The XF90 series is at the top of the range of Sony LCD TVs (if we leave the ZD9 out of consideration). It therefore replaces both the XE93/94 and the XE90 of 2017. The Sony KD-55XF9005 is equipped with a Full Array Local Dimming backlight, and Sony’s X1 Extreme processor. How does this LCD top model perform?
Sony KD-55XF9005 – specifications
- What: Ultra HD LCD TV, Full Array Local Dimming
- Screen size: 55 inch (139 cm), flat
- Connections: 4x HDMI (1xARC 4x v2.0a), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 3x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.1
- Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision (after firmware update), WiFi (802.11ac) built in, Android TV (7.0 Nougat), USB / DLNA media player, DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + lock, voice control, X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor
- Dimensions: 1.228 x 771 x 268 mm (incl foot)
- Weight: 19.1 kg (including foot)
- Consumption: 145 / 0.5 watt (Energy label B)
- List price: 1.900 euro
A complete overview of all models that Sony released in 2018, you can find in the 2018 Sony TV line-up. Here you will also find the complete specifications per model.
Sony KD-55XF9005 – design
The XF90 has all the looks of a top model. The new ‘soft minimalism’ design is expressed in a small, dark metal frame around the screen and light gold-colored feet. The device is rather thick in profile, a result of the Full Array backlight, but it creates a slim impression through its curved back. The back is beautifully finished in a black fine-grained structure. There is really nothing to criticize on the finish.
Just like on the XF85, Sony has moved away from the external power we found on some 2017 models. Cable management is provided in the feet. The plastic lid that you have to open for this feels fragile, which should have been a bit more robust. It does not cover the cables completely, but just keeps them in place. There is quite a lot of space. Unless you use very thick versions, you will easily be able to use six cables or more.
The supply of connections is fine. You have four HDMI connections, all equipped with HDCP 2.2. Three are on the back, one on the side. Use HDMI 2-3 for Ultra HD and HDR content, which you can use in the menus in (settings, External inputs, Format HDMI signal) in ‘Enhanced setting’ mode for the best picture quality.
You get two USB connections at the side, and a USB 3.0 at the back. On the side there is also a headphone output and composite video input. Striking, compared to the XF85, the component video connections have disappeared, but we do not have a problem with that. At the back, the digital optical output, network connections and antenna connections complete the offer. All connections at the rear are oriented downwards, which facilitates wall mounting. The device is equipped with Bluetooth for those who want to use a wireless headset.
Sony KD-55XF9005 – ease of use
We largely revise our review of the XF85. Sony equips his televisions with Android TV, already version 7 (Nougat). There is no significant difference with the previous version, except support for HLG within Android TV, and the possibility to log in with multiple Google accounts.
Unlike at Philips where you have a Google username and password during installation must type, it appeared on this device still possible to set your television easily and quickly with the help of your smartphone. This saves you a few minutes during installation, but provides no further benefits. Those who want to add a second account simply need to enter a user name and password.
The remote of the XF9005 series is identical to that of the XE90 last year, only the ‘Discover’ key under the d-pad is replaced by a ‘TV’ button, more about that. A classic zapper in other words, with rubber top and keys with a very low profile. He feels pleasant and the keys take just enough pressure. Here and there a little tangible relief around the d-pad you operate without looking and you do not accidentally hit one of the six keys around it.
The XF90 uses the same remote as the XF85. The layout is fine, although we find the playback keys slightly too small at the bottom. The apps key to the right of the d-pad actually has no added value. The remote has separate buttons for Netflix and Google Play, and a microphone button at the top.
Sony KD-55XF9005 – features
Smart TV platform
The XF9005 series uses the same chipset as the models from last year . The Mediatek MT5891, with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 and Mali-T860 GPU has 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. It gives the smart TV platform a more pleasant and smooth experience, but in a top model like this we prefer to see something more powerful.
The interface of Android TV fills the entire screen, with top of the recommendations. Then you get a row of apps, games and the inputs. At the very bottom you will find all settings. Compared to LG WebOS and Samsung Smart Hub, the interface looks unnecessarily large.
Android TV’s main asset is the built-in Chromecast function. This allows you to browse Netflix on Youtube on your smartphone, for example, and to show the selected content on your television with the press 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. The YouTube app unfortunately does not show any HDR images, but it did work in Netflix and Amazon.
The most important change in the interface, and the remote, is the ‘TV’ button. That key, at the bottom of the d-pad, switches directly to the built-in TV tuners. If you are already looking at built-in tuners, this key activates what used to be the ‘Discover’ menu. This is a small bar at the bottom of the screen that first shows TV functions (the TV guide, recordings, etc.), but also includes recommendations, and where you can create a list of favorite Android apps. You can not call that menu anymore if you do not watch TV (via the built-in tuners), we regret that.
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. Get VLC from the Google Play Store, who know what to do with ALAC. Kodi or any other media player is also recommended if you want to give the TV the look and feel of a media library.
Sony KD-55XF9005 – Image quality
The XF9005 series uses a Full Array backlight With local dimming. It uses a VA panel, so you expect good contrast, but a very poor viewing angle. Because Sony controls its zones very subtly, it was very difficult to count the number of zones. We suspect about 5 columns and 8 rows for a total of 40 zones, but there may be more.
The best choice starts from the Cinema Pro mode.
|General||Advanced / Brightness||colour||Sharpness / Movement|
|Picture mode: Cinema Pro
Autom Image mode: Off
Brightness: 20-40 *
Light sensor: off *
|Brightness: 20-40 *
Black level: 50
Adjust black: from
Adv. Contrastoptimization : Off
Automatic Local dimming: Mid
X-tended Dynamic Range: Off
|Color: 50 Color
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
Reality Creation: Auto *
Reduce random noise: Off Reduce
digital noise: Off
Smooth Gradation: Low MotionFlow: True Cinema / Standard *
Movie Mode: High
Explanation of main settings
- 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 detailed display. 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 a little more fluid image, switch to Standard.
