Sony XBR-X900F evaluate: Great image, however too costly now

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New TVs get launched in spring, and it is commonplace for a mid- to high-end set to fall $1,000 or extra in value all year long. That’s precisely what occurred to the Sony XBR-X900E final yr; the 65-incher started at $2,500 and fell to $1,500 in the course of November. And I anticipate the identical factor to occur to the X900F reviewed right here.

Don’t get me incorrect: the X900F is an excellent tv proper now. Its image high quality is superb, anchored by deep black ranges, vibrant highlights, wealthy, correct coloration and nice video processing. Style is minimalist and glossy, after which there’s the truth that “it is a Sony.” Sure, its Android TV system is a combined bag — nice options on one hand, sluggish responses on the opposite — however you’ll be able to at all times simply join a superb, low-cost streamer if you need.

There are two issues for LCD TVs at this Sony’s value and better. One is that OLED TVs from LG supply a good higher image for not that rather more cash, particularly in the event you buy last year’s version. The different is that TCL’s 6 series has equally wonderful image high quality because the Sony for lots much less cash. And proper now that makes the 6 collection a hands-down higher worth than the X900F.

Yes, the X900F is on the market in a bigger vary of sizes than the TCL. And in the event you worth the Sony title or the X900F’s superior fashion, it’d make sense to pay the premium now. But I am going to just like the X900F much more when its value inevitably falls later this yr.

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Minimalist body, substantial legs

Sony’s TVs are sometimes extra businesslike with much less aptitude than the competitors, and the glossy, modern-looking X900F suits the mildew. The body across the display is sweet and skinny, with a really barely thicker backside edge that bears the one accent, a skinny line of sorta-transparent, sorta-reflective reflective materials. There’s barely sufficient room to suit the Sony brand.

Last yr’s X900E has a single central pedestal stand however the X900F bows to the current development of a pair of legs for assist. They’re thick sufficient to make Samsung and TCL’s look a bit spindly, and so they sit comparatively near the middle however are in any other case fairly commonplace. On the again they incorporate token cable administration, though greater than a pair HDMI cables will probably be an excessive amount of.

Sony’s Android TV: Capable however sluggish

Sony’s units run Google’s sensible TV system, and it beats the homebrew options from Samsung and LG (if not Roku TV) in a single essential space: app protection. It’s additionally higher, just about each approach, than Vizio’s SmartCast system.

Sony XBR-X900F seriesSony XBR-X900F series

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As I noticed on the X900E final yr, nonetheless the responsiveness of Sony’s Android TV system wasn’t as fast as a lot of its opponents, together with LG, Samsung and Roku. At occasions the house web page would take eternally to load. Within apps like Netflix and YouTube, shifting round, loading thumbnails and different actions wasn’t fairly as zippy. And the system lagged once I hit the “Action Menu” key throughout streaming to name up an image changes. Methinks Sony may make investments extra in processor pace on this TV.

That mentioned, it was nonetheless tolerable to make use of for probably the most half, and app protection and options are top-notch. The X900F’s Amazon, Netflix and Vudu apps all assist each 4K and HDR, as does Sony’s personal Ultra app, unique to Sony TVs, which carries Sony Pictures motion pictures solely on a purchase-only foundation (sometimes $18-$20 every). Apps that assist 4K however not HDR embrace YouTube and Google Play Movies and TV — each a bit stunning since they’re Google properties and YouTube helps HDR on Roku.

With the notable exception of Hulu, which nonetheless has the outdated interface (and which can truly be preferable to some viewers) and would not assist stay TV, Sony’s Android TV system has properly up to date apps and broad assist. It provides YouTube TV, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, MLB AtBat, PlutoTV, Facebook video, Twitch and quite a few different apps together with video games can be found through the Google Play Store (do not get too excited; it is particular to Android TV and far much less intensive than the one in your telephone). Speaking of phones, many extra apps could be solid to the Sony through its built-in Google Cast performance, which works similar to a Chromecast.

