Review: Sony KD-75X9405C

Review: Sony KD-75X9405C

Introduction and features

If there’s one thing the Sony 75X9405C is not, it’s shy.

For as well as having the chutzpah to stick a 75-inch screen in your living (or, more likely, home cinema) room, it has the cojones to surround that mammoth screen with a good many more inches of speaker-bearing frame.

To be fair, it doesn’t do any of this unattractively. On the contrary, the gorgeous glassy finish that lies over both the screen and its frame looks and feels beautifully premium – once you’ve wiped your fingerprints off it – and the way the TV’s six front-facing speakers seem to be etched out of the glass is glorious.

Yes, I did say six speakers back there.

For in what’s now a trademark of Sony’s top-end TVs, the 75X9405C partners its big pictures with an equally big sound. Each side of the screen carries two main drivers and one treble tweeter, with the main speakers both enjoying Sony’s magnetic fluid technology to deliver a richer, larger sound without needing the sort of physical space you’d normally require for a powerful speaker.

Bulk excuse

Even with the magnetic fluid tech the 75X9405C’s rear sticks out more than most, giving the set a distinctive wedge-shaped side profile.

But I personally have no problem with this at all if it leads to brilliant sound quality. And I’m pretty confident it WILL lead to brilliant sound given that the 75X9405C is the first TV rated as good enough to play high resolution audio files.

The 75X9405C’s connections are up to speed with their highlights of four HDMIs, Wi-Fi and LAN network connections, and USBs for playing back multimedia files or recording from the TV’s Freeview and Freesat tuners to USB storage drives.

The network connections support streaming from networked computers, tablets and smartphones, with Bluetooth and NFC also available if you want a more direct connection.

At which point I need to introduce Android TV.

The 75X9405C is the first TV I’ve tested that carries the fruit of Google’s latest stab at crossing over into the TV world after a couple of abortive previous attempts, and it sits on Sony’s set alongside integrated YouView functionality and Sony’s own Discover system.

Or at least it will sit alongside YouView when the latter service is added via a firmware update later this year.

Sony KD-75X9405C

Google box

Hit the Home key on either of the 75X9405C’s remote controls (you get a streamlined ‘OneFlick’ handset with an integrated touch pad alongside a more standard issue effort) and you’re taken straight to the new Android screen.

This appears as a series of horizontal shelves, with recommended content at the top, featured apps below, links to all the TV’s inputs below that, and then a general Apps shelf. This houses all the apps you’ve downloaded to the TV already, as well as the Google Store app from where you can hunt out and download more apps to the TV’s built-in 16GB of app storage.

Android fans should note that the Android TV Google Store does not feature every app you can get for your tablets and smartphones. Which is actually a good thing given how unsuited many normal apps and games are to TV use.

Google has introduced a filtering system that only allows through to TVs apps that meet the necessary control and design criteria.

Don’t worry, though; even after this filtering process there are more apps than you get with other Smart TV platforms, and the number will inevitably rise given the amount of app development constantly going on in the Android universe.

Less is more?

It did strike me, though, that there are pros and cons to this limitless app potential.

For while a few great apps may well turn up, there will also likely be a lot of dross to clutter the place up. Also, the relatively passive and, crucially, communal nature of TVs vs smartphones and tablets both seem to sit in opposition to the idea of trawling through hundreds of apps to find the odd gem.

And does anyone really want to do anything on a TV other than watch TV shows and films?

So is there really any need for many apps beyond those that provide portals to different kinds of TV-friendly content like Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, Amazon and so on?

To be fair the quality of some of the non-streaming apps – especially the games – is impressive.

Light years on from the sort of stuff we got when Smart TVs first appeared. But it constantly felt to me like your personal smart devices are a much more natural home for much of what Android TV delivers than your TV. Especially as at the moment, at least, the Android interface supports neither manual customisation or different home screens for different users.

Sony KD-75X9405C

YouView saves the day

It’s also just as well that Sony is bringing YouView to the party, as bizarrely Android TV currently does not offer any of the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD or Demand Five catch up TV apps.

I haven’t been able to test YouView in its Sony TV home yet, but it will surely offer the same key features seen with standalone YouView devices.

Which is to say you’ll be able to access catch up TV services for a number of Freeview channels, while also being able to track down shows you may have missed via YouView’s inspired ‘back EPG’, where you can scroll backwards as well as forwards through the TV listings.

