Sony XBR-75X950G 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV Reviewed

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Sony XBR-75X950G 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV Reviewed


At the close of 2018, I thought I had seen all I needed to see with respect to performance from today's modern flat panel displays, what with a wide array of amazing displays spending considerable time at Casa de Robinson, from the excellent LG OLEDs to the Vizio P-Series Quantum. All but one display that sort of faded from my consciousness as 2018 drew to a close was Sony's X900F. Not because the X900F was bad. Far from it. It was just one of the first displays I reviewed since returning to Home Theater Review. Like an Oscar contender released too early, I sort of forgot how great the X900F was when it came time for awards season.

Why am I bringing this up now? Well, it's 2019, and Sony has a new swath of displays for the new season, specifically the X950G reviewed here. The X950G isn't a direct sequel to the X900F, as both displays are on sale simultaneously as of this writing. But to say the two displays have nothing in common would be an understatement. In fact, it's easier to list what the X950G and X900F don't share than it would be to waste my word count pointing out all their similarities. 

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Starting with its physical appearance, the X950G looks (virtually) no different from the X900F, which is not a bad thing, as Sony is on a roll as of late when it comes to industrial design. From my perspective, Sony's LED backlit LCD displays are among the more stylish and elegant designs on the market today, and the X950G is in keeping with that tradition.

The X950G can be had in four diagonal sizes: 55, 65, 75, and 85 inches. For the purposes of this review, I was sent the 75-inch model, which carries an MSRP of $3,299.99. The G lineup starts at $1,299.99 for the 55-inch and tops out at $4,999.99 for the massive 85-incher.

The 75-inch X950G measures 66 inches across by nearly 41 inches tall. With its included legs, the max depth of the X950G is nearly 15 inches, though mounted on a wall one will no doubt rejoice in its sub-three-inch girth. Weight is substantial but not overkill at 77.6 pounds (without the stand). There is little in the way of unique features located anywhere along the front or the back of the display: it sports a graphite or dark grey bezel that is uniformly thick around the entirety of its semi-gloss screen. The back of the X950G is similarly spartan, boasting a smooth, rounded rear panel that has but one cut out for the I/O panel.

Speaking of I/O, the X950G boasts a total of four HDMI 2.0b inputs (three along the bottom and one on the side), all of which are HDCP 2.3 compliant. The X950G's HDMI inputs support HDMI-CEC, and there is even an eARC channel as well. Other input/output options include: a single composite video input, RS-232C, RF input, Ethernet port, digital audio output, a headphone jack, and three USB ports (two side and one bottom). Nonphysical connection options include WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth, and Chromecast built-in. Throw in a detachable power cord and you have the exterior of the X950G all sewn up. Like I said, not much to pontificate about, but then again, it is my belief that a display should be as streamlined and elegant as possible from a design standpoint, something the X950G does well with. 

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Behind the scenes, or behind the screen, there's a bit more to discuss. The X950G is a full array LED backlit LCD display with a native resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 and local dimming capabilities. The X950G is HDR compatible, boasting support for HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, but no HDR10+. Sony does note, though, that the display's X1 Ultimate Processor generates dynamic metadata by measuring the frame brightness, providing a similar experience to HDR10+. The new(er) processor also allows for new image enhancement features such as Object-based Super Resolution in addition to the existing 4K X-Reality Pro and Dual Database Processing, all of which fall under what Sony calls "Clarity Enhancements." The same is true for the X950G's contrast enhancements, of which it has Dynamic Contrast Enhancer, Object-based HDR Remaster, and X-tended Dynamic Range Pro, all three, again, carryovers from the X900F.

The same real-time color enhancements found on the X900F are present within the X950G, including: Live Color Technology, Precision Color Mapping, Super Bit Mapping HDR, and Triluminos Display. I'm not going to go over these in great detail, as I covered them more extensively in my X900F review, and they remain unchanged here. Suffice to say, when it comes to color rendering and accuracy, the Sony is arguably unparalleled, but more on that in a moment.

Another way in which the X950G's processor gives it an edge over the X900F is in its running of the display's OS, which continues to be Android based. Because the X950G utilizes Android as its OS, the display itself can serve as the hub and main source for those who like to stream, as (most) every popular streaming platform is available as standard, or for free download via the X950G's home screen. Throw in Sony's superb built-in speakers and Acoustic Multi-Audio sound technology and you have a fairly well-equipped, all-in-one entertainment solution in the X950G.

Which brings me to the remote, which has been updated for the X950G, though not quite enough. I don't mind the remote, though I wish it had backlighting, especially at this price point. Still, for what it is, it is functional and feels good in hand. I find it to be rather non-directional and very responsive when used in conjunction with the display's Android interface.

