With the new PlayStation 5 in sight, it makes sense that Sony would also want to offer a TV with HDMI 2.1 to support the latest gaming features. The Sony KD-55XH9005 LED TV is that device. We test this LED TV in this detailed review.
Sony KD-55XH9005 LED TV– specifications
- What: Ultra HD LCD TV, Full Array Local Dimming (4 x 6 segments)
- Screen size: 55 inch (139 cm), flat
- Connections: 4x HDMI (2x v2.0, 2x v2.1, 4K HFR, eARC and after future firmware update: VRR, ALLM), 1x composite video, 1x stereo mini jack, 1x optical digital out, 2x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.2
- Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, Android TV (9.0 Pie), Chromecast, Airplay 2, USB / DLNA media player, dual DVB-T2 / C / S2 tuner, CI + slot , voice control, X1 4K HDR processor
- Dimensions: 1,231 x 780 x 340 mm (including foot)
- Weight: 17.5 kg (including foot)
- Consumption: 116 / 0.5 watt (Energy label A)
- List price: 1,300 euros
Sony KD-55XH9005 LED TV – Design
A beautiful black frame with a fine accent line in metal color, elegant dark silver feet, this Sony looks very handsome. It will be a stylish addition to the living room.
Just like its bigger brother, the XH95, it uses a Full Array backlight . As a result, it has a slightly thicker profile (70mm), but the sloping edges of the beautifully finished rear partially hide that.
The extremely slim feet will hardly be noticed when you sit in front of the device. On our test model, you can only mount it in one position, which is relatively close to the ends of the device. However, there are also design variants of the XH90 where you can mount the feet in a second, narrower position, just like on the XH95. Incidentally, the feet slide into the chassis and do not need to be screwed on. Yet the TV is very stable.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Connections
The XH90 series is the big exception in Sony’s 2020 line-up, as it is the only 4K device that comes out with HDMI 2.1 connections that support 4K @ 120 HFR, VRR, ALLM and eARC. Although that apparently takes some doing with Sony. For example, the XH90 launched without any HDMI 2.1 features and only received support for 4K @ 120, HFR, and eARC via a recent firmware update. For VRR and ALLM it remains to wait for a future update. The device has four HDMI connections, ports 3 and 4 are the HDMI 2.1 ports. They are not marked as such, so make no mistake.
To make HFR possible, you have to adjust the settings. To do this, go to the settings (Settings / Watching TV / External Inputs / HDMI Signal format) and choose the ‘Enhanced setting’.
In addition, the KD-55XH9005 is equipped with two USB connections, a composite video input, optical digital output and headphone output. You can also connect wireless headphones via Bluetooth.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Ease of use and smart TV
The XH90 series has yet another first in house. It is equipped with a newer chipset. The MediaTek MT5895 uses the same quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU but is clocked slightly higher (1800 instead of 1500 MHz) and is equipped with 3GB RAM (compared to 2.5GB on the previous platform). The new GPU is the Mali-G52.
We were already satisfied with Sony’s performance in Android 9 (Pie). This new chipset gives a slight improvement to that. In the 3D Mark benchmark Sling Shot Extreme, the newcomer scores 1,177 against 707 on, for example, the A9. That seems like a major improvement, but it does not matter much for ease of use. And for Android gaming? A device like the Nvidia Shield scores 3964. The new chipset will certainly not break any pots in that area, but again: in daily use it performs well.
If you are looking for a handy overview of the possibilities of Android, you can visit our Android 8 (Oreo) overview article for now .
Last year, Sony has given its menus a major upgrade that greatly improves the ease of use. Inputs now appear in a ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and you can hide, add or even add apps yourself. The ‘Inputs’ button thus becomes a handy quickstart bar.
The menu key (gear wheel) calls up a ‘Quick settings’ bar at the bottom of the screen that you can customize just like the inputs. This year the entire menu for image and sound was redesigned.
The settings are still organized in categories such as ‘Brightness’ or ‘Motion’, but the settings below them now expand when you click on them. We find that just a bit less clear. A good improvement is the addition of an image and some explanatory text for each setting.
Sony’s remote control received a facelift last year. The KD-55XH9005 has to do without the lighting that we found on the remote of the XH95 . Although it doesn’t look as innovative as LG’s or Samsung’s, we think the ease of use of this remote is excellent. The keys are easy to press and the layout is well organized. All essential functions are within reach of your thumb, around the d-pad.
Clockwise from top left starting: Inputs, Microphone, Settings, Home, TV, and Back. Netflix and Google Play have their own touch. We only find the playback keys at the bottom a bit too small. The remote works with IR, but also via Bluetooth, so you don’t have to aim. Only the power button always works via IR.