- If you look at a lot of daylight, try the Cinema Home setting.
General picture and image processing
Last year’s XE90 had to make do with the X1 processor, but this year the XF90 series can use the X1 Extreme for the very best image processing. You can therefore count on top upscaling results, with excellent sharpness and detail. We are very satisfied with the result with older visual material, where the noise suppression eliminates the worst problems. ‘Smooth gradations’ ensures very beautiful, subtle color transitions without any trace of color bands. Leave that setting always activated. Reality Creation provides some extra detail, but in Ultra HD content you let it be pretty good, there is a risk of moiré effects in very fine detail.
The Sony KD-55XF9005 uses a new technology for optimal motion sharpness: X-Motion Clarity. In concrete terms, this technique combines the classic ‘ black frame insertion ‘ (BFI) with the local dimming backlight to achieve sharper movement detail without greatly dimming the brightness of the image. Since BFI makes the screen black for a part of the time, the image also darkens. X-Motion Clarity analyzes the image and gives different parts a higher brightness to compensate for those black images. The result is clear. The screen shows a lot of detail, even in fast moving images. You still lose a minimum of clarity, but we like to include that. Turn “TruMotion” to “Standard” for a generally good result. If you prefer to experiment yourself, switch to ‘user’ and set Brightness to ‘1’ (higher values will dim the image, but will not give you more detail). Then you can use ‘Suppleness’ to determine how fluent pan images are, you weigh that against any artefacts that the Motion interpolation causes. A good start seemed ‘suppleness’ ‘3’.
The VA-panel provides an excellent black value, so it chimes off at its own contrast of approximately 3,400: 1. That excellent result is then increased by the local dimming to about 38.500: 1. Very impressive performance in other words. The number of zones is fairly limited (we count about 40 but there may be a bit more), so we feared some halo effect, but fortunately that was very limited. Sony sends those zones very well, so you only see in extreme cases (subtitles in dark scenes) a little halo effect. The screen provides excellent black detail, and deep black. You only have to take into account the limited viewing angle, because as soon as you are not really at the center of the image, the zones become clearly visible in dark images.
In the picture below we used HDR content, and overexposed the image so you can zones. In practice, it certainly does not look like this. You see a very vague glow, if you pay attention to the possible zone boundaries.
The Cinema Pro mode gives the best result. Just like the XF85, the image is particularly clear (around 400 nits), with a perfect gray scale and color temperature. Color range and color rendering score excellent. If we really want to dress, then red could be a little brighter. All these features make the XF90 an absolute pleasure to watch. With eclipse he delivers a very nice film experience, with rich, natural colors and tangible images with excellent contrast. But he is also a good man in a lot of ambient light. In that case you can choose the Cinema Home mode, which is more intense.
This Sony supports HDR10, and HLG. Just like the other models that use the X1 Extreme, Dolby Vision support is planned via a firmware upgrade. To what extent you will need a player who supports a specific Dolby Vision profile is not clear, but we suspect that that will be the case.
The screen gets a peak luminance of about 985 nits, but it does not keep it very long. You can expect 900 nits in the Cinema Home mode, in the Cinema Pro modes the maximum is around 650 nits. The Sony shows neatly all white detail up to 2,000 nits (in Cinema Pro), in the Cinema Home mode it clocks at 1,000 nits. Combined with an excellent color range (89% DCI-P3 and 64% Rec.2020) and excellent calibration, he delivers very good images, with the necessary punch and natural colors.
Want SDR content a light HDR look, then activate Xtended Dynamic Range Pro. The effect is not too strong, but it is visible and you will not suffer any disadvantage.
Reflections and viewing angles
The VA screen has a very poor viewing angle, and is not exceptionally good with reflections. Sit in front of the screen for the best results, especially if you are watching HDR content.
In the normal picture modes (dynamic, standard, natural, film) we measure 105 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In the game mode the lag drops to 42 ms which is a somewhat weak result, the XF85 scored considerably better. This may be too much for critical gamers. We also see these two results in HDR mode. Console rooms can therefore choose this TV with confidence.
Sony KD-55XF9005 – Audio quality
The XF9005 series produces a lot of volume with its 20 watts of music power. But like the XF85, it does not get any further than an ‘ok’ result. The speakers are clearly optimized around dialogue, and lack the necessary punch in the low frequencies and sound a bit messy in the high. Like most televisions, it performs excellently for your daily viewing food, background music or even the occasional movie. But you will probably have to get cinema sound from a separate sound solution.
For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. To analyze any HDR problems we use HDFury Vertex .
Sony KD-55XF9005 – Conclusion
The Sony XF9005 series seems a real hit. There are not many downsides. Android sometimes seems a bit messy to us, and you do not get HDR via YouTube, we find incomprehensible (but who knows how to solve via firmware). The limited viewing angle of the VA panel is the only focus.
The list of positive features is much longer. The screen provides excellent contrast, with good local dimming that rarely shows halos. The black display is good enough for home cinema, but of course it still has to make the thumbs for OLED. Thanks to a very high luminance, the XF90 is also a good choice for illuminated living rooms. X-motion Clarity ensures top motion sharpness, a plus for sports and action films. And even if you really want to enjoy HDR, the XF90 is a great choice. The color reproduction and clarity are more than sufficient. The price is in line with that of a top model, but certainly does not seem exorbitant.