The Hookup
Unboxing the X950G is a job best left for two, but since no such help was available to me, I did manage to unbox the massive set and get it on my wall solo, though I do not recommend doing this. I mounted the 75-inch beast on my fully articulating Sanus wall mount, which can accommodate displays up to 80 inches. Once on the wall, I proceeded to connect the Sony to my usual suspects with respect to associated equipment. And then I stopped myself and started over.

I wanted to try and do something different with this review, in that for years I've spoken about how the display can and will become the centerpiece of our home entertainment systems in the not too distant future. This means utilizing the TV to replace all source components, as well as AV receivers/processors.

To see if the future was, in fact, now, I disconnected my Marantz NR1509, Crown XLS DriveCore Series 2 amplifier, Roku Ultra, and all ancillary cables, and instead relied solely on the Sony X950G for everything. But what about sound? Surely, I wasn't daft enough to try and enjoy movies and music via the Sony's built-in speakers... was I?

No. Well, not entirely. I connected Bower & Wilkins' new Formation Duo (review pending) to the Sony X950G via Bluetooth, which allowed me to have a 2.0 channel home theater system tethered by a mere three power cables. Oh, and an Ethernet cable. This was the simplest home theater or media room setup I have every employed in all my years of writing about and enjoying AV equipment, and I must say, I'm completely hooked. More on that in a moment.

With everything connected, I busted out my CalMAN software and light meters to begin measuring the X950G's out-of-the-box performance. The default profile, Standard, proved to have a distinct and noticeable blue bias to its greyscale, and the least accurate colors of all the presets by far. Switching things to Cinema improved things a bit, as the blue bias was lessened and the colors far more accurate, though admittedly they remained oversaturated by a good degree. It wasn't until I measured the out-of-the-box performance of the Custom preset that I found what I was looking for.

85_X95xxG_cw_4KHDR.jpgBy default, the Custom picture profile still had a mild blue bias to its greyscale, though it was within the margin of error (Delta E under five) throughout, so one could be forgiven if they didn't feel the need to calibrate it further. Colors were basically spot on, with an overall Delta E of less than three, which means any errors are likely imperceptible to the human eye. I also measured a whopping 1,400 Nits (100 percent white pattern) in this profile, which is more than enough for HDR viewing. Admittedly, the panel can be made brighter, as I was able to routinely hit figures in excess of 2,000 Nits if I wanted, simply by adjusting the back lighting/brightness. Suffice to say, the X950G in its Custom picture preset is more or less, or near as makes no difference, calibrated from the factory in my tests, though your mileage may vary.

I was able to correct the X950G's greyscale using the Custom preset as a jumping-off point and by accessing the display's higher CMS controls. The differences in perceivable picture quality before and after a full calibration proved almost indiscernible in real world viewing, leading me to believe that customers could buy this display and select the Custom picture profile, set its Color Temperature to Warm (if it isn't already), and be basically ready to rock and roll. 

Lastly, it should be noted that those of you who use the CalMAN software to calibrate your displays, the X950G does support auto calibration via this software courtesy of the Sony Bravia App, which you can download and install from the Google App store on the TV. This app allows the TV and CalMAN to speak to one another and thus streamline the calibration process considerably. That said, I have yet to get this feature to work 100 percent of the time in back-to-back-to-back testing. Meaning, I cannot always get the exact same results when repeating the same procedure in succession. This is an anomaly I noted in my other Sony display reviews, and a note I've previously passed on to Sony's engineering team. Needless to say, you can manually calibrate the X950G using CalMAN, so while the automation aspect is neat, it isn't necessary to get results.

Performance
I should start by saying that, because I chose to use the X950G as both a display and my primary source component with respect to streaming content, one big feature that became available to me was Sony's Netflix Calibrated picture profile. When using the pre-installed Netflix app on the X950G, you can select Netflix Calibrated within the TV's picture profiles (an option that is otherwise greyed out) and essentially see exactly what the filmmaker intended, straight out of the box. This only works with Netflix at this time and only when using the built-in Netflix app. If you use any other source component that has Netflix streaming capability and select Netflix through that component, you will not get access to the Netflix Calibrated picture profile.

With that caveat out of the way, I began my evaluation of the X950G with the Netflix original film, I Am Mother. My thoughts on the film notwithstanding, I thought the quality of the imagery shown through the X950G looked brilliant, especially in Dolby Vision. For a sci-fi flick, the colors were largely natural in that the filmmakers didn't opt for an overt stylization of things like skin tones. This meant I was able to see how well the X950G's accurate colors (when measured) appeared without having to decipher them through the lens of excessive grading.

