Sony XBR-X900E 4K HDR Ultra HD LCD TV Review (XBR-49X900E, XBR-55X900E, XBR-65X900E, XBR-75X900E)
The Bottom Line
The Sony XBR-X900E is an excellent 4K HDR TV for 2017 and in terms of overall value, we rank it even higher than the nearly identical but considerably pricier X930E. Almost the only characteristic in which the X930E outperforms the X900E is the level of its peak brightness and for many consumers, this might not be enough to justify a price that’s several hundred dollars steeper for the other model. For budget-conscious buyers, we thus strongly recommend the X900E model instead.
- Fantastic motion handling
- Excellent Black levels and contrast
- Great brightness
- Robust design
- Good value for price
- Typical weak VA panel viewing angles
- Local dimming could be better
- Peak brightness not as good as X930E
- No 3D support
- No support for Dolby Vision HDR planned
Sony’s 2016 XBR-X930D and it’s even older 2015 XBR-X900C 4K HDR TV models left a bit to be desired in terms of overall performance. They weren’t bad 4K HDR TVs by any conventional measure but in terms of what we expect Sony to be capable of, they got stuck on a few key points. Now, with the 2017 XBR-X900E, it seems that things have taken a distinct upturn in quality and the end result is a 4K HDR TV which delivers specs better than those of almost any 2016 Sony HDR model while competing robustly with its 2017 counterparts and Sony cousins.
The X900E isn’t quite the TV that Sony’s pricier and more powerful X930E manages to be but its inferiority is extremely minor by any normal consumer standard. Quite simply, this is, as we’re about to explain section by section, one mostly superb piece of premium TV technology at a relatively accessible price.
There is no shortage of good things to be found in Sony’s X900E TV. If anything, we’d rank this model as nearly as good as the pricier X930E premium HDR TV that we also recently reviewed and if pricing differences are taken into consideration (the 55 inch model of the X900E that we’re reviewing here costs a little over $600 less than its X930E counterpart), the 900E actually comes out as the superior TV in terms of value per dollar spent in all but a couple of major performance categories. Specifically, unless you’re set on nearly top-notch peak brightness and local dimming quality, the X900E offers much better value for the $600 you’ll save with it at current retail price.
Moving into specific things we liked very much about this 4K HDR TV, let’s start with the most basic, its design. Sony has largely stuck to the utilitarian minimalist elegance of its 2016 XBR-D Series 4K HDR TVs, and we think it works just as well in 2017 for both aesthetic and practical reasons. The X900E’s body is thick and robust front to back but when the TV is placed for viewing, it doesn’t give this impression due to the extremely thin 1.1cm (0.43 inch) bezels along its edge. This creates a great effect in a darkened room in particular. We also like the supporting stand. It’s got a small footprint that’s easy to position almost anywhere but at the same time it offers robust sturdiness for this surprisingly heavy 4K TV.
Unlike the X930E, which comes built with a sort of white tiled covering for its back-end, the X900E is built with much more standard black plastic and metal panels. There is also no covering panel for all the connectivity ports as is the case in the X930E. Why Sony decided to go with such a major design variation between these two otherwise very similar TVs is anyone’s guess.
Moving along, we come to the most important and generally best aspects of this televsion. These all revolve around its display performance and in this area we are almost entirely pleased with this model, especially considering its price.
Specifically, the X900E is a fantastic display performer on the whole and offers both the same color management and black levels as its pricier X930E cousin. It also delivers exceptionally good motion handling that is, oddly, very slightly superior to what we saw in the X930E, especially in the area of 24p content handling to remove judder. On the other hand, the X900E isn’t capable of quite the same peak brightness as its X930E cousin but it still manages to be an exceptionally bright 4K HDR TV whose display performance in this metric is comparable to that of Samsung’s Q7F QLED TV that we also recently reviewed. Sony’s content resolution upscaling engine is as good as or possibly better than ever in the X900E is well and as far as we could tell, all major resolutions upscale wonderfully, with 1080p and 4K content looking superb (almost indistinguishable) while even 720p and 480p content from well-mastered sources look great or at least decent.
Also very robust in the X900E is its usability as a gaming TV and PC display. In terms of resolution, color format and HDR support for console gaming at assorted resolutions, the X900E delivers decent results, with an across the board input lag of less than 35 ms in Game Mode, and as a PC display monitor, this 4K TV is pretty much perfect, with full support for all resolution, color sampling formats and frame rates we could throw at it.
Finally, Android TV is better than ever in 2017, with more usability, greater access to apps and a new “Action Menu” button on the remote control itself for quick access to frequently used user preferences. Sony has also given the X900E integrated Chromecast functionality for easily casting content from tablets, smartphones and other compatible devices right to the TV.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Sony’s X900E is a remarkably good 4K HDR TV even by the standards of other premium 2017 4K HDR sets we’ve been reviewing so far. And in comparison to the 2016 X900D predecessor, it’s downright excellent. However a couple of minor issues stand out, though we consider none of them to be deal-breakers unless you’re exceptionally picky about perfection in your own 4K TV.
