This pricey 55-inch 3D-capable LCD TV from Sony-- the company's smallest Ultra HD model--has a unique look, with large, front-firing speaker panels flanking the sides of the set, which is perched atop a silver circular base. Like other Ultra HD TVs, this TV has a 3840x2160 screen resolution, with four times as many pixels as a regular 1080p set. Not surprisingly, this set is capable of displaying great detail with native 4K (Ultra HD) content, which was supplied by the manufacturer. (So far, little native Ultra HD content is commercially available, although Sony now offers a $700 Ultra HD media player loaded with 4K films and video shorts.) But the TV also has excellent high-definition picture quality, with impressive black levels for an LCD set, and very good sound, perhaps the best of any tested model so far this year. The set has a lot of features, including a dynamic edge LED backlight with local dimming, built-in Wi-Fi, and Sony's smart TV platform with a full Web browser, apps, and access to streaming movies and TV shows from several services. This model also has both wired MHL and wireless Miracast technologies for mirroring content from a smart phone or tablet on the TV. (An optional MHL Cable is required for this feature to work.) The remote control has NFC technology, so you can simply tap a Sony Xperia smart phone or tablet to the remote to view that device's content on the TV. On our tested model, however, we noticed two quirks: After a firmware update, the TV no longer displayed photos played via the TVs USB port in full Ultra HD resolution, and when in the 3D mode the vertical resolution was cut in half. It's possible that these issues may be addressed in a subsequent firmware update.
• Ultra HD capable
• Superior, beyond HD image clarity with native Ultra HD content
• Excellent HD image detail
• Excellent color accuracy
• Very good deep black levels
• Low ghosting in 3D mode
• Comes with four pairs of 3D glasses
• Limited viewing angle
• Screen surface more mirror-like than most
• 3D ghosting varies with vertical viewing angle
• Image resolution in 3D mode is half 1080p HD
Detailed test results
This Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A is an Ultra HD television (also called a 4K set) with 3840x2160 pixel resolution, four times that of a 1080p HDTV. This means it not only functions as a regular HDTV, but it can also display higher-resolution Ultra HD video. Unfortunately there is no commercially available Ultra HD content at this time so we evaluated Ultra HD image quality using the high-resolution video clips supplied by the manufacturer. To evaluate the Sony's overall performance we ran the TV through all our standard HDTV tests, most of which remain valid regardless of the video type unless otherwise noted. Some comments about Sony's picture performance using actual Ultra HD content are also provided.
PICTURE QUALITY. Using regular HD content from cable or a Blu-ray, this TV's high-definition picture quality was excellent. It did a top-notch job displaying the finest detail. Color accuracy was excellent, so colors looked very natural and lifelike. Contrast--the difference between the darkest blacks and brightest whites--was good, so images showed some depth and dimension. In this respect, the TV was similar to most of the models we test. The brightness level was good, making it a suitable choice for most rooms. Thanks to Sony's "LED Dynamic Control," the TV had deep black levels, just shy of the best sets, without producing any noticeable local dimming artifacts. In scenes with subtly shaded light-to-dark areas, such as a sky during sunset, the TV did an excellent job producing a smooth transition without distinct, coarse bands. Film mode operation for HD film-based content was excellent, with no visible jaggies along the edges of objects during motion scenes. Deinterlacing on the other hand was only fair, with jaggies visible when converting 1080i video content to the display's native resolution.
VIEWING ANGLE. This Sony has a moderate viewing angle overall, decent, but not quite as good as the better-performing LCD sets we've tested. The optimal seating position for best picture quality is directly in front of the TV. If your family is seated in chairs off to the side of the TV, they'll see decent but compromised image quality.
When we moved off to the sides the horizontal viewing angle was good; the picture showed a slight loss of color so flesh tones looked a bit washed out, along with a moderate color shift. Black levels brightened significantly, making dark scenes look hazy. When viewing the image from above or below eye level to the screen, the vertical viewing angle was very good. The picture showed minimal change in color, contrast, and black level.
ULTRA HD PERFORMANCE. Using the Ultra HD video clips supplied by the manufacturer we were able to make some judgments about the Sony's Ultra HD performance (The demo content is a mix of high-quality video clips from movies, sporting events, and other scenes, played back via the TV's HDMI input via Sony's standalone media box). The high pixel density on this display clearly adds a new level of image detail and a smoothness to edge definition that is best appreciated when viewed up close to the screen.Most of the supplied Ultra HD content was captured with a 4K studio camera and the image detail and clarity was stunning, clearly beyond anything we've seen in the HD format. The detail was so good that freeze frames on Ultra HD videos were essentially high-resolution 8 megapixel photo stills. On Ultra HD movie content (as opposed to video) the improvement in detail over HD was less dramatic but still there. In an A/B comparison between an HD Blu-ray and UHD version of the same "Total Recall" clip, the image quality was close, but the Ultra HD version had a visible though subtle bump-up in detail. But that said, the Blu-ray version was very good, and probably good enough even for picky viewers, and if you sit back to a typical viewing distance it will be difficult to tell the difference. We believe most viewers will have a hard time seeing the additional detail when viewing from even 7 feet back since the benefits of Ultra HD's extra resolution are best appreciated on larger screen sizes or when sitting very close to the screen. Unfortunately, the TV does not make use of the extra pixels when viewing images from a flash drive via its USB port, so photos were presented in HD resolution (about 2 megapixels). Also, 3D content was presented at half HD resolution (540p), like all other passive HD sets, instead of making use of Ultra HD's double vertical resolution to present a full 1080p image to each eye.
