Sony XBR-X900F series test: Excellent image in a midrange alternative to Vizio and TCL-CNET

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Sony XBR-X900F series

New TVs Launched in the spring, it's not uncommon for a mid-to-high price set to drop $ 1,000 or more year-round. That's exactly what happened to that Sony XBR-X900E last year; The 65 incher started at $ 2,500 and dropped to $ 1,500 in mid-November. And I expect the same thing to happen to the X900F tested here.

Don't get me wrong: The X900F is a great TV right now. The image quality is excellent, anchored in deep black levels, bright highlights, rich, precise colors and excellent video processing. Style is minimalist and elegant, and then there's the fact that "it's a Sony." Sure, its Android TV system is a mixed bag – great features on the one hand, slow reactions on the other – but you can only connect one good, cheap streamer at a time if you want to.

There are two problems for LCD TVs at this Sony price and higher. One is that LG OLED TVs offer an even better picture for not much more money, especially if you Buy last year's version, The other is that TCL 6 series has similarly excellent image quality as the sony for much less money. And that makes the 6-series significantly cheaper at the moment than the X900F.

Yes, the X900F is available in a larger size range than the TCL. And if you appreciate the Sony name or the X900F's superior style, it may make sense to pay the premium now. But I will like the X900F even more when its price inevitably drops later this year.

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Minimalist frame, strong legs

Sony TVs are often more business-like with less flair than the competition, and the sleek, modern-looking X900F fits the shape. The frame around the screen is nice and thin, with a slightly thicker bottom edge that bears the only accent, a thin line of variety-transparent, variety-reflecting reflective material. There is barely enough space for the Sony logo.

Last year's X900E had a single central stand, but the X900F bowed to the recent trend for a pair of support legs. They are thick enough to make Samsung and TCLs look a little sparse, and they sit relatively close to the center, but are otherwise pretty normal. A token cable management is integrated on the back, although more than a few HDMI cables will be too much.

Sony Android TV: powerful, but slow

Google's Smart TV system runs on Sony's devices. In one important area, it beats Samsung and LG's homebrew solutions (if not Roku TV): app reporting. It's also better than Vizio's SmartCast system in every way.

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However, as I saw with the X900E last year, the responsiveness of Sony's Android TV system wasn't as fast as many of its competitors, including LG, Samsung and Roku. Sometimes loading the homepage took forever. Moving, loading thumbnails, and other actions wasn't as easy in apps like Netflix and YouTube. And the system stopped when I pressed the "Action Menu" button during streaming to call for an image correction. Sony could invest more in the processor speed of this TV.

Still, it was still bearable for the most part, and the app coverage and features are top notch. The X900F's Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu apps support both 4K and HDR, as does the Sony Ultra app, which only offers Sony Pictures movies for sale (typically $ 18 to $ 20 each). Apps that support 4K but no HDR include YouTube, Google Play Movies and TV – both are a bit surprising as they have Google features and support YouTube HDR on Roku.

With the notable exception of Hulu, which still has the old user interface (and may be preferable to some viewers) and doesn't support live TV, Sony's Android TV system has well-updated apps and broad support. It offers YouTube TV, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now MLB AtBat, PlutoTV, Facebook-Video, Twitch and numerous other apps and games are available via the Google Play Store (not too excited, it is specific to Android TV and much less extensive than that on your mobile phone). Speaking of the phone, many other apps can be transferred to Sony via the integrated Google Cast function, which works just like one Chromecast,

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Ready to listen, remote controlled or hands-free

As you'd expect from an Android-controlled device, the voice features of the Sony TV are far superior to most of the competition.

New for 2018 is the remote button above, a full Google Assistant icon that calls up the full version of Google's ubiquitous voice assistant – it's like a Google homepage ($ 79 at Walmart), complete with a voice that speaks to you through the TV speakers. Since pressing the button replaces "OK Google", using it may be easier and there are fewer privacy concerns, since Google only "listens" when the remote microphone is hot (which is indicated by a convenient orange LED) becomes).