First among the minor weaknesses in this 4K TV is its peak brightness capacity. The X900E is a direct-lit model with a sort of full-array LED backlighting technology to it. Given this, one would expect it to be brighter than the X930E HDR model, which is edge-lit, but no, in the X900E peak brightness sits at a level a full third lower than that of its pricier cousin, topping off at just over or under 1000 nits. Now this is still very bright indeed and much better than we saw in the 2016 X900D but it’s not on par with what we’d expect for a design like the X900E’s. The peak brightness issue applies in both HDR and SDR settings.
Moving along and even more surprisingly, the X900E delivers local dimming technology that’s good but not as good as it is in the X930E. This is simply surprising and for the same reason as mentioned above, as a direct back-lit TV, this model should outperform its edge-lit X930E cousin yet it doesn’t. That said, the X900E still manages to deliver decent local dimming performance for its price, though Vizio’s full-array P-Series 2016 4K HDR TV outperforms it considerably here.
Finally, a couple of even more minor issues are worth mentioning about this TV. First, as a television with VA panel technology, the X900E doesn’t offer the widest viewing angles. This is normal for all VA TVs we’ve reviewed so far and heavily compensated for due to the superb black levels and contrast ratios of VA TVs but at the same time, if you plan on placing this and other VA TVs in a place where lots of seats are far off to one side, the distortion in contrast, color performance and brightness will be notable. Secondly, like most 4K TVs sold today, the speakers of the X900E are nothing to wow about. Even a fairly cheap sound-bar will perform better and we’d strongly recommend buying one if you want serious audio performance. Audio directly from the 900E’s speakers isn’t bad for low to normal volumes though.
We should also note that the X900E television comes with no 3D technology of any kind. Sony has, to our current knowledge, decided to not include this feature in all of its 2017 TVs.
We consider the X900E to be a superb 4K HDR LCD TV for 2017. Sony has outdone itself this year across the board from what we’ve reviewed so far and despite a few minor defects, this model is a very good choice. In fact, due to its price being a full third lower than that of the next model up, the X930E, the X900E offers better overall value per dollar spent on it in most regards.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Key TV Specs
- Screen size: 49 diagonal inches (XBR-49X900E), 55 diagonal inches (XBR-55X900E), 65 diagonal inches (XBR-65X900E), 75 inches (XBR-75-X900E)
- 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, Hybrid Log Gamma
- Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
- Screen Lighting: Direct-lit LED backlighting 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: 10 W+10 W Bass Reflex Speakers with Dolby™ Digital, Dolby™ Digital Plus, Dolby™ Pulse and DTS Digital Surround
- Contrast Ratio: 5545 : 1 (native, real contrast)
- Black Level maximum: 0.019 cd/m2
- 3D Technology: N/A
- TV dimensions (55 inch model): 52 5/8 x 32 3/4 x 7 3/4″ (1,334 x 831 x 196 mm)
- TV weight (55 inch model): 37.3 lb (16.9 kg) w/ Stand, 39.9 lb (18.1 kg) w/o stand
- Processor: 4K X-Reality™ PRO
Some Important Highlights
Contrast & Brightness Improvements: Most visible of all the improvements in this year’s Bravia HDR TVs across the board are the much better contrast, black levels and brightness specs for each 2017 model. This applies particularly to the X900E, which is far ahead of its 2016 predecessor the X900D and better even than the more premium-rated 2016 X930D HDR TV model. This TV delivers superb new levels of black performance, superior overall contrast and is considerably more capable of higher peak brightness than was the 2016 X900D in particular. To give you some idea of just how much better things have gotten for this and other 2017 models, the X900E manages a contrast ratio of 5545:1 and a black level of 0.019 nits. The 2016 X930D (which was a higher-priced model) delivered no more than about 2850:1 worth of contrast ratio and a black level of only 0.035 nits. These are visible differences that a buyer would notice between the two TVs.
TRILUMINOS™ Display: Color enhancement technology through special filters has become the rage in the HDR TVs of last year and this year. Samsung is using it, LG is using it and Sony’s version of it is called Triluminous Display. While the Samsung version depends on quantum dot color filters of the latest type to deliver their televsions wide color gamut, Sony claims that Triluminos Display uses a different mechanism, in the X900E and other models. However the company is not elaborating too deeply on the specifics of this. Whatever the case may be, the X900E and its 2017 cousins do indeed offer better-than-ever color performance specs and very high DCI-P3 Wide Color space coverage of over 96%. This is a measurable improvement from what we saw in the 2016 HDR models from this and other brands.
Android TV Improvements: Android TV isn’t our favorite Smart TV platform but it is one of the better options out there. For the 2017 version in the X900E and its Sony cousins, improvements have been made to refine it even further. The new Action Menu is one particular option which enhances usability and access to specific popular settings that a user is frequently visiting. Then there’s the excellent Google Play Store which comes with Android TV and allow for access to a very broad range of apps for extended TV functionality. The X900E also offers up access to Chromecast, for streaming of content from smartphones and tablets right to the TV screen itself. And of course, all the main content streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Spotify and Hulu come pre-installed. The main Android TV platform in the X900E is completely ad-free as far as we could see in our review model.
