The XE9305 series includes Sony’s second iteration of the Slim Backlight Drive, a edge LED backlight that uses local dimming. Combined with the sleek appearance, Android TV, the X1 Extreme image processor and excellent HDR support is one of the top models. In this review we look at the 55-inch Sony KD-55XE9305.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – specifications
- What: Ultra HD LCD TV, Slim Backlight Drive + (local dimming 16×4 segments)
- Screen size: 55 inches (139 cm), flat
- Connections: 4x HDMI (1xARC 4x v2.0a), 1x component video, 1x composite video, 1x stereo cinch, 1x stereo minjack, 1x optical digital out, 3x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.1
- Extras: HDR10, (Dolby Vision and HLG after firmware update in 2017), WiFi (802.11ac) built in, Android TV (6.0 Marshmallow), USB / DLNA media player, DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + lock, voice control, X1 Extreme processor
- Dimensions: 1,232 x 790 x 282 mm (including foot)
- Weight: 32.6 kg (including foot)
- Consumption: 137 / 0.5 watt (Energy label B)
- Recommended retail price: 2.600 euros
Besides the KD-55XE9305, the XE9305 series consists of the 65-inch KD-65XE9305 with a price of 3,700 euros.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – design
Sony continues this year with the ‘slice of living’ designs, which means that you can expect sharp corners and straight lines. The XE93005 series has no frame, but it has a black border of about one centimeter around the screen. The side is finished in a combination of dark silver and black. The footplate has been given a brushed dark silver appearance.
The design looks pretty spartan at the front, but we can taste it. The device may use a ‘Slim Backlight Drive +’, we really do not want to call it slim, although it still looks good in terms of profile.
You will find the most interesting design features at the rear. This is provided with a nice geometric pattern. Hidden in the pattern are several detachable plates that conceal the connections.
But Sony has also thought carefully about cable management. That is hidden behind the easily detachable back plates of the television so you can easily work the cables along the legs. There does not seem to be much space, the two legs can each remove about three cables. That will be sufficient for most users.
In addition, the very large external power supply is particularly striking. Sony has a 2.5m cable between the power supply and the device, so you still have enough space to store the block somewhere safe and unseen.
Four HDMI connections, one of which is on the side, give you plenty of connectivity. On the side of the XE9305 models you will also find a component and composite video connection, somewhat redundant in our opinion. On this kind of devices you really want to use HDMI for the best quality. Three USB connections, a headphone output and digital optical output complete the set. The rear connections are all downwards, ideal for wall mounting.
All connections can also be neatly concealed behind the back plates, but for the side connections there seems to be very little space for the cables. If you also regularly use USB media you will probably want this album away, but because Sony has divided the detachable part into different pieces, we do not think that is a problem.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – ease of use
The 2017 Sony models are equipped with Android TV, version 6.0 (Marshmallow). They hardly differ in use from last year’s models equipped with Android TV, version 5.0 (Lollipop). During the installation you can use an Android smartphone or tablet, which allows you to run the installation just a little bit faster.
The remote of the XE9305 models is as good as identical to last year’s. It looks like a classic zapper, but all keys are behind a rubbery top and have a very low profile. Last year that caused some problems because when using the arrow upwards you pressed the ‘action menu’ very easily. Sony has taken this criticism to heart, a subtle but clear tactile border in the form of a rubber band around the arrow keys ensures that your thumb does not go beyond what is necessary. That makes the remote a lot finer to operate. The layout was already excellent and the keys do not require too much pressure. The Netflix and Google Play button are prominently present, just like the microphone button at the top. You have to activate the latter separately in the menus (Network and Accessories, -> Voice controlled remote control).
Sony KD-55XE9305 – features
Smart TV platform
There are no real changes to this Android version. The main note is that the XE9305 series uses a more powerful chipset than its previous year’s counterpart. The Mediatek MT5891, with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 and Mali-T860 GPU, has 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. This improvement is noticeable, and gives the smart TV platform a more pleasant and smoother experience.
The Android TV interface fills the entire screen, with recommendations at the top. Then you get a row of apps, games and the inputs. At the very bottom you will find all settings. Compared to LG’s WebOS and Samsung’s Smart Hub, the interface looks unnecessarily large.
Android TV’s main asset is the built-in Chromecast function. This allows you, for example, to browse Netflix on Youtube on your smartphone, and to show the selected content on your television at the touch of a button. Your smartphone remains usable for other things. A list of apps that support Google Cast can be found in the Google Home app on your smartphone.
One of the most useful features is the Discover button. You will receive recommendations from YouTube, Netflix, live TV and connected media in a small bar at the bottom of the screen. You can also create a list of favorite apps so you can quickly access them without going through the Android Home menu. You decide which things may or may not appear in the Discover bar and can even change the order.
The media player is very complete and played all our video test files, including HDR video. The music player knows no advice with ALAC, but with all standard music formats. And he also reads all the tags.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – Image quality
The Sony KD-55XE9305 uses a second generation Slim Backlight Drive +, in which Sony tries to combine the advantages of an edge led with improved local dimming. The device contains a double row of LEDs both above and below. By combining these with two light guide plates and smart image processing, this creates more possibilities for local dimming than a traditional edge LED with a light guide plate. After some careful counting, we arrive at 16 columns and 4 rows. Especially the number of rows was difficult to count. But it is at least a doubling compared to last year.
