This is a review of the Sony XBR65X900E. The defining characteristic of the Sony XBR65X900E is quite possibly its full-array local dimming backlight, especially when you consider than this type of backlight architecture is rarely encountered outside the realm of flagship LCD TVs (and even they don’t always use it, as is the case with the step-up model: the XBR65X930E). The backlight structure has an effect on the screen uniformity, and also determines how dark or bright small areas of the screen can get without affecting the neighboring zones, which is why it plays a major role in the XBR65X900E’s picture quality.
The XBR65X900E is the 65-inch class model in the X900E series. As previously mentioned, it has a full-array backlight, meaning the LEDs are placed directly behind the panel. Full-array backlighting systems generally are able to accommodate more dimming zones, and achieve better screen uniformity than conventional edge-led TVs, which have a single LED row alongside only one of the screen edges. Therefore, the XBR65X900E is less prone to exhibiting the so-called dirty screen effect or vertical banding during scenes where the camera is panning across a light background in comparison to a standard edge-lit TV. This makes the XBR65X900E especially suitable for watching some sports, such as football.
Nonetheless, it would be useful to put the XBR65X900E’s full array backlight into perspective by comparing it to the XBR65X930E’s Slim Backlight Drive+, which is an edge-led variant. The XBR65X930E’s panel is illuminated from both the top and the bottom sides. The quad-edge LED structure indicates that there are two LED rows at the top edge, and two at the bottom edge of the screen. Two layers of light guide plates direct the light from the edges towards different areas of the screen on the XBR65X930E.
While the Slim Backlight Drive+ brings the XBR65X930E’s uniformity closer to the level of the XBR65X900E, it also reveals that the full-array backlight on the XBR65X900E doesn’t automatically translates to more dimming zones than the edge-lit XBR65X930E. In fact, it’s the opposite. There are two reasons for this: first, the XBR65X930E is the higher-end model, and second: the XBR65X900E features relatively few local dimming zones for a full-array TV.
Regardless the difference in the total number of dimming zones on the XBR65X900E vs XBR65X930E, the VA (Vertical Alignment) type of panel on the XBR65X900E provides deep black levels, even without engaging the local dimming. Depending on how challenging the scene is, and whether you’ve set the local dimming to high or mid, some blooming artifacts may be visible on both models. However, due to the difference in the backlight structure, the halos around bright objects against a dark background also appear differently. On the XBR65X930E, these artifacts are more pronounced vertically (due to the top and bottom light source), whereas on the XBR65X900E the halos are a result of the bigger dimming zones.
These zones are not only used for dimming the backlight, but also boosting it in the bright areas. This is especially important for HDR (High Dynamic Range) content since it requires brighter highlights rather than an overall brighter image. Small specular highlights on the XBR65X930E can get brighter than the XBR65X900E due to the higher zone count.
Sony refer to the technology that is in charge of dimming and boosting the backlight in different zones as X-tended Dynamic Range PRO 5x on the XBR65X900E, and X-tended Dynamic Range PRO 10x on the XBR65X930E. When compared to a conventional edge LED TV without local dimming capabilities, the contrast range is up to 5 times greater on the XBR65X900E, and up to 10 times greater on the XBR65X930E, respectively. In other words, the XBR65X930E has up to two times the contrast range of the XBR65X900E. This has a bigger impact on HDR (High Dynamic Range) than SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content. The more precise light output in different zones of the screen allows the XBR65X930E to resolve more detail in small specular highlights (albeit not without a significant amount of tone-mapping), especially when the HDR10 content is mastered to 4,000 nits. Although this is an important advantage over the XBR65X900E, it’s only applies to HDR since SDR content is usually mastered to 100 nits, which is attainable by both models. Unlike SDR, the goal of HDR is not to make the entire image brighter, but only the highlights.
