Sony XBR-65X930C 4K LED TV Review
Sony's flagship successfully bridges the gap between today's best and tomorrow's better.
The Sony XBR-65X930C (MSRP $4,499, online for $3,799) is the smaller of Sony's two 2015 flagships, and it performs right in line with that expectation. The TV's active dimming, HDR capability, and Triluminos color lend it some serious aplomb when it comes to picture quality, but straddling the bridge between old and new standards also make for a couple small hiccups.
All in all, the X930C delivers solid contrast, rich color, good upscaling, and smooth motion handling. It still suffers from the usual narrower viewing cone associated with most LCD displays, and exhibits a somewhat cool color temperature in Cinema pro due to how bright it needs to be for HDR, but otherwise we've got no complaints.
Read on for information on the calibration process and detailed test results.
Calibrating any TV with a dimming function can be tricky, and doubly so when you toss HDR into the mix. Fortunately, unlike many of the dimming-reliant LCDs we've tested this year, the X930C is set up to be tweaked and calibrated in conjunction with its main dimming function (Auto Local Dimming), and produces an (almost) smooth 2.4 gamma in the Cinema pro picture mode right out of the box.
Capping the TV's luminance to a standard 40 fL proved to be a little more difficult. While we watch each TV in a variety of lighting conditions, we like to start with the most difficult setting: a completely dark room, with only a few small lights from lab equipment. I had to turn the X930C's backlight control almost all the way down to hit 40 fL because of how bright it is by default.
The reduced brightness made adjusting the TV's RGB balance (via 2 point control) much easier, though the 10-point white balance controls didn't interact smoothly once the brightness was reduced. As usual, while Sony includes a number of color space options—like Auto, rec.709, and DCI—the X930C doesn't have an on-board CMS (Color Management System), so color calibration options were limited.
Even though it's an edge-lit TV, the X930C offers very good general contrast. Using a 6x6 ANSI checkerboard pattern, I measured a black level of 0.049 cd/m2 and a reference brightness of 333.80 cd/m2, giving the X930C a static, ANSI contrast ratio of 6,812:1. This is extremely good for an edge-lit model, and speaks to the efficacy of the TV's dimming process.
The X930C may be Sony's flagship TV, but it's still an edge-lit LED model, and viewing angle isn't really a strong point. On the other hand, we've seen much narrower viewing cones in the past, and for its design the X930C is actually right around average. It compares favorably to other premium edge-lit and FALD TVs from this year, offering a total viewing angle of 47°, or ±23.5° from the center to either side of the screen.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
Ideally, TVs in "movie" or "cinema" modes will reproduce grays, whites, and neutral tones (or "grayscale" tones) at the proper color temperature, 6500K. This is the standard "color of white" for modern HDTVs, UHD or not, and means that most elements from scene to scene will look as the director intended.
The X930C tested with a cooler color temperature than we were expecting for Cinema pro mode, averaging a CCT of 7272, which isn't egregiously "cool" (or blue-tinted) but is closer than we've seen even from cheaper Sony models this year. The only explanation is that the TV must over-drive the blue sub-pixel in order to hit the high brightness necessary for eventual HDR.
Naturally, this resulted in a higher dE (deltaE, or average error) than we'd like—3 or less is ideal, but the X930C tested with a dE of 7.06. After using the TV's grayscale controls to reduce the blue in the signal, the X930C hit a much more respectable dE of 2.67, just within the ideal range.
Taking a closer look at the grayscale's underlying RGB balance, we can get an idea of how the sub-pixel emphasis effects grayscale accuracy and overall dE. Obviously, the X930C's pre-calibrated overdriving of the blue sub-pixel has a lot to do with the error noted above.
Our color gamut test measures a TV's primary/secondary/white point accuracy compared to a standard color space, such as rec.709 (the previous color standard) or DCI-P3 (the upcoming HDR color standard). Ideally, a TV's color points will fall within or very near to the ideal points, as this ensures proper color balancing, color mixing, and gamut luminance regardless of content, making for the best picture.
As we were expecting, the X930C's Cinema pro color is quite accurate, though the added Triluminos (quantum dot) color does make for a bit of oversaturation in red and green. It's mild enough that color purists shouldn't be too concerned, but gives enough extra pop that the X930C definitely stands out compared to regular HD sets without an extra color possibilities.
Compared to the wider DCI-P3 gamut, when set to "Live Color" and taking full advantage of its Triluminos color enhancement, the X930C comes quite close, though like every other UHD TV this year it doesn't quite make for 100% coverage.
In Cinema pro mode, the X930C comes very close to producing a flat, even 2.4 (dim/dark room) gamma, though it exhibits some irregularity in the 50-100 IRE area due to the effects of the TV's dimming/boosting algorithms versus test patterns. All in all, however, the TV follows the more difficult shadow gradation of 2.4 very smoothly for a pre-calibrated gamma.
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