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Sony XBR-X930E 4K HDR Ultra HD LCD TV Review (XBR-55X930E, XBR-65X930E, XBR-75X930E)

by on April 24, 2017
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Features
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Quality
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Positives
  • Very good motion handling
  • Incredible new levels of peak brightness (1400 nits+)
  • Superb HDR color performance
  • Android TV better than ever
  • Rich deep black levels
  • Reasonable price
Negatives
  • Viewing angles are typically narrow due to VA panel
  • Some 24p content sources don’t play judder-free
  • Not the best input lag for gaming in 1080p (44ms)

The Bottom Line

There’s no going wrong with Sony’s new 2017 XBR-X930E HDR 4K TV models. They’re priced reasonably for premium 4K TVs and they offer performance that’s superior to that of their already great 2016 predecessors. They’re also better performers than any of Samsung’s 2016 SUHD TVs. If you want premium HDR and general viewing performance at a price that doesn’t shatter your home entertainment budget, the X930E is actually a cobsiderably better choice than the cheapest of the Samsung QLED TVs.

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 Overview

Sony’s XBR 4K TV series have been a hit pretty much ever since they emerged in 2014. The 2015 models were particularly excellent for their black levels, uniformity and contrast ratios in particular but with the 2016 models, though superb quality was maintained and HDR specs general augmented further, some aspects of performance, especially for management of black levels, were a bit disappointing. Brightness also suffered slightly in some of the 2016 XBR-D models, with peak luminance that at times fell short of what Samsung could offer with its SUHD TVs from last year.

Now, for 2016, Sony has come back with a vengeance in the continuing evolution of its XBR Bravia 4K HDR TVs and with their XBR-E series models, what we’re seeing at least from our review of the X930E is a new focus on truly outstanding picture quality with major improvements in peak brightness, significant improvements in black level performance and more of the same excellent HDR wide color gamut coverage and motion handling we saw in the 2016 and 2015 premium Sony 4K TV models (and their mid-range 4K TVs as well as a matter of fact). In basic terms, the X930E is a TV that can proudly carry forward the Sony brand name and one of the high-end LCD models we’re expecting to be among the better choices for this year, comparable to the better offerings we’re seeing from Samsung. This alone is a good news for Sony fans since 2016 was a year in which premium Samsung 4K HDR TVs clearly dominated on picture quality in our review measurements.

Sony-XBR55X930D

The Good

Starting with the most basic aspect of the X930E that we loved, we have this TV’s design. No, the X930E isn’t exactly beautiful or a TV that nearly resembles a strange work of art like LG’s picture-on-glass OLED TVs or Samsung’s QLED and SUHD TV models. Instead, Sony opted to go for more of a utilitarian minimalist look that delivers hefty sturdiness in place of slim delicacy and the result is robust indeed. The 55 inch model is solidly built and designed with an odd looking but certainly not ugly sort of tiled rear design across the back of the TV.

What’s more, the 55 inch model we’re specifically reviewing here is quite heavy at 63 lbs. Some users might find this disconcerting but it does give a sort of stability that lighter TVs lack. The cable management layout is also quite tidy and a set of detachable panels along the back of the TV allow for easy concealment of connectivity ports and all the cables that run to them. It’s a good, simple connectivity design even if it lacks the still more innovative layout of Samsung’s QLED TVs with their single TV cable going to a concealable OneConnect box. It’s worth mentioning that the X930E’s stand is made out of tough metal and extremely stable while also looking rather stylish in its own sharp-edged way. As for the display space itself, it’s edged by an extremely thin border bezel that definitely helps with the illusion of a floating bezel-free image in a dark room. The X930E’s bezels are less than half an inch thick.

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Moving onto display performance elements, the X930E delivers generally superb performance in almost all major measurements of display quality and is particularly excellent at offering up Samsung SUHD levels of peak brightness that in the 2016 Sony models were only matched by the full-array backlit Sony X940E or exceeded by the ultra-premium, ultra-expensive Sony Z9D flagship 4K TV (which is still Sony’s flagship model going into 2017). Quite simply, the X930E, despite being an edge-lit 4K HDR TV, manages to deliver a superior level of backlight performance and local dimming that we’d more often expect from full-array Sony HDR televisions. In basic terms, the X930E is seriously, powerfully bright thanks to its new “Slim Backlight Drive” design and this helps out its HDR contrast capabilities tremendously.