Sony XBR-X900F seriesSony XBR-X900F series

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Ready to hear, distant or hands-free

As you’d anticipate from a tool managed by Android, the Sony TV’s voice options are a minimize above most opponents.

New for 2018, the distant button on the high is a full-fledged Google Assistant icon, which invokes the total model of Google’s ubiquitous voice assistant — it is similar to a Google Home ($129.00 at Dell Home), full with a voice that talks to you thru the TV audio system. Since urgent the button replaces invoking the “OK Google” catchphrase, it is arguably even simpler to make use of, and there are fewer privateness issues since Google is simply “listening” when the distant mic is sizzling (as indicated by a handy orange LED).

I obtained a climate report, scouted close by pizza joints, and performed music from a linked Spotify account (full with playlists) with no points, though once more responsiveness may very well be spotty. At occasions the onscreen immediate took a second or extra to seem, particularly when watching one thing on an app somewhat than through an enter. At one level throughout an HBO stream, the entire system appeared to crash for about 20 seconds once I hit the Assistant button. Basic voice instructions additionally often failed, for instance switching inputs and launching apps. Overall I discovered Sony’s Assistant a tad slower and subsequently much less satisfying than Nvidia Shield’s incarnation, and neither are fairly as succesful as Alexa on Amazon Fire TV Edition.

Sony XBR-X900F seriesSony XBR-X900F series

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony’s TV additionally accepts voice instructions hands-free (no distant required) when linked with precise Alexa audio system — which I tested last year and won’t revisit here — in addition to Google Home audio system. Using a Mini, I discovered that YouTube worked best, though the phrasing could be lengthy and awkward. I mentioned “OK Google, play Long Long Honeymoon movies on Lab TV” and my favourite RVing couple appeared. Afterward I may simply say “OK Google, play cat movies” and it knew to play them on the Lab TV (the Sony) with out having to specify.

Unfortunately, solely a handful of different sources past YouTube are supported — amongst them HBO Now and CBS All Access, however not Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. I like that I may simply say “Play Westworld” — with out having to specify the app or the TV itself, and it will begin up, so hopefully Google provides extra apps quickly. Strangely, however, an Alexa speaker can energy on the Sony TV, however a Google Home can not.

Fully featured and related

The finest picture-enhancing additional on the X900F is full-array local dimming (FALD). It improved black ranges and distinction by illuminating completely different areas of the display individually as wanted. Unlike Vizio or TCL, Sony would not disclose the variety of dimming zones.

Key options

Display know-how LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with native dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR appropriate HDR10
Smart TV Android TV
Remote Standard

Other picture-centric extras embrace a local 120Hz refresh rate, a notable enchancment on paper over the fake 120Hz refresh rates (they’re truly 60Hz native) discovered on the Vizio M and TCL P collection. New for 2018 Sony says it has improved video processing as effectively, courtesy of the identical X1 Extreme processor present in fashions such because the A1E OLED. And there is a new Precision Clarity mode that reinforces movement decision by making use of black frame insertion solely the place it is wanted on the display, which is alleged to eradicate the glint and dimness evinced by related modes in previous units. See the image high quality part for extra.

Sony added the Dolby Vision HDR format to a few of its 2017 TVs final yr through a firmware improve, and says an identical replace will probably be out there in 2018 for the X900F. In the meantime, it helps the HDR10 format.

Sony XBR-X900F seriesSony XBR-X900F series

Sarah Tew/CNET
  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports
  • Composite video enter
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • 1x headphone/subwoofer audio output
  • 1x RF (antenna) enter
  • RS-232 port (minijack)

The X900E has a really wholesome choice of jacks. Unlike a lot of Samsung’s units, the Sony truly has an analog video enter, albeit composite-only, and I additionally respect having a headphone jack.

All of the HDMI inputs will work with 4K and HDR units, however for finest outcomes Sony recommends utilizing enter 2 or three (which have increased bandwidth than the others) with 4K Blu-ray players and ensuring to have interaction “HDMI enhanced” mode. Unlike LG and Samsung TVs, the X900F won’t detect and mechanically change that setting for you, which is a disgrace.

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