There is no difference in terms of the HDR10 format support on the XBR65X900E vs XBR65X930E, meaning they both are compatible with HDR10 content. However, the only model that will receive a firmware update for enabling support for Dolby Vision, which is Dolby’s propriety format of HDR, is the XBR65X930E because the XBR65X900E lacks the necessary processor. Due to its dynamic metadata, Dolby Vision allows for scene-by-scene optimization of content. On the other hand, HDR10 content is only optimized for scenes with highlights. The static metadata defines a maximum content light level (MaxCLL), which is typically either 1,000 nits, or 4,000 nits. Then the XBR65X900E and XBR65X930E compress the dynamic range for the entire content duration based on this value. However, this is only an issue when the content is mastered to 4,000 nits due to the significant amount of tone-mapping XBR65X900E and XBR65X930E have to do in order to quantize the dynamic range of the content. Still, the XBR65X930E has a slight advantage due to its wider dynamic range in comparison to the XBR65X900E, but it cannot completely avoid unnecessary compression of bright mid-tones in scenes where there are no highlights.
The X1 Extreme processor can be found on the XBR65X930E. In contrast, the XBR65X900E has the 4K HDR X1, which is a new version of the conventional 4K X1 processor. Thus, the XBR65X900E is able to perform some of the same tasks, such as Object-based HDR remaster and Super Bit Mapping, which were otherwise only possible with the X1 Extreme. That being said, only the XBR65X930E is able to process two image databases in real time. According to Sony, the noise reduction and the upscaling databases amass tens of thousands picture references, including before and after data. Digital compression noise is identified in the source content thanks to the before data, whereas the after data instructs the XBR65X930E what the ends results should look like. Although the XBR65X900E’s omission of the noise reduction database doesn’t affect the clarity of upscaling, it makes this model more prone to image noise when upscaling lower resolution content.
As previously mentioned, both models utilize Super Bit Mapping, which upconverts 8-bit and 10-bit source content for 14-bit processing. Although the utilization of 10-bit panels on both the XBR65X900E and XBR65X930E makes color banding less likely in comparison to TVs with 8-bit panels, the 14-bit processing further minimizes the chance of exhibiting imperfect color gradation that emanates from rounding errors during the application of contrast and brightness adjustments.
They both support wide color gamut through the Triluminos display technology. Furthermore, there isn’t any notable variation in the DCI-P3 color space coverage for most luminance levels. As a result, the color saturation in lighter shadows, mid-tones, and diffuse white region is identical on the XBR65X900E vs XBR65X930E. However, when it comes to specular highlights and some darker shadows, the XBR65X930E is able to show more saturated colors, which indicates a slight advantage in terms of color volume. This is only relevant for HDR content, though.
The sound quality is overall better on the XBR65X930E vs XBR65X900E. The total audio power output is 20 Watts on the XBR65X900E. The speakers are down-firing, and there is no sub-woofer. In contrast, the XBR65X930E has 60 Watts of amplification (20 Watts are allocated to the two sub-woofers). The speakers are front-facing, which means that dialogues and voices can be projected with more clarity in comparison to the XBR65X900E. The 3-way speakers (tweeter, mid-range, woofer) provide the XBR65X930E with an advantage over the XBR65X900E in terms of both treble and bass.
The front-facing speakers necessitate a special design. This is the reason why the XBR65X930E’s front panel has a two slate design. The slates are staggered vertically at the bottom so that there is room for the speakers. Since the XBR65X900E doesn’t have front-facing speakers, it doesn’t use this design. The XBR65X930E’s back panel features a geometric pattern, and has neutral color. The XBR65X900E’s back panel is black and the geometric pattern is omitted. All of the XBR65X930’s inputs are either side, or downward facing, so they, alongside all the cables, can be concealed behind panel covers. Considering that cables can be channeled through the legs of the stand, the XBR65X930E not only has a clean rear look, but also a cable-free front. Although the XBR65X900E doesn’t have the hidden panel structure on its back panel, it still allows you to run cables through the legs of the stand, so that they won’t be visible from the front.