I viewed mostly standard HD (1080i, 720p and 1080p) content on the Sony, and in all the TV did an excellent job of scaling to the set’s native 4K resolution. Detail was always rich, and the TV’s very good black level made everything pop. The high resolution, even when not looking at native 4K material, creates a better fill ratio on the screen than a standard 1080p TV of similar size. This was apparent when I wandered over to a 90-inch Sharp 1080p TV in another part of the store. I’m not a neurologist or an ophthalmologist, so I can’t say with authority how small a pixel we’re able to perceive, but I believe the eye knows when something’s missing. More pixels on the screen and less space between them mean there’s more picture information for the brain. The result is a smoothness and depth that’s hard to quantify, but if you’ve sat in front of these TVs you know what you’re looking at. The perceived depth, which is helped by the contrast ratio as much as the resolution, was almost the best I’ve seen.
As I’ve said before in other articles, 3D on a 4K TV is also an improvement, but for a different reason. With 4K, you can have full 1080p for each eye without active glasses, which is why all the new 4K TVs uses passive, polarized glasses (the Film Pattern Retarder method first introduced by LG). On the Sony, 3D Blu-ray movies were excellent. I find the polarized glasses more comfortable both to wear and to look through. There was occasionally some shimmer on edges in the image and a little ghosting, especially around the microphone on the 3D Blu-ray of Goldberg Variations, but it wasn’t significant and was easy to dismiss. Some of this I think was the fault of the content and not the TV, because other 3D movies looked perfect.
While the TV was connected to a 4K content server supplied by Sony (which was actually just a Dell computer), it didn’t have the full suite of 4K content that buyers of the TV receive. Instead it contained a few music videos, including an unbearable Taylor Swift music video. As much as I hate that song, the picture was stunning. Note to Sony: The target market for this TV is probably not middle school girls, so maybe rethink your included content.
It’s also worth pointing out that the speakers on this TV—10 of them built into two left and right bars—sounded excellent. With this model, and the TVs which Sony unveiled earlier this month at CES, it’s clear the company wants to up the sound ante on built-in speakers. The speakers on the XBR-84X900 include four bass drivers, and the bass was impressive, with a wide overall soundstage and good detail. However, the speakers are removable, so if you’re going to make this part of a whole home theater room, you don’t have to leave those big things attached to the side.
After I was done fiddling with the TV I sat down with Hi Fi House president Jon Robbins. He says that for his customers, those looking for better-than-average products, 4K is the next sensible step in television. In fact, it’s not a demand for 4K content that’s sparking curiosity as much as the demand for good video processing. “We’re actually showing the TV more with cable and Blu-ray than we are the 4K content, because what it does for standard HD is astounding,” he says.
Related: What to Watch on a 4K TV.
$24,999 (includes hard-drive server with 10 4K movies and other content)
• 84” (diag.) screen with 4K1 resolution
• 4K X-Reality PRO Picture Engine with up scaling capability to 4K
• Cinematic sound totaling 50 watts
• Custom Install ready for simple integration with leading control systems
• Immersive 3D
• Motionflow XR960 technology
• Movies, music & apps with Sony Entertainment Network
• View, share and edit those precious photo memories in 4K1 resolution using PlayMemories Studio software on your PS3 system.
• SimulView: 2-player games with no split screen
• Stream HD entertainment wirelessly with built-in Wi-Fi
• PC and tablet content on your TV with Intelligent Connect
• Media Remote app to control your TV with a smartphone
• 84-inch screen
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) Resolution
• 4K X-Reality PRO with up-conversion
• Motionflow XR 960
• Dynamic Edge LED
• Local Dimming
• Full HD 3D
• Sony Entertainment Network/Media Remote/DLNA®/Wi-Fi® Direct /SKYPE
• Wireless LAN built in
• 50 watt total output
• 10-unit Speaker System including subwoofer
• 10 degree inward facing array
• S-Force Surround 3D
• RS232 Control
• Control4® Certified
• IR Input
Panel Dimensions (TV only, not including TV stand)
• Weight: 176.3 pounds
• Height: 44 3/4 inches
• Width: 84 1/4 inches
• Depth: 3 5/8 inches
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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 training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.