The X950G's rendering of the actors' skin tones and other organic hues was superb and extremely lifelike. I should mention that I opted to turn off a lot of the Sony's enhanced image features mentioned earlier, and even with them set to off, the sharpness, contrast, and detail were still world class. Thanks to the display's excellent contrast and terrific color fidelity, dimensionality of the actor's faces when in close up was tremendous, giving them a depth that felt utterly real. Textures such as pores, fine wisps of hair, etc., were rendered faithfully and with nary a hint of artifacting.

Equally impressive was the film's darker scenes, as the X950G proved to be as adept at its rendition of nearly absolute black and low-light contrast as it was the film's brighter sequences. Details, even in the shadows, were clearly rendered and discernible from further than normal viewing distances. Oftentimes with displays with lower overall brightness, HDR content, especially in darker scenes, tends to suffer. This was not the case with the X950G, as its low light or dark scenes bordered on appearing OLED-like in their richness and detail, whilst being plenty bright to be enjoyed in even moderate ambient lighting.

Motion was smooth throughout, and off-axis viewing was also surprisingly good, as any and all loss of brightness or contrast was minimal thanks in part to Sony's X-Wide Angle technology, which is employed on the 75- and 85-inch models, but not smaller offerings. The 75X950G and 85X950G utilize a slightly different panel design with respect to how they spread or otherwise scatter the LED backlighting, meaning off-axis viewers will be treated to an image that is more akin to being on-axis than off. It's vastly better than previous generation LED backlit LCDs--even those from Sony. Those with multiple seating positions or wanting to employ a 75X950G and 85X950G for the Big Game will likely be well served by this enhancement.

My only caveat is that low-light detail does suffer with the 75X950G when in the presence of on-axis ambient light. The plastic that makes up the display's front facia is prone to glare, and the resulting light streaks flare very uniquely, which I'll get into in more detail later.

Moving on, I watched Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios) in Ultra HD via the Vudu app that I downloaded through the Google Play store, as it was not preinstalled. Captain Marvel looked breathtaking via the X950G, possessing an image that simply popped off the screen. I believe I mentioned in my X900F review that the X900F with the right source material could nearly match the performance of its costlier OLED siblings. Well, that delta between OLED and LED/LCD seemed ever narrower with the X950G when watching Captain Marvel. I don't know how else to really say it, really. To the best of my recollection, the X950G delivered 99 percent of the quality of Sony's far costlier OLED offerings, including its MASTER Series. Black levels were inky smooth and rich. Colors simply popped, and the subtle nuances needed for accurate skin tones, be it Brie Larson's or a heavily CGI-affected Samuel L. Jackson's, looked true to nature and wholly lifelike. The natural inherent sharpness and edge fidelity reproduced via the X950G was, again, very OLED-like. Had the 75X950G utilized glass rather than plastic for its front panel, I doubt I'd be able to tell the two (X950G vs. OLED) apart.

I ended my critical evaluation of the X950G with Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox) on Vudu in HDX (1080p). I was more than pleasantly surprised by the X950G's upscaling. While no one would mistake Resurgence for native Ultra HD content, let alone HDR, it did scale nicely and look better than had it been viewed on a native HD display.

Now, ID4: Resurgence is a highly stylized film in terms of color, and it would be difficult for me to say any of it was at all natural. Still, for what it was, it was accurate to what I believe the filmmaker's intent was, and through the X950G was rendered with fervor. That is to say, saturation was appropriate and punchy, and while colors leaned more towards teal on a whole, they stayed in their lanes so to speak with zero signs of bleeding/smearing. Blacks and low light contrast, while pleasing did give up some detail and fidelity due to the lower resolution and subsequent scaling, but this was not the fault of the X950G. Motion was equally impressive, as I half expected to see more artifacts with ID4: Resurgence due to its upscaling. I had nothing to worry about, as the X950G proved up to the task.

I want to take this time to divert from the X950G's picture quality and talk a moment about its sound quality, specifically the display's internal speakers. Sony is definitely pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of fidelity from mere TV speakers, and the X950G is the latest example of that. While not quite having the same flexibility of its costlier sibling, the MASTER Series OLED, the X950G manages to sound nearly as good thanks to Sony's Acoustic Multi-Audio tech.

The X950G is not only capable of surprising output, but the sound it produces is weighty, pleasing, and in some rooms more than enough to be wholly satisfying. Not to mention that Sony actually manages to convey a bit of surround-ness and do so convincingly rather than the sound coming off as echo-y. I'm a huge fan of what Sony is doing to make their displays simply sound better than the competition. Had the X950G been able to be configured as a center speaker the same way the MASTER Series products can, I'd be over the moon. Make it act as a center channel whilst also connecting to a stereo pair of powered loudspeakers via Bluetooth... just take my friggin' money already.

The Downside
No display is without fault, though I could make the argument that the Sony X950G comes closer to perfection than most any other LED backlit LCD before it. Considering that the X950G is more or less perfect out of the box, it becomes that much harder to fault it.