Another superb feature of the X930E that augments the quality of its brightness, color vibrancy and overall picture quality is the X930E’s black performance. Black level performance was one of the weaker aspects of the 2016 X930D cousin to the X930E and we’re happy to see that Sony has fixed this niggling little defect in 2017. This TV manages black levels that are rich, deep and comparable to those of the Samsung SUHD and QLED TVs. Overall the deepest possible blacks in the X930E are twice as dark as those of the X930D were. This combined with the elevated peak brightness means some great high dynamic range contrast and general picture performance.

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Moving onto color, we love the X930E’s performance. All of Sony’s 4K HDR TVs that we’ve ever reviewed delivered have always come with superb color performance but the X930E takes this to new levels (by a slight margin), delivering more DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut coverage than any of its XBR Bravia 2016 predecessors did.

Finally, the motion handling on the 120Hz native X930E is very nearly perfect. Motion interpolation, motion blur control and judder-free 24p movie playback all work perfectly or very nearly perfectly and of course, the upscaling power of this TV now features HDR upscaling in addition to resolution scaling of an extremely high quality for 1080p, 720p and even SD content.

Check the Sony X930E 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

The Bad

Most of the X930E’s relatively minor defects are concentrated in this TVs picture quality as well, though none of them are anything close to deal-breakers for even more discerning users in our opinion.

For starters, like all of Sony’s premium 4K TVs, the X930E comes with a VA panel display that does a marvelous job at delivering superb contrast and black level depth. However, in trade-off for this, the same VA panel is responsible for a fairly limited degree of viewing angle in this model. All VA panel 4K TVs suffer this defect so it’s not exactly escapable if you want the best possible black levels in an LCD TV but for anyone with extra entertainment area seating along the edges of a rooms TV viewing space, color, contrast and general display quality in the X930E fade considerably out beyond 59 degrees from dead center. To be sure, this is actually a pretty good viewing angle range for a VA panel TV but it’s far from the quality OLED or IPS panel TVs will deliver (though IPS on the other hand delivers far worse black levels and contrast ratios).

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Continuing with display problems, the X930E’s only other major picture quality defects come due to its edge-lit LED backlight. First of all, there is some blooming around brightly lit objects. This is especially visible in some parts of the display when HDR brightness is activated and while it’s nothing to freak out about, it’s also not barely visible. To be fair to the X930E, it delivers no more bloom than we ever saw with the 2016 X930D and this alone shows how much Sony has improved the quality of the 2017 model since the X930E is after all capable of a full third more backlight brightness. The slight blooming issue is especially visible if the TV is viewed from off to the side at an angle of 50 degrees or so.

In addition to the slight light blooming effect, and related to it is the quality of the local dimming in the X930E. In its 2017 4K premium edge-lit 4K TVs, Sony has designed a new edge-lit backlighting technology called Slim Backlight Drive+, which promises a greater quantity of dimming zones and superior local dimming precision. Yes, Sony has delivered on these things as far as we could tell with the 55 inch X930E TV but the local dimming is still far from what you’d see in a full-array 4K TV like the pricier, larger X940E or the Samsung KS9800. The main consequence of this imprecise local dimming is the above-mentioned light bloom, especially notable when the TV is being watched in fairly dark conditions.

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Finally, the X930E doesn’t deliver what we’d consider to be the best judder control for 24p content, which is strange for such an otherwise premium-level and high performance 4K HDR TV.Judder-free 24p content via 60p isn’t possible in this model and neither is 24p content through 60i.

Final Opinion

There’s no doubt about it, the X930E is one excellent Sony 4K HDR TV and one of the better LCD television models of 2017 that we’ve seen so far. It’s distinctly better than its 2016 cousin the X930D and superior to at least the Samsung Q7F QLED model we recently reviewed. It’s defects are very minor and we particularly recommend the HDR specifications of this model.

