Sony KD-65XF9005 £2300
Fantastic detail in the brightest and darkest picture
It’s hard to generate much excitement about anything labelled ‘mid-range’, let alone a TV. But there are those rare occasions that the mid-range throws up something special – a television that combines some of the best features of the top-end with a price that’s affordable. That’s what we’ve got on our hands here.
Like its predecessor, the XE9005, the XF9005 has a direct LED backlight with multiple zones that can be independently lit or dimmed. Sony refuses to be drawn on how many of these zones the XF9005 has, but says it is more than last year’s model and that it’s brighter, too.
Further improvements include the upgrade to Sony’s X1 Extreme processor. This should result in faster operation and give access to more advanced picture processing features such as the 4K X-reality Pro upscaling engine and new X-motion Clarity motion processor.
Sony has chosen to stick with Android TV as its operating system, which results in the expected blend of pros and cons. You get more apps than you’re likely to need. Netix and Amazon have you covered up to 4K HDR quality, while BBC iplayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 provide catch-up content. There’s Google Play Movies & TV, Playstation Video and Rakuten; Plex and VLC for your own video files and Deezer and Spotify.
The only significant thing missing is a way to watch brand new films (other Minor backlight blooming; bass-light
than Netflix Originals) in 4K and/or HDR. You’ll need to add a 4K Blu-ray player or Apple TV 4K for that.
But Android TV is still cluttered and sluggish. At times it’s almost unbearably slow. The X1 Extreme processor appears to be no match for the poorly optimised operating system, but Sony says an OS update from Android 7.0 to 8.0 will be available at some point. You probably want to take Sony promises of software updates with a handful of salt, though; the Dolby Vision update to its 2017 TVS, which was due last summer, still hasn’t appeared in the UK. A Dolby Vision update is also due for the XF9005, but at least in the meantime there is HDR10 and HLG to be getting on with.
The opening 10 minutes of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 provides a complete workout for TVS, but it’s one that the Sony passes with flying colours. The first thing you notice is the clouds, which might initially seem odd, but the sky when viewed on the Sony is so dramatic and pretty that it’s impossible to resist.
It highlights one of the XF9005’S strengths: its white performance. Not only does the TV go brighter than similarly priced rivals, its bright whites are packed with detail and nuance.
The yellow lettering that follows pops from the screen in vivid fashion, and there’s an enticing lushness and vibrancy. The more you watch the more you realise that the XF9005’S colour balance is another serious strength. That vibrancy continues to impress as the action moves into space – the gold of the Sovereign planet, the panels of the platform where the opening battle takes place and the costumes have a rare radiance and lustre, and the neon blasts of weapons fire and rainbow vomit are appropriately bright and dynamic.
Skin tones are exceptional, warm and vivacious but also realistic. As is the case with the bright whites, there’s also greater detail and subtlety in the brightest colours. Where the cheaper Samsung UE65MU7000 occasionally hits the limits of its brightness and colour volume, resulting in some washout, the Sony keeps on delivering.
Motion processing has long been the company’s forte, and the XF9005 continues the good work. It delivers slow pans and fast action with crisp edges and no judder.
While some TVS exaggerate their blacks, which can result in a strong, dynamic picture at the expense of some subtlety, the Sony is terrifically nuanced, delineating darker shades rather than delivering a dollop of pure black.
The result is quite exceptional detail in the darker parts of the image. The brickwork, rubble and rust of the abandoned warehouse in Looper is clear and textured.
The Looper Blu-ray demonstrates the XF9005’S upconversion of SDR (standard
dynamic range) signals to HDR, automatically enabled across all but one of the picture presets. The results are, surprisingly, superb. The feature doesn’t quite convince you that you’re watching a genuine HDR disc, but the added brightness, vibrancy and subtlety it brings can add a new lease of life to well-worn discs.
The only real criticisms we have concerning the Sony’s picture quality are of its viewing angles and occasional blooming from the backlight. And you may be wondering ‘When is this review going to mention those ridiculous feet?’ There is method to the apparent madness, in that the splayed feet are designed to straddle Sony’s new HT-XF9000 soundbar.
However, we don’t believe that’s reason enough for what is one of the
most awkward-looking TV designs of recent memory. The feet do feature simple but effective channels for your cables, and the TV’S bezel is pleasingly thin and stylish. At 6.9cm, the XF9005 is far from skinny, but we don’t imagine that sort of thickness putting anyone off.
Considering the bezel is so thin and there are no visible speakers, the Sony projects sound into the room rather well, delivering audio, particularly voices, with a clarity and directness that’s far from common in flatscreen TVS. There’s even a bit of low-level dynamic subtlety.
But it is also a bass-light audio performance, no matter how much you tweak the settings. The Sony KD-65XF9005 goes well beyond what we expect of a mid-range TV and delivers a picture performance not short of the very best flagship
models of last year. Of course, £2300 is still a big outlay for a telly, and as it’s one of the first 2018 models to hit our testing rooms, it’s difficult to tell whether we’ve got an Award-winner on our hands.
In its own right, though, the XF9005 is an absolute belter.
“Motion processing has long been Sony’s forte. The XF9005 delivers slow pans and fast action with crisp edges and no judder”
The sound is pretty decent considering how thin the bezel is