With the basic settings we have come to the settings below for this TV. The best choice starts from the Cinema Pro mode.
|General||Advance / Clarity||Advance / Color||Sharpness / Movement|
|Picture mode: Cinema Pro
Brightness: 20-40 *
Light sensor: from *
|Brightness: 20-40 *
Black level: 50
Adjust black: off
Adv. Contrast optimization: off
Automatic local dimming: Middle
Xtended Dynamic Range: Off *
Color tone: 0
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
|Image sharpness: 50
Reality Creation: Car *
Reduce random noise: Off
Reduce digital noise: Off
Smooth Gradation: Low Motion Flow: True Cinema / Standard *
The Cinema Pro mode is an excellent calibrated start. We did notice that it is very clear (with Sony, ‘Brightness’ refers to the level of backlighting). If you see a darkening, lower it to 20 or stay at 40 and activate the light sensor. Reality Creation improves detail view. The Auto mode is generally fine, those who prefer the pure approach turn it off or switch to Manual 20. For more detail, you can go up to 40, but avoid higher settings. For Motionflow, the purists keep it on True Cinema. If you want something more fluid, you switch to Standard. Finally, Xtended Dynamic Range gives SDR image a very nice HDR style. Personally we find the High Institution a bit harsh and prefer Middle, but especially experiment yourself. If you look a lot under strong daylight, try the Cinema Home setting.
General image properties and image processing
With X1 Extreme image processor, the XE9305 series can lean on the same image processing as Sony’s absolute topper, the ZD9 (also read our Sony ZD9 review). This image processor delivers top quality upscaling, detail improvement and noise reduction. Analysis of the image allows the processor to choose the right approach for those steps. He uses different algorithms within one and the same image on the basis of the content of the image. Grass, fire and air within an image thus each have their own approach. The Sony therefore delivers excellent results, although the quality of the source material always plays a role. You only get a limited amount of extra detail from a DVD. An operation that we really appreciate is ‘Smooth gradations’. By means of a dithering technique the screen can make color bands almost invisible. The result was very good as you can see on the image below (slightly enlarged).
The movement sharpness of this screen is good. In the ‘Clear’ mode, Motionflow can make all the details visible, but you lose some clarity. That does not have to be a problem, the XE93 has clarity on surplus. We prefer the ‘Standard’ setting, while ‘Fluent’ created too many artefacts.
The Slim Backlight Drive + provides excellent black value. The contrast is around 3800: 1 without dimming and with dimming activated, that still increases considerably. The limited number of segments does not produce annoyingly visible segment edges. There is a small halo noticeable, of course only in dark content. But we did not find it really annoying and it is only visible in a darkened room. The TV delivers beautiful black detail and a very clear picture.
The calibration is almost perfect. The image is very clear (588 nits white value, we do not see that as a maximum on a number of HDR TVs). Colors are true to nature and the image feels almost tangible.
The Sony KD-55XE9305 supports high dynamic range in the form of HDR10, but will also support Dolby Vision and HLG through a firmware upgrade in the course of the year. That is excellent news and makes us all the more curious about the results.
With a peak luminance of 1780 nits (10% window), the XE93 settles comfortably with the front runners. And even on a completely white screen, we still measure 777 nits. HDR image therefore has a particularly lively impression. The color range reaches 89% DCI-P3 and here too the calibration is very good. It seemed to us that the Sony was generally too bright, but that was not really disturbing. Where the screen is at its limit is the combination of light and dark in HDR. The Slim Backlight Drive + can not prevent you from seeing a clear halo around the illuminated objects on dark images. Once again, Sony keeps away from clear segment boundaries and succeeds well in giving the halo a soft gradation, but occasionally it is visible.
Probably one of the nicest features of this television is Sony ‘Object based HDR Remaster’. As with scaling and travel suppression, the algorithm looks for what is in the image and each part receives a specific treatment. By activating Xtended Dynamic Range Pro in the menus, you convert existing SDR content into HDR. That is of course nothing for the purists, but try it out. The Sony XE9305 not only succeeds in accentuating the brightest parts, but also to make extra white detail visible.
Reflections and viewing angles
One of the few weaknesses of the KD-55XE9305 is the viewing angle. The screen has excellent black, but anyone who steps even 30 ° immediately sees the contrast drop. This is particularly visible in dark scenes, and clear images are much less affected by this. The usual guidelines for reflections apply. Avoid direct incident light.
In the normal picture modes (dynamic, standard, natural, film) we measure an input-lag of 97,1ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In game mode, the lag drops to 42.8ms which will be enough for many gamers, but can not be called a top result. Sony generally has a more responsive game mode. We also see these two results in HDR mode. Consolegamers can therefore choose this TV with peace of mind.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – Audio quality
The inconspicuous speakers, together for 50 watts of music power, deliver a solid sound with more volume than you would expect. For film and television the result is solid, for music it depends strongly on your genre and listening style. At high volume it sounds a bit too sharp and too narrowly measured and you hear the limitations of the bass reproduction. There is no problem for quiet background music.
For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, an AVFoundry HDMI Pattern Generator, an HDFury Integral for HDR patterns and the Spectracal Calman for Business software.
Sony KD-55XE9305 – Conclusion
The Slim Backlight Drive+ of the XE9305 models shows that even from an edge LED Sony can achieve convincing results for local dimming. On the other hand, the combination of extreme brightness and a limited number of dimming segments also seems to have its limits. Certainly in combination with a fairly weak viewing angle, halos were easy to see in dark images. Yet these are limitations that we do not take too heavily into our judgment. The Sony KD-55XE9305 delivers perfect colors, excellent peak brightness and excellent contrast, which it can use to a maximum with the aid of top-level image processing. That makes the television an excellent choice for those who look a lot in daylight. Thanks to his good contrast he will do even better with a bit of darkening, although he must clearly show the ZD9 or OLED competitors. The price is in line with a top model.