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Key TV Specs

  • Screen size: 55 diagonal inches (XBR-55X930E), 65 diagonal inches (XBR-65X930E), 75 inch model sold as X940E, with different key specs
  • Smart TV: Android TV with Apps and Full Web Browser
  • HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
  • VP9 Included. Yes
  • HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
  • HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
  • HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma
  • Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
  • Screen Lighting: edge-lit LED backlighting (top and bottom) with local dimming
  • Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
  • Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
  • Remotes: Sony button remote with voice recognition
  • Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a with HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out,
  • Sound: 5 W + +5 W + 10 W + 10 W + 10 W + 10 W Front-facing three-way speakers with Dolby™ Digital, Dolby™ Digital Plus, Dolby™ Pulse, DTS Digital Sound
  • Contrast Ratio: 5445 : 1 (native, real contrast)
  • Black Level maximum: 0.024 cd/m2
  • 3D Technology: N/A
  • TV dimensions (55 inch model): 48 5/8 x 31 1/8 x 11 1/8″ inches
  • TV weight (55 inch model): 71.9 lb lbs w/ Stand, 63 lbs without stand
  • Processor: 4K HDR Processor X1™ Extreme

Some Important Highlights

Slim Backlight Drive+:

Unfortunately, Sony’s X930E is an edge-lit 4K HDR TV, and edge-lit backlight arrays are almost universally inferior to their pricier full-array versions. This does produce some problems in the backlight quality of this TV but Sony has done a lot to compensate for the edge lighting with their new Slim Backlight Drive technology. While obviously the company is a bit secretive about just how Slim Backlight does what it does, one thing we do know is that in this year’s model, the arrays of edge LEDs are situated along the top and bottom of the TV instead of the two sides. This results in a closer, more compact backlit area with greater light concentration across the display space and of course, in more LEDs for the display as a whole. The result is a level of brightness capacity that’s downright impressive and a full third superior to what we saw in the 2016 X930D. Furthermore, due to other aspects of the Slim Backlight Drive technology, the X930E manages to organize a much more precise, zone-specific level of local dimming than did its 2016 cousin.

Slim-BackLight-Drive-

 

4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme:

The X1 Processer Extreme engine in the X930E isn’t quite as powerful as the version of this processing system found in Sony’s absolute flagship TVs, the OLED A1E and the super-premium LCD HDR model Z9D TV but despite its weaker design in the 930E, this TVs processer is superb. It handles the smart TV platform with wonderful speed and also works to deliver some truly remarkable upscaling capacity for no-4K content and for display of the different HDR formats that the X930E supports. Handling of 10-bit color rendering, wide color gamut and highly refined contrast are all also very neatly achieved due to the new X1 Processor Extreme Engine.

Android TV Improvements:

Android TV has always been a solid and robust smart platform for the 4K TV’s we’ve reviewed to-date. However, it has also always suffered from a bit of clunkiness when it comes to usability. Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s WebOS smart platforms are both much better at keeping things simple for navigation and content browsing. This applies to the 2017 version of the Android TV platform in the X930E but to a lesser degree than before. An “Action Menu” button on this TV’s remote helps things out with quick lists of frequent user settings and Google’s newer Chromecast feature which now comes with the X930E’s Android TV platform is also a great mechanism for easy use of content from external mobile devices. Furthermore, Android TV in the X930E is almost certainly going to be compatible with Google Assistant, allowing for a much broader expansion on what you can do through your TV.

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Expanded HDR Capabilities:

In late 2015 Sony gave its premium 4K TVs their first ever HDR capacity based on the HDR10 format and Ultra HD Alliance “Ultra HD Premium” standards. In 2016, HDR was expanded to all of Sony’s televisions in the form of the same HDR10 standards that currently dominate the industry. Now, in an effort to fully future-proof their lineup, the 2017 4K HDR TVs (all of Sony’s 2017 TVs in fact) already come with HDR10 compatibility but also will include Dolby Vision HDR and Hybrid Log Gamma broadcast HDR as part of their internal specs. This will essentially make them ready for the vast majority of high dynamic range content that we can expect for at least the next couple of years. And with its high-level brightness, black level and stunning color gamut specs, the X930E is designed to actually deliver visible HDR display quality for the content that gets formatted in these high dynamic range mastering standards.

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Check the Sony X930E 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2016 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews
Key Display Specs

As we’ve already clearly implied above, the Sony XBR-55X930E HDR TV comes with some genuinely great display performance metrics backing up its marketing hype and this applies pretty much across the board with very few flaws. This television not only delivers superb motion handling and color performance that’s slightly better than what we saw in Sony’s 2016 models, it also manages levels of black performance and peak brightness that put its 2016 X930D predecessor to shame even though it too was a superb 4K TV. Here is a breakdown:

Starting with the X930E’s key display specs of brightness, color management and black levels, we get an excellent breakdown of performance metrics in all categories and with very few flaws. Thus, the X930E manages a peak brightness over a 10% screen area in HDR mode of just over 1470 nits. This is not just good, it’s downright excellent, better even than the best that 2016’s KS9800 Samsung 4K TV could do or Sony’s own X940D from 2016 was capable of. And both of those were full-array LED backlit models. It shows that the new Backlight Master Drive is more than just hype in the X930E. Even sustained brightness across a larger area of the screen measures out at a solid 600+ nits in HDR mode. The SDR brightness specs are similar, at just over 1500 nits in a 10% window and whole picture sustained brightness at 720 nits, which is flat out impressive for SDR brightness. For HDR Peak brightness, the X930E manages levels of up to 1530 nits over a 10% display area and even on full screen brightness can handle 770 nits, which is, again, some of the best full display peak brightness we’ve ever seen in any 4K TV, let alone an edge-lit model.

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These above brightness specs are further augmented by deep black levels of 0.018 nits, comparable to the best we saw in 2016’s Samsung SUHD TVs and this year’s QLED models, and it’s worth noting that this maximum black level completely beats the 0.35 nits of the 2016 X930D model. Again, as we said, Sony has really improved its management of black levels for 2017’s premium TVs it seems. Finally, due to such rich deep blacks, the X930E manages a solid contrast ratio of 5645:1 and due to its extremely high quality measurement of contrast, delivers superb fine detailing in shadowy objects when n HDR picture is playing in particular. Colors also stick out vibrantly in a way that puts the 2016 X930D to shame.

None of the above brightness and black level/local dimming specs compare to the ones you’d find in the full-array, 1000+ local dimming zone ultra premium Sony Z9D 4K TV, which can also reach peak brightness levels in excess of 1900 nits, but for an edge-lit Sony HDR TV that doesn’t cost an absolute ridiculous fortune, they are still genuinely premium-level.

Moving onto the color aspect of HDR and SDR performance in the X930E, we get excellent overall performance as well, though it’s not as impressively better than performance was in the 2016 X930D. This 2017 version delivers both 10-bit color and wide color gamut at 96.5% of the DCI-P3 color spectrum. This is a 3 or 4% WCG/DCI-P3 improvement over last year’s model and just enough to create a notably more vibrant color palette that avoids looking grossly oversaturated when HDR movies and streaming content are being watched on this TV. Key color shadow and white accuracy settings like White Balance delta E, Color delta E and Gamma ll measure very highly, with respective post-calibration settings of 0.27 (excellent), 1.17 and 2.19.

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These vibrant colors are further enhanced by the rich, detailed and highly varied blacks and shadows that the X930E’s new Backlight Master Drive-powered local dimming precision permits. On the other hand, as we’d mentioned above, there are some slight blooming issues with this TV due to the fact that it is still an edge-lit model. These are honestly very minor and only really slightly visible in darkly lit rooms. However, it’s worth noting that if they’re visible in the 55 inch version of the X930E, they’ll likely be slightly more notable in the larger 65 inch model. This is the usual case with edge-lit 4K TVs and almost all such models from all LCD TV makers suffer the problem to a small degree at least.

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Then there is the motion handling of the X930E. As is typical of Sony in particular, it’s downright excellent. This is a company that manages to deliver excellent motion control specs in even its cheapest budget 4K TVs (at least since the 2015 models and onwards) and the premium X930E takes the motion control to even more refined levels. Motion blur control is just about perfect, with a 10ms response time and only minimal screen flickering. Motion interpolation in the X930E is also essentially perfect, with frame rate interpolation delivering lighter than typical soap opera effects. Video sources of all kinds (even from cable TV and streaming non-4K media can also be interpolated up to the X930E’s native display frame rate of 120Hz and “low Motionflow” custom settings are available in this model’s picture settings to minimize soap opera effect on such sources of content if they’re being smoothed out. The overall performance here is impressive indeed.

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Finally, the X930E delivers superb 24p content playback without any visible judder for all 24p content formats that might present judder problems in lesser TVs. In addition to this, we have to mention that the X1 processor Extreme Engine handles content upscaling from nearly any cleanly formatted source to a great level of clarity and quality. This applies particularly to HD and 720p content or ordinary 4K content from all sources but it also applies to SD video formats like DVD movies.