While Android TV might grab the smart TV headlines for the 75X9405C, I’m actually more of a fan of Sony’s own Discover smart interface.

Again accessed via dedicated remote control buttons, the Discover interface comprises a series of layers that appear slickly superimposed over the bottom edge of the picture (versus the Android approach, which clumsily takes over the whole screen). Each layer you scroll down introduces shortcuts to different types of content, be it the digital TV tuners, recommended TV shows, YouTube videos, personalised favourite channel lists, or recommended TV shows based around up to 10 keywords you can manually input into the TV’s memory banks.

Some customisation at last

There’s even an apps shelf here where you can put your most used/preferred apps, to save you having to track them down from your longer Android app list.

In other words, the Discover system offers just the sort of slick, minimal presentation and simple customisation options that Android TV currently does not.

All this and I’ve barely touched yet on features connected to what is actually the heart of the 75X9405C’s potential appeal: its picture quality.

Inevitably for a big, premium screen this year the 75X9405C features a native 4K resolution. But it also carries Sony’s latest Triluminos technology for a richer, more dynamic colour palette; direct LED lighting with local dimming to boost contrast; and Sony’s new X1 video processor.

The X1 allegedly introduces a plethora of improvements to picture quality such as improved noise reduction; even more accurate, subtle colour reproduction achieved by looking at each individual colour individually rather than only working on the colour content of an image on a macro level; more sophisticated automatic handling of different source types (including different types of 4K source); and apparently even more detailed, precise upscaling of non-4K sources than Sony has managed before.

The 75X9405C offers 3D playback too using the full-resolution active system, with two pairs of glasses included free.

And last but not least the 75X9405C will also, I’m assured, support the new high dynamic range (HDR) picture system following an update planned for later in the year. HDR, if you’re not familiar with it, can deliver pictures containing a much wider luminance range than the pictures we’ve been watching on our TVs for decades now.

Picture Quality

While I may have misgivings about the wisdom of Sony adopting the Android TV smart system, I have no misgivings at all about its picture quality.

It is, in a word, magnificent.

There’s so much great stuff going on it’s hard to know where to start. But as it’s the area where the 75X9405C may turn out to be particularly good versus even other sets in Sony’s range, let’s go for its contrast performance.

Thanks to its use of a direct LED lighting system and local dimming, where the TV can output different light levels from different sections of LEDs ranged directly behind the TV’s screen, the 75X9405C delivers a sublime combination of rich, inky black colours and bold, vibrant colours.

Pictures erupt off the screen with a dynamism edge-lit LCD TVs can really only dream about.

Unfortunately the HDR update for the 75X9405C isn’t available yet, but it’s not hard to imagine HDR producing spectacular results on a TV with such a superb light engine as this. Even though, to sound a word of caution, unlike Samsung’s SUHD TVs the 75X9405C wasn’t designed from the ground up to handle HDR.

Sony KD-75X9405C

Triluminos does the business

The 75X9405C’s colour performance deserves more credit than just describing it as a function of the TV’s spectacular contrast.

It’s clear from the spectacular range and achingly gorgeous colour subtlety on show with native 4K content that Sony’s boasts about its new Triluminos/X1 processing combination are far from mere idle marketing banter.

So deft is the colour performance, in fact, that the 75X9405C delivers arguably the most 4K picture I’ve ever seen on a 4K TV – if you see what I mean.

I’m not just referring to colour precision or simple levels of detail with that statement either.

Sony’s 4K prowess can also be felt in the extent to which you become immersed in native 4K images, and in the way the screen delivers so profound a sense of depth (thanks to the ability to render fine detail further into the distance and the exceptional colour delineation) that at times you feel like you’re watching 3D without needing any glasses.

Poetry in motion

The stellar purity and sharpness of the 75X9405C’s 4K pictures remains mercifully intact when you’re watching action scenes or sport, too.

The screen’s native motion performance without processing in play is better than most, but Sony’s motion processing this year is good enough if you choose to use it to remove almost all blur and judder while suffering practically no unwanted digital side effects. There are even a number of slightly different but all effective (in their own ways) motion settings you can experiment with.

The 75X9405C also impresses greatly with its adaptability. The advances delivered by its X1 processor enable it to handle a hugely diverse range of different non-4K content types much more ably than most 4K UHD TVs currently can – even more ably in most ways, in fact, than they were handled by Sony’s excellent 2014 X9005B 4K TVs.

