It seems pretty clear, clear to me at least, that the future of flat panel TVs is going to be in 4K Ultra HD. Eventually that 4K resolution may be available in a variety of display technologies (LCD, OLED, projectors, maybe even plasma) but 4K it will be.
Last week local home theater pros Hi Fi House in Broomall, PA, opened up their doors to let me spend a few quality hours with the Sony XBR-84X900. They made sure the TV was hooked up to a Blu-ray player, HD cable box and a computer with Sony 4K video content, then handed me the remotes, turned down the lights and let me alone.
Like the LG 84LM9600 I reviewed a few weeks ago, this Sony is an 84-inch, edge-lit LED LCD TV with local dimming. In fact, it’s based on the same 3840 x 2160 resolution panel as the LG, but the similarities end with the glass. The image processing, menu, operation and performance is all Sony.
If you’ve used any Sony TV recently, then you’ll be familiar with the general operation of this set. The menu uses the company’s Xross media bar which places all the control and content options on a horizontal bar on the screen. You navigate left or right with the remote to get to the area you want, then go up or down to drill into the options. If you’re familiar with the PS3 game console, this will be easy to use. If you’re new to Sony’s system, it’s a bit easy to get lost. Luckily many of the selections use icons to help you find what you need (music note for the music menu, etc.).
If you dig a little deeper into the menu you’ll find what Sony calls the iManual. It’s an interactive menu with easy set-up tutorials. This is a nice feature if you’re simply getting your TV delivered, but not professionally integrated. Included in the iManual are sections to explain the remote and other features. If you are getting it professionally integrated, the TV includes RS232 and is Control4 certified.
I was most interested in the picture settings, and there found the standard options. The TV started out in showroom mode (it was in a showroom after all), and I didn’t have calibration equipment with me, but was still able to adjust it to a very pleasing-picture. After a little tweaking with some test patterns, it was clear this TV was built with Sony’s best processing, what the company calls the 4K X-Reality Pro engine. Colors were bold without being over-saturated. Grayscale looked even across the board with no perceptible color shifts and smooth transitions from black to white.
As mentioned earlier, this TV has a kind of local dimming (true local dimming can only been done on full back-lit LED TVs, but some edge-lit TVs manage it). There are three settings for local dimming within the advanced video menu, and the maximum setting clearly worked best. While watching the Blu-ray Dark Knight Rises, during 2.35: 1 scenes (this movie has a variable aspect ratio which flips randomly from 16:9 to 2.35:1) the brightness from the viewing area would bloom into the top and bottom bars when dimming was turned off or down. With dimming fully engaged, the blooming was still present, but much less pronounced.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.