Expanded HDR Capabilities: For 2017 Sony has expanded the HDR functionality of its premium high dynamic range TVs to include both Dolby Vision and the new HLG broadcast high dynamic range standard. However, for the X900E Dolby Vision inclusion will not be coming. However, as for HLG, it’s not yet really available in any commercial broadcast 4K content but there is wide expectation that it will be and the X900E is future-proofed for that possibility. Furthermore, due to this model’s superior color, contrast, black level and peak brightness performance over its 2016 predecessor, existing HDR10 support delivers content mastered in this format in a much more vibrant way than was the case in last year’s model.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Key Display Specs
As we’ve covered above, the X900E delivers some generally excellent display specs with few flaws to their measurements. This 4K TV isn’t perfect but by the standards of HDR LCD TVs at this price, it’s a remarkably good performer, by both 2017 4K TV standards and those of 2016 models as well. Let’s look at the details for black level, brightness performance and color delivery in both HDR and SDR settings, then follow this with an overview of this model’s motion handling and upscaling performance.
Black Level and Contrast: Black level performance in the X900E is superb. This model’s VA panel technology delivers very good black uniformity with only extremely minor clouding in a couple of the TV’s corners. Black depth with local dimming deactivated sits at an excellent (by LCD TV standards) level of 0.019 nits. Combined with a whit screen in full display, the X900E thus produces a contrast ratio of 5545:1, which is very good by LCD HDR TV standards, though we have seen better in some Samsung and Vizio LCD TVs with VA display panels. This contrast ratio is nonetheless much better than that of the 2016 X930D or X900D models, neither of which could manage more than 2900:1 contrast. Local dimming in the X900E isn’t highly precise but it’s good enough to satisfy most users, and we consider it to be a definite improvement from the local dimming of most 2016 Sony 4K LCD TV models. Furthermore, with local dimming activated, the X900E can achieve even deeper localized black levels.
Brightness: In terms of peak brightness, the X900E shines nowhere near as brightly as its X930E and X940E cousins but it holds its own nicely on the whole. Basically, this is fundamentally one bright 4K TV and buyers who are used to more typical or SDR 4K TVs from previous years will really note the difference in this model. Maximum SDR brightness over 2% and 10% display areas reaches 850 nits and 755 nits respectively while sustained full display brightness can reach as high as 511 nits. In HDR mode, for the viewing of high dynamic range content, these specs improve to a certain degree, with sustained brightness in a 2% and 10% window sitting at 900 and 845 nits respectively, with sustained 100% display brightness at a very powerful 541 nits. These specs don’t match the X930E or any of Samsung’s 2016 SUHD TVs but they’re impressively superior to the levels of virtually all mid-range HDR 4K TVs and any 2016 Sony HDR TV except the Z9D and X940D full-array LED backlit model. That’s a serious performance improvement for the X900E over its 2016 predecessors.
Color Delivery: The X900E is a full HDR 4K TV with both wide color gamut capacity and 10-bit color simulation (for 1.07 billion RGB color values). These are now essential specs for all higher-end and even some mid-range 4K HDR TVs as high dynamic range becomes more of a “must-have” feature. However, in the case of the X900E, the two specs combine to deliver some truly excellent color performance, particularly for native HDR video sources. 10-bit color values show up with no notable banding and wide color gamut coverage in the X900E reaches 96%, which is a solid 4 percentage points above what we saw in last year’s models. Furthermore, the X900E, after some calibration, delivers good to excellent white balance and color delta E, with a white balance of just 0.33 and a color dE of 1.97, which is quite accurate.
Bottom line, the X900E is an excellent TV for HDR and SDR color vibrancy, accuracy and saturation.
Motion Handling & Upscaling Metrics: The native refresh rate of this Sony model’s panel is 120Hz with a 250Hz motion interpolation capacity. These measurements boil down to little without knowing how well the X900E actually delivers on motion blur, 24p content playback and motion interpolation for non-60Hz content sources. Fortunately, across the board, this model handles all of these specs superbly. 24p content in all formats can be played back smoothly and motion blur is kept to a minimum by LCD TV standards, with a 9.8 millisecond response time and very little trailing effect behind fast-paced moving content. Motion interpolation in the X900E is very good. Its native 120Hz panel handles lower frame-rate content smoothly and with minimal soap opera effect. There’s rarely a need to activate Sony’s interpolating “Motionflow” technology due to the quality of the TV’s native motion interpolation.
The following are the connectivity options of all models of the Sony XBR-X900E. 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. Average input lag for 1080p content, 4K content and 4K HDR content in Game Mode sits at between 34 and 31 ms, with support for 4:4:4 subsampling and 60Hz at the same input lag.
- 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 X900E also offers audio connectivity in the following types
- 5.1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 5.1 Passthrough ARC DTS
- 5.1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 5.1 Passthrough Optical DTS
Sony is selling the X900E for the following prices at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon link(s) for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this excellent 4K HDR TV model.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
55 inch XBR-55X900E: $1,498.00
65 inch XBR-65X900E: $2,298.00
75 inch XBR-75X900E: $4,298.00