The XH90 is equipped with a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2) but has only one CI + slot. Watching and simultaneously recording another channel is therefore only possible with channels that are not encrypted. In addition to Chromecast, you can also use Apple Airplay 2. The TV is also compatible with Apple Homekit. Sony has provided an excellent media player that knows how to handle all major video and sound formats.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Image processing
If you switch from the XH95 to the XH90, that also means a slightly less powerful image processor. The XH90 series uses the X1 4K HDR. The image processing remains very good, although we do see differences. For example, the noise reduction is clearly less strong. This meant that the ‘low’ setting was often not sufficient for both settings to eliminate noise sufficiently. You can of course opt for ‘car’ with the risk that the TV sometimes works a little too enthusiastically. The main lack, in our opinion, is the lack of Super bit mapping, the technique that Sony uses to eliminate color bands in soft color transitions. That’s a strong point for Sony, and the XH90 has to do without it. In our Game of Thrones scene, that was painfully clear.
X-Motion Clarity is still available on this model. It combines the local dimming of the backlight with ‘black frame insertion’ (BFI). For example, it delivers sharper movement detail without dimming the image too strongly. We personally leave the Motionflow setting on ‘User’. You then set ‘Brightness’ to 1 for maximum detail with minimal loss of brightness. ‘Flexibility’, the setting that activates motion interpolation, can be used according to your own taste. Personally, we thought ‘2’ was the best compromise between smooth pan images and minimal image artifacts, film purists best leave that off.
Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV.
|Picture control||Statue||Color||Sharpness / Movement|
|Wide Mode: Auto
4/3 Default: Normal
Auto Display Environment: On
Picture Range: +1
|Picture Mode: User
Auto Picture Mode: Off
Light Sensor: On Brightness: 40
Black Level: 50
Black Adjust: Off
Adv. Contrast Optimization : Off
Auto Local Dimming: Mid
X-tended Dynamic Range: Off
|Color: 50 Color
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
|Image Sharpness: 50
Reality Creation: Auto
Reduce Random Noise: Low Reduce
Digital Noise : Low
MotionFlow: Auto, or Smooth 2, Brightness 1.
Film Mode: Auto
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Image quality
The XH90 series is equipped with a VA panel and Full Array backlight with local dimming. But with only 4 x 6 zones you should not have too high expectations.
The VA panel does come out with excellent own ANSI contrast of 3528: 1. A very strong basis for local dimming, we think. But with local dimming activated, we hardly see the ANSI contrast increase, to 4019: 1. In our other test patterns, the contrast does run up to 19,000: 1, so there is some potential.
Yet it soon turns out that 24 zones is very little. The Sony copes very well with it, but cannot prevent some errors. For example, during the Gravity test scene we saw that the black bars above and below the film partly lit up (bottom left especially).
In HDR images it can get even more difficult and the zone boundaries are occasionally clearly visible. We also occasionally saw a zone trigger. The algorithm does a very good job with the limited resources it is provided with. Subtitles, for example, didn’t cause any tricky jumps in brightness. The uniformity gets a top score, which is truly exemplary in both dark and bright images.
We recommend the ‘User’ image mode because it is the most accurate out of the box. The screen does produce a lot of light. Too much really for a dark viewing environment, so leave the light sensor activated. The brightness then decreases, so that the black values improve and as a bonus you see much less dimming artifacts. Even in SDR, the XH90 can achieve very high brightness (up to 700 nits, with Local dimming on Mid and X-tended Dynamic Range on High), so it does a great job when viewing in a lot of light.
The ‘User’ mode is more than properly calibrated. The color temperature is a bit on the cool side (slightly blue tint), as we almost always see at Sony. There is a lot of black detail, you can really see everything in the darkest corners.
The color reproduction of the KD-55XH9005 is very good, the average error is around 2.4, which is almost invisible. Especially the skin colors are very natural. If you mainly watch in a relatively large amount of light, experiment with the Cinema image mode, which gives the image a slight boost.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – HDR
The Sony XH90 series supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. Remarkably, for Dolby Vision support via HDMI you have to activate a specific setting (Settings / Watching TV / External Inputs / HDMI Signal format on input 3 or 4). This is of course not necessary for internal apps such as Netflix. Another interesting detail with Dolby Vision: the XH90 now also supports standard Dolby Vision where all calculations are done on the TV instead of the low-latency version that all other Sony models used and where the calculations had to be done in the player. For the consumer this is normally not important, although it is possible that this has an impact on the Dolby Vision display. Unfortunately, we cannot verify that at this time.
