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.
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.
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.
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.
By 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.