sent me the 65-inch version of the X900F lineup, the XBR-65X900F, for review, which at $1,999.99 MSRP isn't too far outside the box of affordability for a 65-inch anything in today's marketplace. The X900F Series comes in five sizes: 49, 55, 65, 75, and even 85 inches diagonal. The latter retails for $5,299.99, which is the cost of some other manufacturers' flagship 65-inch offerings. Truth be told, the two sizes most customers are going to be focused on with respect to the X900F are probably 55 and 65 inches, with the 55-inch costing $1,299.99, which is extremely affordable for what I've come to realize is one hell of a display. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The 65-inch X900F measures 57 inches wide by a little over 35 inches tall and two and three-quarter inches deep (without its stand), which isn't as thin as some displays nowadays, but it isn't exactly obese, either. The display itself tips the scales at 54 pounds, which makes it substantial in its construction, but not ridiculous. At first glance, the X900F's appearance isn't going to make you do a doubletake. It's not ugly. mind you, but rather just very restrained and classic in its appearance. Like a well-tailored suit or little black dress, the X900F is ready for any occasion. Around back things are even more spartan, as the X900F sports an almost seamless back panel with nary a sign of branding or government warning to infringe upon its appearance. There are tasteful cut-outs for the X900F's I/O panel and power cord, but that really is it. So front-to-back, side-to-side, the X900F is an exercise in beauty through minimalism.
Speaking of I/O ports, the X900F has four HDMI inputs, all of which are HDCP 2.2 compliant. There is an RS-232 port for custom control systems, a composite video input (remember those?), and an RF antenna input. Audio outputs include one optical and one analog, albeit a hybrid one acting as the display's headphone as well as stereo audio out. There are three USB ports and an Ethernet jack, as well. Under the hood, the X900F has Bluetooth version 4.1 support, as well as WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac). Chromecast and Google Assistant is built in, the TV is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and it's all controlled via an Android TV operating system, so to speak--a lot more on this later.
The X900F's panel itself has a native resolution of 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, also known as Ultra HD. The X900F features Sony's own Triluminos technology (think Quantum Dots), HDR compatibility (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and Dolby Vision), X-tended Dynamic Range PRO, and X-Motion Clarity, all powered by Sony's latest Processor X1 Extreme.
In layman's terms, this means you're getting an Ultra HD display with the ability to faithfully render all of the colors of today's expanded color gamuts, brightness and contrast capable of meeting today's demanding HDR standards, and full-panel backlighting with local dimming, all at a refresh rate that (likely) only gamers will really appreciate. For more on all of the individual features and specs of the X900F, you can visit Sony's website.
As for the remote, it's eerily similar to that of another Sony display, their flagship OLED. While I knocked the remote in my review of Sony's OLED display for not being "special" enough for such a beautiful display, it's more than suitable when packaged with the X900F. While it still lacks backlighting or glow-in-the-dark buttons, it is very functional, not hugely directional, and is laid out in a sort of boring way that makes it easy to use and memorize after a short period of time. Yes, it's plastic. No, it won't win any design awards. But it also won't frustrate you by trying to be something too fancy or tricky.
I actually took delivery of the X900F at the same time as Sony's flagship OLED display--a bold move on the company's part. Unboxing the X900F was pretty straightforward. I opted to place the X900F atop my media cabinet rather than wall mount it, so I installed the included table legs, which I have to say are quite stylish and unique among the flat panel table stands included with many of today's TVs. They also feature cable channels that actually help to route all your cables (within reason), and keep clutter to a minimum.
I connected my Roku Ultra to the X900F via a one-meter HDMI cable from Monoprice. I went ahead and tested the Sony with my favorite, all-in-one soundbar, the LG SH6, which I connected optically using the cable that came with the soundbar itself. I know I could've used an HDMI cable between the LG and the X900F, but I honestly didn't want to endure the hassle of any potential handshake issues, so I didn't bother. That was it. Pretty simple.
Knowing that the X900F was an Android TV at heart, I braced myself for a nicely designed but sluggish menu/user experience and, well, the X900F didn't disappoint. Once again, the saving grace for the X900F and current Sony displays in general is its adoption of Google Assistant. Having Google Assistant built in allowed me to control the X900F with my voice for a large portion of my day-to-day use. I don't know why I'm okay with living with a certain sluggishness when it comes to voice commands, but if I encounter it via a remote it sends me around the bend. Anyway, the X900F's Android TV interface is the same as what I experienced with Sony's OLED, which is to say it is competently laid out, customizable to my liking, and renders third party devices like my Roku Ultra largely unnecessary. Too bad it's just so slow.
The user menus, on the other hand, appeared snappier via the X900F compared to its OLED counterpart, something I appreciated, as sluggish menus during calibration can be a real nightmare. The menus themselves were identical to that of Sony's flagship, and in truth, the user experience is 100 percent the same between the two displays, which I'm not sure how to feel about.
Out of the box, the Sony ships with its Standard picture profile engaged, which you're not going to want to utilize. I switched to Sony's Custom profile and measured its out-of-the-box performance using my C6 light meter and CalMAN software. Straight away, the Custom profile has some of the most accurate colors I've ever measured out of the box. In truth, they were bang on, and all under the acceptable margin of error (Delta E) calibrators strive for. The greyscale. on the other hand. wasn't as shipshape, with a decidedly blue bias throughout. Thankfully, and with very little effort, the greyscale was able to be brought into near perfect alignment, making the X900F, like its OLED brethren, one of the more accurate displays I've had the pleasure of calibrating.
One thing I did note: the X900F in its Custom mode (which I know disables all of the display's brightness enhancements) measured a respectable 435 Nits, though after my calibration, its light output was cut to 240 Nits in order for contrast and black levels to look right. For those who may prefer a brighter performance, the X900F's other picture modes will allow you to enjoy a brighter image than what I measured its Custom profile to be, and thankfully because the X900F's CMS and grey scale adjustments work properly, you can still dial the image in for a truly reference experience.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
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