I got a weather report, explored pizza spots nearby, and played music from a linked Spotify account (complete with playlists) with no issues, even if response times may be incomplete. Sometimes it took a second or more for the prompt to appear on the screen, especially if you're viewing something in an app rather than typing. At one point during an HBO stream, the entire system seemed to collapse for about 20 seconds when I pressed the assistant button. Occasionally, basic voice commands failed, e.g. B. switching inputs and starting apps. Overall, I found Sony's assistant a bit slower and therefore less than satisfactory Nvidia Shields incarnationand nobody is as capable as Alexa on Amazon Fire TV Edition,

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The Sony TV also accepts hands-free voice commands (no remote control required) when connected to the actual Alexa speakers. I tested that last year and will not come back here again – and Google Home speakers. With a mini I found that YouTube works best, although the wording can be long and awkward. I said "OK Google, play Long Long Honeymoon videos on Lab TV" and my favorite couple of motorhomes appeared. After that, I could just say "OK Google, play cat videos" and it knew that they could be played on Lab TV (the Sony) without having to specify it.

Unfortunately, only a handful of sources other than YouTube are supported – including HBO Now and CBS All Access, but not Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. I think it's great that I can just say "Play Westworld" without having to specify the app or the TV itself, and it would start, so hopefully Google will add more apps soon. Oddly enough, an Alexa speaker can turn on the Sony TV, but a Google Home can't.

Fully equipped and connected

The best image-enhancing extra on the X900F is local dimming (FALD) with a full array. It improves the black level and contrast by illuminating different areas of the screen separately if necessary. In contrast to Vizio or TCL, Sony does not specify the number of dimming zones.

main features

Display Technology

LED LCD

LED backlight

Full array with local dimming

resolution

4K

HDR-compatible

HDR10

Smart TV

Android TV

remote control

default

A native is one of the other image-related extras 120Hz refresh rate, a remarkable improvement on paper over the fake 120Hz refresh rates (They are actually 60 Hz native), which can be found in the Vizio M and TCL P series. New for 2018: Sony states that video processing has also been improved thanks to the same X1 Extreme processor found in models like Sony A1E OLED, And there's a new Precision Clarity mode that increases motion resolution by applying Insert a black frame Only where it is needed on the screen to eliminate the flickering and haze caused by similar modes in previous sets. See the Image Quality section for more information.

Sony added the Dolby Vision HDR format Some of the 2017 TVs were updated with a firmware upgrade last year. A similar update is expected to be available for the X900F in 2018. In the meantime, the HDR10 format is supported.

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  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports
  • Composite video input
  • Ethernet (LAN) connection
  • Optical digital audio output
  • 1x headphone / subwoofer audio output
  • 1x RF (antenna) input
  • RS-232 connector (mini connector)

The X900E has a very good selection of sockets. Unlike many Samsung devices, Sony has an analog video input, but only for composite devices, and I also appreciate a headphone jack.

All HDMI inputs work with 4K and HDR devices, but for best results Sony recommends using input 2 or 3 (with higher bandwidth than the others) with 4K Blu-ray players and the "HDMI Enhanced" mode activate. Unlike LG and Samsung TVs, the X900F does not automatically recognize and change this setting, which is a shame.

picture quality

Sony XBR-X900F series

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2018 is proving to be an excellent year for LCD image quality, and the spread of local full-array dimming is the main reason. I compared the Sony directly to other FALD-equipped TVs, including a much cheaper TCL and the more expensive Samsung Q8. All have performed excellently and achieved the same "8" in image quality.

If you choose between three for a pure picture, the Samsung is the brightest and best in bright rooms, while the TCL can achieve the best black levels. The Sony black levels overall were brighter than the other two, but still very good, and it showed an advantage in video processing and color with the most accurate overall picture of the bundle. None of them can touch OLED devices like the LG C8, but they also cost a lot less.