Connectivity

SonyX930ECableManagement

The following are the connectivity options of the Sony XBR-X930E. All major advanced content connectivity specs are included and this TV is fully capable of console gaming and PC monitor use in all major resolution formats, frame rates and color subsampling modes:

  • HDMI : 4 (All come with HDCP 2.2 and 2,3 offer full HDMI 2.0a)
  • USB : 3 (USB 3.0)
  • Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
  • Analog Audio Out 3.5mm : 1
  • Component In : 1 (shared)
  • Composite In : 2 (shared)
  • Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
  • Ethernet : 1
  • IR In : 1

The X930E also offers audio connectivity in the following types

  • 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
  • 1 Passthrough ARC DTS
  • 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
  • 1 Passthrough Optical DTS

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Check the Sony X930E 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2016 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews
Pricing

As of this writing (March 2017), Sony is selling the XBR-X930E at the following prices: $2,299.99 for the 55 inch model we reviewed here and $3,299.99 for the 65 inch model. These prices are definitely subject to change and reduction ,especially s the year goes on, so please check the Amazon links below for current pricing on these high-performance HDR 4K TVs.

7 comments
 
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  • Dee
    April 25, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Hi Stephen, in your review it says: “In its 2017 4K premium edge-lit 4K TVs, Samsung has designed a new edge-lit backlighting technology called Slim Backlight Drive+, which promises a greater quantity of dimming zones and superior local dimming precision.” did you mean to write Sony as I believe Samsung doesn’t have a Slim Backlight Drive +?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 15, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Dee, yes this was a small error of wording. It has been corrected. The technology belongs exclusively to Sony, as applied to the X930E here.

      Reply

  • Eric Floyd
    April 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I think you meant Sony instead of Samsung.

    “In addition to the slight light blooming effect, and related to it is the quality of the local dimming in the X930E. In its 2017 4K premium edge-lit 4K TVs, Samsung has designed a new edge-lit backlighting technology called Slim Backlight Drive+, which promises a greater quantity of dimming zones and superior local dimming precision.”

    Reply

  • Reginald
    April 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Why not mention what exactly the “not the best” input lag number is?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Sorry Reginald, we’d forgotten to specify a bit better there. We were referring to its input lag for gaming in 1080p resolution. It’s 44ms. not so great.

      Reply

  • Jerome Jackson
    April 26, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you for this review. I was wondering if the “new” Sony model line could hold up and surpass its former. In my gaining information from other sites, it seems that one of the resons that Sony has decided to make a capable “55x930e” out of va lcd tech, is that only va screens are mainly immune to ir. Image retentation. So Its not a bad decision, its just that other lcd techs can suffer from some image retention. This becomes a buying decision if someone wants to use it as a gaming platform – if someone is expecting to use it as such.
    So VA isnt a deal breaker, its actualy a good thing to understand. If someone is expecting to have a large window(in viewing degrees) for folks along the sides of the viewing area, then va becomes a consideration because wayyy off axis viewing will not be as good as on and near-axis.

    This set is now at the top of my choices for a new set. I only wish that you provided gaming tech numbers: lag and such. As an IMHO statement, its not really fair to seemingly place “Sonys” VA tech as not being as capable to other lcd techs. Its different, not automatically inferior – as your tests have shown. The statement “Unfortunately, Sony’s X930E is an edge-lit 4K HDR TV, and edge-lit backlight arrays are almost universally inferior to their pricier full-array versions”, you have shown to not be the case. Sonys edge lit design actually uses something like light pipes to focus illunination where its needed similar to backlight. So its a hybrid. Not fully edge lit, not fully back lit. This alone means that “universally inferior” doesnt apply.
    Now,would “I” accept an FALD set that because of the lcd tech behind it gives possible image retention – no. For the consumer that wants to use a set for gaming at times and possibly a pc monitor, sonys va tech wins. Just to state that other considerations come into play when a consumer chooses a set. The technology chosen needs to fit the application that the buyer is looking for. Simplifyng: VA vs IPS vs TN vs variations of a theme, isnt the story. Thanks for showing that an inferior decision, performs at a level that gains an “A”.
    Does this mean that it was a calculated decision to give better blacks and better image retention but lesser angle viewing? Hmmm. Chosen technology is the start of a review. VA tech isnt a bad decision, just like all others, you lose something here and gain something elsewhere…..and I believe that fald can be used with all lcd techs. Now I gotta look into this, but what if va vs ips vs fald vs edge vs…….only means that “good at this” and “not so good at that”? CCFL is inferior in a new hdr 4K set. Others are a chosen decision.

    Now I gotta figure out if FALD really rules most times…………..lol.

    Thanx.

    Reply

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