The screen of the KD-55XH9005 achieves a peak luminance of around 720 nits on a 10% window. A smaller window (2%) already lost some ground (607 nits) due to the dimming, but a larger window (25%) yielded a peak of 822 nits. Although the maximum is in the domain of most OLED TVs, there are also clear differences. Light accents are noticeably less intense than OLED, and relatively large areas of white and very bright images produce a lighter image than OLED.
With a color gamut of 87% DCI-P3 and 63% Rec.2020, it still scores clearly weaker than the XH95 and falls just below the limit of what we really want to see for HDR (90% DCI-P3).
Calibration is good, but by no means excellent. Colors are slightly faded due to the slightly too small color range. The EOTF is a bit too bright. Those two combined make HDR images look a bit flatter than on an OLED, even though the difference is relatively small. Black detail is well preserved, but the XH90 hides a bit of white detail. Sony does not look at the metadata, and tonemapped all HDR10 material at its discretion to a maximum of approximately 1,500-2,000.
That tone mapping is excellent. In clear images, the XH90 can make good use of its advantages, and the impact of the high brightness is very good. In dark images, it shows a lot of black detail, but an OLED can create more impact due to its perfect black.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Gaming, Reflections and Viewing Angles
The XH90 series does not use X-Wide Angle film, so you have to take into account the fairly limited viewing angle that is so typical for VA panels. Especially contrast leads below the viewing angle, and certainly in extreme HDR images you can see the segments of the backlight very well.
What about the gaming qualities of the XH90? Sony advertises the XH90 as a “Ready for PlayStation 5” TV. The HDMI 2.1 ports provide the full 48Gbps bandwidth, although it is now clear that models with 40Gbps bandwidth will also suffice (for example, the Xbox Series X itself also offers a maximum of 40Gbps). In the meantime, it already supports 4K120, but colleague Vincent Theoh of HDTVtest discovered that the XH90 uses certain processing in that case that leads to loss of detail. It remains to be seen whether this will become an issue in games.
We still have to wait for VRR and ALLM to come via an extra firmware update. Also keep in mind that you have to choose between Dolby Vision support or 4K120 support on input 3 and 4. It is not possible to combine both. We already saw a similar phenomenon on the LG OLED48CX6LB, where the use of AMD Freesync and Dolby Vision are mutually exclusive. Whether that can ever be resolved is the question. In any case, it means that Dolby Vision gaming in 4K120 on the Sony XH90 is impossible, although it remains to be seen whether that is a likely scenario for now. The Xbox Series X supports Dolby Vision and 4K120, but whether there will be games that use both is not yet clear.
The input lag in the User image mode is 105.2 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In game mode, the lag drops to 21.2 ms, which is an excellent result, but has to give way to a lot of competitors who are often already below 15 ms.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Sound quality
The XH90 series offers ‘Acoustic Multi Audio’ but only on the 65 inch and larger models. Our 55-inch model has to be a fairly typical 2x 10W sound solution, but it got the new X-balanced drivers, which provide more volume and a richer bass.
With that configuration, the XH90 shows a very decent result, although we miss some bass here and there. The TV avoids overdriving the drivers quite well, without ostentatious interfering with the sound. There is Dolby Atmos support, but for a true Dolby Atmos experience, an external sound solution seems to be the better choice.
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. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze any HDR problems.
Sony KD-55XH9005 – Conclusion
With the XH90 series, Sony wants to have a TV in the line-up that is ready for the PS5. Before that, the KD-55XH9005 was equipped with two HDMI 2.1 ports, but all HDMI 2.1 features come via firmware updates. 4K120 HFR is now possible, VRR and ALLM are all waiting. However, the TV does not allow you to activate Dolby Vision and 4K120 at the same time, a combination that is possible with competitor LG. And meanwhile, problems of loss of detail have been discovered when using 4K120. It doesn’t really give the necessary confidence that the XH90 is ready for next-gen gaming. Although we must admit that it is a bit of a mystery to what extent these limitations will also prove to be real limitations.
If we leave gaming aside for a moment, the KD-55XH9005 is a very capable mid-range. It delivers excellent contrast, and the local dimming algorithm works well, although it cannot deliver strong improvements due to the limited number of dimming zones. It delivers a lot of clarity and even though the color range is just below what we expect for HDR, the HDR images are very beautiful. In SDR, the images are rich and intense and, thanks to its high brightness, it can also play its trumps well in high ambient light. The X1 processor does a great job. The Sony interface combined with Android 9 and a handy remote guarantee excellent ease of use.
At first glance, the KD-55XH9005 seems to us correctly priced. But if you start searching online, you will soon notice that you can get its two main competitors in the gaming field, the Samsung QE65Q95T and the LG OLED55CX for a relatively limited additional price. That certainly does not make the choice for the Sony any easier.