MOTION BLUR. With Motionflow turned on, this Sony TV has good motion performance, with some blurring on our motion tests.This feature is designed to reduce motion blur, a shortcoming of most LCD TVs. With the feature turned off, motion performance was only fair, with significant blurring on our motion tests.
SCREEN REFLECTIVITY. The screen surface on this LCD TV has one of the shinier mirror-like surfaces we've seen, which makes it very susceptible to reflections from a nearby lamp or window. The screen is dark so it does a good job reducing glare from ambient light and maintains contrast even in a bright room.
3D PERFORMANCE. The overall 3D effect was only good, a notch below the better 3D displays. 3D images showed effective depth, with minimal levels of ghosting (left eye/right eye crosstalk) on our 3D test patterns and on a wide variety of 3D program content. There was an increase in ghosting when we viewed 3D images from above or below eye level, which got worse as you move closer to the TV. Images conveyed half 1080p, or 540 lines of resolution to each eye; there was visible loss of vertical detail when compared to models capable of 3D at full 1080p. 3D image content showed visible jaggies and moire on fine detail due to the absence of half of the lines. In 3D mode, the picture was brighter than some other sets, a plus.
SOUND QUALITY. This TV has very good sound, better than most models we've tested. It has a wide volume range, allowing the TV to play loud with no noticeable distortion. At more typical listening volume levels the TV has a full-bodied sound and has deep bass with good impact. All told, the overall sound quality is above average on this TV which should more than please the pickier TV listeners out there.
EASE OF USE. Overall, we found the set easy to use. Setting up the TV for the first time was straightforward, as was access to features and controls you'll probably adjust only once. Ease of access to features you typically use more often was very good. Also, the remote is very good, and the on-screen menu is easy to navigate.
Remote has a dedicated button to access Internet features, and to access 3D. The remote's major function buttons were sufficiently large and have high-contrast labeling, making them easier to see and navigate.
STAND ASSEMBLY. Mounting the TV to the included support stand is easy, though the stand requires the assembly of two parts before mounting.
INTERNET FEATURES. This TV provides basic Internet functionality with a limited selection of applications. Movie streaming services include: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Sony Video Unlimited. It also supports an optional Web cam for access to video conferencing applications such as Skype. This top of the line set also comes with a smaller, secondary remote which has NFC (Near Field Communication) built-in and allows you to, with one touch, mirror the screen of your compatible Xperia Smartphone or table on the TV's screen, including any videos, music, photos, and apps.
CONNECTIONS. This TV includes four HDMI inputs, one composite input, one shared connection between the component and composite inputs (which means you can only use one type or the other at a time), optical digital audio out, three USB ports, an Ethernet port, and built-in Wi-Fi. Wireless connectivity includes: DLNA network file sharing, and near field communication (NFC) file sharing. HDMI and analog cable connections made to the rear-facing panel will protrude beyond the panel's slim depth.
INCLUDED IN THE BOX. The TV comes with: a printed user manual, an electronic manual in the TV's menu, two remotes with batteries, and four pairs of 3D glasses.
OPTIMIZED PICTURE SETTINGS. Our expert TV testers recommend the following settings for the Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A to get your image looking like the rated picture quality we saw in our lab.
Accessing the picture controls is simple; press the menu button on your remote and navigate to the picture settings menu where you'll see most of the controls. To find some other controls you may additionally have to enter the "advanced settings" or the "picture options" sub menus (name may vary depending on model). Don't worry about making any "mistakes." You can always reset the picture settings to factory default if necessary. Consult your user manual for additional guidance.
Picture Mode: Custom
Contrast (Picture): 90
Color Temperature: Warm2
Aspect Ratio: Full (Dipslay Area = +1)
Miscellaneous: Motionflow = Clear, CineMotion = Auto, LED Dynamic Control = Low (All remaining settings set to OFF, or 0)
TV FIRMWARE. All TVs are evaluated using the latest firmware version available at the time of testing.
Firmware version for Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A is: PKG3.208AAA
ABOUT CR's OPTIMIZED PICTURE SETTINGS: Our fine-tuned picture adjustments are made with the support of special test patterns and reference videos to yield best image fidelity, and a professionally calibrated reference HDTV is used for comparison. Whether you are watching movies on Blu-ray or sports from your cable box these settings will ensure you are seeing the programs in the best quality this display can offer, short of a professional calibration. To optimize the image we typically turn off (or turn down) the settings from features that can often degrade performance, including; power saving modes (which often dim the image), sharpness, noise reduction (also known as DNR, a feature that can degrade image detail), and "motion smoothing", if present (an effect that can give movies a soap opera, video-like appearance). Optimal settings for your TV may vary a bit from ours due to slight variations between similar TV samples, or the firmware version of the TV's software.
ABOUT CR'S TV VIEWING CONDITIONS: Our picture settings are optimized for a dimmer home viewing environment. If the settings we recommend don't suit your taste or your environment, use the picture controls to achieve an image you consider "just right."
ABOUT FIRMWARE VERSION: Our test results and picture settings are valid for the version of firmware indicated. If your TV's firmware differs from the one shown you either have an older or a newer version of firmware. Manufacturers may periodically upgrade the TV's firmware to enhance operation, fix bugs, or add features. Firmware upgrades may be downloadable directly to your TV via a wired or wireless network (if internet capable), USB port, or memory card, depending on your TV's capability. You can check your TV's firmware version, or upgrade to the latest firmware by pressing the menu button on your remote and navigating to the appropriate submenu, typically under settings. Consult the user manual or manufacturer's website if further guidance is needed.