Review: Sony XBR75X900E

The subject of this review is the Sony XBR75X900E, which is the 75-inch class model from the X900E series. The stand-out feature of the XBR75X900E is arguably the full-array local dimming backlight. Normally this type of LED arrangement is reserved for flagship models (such as the XBR75X940E), which makes the XBR75X900E even more interesting for evaluating.

Although having an uniform brightness distribution is important for TVs of any screen size, it’s almost crucial when it comes to a large, 75-inch class model such as the XBR75X900E because any small imperfections can be greatly exacerbated by the sheer size of this TV. Fortunately, the full-array backlight helps the XBR75X900E to avoid some of the shortcomings that are typically associated with edge-lit TVs. An example being the so-called flashlighting from the edges. Furthermore, the XBR75X900E is less prone to clouding or vertical banding artifacts that are readily visible during camera panning across a light background (e.g. a football field) on edge-lit TVs with an inferior (to the XBR75X900E) screen uniformity.

The XBR75X900E can reproduce all the colors that are in DVDs, regular Blu-ray discs, broadcast TV, etc due its ability to fully cover the BT.709 color space which is used with SDR content. It needs to be said, though, that in case of calibrating your TV the ability to fine-tune colors is limited to using the white balance controls. The reason being is that the XBR75X900E lacks a color management system. Such system would have allowed you to independently adjust the primary and secondary colors, and in particular their saturation, tint and luminance but the XBR75X900E omits it. The same applies to step-up model: the XBR75X940E as well.

Due to the VA (Vertical Alignment) type of panel, the native black level on the XBR75X900E is relatively deep. Additionally, the minimum luminance level can be further lowered if you choose to use the local dimming feature. However, the XBR75X900E has fewer dimming zones than the XBR75X940E, meaning its local dimming technique has a more restricted capability to further improve the black level without causing blooming artifacts, especially during some challenging scenes that include many small bright objects against a dark background.

The XBR75X900E has the 4K HDR X1 processor. Thanks to it, this model is able to perform some of the same tasks, such as Object-based HDR Remastering, Super Bit Mapping and Dynamic Contrast Enhancing that the XBR75X940E can do. Nonetheless, only the X1 Extreme that is found on the higher-end model utilizes dual database processing. There are thousands of picture patterns in each of Sony’s propriety databases for noise reduction and clarity of upscaling, respectively. In order to get optimal results when upscaling standard and high definition content to 4K resolution, before and after data references are used. The XBR75X900E, on the other hand, has to rely only on a single database. But when you consider this database contains references for texture, color, contrast and edges, which are used after individual parts of the frame have been analyzed, the XBR75X900E is able to enhance lower resolution content quite well, albeit some compression artifacts such as image noise might not be completely removed.

Thanks to the Super Bit Mapping, the XBR75X900E is able to minimize color banding. The reason being is that 8-bit or 10-bit signals are upconverted for 14-bit processing. The higher bit depth allows for contrast and brightness adjustments to be carried out without causing contouring in smooth color gradients. The 14-bit is limited to the processing stage, and does not indicate the panel’s native bit-depth, which is 10-bit for both of them. The menu option that controls Super Bit Mapping on the XBR75X900E is called Smooth Gradation. Dynamic Contrast Enhancer allows both models to perform frame-by-frame optimization of HDR content that only has static metadata (i.e. HDR10). The XBR75X900E is also able to upconvert SDR content to nearly HDR quality by applying Object-based HDR Remaster to most SDR picture modes.

Both models have a full-array backlight system with individual zones that can be either dimmed or boosted, depending on the scene. The X-tended Dynamic Range PRO 5x is used on the XBR75X900E, which provides up to 5 times the contrast range of a conventional LED TV without local dimming, according to Sony. In comparison, the XBR75X940E delivers up to ten times the contrast range of a conventional LED TV without local dimming owing to the fact it is equipped with the X-tended Dynamic Range PRO 10x. Although the dynamic range of the XBR75X900E is not as wide as on its counterpart from the X940E series, the XBR75X900E is able to render HDR10 content mastered to 1,000cd/m2 without any significant amount of tone-mapping. In other words, the XBR75X900E can display any Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, or streaming HDR10 content that are mastered to 1,000cd/m2 very close to the way the content creators intended them to be seen.

When it comes to HDR10 content mastered to 4,000cd/m2, however, the more limited peak brightness on the XBR75X900E becomes apparent since the dynamic range of this content has to be quantized to a greater extent on the XBR75X900E in comparison to the XBR75X940E. Nonetheless, this has a limited impact on the HDR picture quality of the XBR75X900E since it only affects specular highlights. Shadows and most mid-tones are faithfully reproduced by both models since the PQ (Perceptual Quantizer) used with HDR10 is an absolute luminance transfer function. This means that digital code words in the 10-bit signal are mapped to the same luminance values on different TVs. Considering that only about 25% of the digital code words correspond to luminance values of more than 1,000cd/m2, the XBR75X900E needs to tone-map only them.

It needs to be said, though, that both models use the Triluminos display technology in order to be able to support wide color gamut used in HDR content. The DCI-P3 color space coverage is identical up to a certain brightness level. The XBR75X940E’s has an advantage in the very brightest specular highlights, meaning the color volume is slightly greater than the XBR75X900E. Shadows and mid-tones are identically reproduced by the two models, partly because the 10-bit HDR10 signal allocates approximately half of the digital code words for the 0-100cd/m2 range where there is no difference in the DCI-P3 coverage between two models.

Both of them support the HDR10 format of High Dynamic Range content. That being said, only the XBR75X940E will be able to add support for Dolby Vision later this year via a firmware update. The reason being is that the XBR75X900E doesn’t have the necessary processor to support this HDR format.

While the total audio power output on the XBR75X940E is 60 watts (20 Watts are allocated to the sub-woofers), the XBR75X900E has only 20 Watts of amplification and lacks a sub-woofer. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the front-facing, 3-way speakers (woofer, mid-range, tweeter) of the higher-end model. As a result, the XBR75X900E performs slightly sub-par with low and high-frequency sounds. Additionally, due to the down-firing speakers, the XBR75X900E cannot project voices and dialogues with the same level of clarity as would be possible with front-facing speakers.

The table top stand that is included with both models is identical. It has a dark silver slate design and allows for a cable-free front since the cables can be channeled through the legs of the stand. The back panel of the XBR75X900E is black and the removable panel covers that are used on the step-up model are omitted, so ports and cables remain visible. While the XBR75X940E’s front panel consists of two slates staggered vertically at the bottom for the purpose of accommodating the front-facing speakers, the XBR75X900E doesn’t use this design since its speakers are down-firing.

Check availability and pricing on Amazon.com for the XBR75X900E and the XBR75X940E (affiliate links).

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