Sony KD-65X9005B review

Whatever angle you take, Sony's KD-65X9005B is a formidable 4K proposition. With its mould-breaking design, pixel-pushing picture processing and audiophile pretensions, it sees Sony’s TV division at its most confident in years.

Also available in 55in and 79in guises, this is a screen to saviour.  The triangular 'Wedge' form factor may take some initial getting used to (particularly if you have a hankering for a truly slim screen) but I quickly grew to love it. Overall build quality is superb, with the chromed end panels and rolled top evoking a premium feel. You’ll need some room to park it, though. The forward-facing speaker array extends the width of the set to 149cm. Measure up before you buy!

A low centre of balance means that the TV’s two chromed feet and bag of screws are all that's needed to keep it upright. If their edge-placement is too wide for your AV furniture, you can bolt the boots more centrally in an optional second position. To be honest, though, this doesn't look quite so well balanced.

Alternatively you can wall-mount the panel. Provided in the box are custom spacers which compensate for the angled shape when using a standard VESA mount. Also bundled is a port replicator. This PTR-BR100 box has its own power supply and single satellite and RF connections, plus inputs for a solitary USB and three HDMI inputs. A tethered chord breaks out into the required back-panel inputs. While this may help simplify cable management when wall-mounting, it’s worth noting that the port replicator doesn’t support MHL.

If you prefer to lace your kit conventionally you can take advantage of four HDMI inputs, one with ARC and two MHL-compliant, plus three USBs, Ethernet, Scart, component/composite video and stereo audio inputs. There’s also a TV aerial jack, twin satellite LNB input for dual tuners, CI card slot and a digital audio optical output.

The screen comes with both a standard remote and a touchpad Bluetooth controller. The latter is ostensibly more intuitive to use, however it’s extremely sensitive and requires a good deal of patience.

No more being Passive

Of course, there’s more than just a design change to differentiate this year’s X9 from the 2013 model. A new panel supplier means a return to Active Shutter 3D, compared to the Passive flavour of last year. Two pairs of shuttering 3D glasses are supplied.

Personally I prefer Passive 3D, particularly on a 4K screen able to upscale away any detail deficit. However, it has to be said the 3D here works extremely well, provided you view in a light-controlled room where flicker isn’t going to be an issue. Crosstalk is negligible, and oddly the set appears to produce better results from side-by-side 3D broadcasts (eg. Sky) than it does from sequential 3D Blu-ray. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (via Sky 3D) proved a real knockout. The dimensional images offered astounding stereo separation while the convoluted image processing delivered a picture that looked much like faux 4K.

Picture quality is outstanding with both Full HD and 4K. The KD-65X9005B delivers deep blacks with Himalayan peaks, courtesy of Sony’s new X-tended Dynamic Range image processing; there are no greyed-out night scenes or compromised shadow details to worry about. The screen also has a quite extraordinary colour palette, particularly when it comes to saturated reds and greens, which are deep and rich. Pacific Rim’s invading Kaiju appear positively fluorescent.

A single dedicated chip, the XCA8-4K, handles the Sony's 2160p upscaling, after the signal has been colour managed. And it's a superior slice of silicon – when Gipsy Danger drags a boat from the harbour and uses it as a weapon against the Otachi Kaiju in Pacific Rim’s most spectacular battle scene, the level of detail and texture in the image is clinically mind-blowing. Any 4K doubters will be left speechless.

Triluminos image processing is compatible with the extended x.v.color information included in Sony’s Mastered in 4K Blu-ray line, although this only works on the Cinema preset. Non-linear expansion allows the set to deliver a near full DCI spectrum without compromising skin tones, says the brand.

Unlike last year’s debut X9 4K model, there’s an HEVC decoder onboard here, making the set compliant with Netflix 4K. House of Cards: Season 2 proves to be a feast of fine detail, while the service’s assorted Moving Art travelogues are similarly impressive. Of course, the downside of long exposure to such hi-res material is that SD channels become all but unwatchable.

