Sony XBR55X900F Review
Sony has a way of delivering latest technologies in very appealing, a bit expensive, TVs. When LG released the excellent OLED models, its only Sony that countered with its brilliant A1E OLED SeriES, and its high-end LCD sets are incredible bright and vivid. Now with the Sony XBR55X900F, the company’s latest flagship LCD series, the company is offering premium designs and superb performance, though, not reaching the scope that OLEDs can.
The 55-inch model we’re reviewing is not particularly very cheap for a 4K LCD TV –and not so expensive either, considering you’re getting excellent visuals and features, including HDR signal and Android TV platform.
More: Sony’s 2018 TV lineup
Sony XBR55X900F Design
The Sony XBR55X900F picks on Sony’s all-familiar design, highlighted by an angular panel with a screen surrounded by thin, flat metallic bezels. It sports the same sharp angled corners, and it even gets the same slim chrome-glazed band on the lower bezel with an indicator LED hidden beneath it. There is a small Sony logo in the middle of the bottom bezel, and is just about the only flair on the front of the panel.
The screen is supported by a pair of rectangular gray metallic legs that peep from behind the TV outwards, and they do provide good support. All models in this series share the same aesthetic, irrespective of the size you choose.
Around the back, you find a couple of connections in two rectangular recesses on the left including: an HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, four 3.5mm connectors for headphones/audio out, composite/component video in, infrared remote control in and out with the included IR blaster.
The power cable attaches to the TV via a rear-facing port on the right side on the back of the screen, too. The other recess holds additional connections – three more HDMI ports, a USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet port, an optical audio output, an RS-232C port and an antenna connection.
Sony Android TV Remote
Right now, the Samsung Smart Touch remote is the best we’ve used and we hoped that Sony would maybe copy the design in the new flagship. Not so soon. On this series, the included remote is the usual blocky-buttoned wand with a black rectangle aesthetic. It has a circular direction pad and menu buttons in the middle, and a number pad above it as well as playback controls, volume and channel rockers below it.
About the only notable feature here is the Google Assistant button near the top of the remote that activates the built-in microphone that enables you use the voice assistant on the TV. Also, there are two dedicated service buttons sandwiched between the number and navigation pads that provide easy access to Google Play Movies & TV and Netflix. It feels cramped together, especially when you compare it with what LG and Samsung are offering, and Roku-based TVs that offer tons of features without straining through the menus.
Smart TV (Android TV)
With some rival TVS using Roku TV or Fire TV Edition to deliver smart apps, Sony’s smart TVs use the Android TV platform for apps, services, streaming media, and interface. Android TV remains to be a powerful platform to beat, backed by a strong feature-set and flexibility. Of course, it doesn’t offer the full selection of Android apps as you would have on a smartphone or tablet, but the Google Play Store offers a wide selection of useful apps than all the other platforms. On Android TV platform, you have all the big names including: Amazon Video, Google Play Music & TV, Netflix, Sling TV, YouTube among others.
On the Sony X900F, you can also use Google Assistant for voice cues, accessible through the dedicated button on the remote, although it doesn’t support handsfree, of which you might need a separate hands-free device like a Google Home Mini. With Google Assistant, you can search for media, skip to different apps, check weather reports and even control compatible smart home devices.
It has a full spectrum of features that can easily be compared to Amazon’s Alexa that is built-in Amazon Fire TV devices and TVs. The TV also supports Google Cast out of the box. That said, the X900F’s flexibility is fairly limited by the TV’s processing hardware that is sometimes bowed down by the tons of features available.
Navigating the Android TV interface can sometimes get jerky, compounded by the fact that the remote that connects wirelessly to the TV and the microphone that still requires an infrared line of sight for the buttons to work. Interacting with the X900F would be better, but its still good, coming in the backdrop of worse interactions we’ve seen in TVs that cost even more.
Sony HD/SDR Performance
The Sony XBR55X900F will keep you mesmerized with its HD and SDR picture performance. The new series is fitted with Sony’s X1 Extreme video processor, a jump from the standard X1 processor used in last year’s X900E models. With this component, the new sets are up to 40% more powerful, thanks to a unique twin-database system that works by eliminating noise from sub-4K sources.
This approach breathes life to HD Blu-rays and even DVDs, that look more detailed, like genuine 4K sources without amplifying any noises they may contain. It is impressive to see that in less than a year, there is new technology in mainstream TV that can upscale HD to 4K, and that can only be Sony’s X1 Extreme processor. Surprisingly, it uses the same approach to convert standard dynamic range (SDR) images to high dynamic range (HDR), resulting in visually unique, consistent and vibrant images.
