Skip to story The highest-end 4K TV in Sony's lineup is a 75-inch full-array panel with local dimming that boosts dynamic range for non-HDR video, too. It also has powerful speakers... and an $8,000 price tag. Sony
The specs and specialties at the center of this year’s TV turf war are coming into crystal-clear focus. All the major manufacturers are pushing 4K front and center, but each of them is staking claim to their own little slice of the Ultra HD pie.
Samsung is hanging its hat on its own quantum-dot-like color technology. LG is cranking out OLEDs, and it’s also taking on quantum dot with its “ColorPrime” tech. Vizio continues to blast out affordable 4K sets with full-array local dimming. Now Sony is ready to hit stores with its early-2015 sets, and the company is focusing on razor-thin panels and HDR features.
Sony’s new flagship is the 75-inch XBR-75X940C, an $8,000 set that’s the only model kitted out with the company’s highest-end “X-Tended Dynamic Range PRO” contrast-enhancing feature. It’s a full-array 4K panel with local dimming, and Sony claims the extra contrast boost of the Dynamic Range PRO technology makes the LCD panel produce deeper, plasma-like blacks in addition to brighter bright areas. The company is claiming three times the brightness range—the delta between the darkest parts of a scene and the brightest—compared to your run-of-the-mill LED-backlit LCD set.
Sony is also claiming a wider, more-vibrant color gamut in these new higher-end sets thanks to its “Triluminos” technology. In previous generations of Sony sets, “Triluminos” was synonymous with quantum-dot technology, although the company now claims it is not using quantum-dot-based tech in its Triluminos displays. Company spokespeople also wouldn’t divulge what’s different about the new Triluminos-branded color technology. Demo footage certainly looked promising, with vibrant reds and vivid colors even in bokeh’d-out background scenes, but only real-world tests will determine how it looks with regular TV and movies.
A word about what HDR means in TV-land. Most of us are familiar with HDR (high dynamic range) in still photography—it’s the setting on your smartphone camera that separately captures both the light and dark tones in a scene and composites them together into one photo. It tends to make photos look overly moody and even fake, with over-saturated colors and dramatic clouds in the sky. But that’s not the effect we’re seeing in these TV sets touting HDR features. It’s actually just finely tuned contrast with a wider range between dark and lights. Done correctly, it gives one set both the benefits of plasma (darks) and LED (brights). It’s also a way to generate a picture meant to rival the dynamic range of OLED, but without the cost of OLED technology—something the industry (other than LG) appears to be moving away from despite OLED’s jaw-dropping picture.
Unlike Vizio’s Reference Series sets, which are due out later this year and similarly optimized for HDR video, these Sony sets are built to enhance non-HDR video, too. Vizio announced its sets would be compatible with Dolby Vision-mastered content, which is roast-beef rare right now. Sony claims its new sets can essentially “upscale” normal 4K and HD video to something closer to HDR video, as the company’s goal is to make the new sets play nice with the bulk of content already out there. According to Sony, the two top-tier sets will also be compatible with discrete HDR content from Netflix and Amazon via a firmware update in the summer.
There’s a step-down version of that 75-incher, and it’s more affordable if you consider $5,500 affordable in any sense whatsoever. It has a slightly less powerful X-Tended Dynamic Range system. Sony is claiming the 65-inch XBR-65X930C still gives you double the dark-to-bright range of a normal LCD, and other than the screen size and that HDR feature, it has the same features as the $8,000 model. Each set has a front-firing, multiple-speaker setup totaling 90 watts, built-in Wi-Fi, a voice-search-capable remote, and a “Motionflow” rating of a simulated 1440Hz. (Sony doesn’t list the native refresh rate for each set.) The sets will have both HEVC and VP9 decoders, too.
That voice-search-equipped remote should come in handy—all the new Sony sets run Android TV. It’s a special, curated version of Android OS that has the same basic interface but additional features as compared to the version found on the Nexus Player. For instance, there’s a horizontal menu on the home menu that lets you select and rename input sources, and Amazon Instant Video is available on Sony’s version of the OS. The TV also works like a Chromecast right out of the box, which is very nice: You can cast songs, videos, and your computer screen to the TV with compatible gadgets.
The impossibly thin 900- and 910-series sets are slimmer than a smartphone. The 55-inch model weighs less than 40 lbs, and you can hang it on a wall like a picture with its included bracket. Sony
If you’re looking for a thinner set, you’ll have to do without that full-array backlight system, but it’s hard to imagine anything slimmer than Sony’s 55-inch XBR-55X900C, 65-inch XBR-65X900C, or 75-inch XBR-75X910C. Previewed at CES 2015, these crazy-thin panels are each slimmer than a smartphone. (Think about that.) The 55-incher weighs less than 40 pounds even when its stand is attached, and Sony supplies a bracket in the box for mounting it on the wall like a picture.
These sets appear to be edge-lit from the bottom, where the dimensions beef up a bit to house the set’s components. Android TV, the Chromecast features, a voice-search remote, and the mysterious Triluminos color-enhancement features are all in the mix, but these super-skinny sets don’t have the X-Tended Dynamic Range modes or beefy sound systems of the higher-end models. The simulated Motionflow rate also tops out at 960, which is plenty.
Sony hasn’t said how much they’ll cost once they become available in the summer. However, the company’s lower-end 4K 55-incher starts at $2,200, so you can bet that these super-slim TVs will be in the $3,000 to $6,000 ballpark.