Motion handling is somewhat different from, and not quite as good as, last year’s X9 series, although you’ll be hard pressed to tell during normal viewing. Results are entirely dependent on Motionflow setting. The most appealing options are Standard, Clear and True Cinema, all of which avoid overt motion artefacting; they do, however, deliver variable levels of motion resolution. The Cinema setting inevitably has the most filmic presentation but is relatively low on detail. Crisper images are delivered by Standard. Smooth offers up pronounced artefacting and should be avoided altogether, while Impulse is far too flickery to be watchable.

Going native

To really see the set in all its glory, I hooked up a 4K media player (the Sony POP-FMPA60) preloaded with 3,840 x 2,160 resolution sequences, some of which were in high frame-rate 60Hz. Live concert footage of Muse was packed with intricacies, emphasising crowd reactions and revealing raw emotion on Matthew Bellamy’s face as he hollers ‘Follow me!’

Meanwhile, an almost impossibly dynamic sequence featuring a red-dressed jazz crooner locked in inky darkness is compelling proof of the set’s black-level chops, while footage shot at the FIFA Confederations Cup, in 60Hz, shows just how transformational 4K will be when it comes to sports coverage. Player detail is hyper real, and probably better than being there with 20/10 vision.

The KD-65X9005B’s 'Wedge' design has afforded Sony's designers considerable scope when it comes to crafting an audio system appropriate for this screen. The wider base accommodates bigger bass drivers than before, with the result that the TV is positively forceful in its audio performance. It's compatible with the brand’s Bravia SWF wireless subwoofer, which adds even more LF to the shebang, but I doubt many will feel a need to add it considering it adds an extra £250 to the price tag.

And the improved audio isn’t just down to space. Compared to its 2013 4K sets, Sony has upgraded everything from circuitry and the Magnetic Fluid speaker units to the driving DSP. The set claims a 65W audio power output from an upgraded amplifier, with 12.5W going to the main stereo pair and 2 x 20W going to rear ported subs. This is the same as last year, but there’s a beefier power supply and the drivers are now Mica-coated glass fibre designs. The result is greater rigidity, giving finer details and gutsier transients.

As good as it gets

When it comes to sound and vision, Sony’s KD-65X9005B is pretty much as good as it gets. A cocktail of vibrant hues, effortless dynamics and scintillating resolution make this a 2160p display to savour. With 4K content it’s mesmeric, and thankfully Full HD upscaling with X-Reality PRO is often astonishingly effective. Even the Active 3D performance is thoroughly entertaining.

Add to that a rich variety of Smart functionality, HEVC and HDMI 2.0 future-proofing and best-in-class audio, and you’ve arguably the most compelling reason yet to jump onboard the 4K UHD bandwagon.

Yes, it's not curved nor super-skinny. It's a grown-up display for grown-up AV hedz. Just how I like it.


Sony KD-65X9005B
£3,600 Approx

Highs: Superb image definition; deep blacks and great dynamic range; excellent audio performance; dramatic design; One-flick Discovery bar user interface
Lows: Active Shutter 3D at its best only in a dark room; not a full compliment of catch-up

Performance: 5/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5


3D: Yes. Active Shutter 3D (two pairs of glasses supplied)
4K/Ultra HD: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 resolution
Tuner: Yes. 1 x Freeview HD; 2 x satellite
Connections: 4 x HDMI; Scart; component/composite video; 3 x USB; Ethernet; optical digital audio output; CI slot
Sound: 65W
Brightness: N/A
Contrast ratio: ‘More than one million’
Dimensions (off stand): 1,494(w) x 790(h) x 95(d)mm
Weight (off stand): 45.9kg
Features: Motionflow XR800; media server playback from USB and network; integrated Wi-Fi; X-Reality PRO processing engine; X-tended Dynamic Range; Triluminos colour; Clearaudio +; One-Flick Discovery UI and Sony Entertainment Network; Football mode; Magnetic Fluid speakers; optional wireless subwoofer; adjustable feet