Sony is so confident with this HDR upgrade system, that it’s applied in default to a majority of the XBR55X900F’S picture presets. As such, the TV’s mid-range price notwithstanding, it does deliver high-end performance, especially when it comes to HD and SDR content, resulting from the newer state of the art technology in HD-to-4K and SDR-to-HDR upscaling.
The Sony XBR55X900F does support HDR signals in both HDR10 and hybrid log gamma (HLG). In fact, there is a latest firmware update, that also supports Dolby Vision content streamed through online services. For the most part, the TV does a fine job with 4K sources, thanks to Sony’s X1 Extreme processing and Triluminos color management that combine to deliver excellent light precision and noise management in order to impact as much as possible on precise 4K pictures.
In order to deliver even better 4K clarity, Sony uses Motionflow processing, a feature that enhances motion reproduction by simply reducing judder and blur in LCD TV playback. That has been the approach for a few years. In the new XBR55X900F, Sony took things a step higher with a new X-Motion Clarity technology. It leverages localized brightness boosting by utilizing the TV’s direct LED light and local dimming to enable the panel insert black frames into the picture, an innovative approach that results in very accurate natural motion.
Thanks to the new technologies, the TV delivers very good contrast numbers, and stands out as one of the brightest at this price range out there. If you want better visuals while retaining the same slim, attractive styling, you can always look to an OLED TV like the LG OLED55C8PUA (2018 model), or the Sony XBR55A9F (late 2018 model).
As for daily content consumption, bright colorful content like BBC’s Life Story look excellent and detailed. You can easily pick fine details like fur and leaves at very sharp detail, with colors looking natural and balanced. Only that they aren’t as nearly vivid as they are on the LG OLED C8P Series. Still, it is a very attractive, eye-catching picture with solid color performance.
For gamers, 1080p video games and other upscaled, fast-action content comes through very well on the screen’s 4K resolution, with occasional 60 frames-per-second gameplay appearing smooth and fluid. However, this doesn’t mean that the X900F is a great choice for video games, it does produce good picture quality, but input lag is a factor that prevents it from getting a high rating.
Input Lag and Power Consumption
Input lag (time between display receiving signal and updating screen) is where the XBR55X900F fails to impress, with a very high 105.3ms input lag in Cinema Pro mode. In Game picture mode, the input is cut to more than half, but even if it were to go to 41.8ms, it is still twice as high for a TV we’d recommend for gaming. Still, you can play games on this set and others of its ilk, but the input lag can be disruptive. For gaming, a TV with input lag of around 20ms or lower is more preferable.
As you marvel at the XBR55X900F’s vivid colors, your power is being sipped sequentially. Under normal viewing conditions with the Cinema Pro mode preset, the TV consumes 207 watts. In Power Saving (Low) the TV consumes 158 watts, but you’ll do with a dimmed screen, though, watchable, while Power Saving (High) drops consumption top less 65 watts, but uncomfortably dims the picture.
The Bottom Line
The Sony XBR55X900F is a beautiful, colorful and brilliant mid-priced 4K HDR TV. It does an excellent job in highlighting the improvements Sony has introduced over and above the already excellent X900E series from last year – enhanced processing, better brightness, subtly enhanced backlight dimming zones, even superb motion performance – resulting in picture quality that is sure to humble many more spendy 4K TVs. Its black levels aren’t the best around, but it isn’t something you’d consider much when you are paying slightly less for a TV whose performance attracts a premium price tag.
However, if you really want absolute black level performance and a stylish package, you can always look up to a Sony or LG OLED TV. If you choose to stick with Sony’s OLEDs, TVs in that range including the Sony XBR65Z9F boast styles and features of the company’s LCD TVs, but they offer far better contrast thanks to their panel technology, and seamlessly support Dolby Vision HDR.
On the other hand, LG’s OLED TVs lack the benefit of Android TV, but their built-in webOS interface still harbour ton of features with the same superb contrast, bold performance, and better input lag. If Your pockets are deep, it’s the way to go.
But if all you need is a functional entertainment TV with superlative features and performance, the Sony XBR55X900F with its Android TV system offer some sort of perfection, and it’s hard to imagine of any similarly priced 55-inch rival getting better of it. It deserves a top position in your very short shopping list.