My only real gripes have to do with the X950G's home screen, which isn't entirely Sony's fault, as I'm sure the Android OS does come with its own unique limitations. That being said, Sony's method for organizing and changing the layout of its home screen is a little convoluted. The same is true of the Sony's more advanced menus, as well. I think Sony does an admirable job trying to be simple and explain every function and/or feature within each submenu, it's just that certain menu items aren't grouped together logically.

My other issue with the Sony is the screen itself. Not the performance, but rather the physical sheet of plastic that physically covers the entire front of the display. Not only is it reflective, but lights have a tendency to flare in a peculiar way. First, direct light (for example a window located behind your seated position and in line with the display) will streak like an anamorphic-like flare (think J.J. Abrams' Star Trek), only it will have the appearance of a rainbow. Now, most flat panel displays of this size are going to be susceptible to glare, streaks, or flares from outside light sources, it's just that the 75X950G is the first I've seen that flares horizontally and in a rainbow fashion. Something to be aware of.

Competition and Comparisons
The biggest question I can anticipate readers asking is, should I buy the X950G over the X900F? Well, there is no denying that the X900F is less expensive compared to the X950G at every turn. So, if you're on a budget, the X900F is going to be friendlier in that regard. If you don't plan on using much if any of the Sony's built-in features, for example its Android OS or its Netflix Calibrated picture mode, then you likely aren't going to notice any improvements the X950G's beefier processor brings to the party, so go with the X900F. On the other hand, if you like knowing your display has the latest real-time picture enhancements (like dynamic sharpness, contrast, etc.) then go for the X950G.

All that said, if I were to sit you down and do a "blind" head-to-head with both displays showing the same content, I doubt anyone would be able to pick one display over the other as better, let alone tell them apart. So, if you already own an X900F, do you need to upgrade? No, no you don't. If you have yet to purchase your next Ultra HD display and are considering the X950G or the X900F and budget isn't a concern, get the X950G, as it is the latest model and therefore will be the most up-to-date in terms of hardware and technology.

Aside from the obvious comparison between the X900F and X950G, the Sony does battle with displays from the likes of Samsung and their QLED lineup, as well as Vizio's P-Series Quantum displays. I happen to prefer the Sony in almost every regard to the Samsung and Vizio offerings, though I do think Samsung's overall industrial design is on a whole other level in 2019. Vizio, on the other hand, continues to be a great performance value that in my humble opinion is hindered greatly by a buggy and slow OS.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room that is 8K. Should you consider an Ultra HD TV in 2019 when 8K is already starting to rear its head and at relatively affordable prices compared to that of the Sony? That is an argument only you can answer. For me, while what little I've seen of 8K has been impressive, we're still a long way away from it being commonplace. So, any 8K display you buy today is going to be, more or less, an upscaling Ultra HD display at its core. Plus, there is zero guarantee that 8K displays purchased today will even be compatible with whatever 8K format(s) we settle on in the future, which was the case during our change over from SD to HD, and even HD to Ultra HD. I'm not dissing 8K, but I still think it's a safe bet, dare I say investment, purchasing an Ultra HD display in 2019.

Conclusion
At $3,299.99 retail for the 75-inch model, the Sony X950G 4K Ultra HD HDR TV isn't what I would call cheap, but then again, it doesn't provide you with cheap thrills, either. While the X950G isn't even Sony's flagship LED model, that distinction belonging to Sony's MASTER Series, the X950G may, like the X900F before it, be the overall better value and better display all things considered. As I discovered with my MASTER Series review last year, the added cost and such proved to be an incremental improvement over the already stellar X900F. Well, here we are in 2019 and what we have is yet another improvement, albeit incremental again, in the X950G.

The X950G on its own is a superb LED backlit LCD display, bordering on perfect. It's out-of-the-box performance is fantastic, provided you choose the right factory picture profile, and its feature set is without equal. Plus, if you so choose to take the plunge and use the Sony as the centerpiece of a modern, wireless entertainment setup, you'll be amazed at the results and likely will fall in love with the simplicity of having but a display and speakers sans any cabling. Furthermore, those of you with small- to even medium-sized rooms may be suited just fine by X950G's in-body sound, for no one is doing TV speakers as good as Sony is right now.

On a whole, I adore the XBR-75X950G. I love the picture it dishes out, the sound quality it can provide, the wireless connectivity it offers when connecting it to third-party devices such as loudspeakers, and its overall ease of use. I could definitely see myself taking the plunge on this series from Sony and being wholly satisfied for years to come.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Sony website for more product information.
 Check out our TV Reviews category page to read similar reviews.
 Sony X900F Ultra HD LED Smart TV Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.

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HTR Product Rating for Sony XBR-75X950G 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV

Criteria Rating

Performance

5

Value

3.5

Overall

4.5

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