The only reason I qualified that last statement is that while for most of the time the incredible extra sharpness and detail Sony’s processing injects into HD sources is a joy to behold, it can sometimes struggle with particularly grainy sources, making the grain feel more dominant and ‘alive’ than it should be.

Fortunately there’s a pretty easy fix for this issue if you become aware of it, though: simply choose the manual setting for Sony’s Reality Creation feature and reduce the Resolution setting until the noise subsides to tolerable levels.

Sony KD-75X9405C

Looking good right of the box

Don’t think from this last paragraph, though, that the 75X9405C is in any way a chore to set up.

On the contrary, for the most part it’s so good at recognising and automatically adapting its picture settings to different source types that you can just kick back and soak up the beauty, with no need to get manually involved in set up at all.

I’m not saying you can’t improve things even more with a little manual intervention, but I can’t think of any other TV that takes so much care out of the box to ensure that its pictures harmonise with the specific abilities of its screen.

This is hugely preferable to the more aggressive ‘showing off’ exhibited by most rival TVs using their out-of-the-box settings.

It’s worth adding at this point that the 75X9405C’s picture skills are merely underlined by the enormity of its 75-inch screen. A screen size at which, of course, there can be no hiding place for imperfections.

3D

The 75X9405C’s enormity makes it well suited to the immersive experiences offered by good quality 3D transfers too, so it’s great to find Sony’s set cashing in on this simple ‘size matters’ appeal with a 3D picture that looks dynamic, full of depth, richly coloured, bright and less affected by crosstalk ghosting noise than many of Sony’s previous active 3D TVs.

There is, to be clear, still a little crosstalk around distant and/or sharply contrasted objects, and I also didn’t feel that the 75X9405C’s 3D pictures looked quite as pristinely detailed and sharp as its upscaled 2D ones.

But nonetheless there aren’t many more impressive 3D experiences to be had in the TV world right now than the one you get here.

While brilliant, though, not even the 75X9405C’s pictures are perfect. As noted already, Sony’s upscaling engine can occasionally get a bit over-enthusiastic with grainy sources. Though you can work round this.

Sony KD-75X9405C

Minor brickbats

Also, the glassy look to the screen causes a few issues with reflections – though to be fair to Sony, it fares better in this regard than some of Samsung’s current screens.

Especially its curved ones.

If you find yourself having to watch the 75X9405C from a widish viewing angle then you may become aware of some light ‘haloing’ around bright objects, at least when they appear against dark backdrops.

Actually you can also become aware of some very slight light ‘bleed’ around areas of really extreme contrast even when watching from straight on – especially if you’re trying to run the TV too brightly or what you’re watching uses a widescreen format with black bars above and below.

Running the 75X9405C directly alongside a Samsung 65JS9500 reveals, too, that Sony’s set isn’t as bright or as capable of delivering such pristine, pure whites as Samsung’s.

This raises potential questions over the Sony model’s HDR credentials – though the 75X9405C’s richer colour palette with non HDR content may prove to be an adequate compensation.

We’ll try and get another look at the 75X9405C when the HDR update is available.

Usability, Sound and Value

The 75X9405C is a mixed bag in respect to its overall usability.

On the one hand its Discover smart TV system and, we presume, YouView engine when it arrives are both helpful and easy to use smart interfaces.

Sony’s new OneFlick remote is fairly decent too, with its thoughtfully reduced button count and surprisingly effective touch pad. It would still have been nice, though, if this remote also offered a point and click control option, as well as carrying the same Netflix button helpfully found on the main remote control.

I do have concerns about the Android TV system, though, as its interface feels overbearing, overwhelming and frustratingly uncustomisable.

Also, while the Android TV menus run impressively quickly, I did suffer a handful of crashes from the system during my tests, while for some reason features connected with the digital tuner – the EPG and channel surfing – can sometimes be frustratingly sluggish.

Sound

Aside possibly – and I stress possibly – from one or two ultra-expensive Bang & Olufsen TVs I’ve tested, the 75X9405C is the finest sounding TV I’ve heard.

Those extravagant speakers are capable of levels of volume, dynamic range and clarity that leave most rival TVs sounding like they’re at the bottom of a swimming pool. Bass levels are extreme even without adding one of Sony’s optional wireless subwoofers, the soundstage produced is so large that at times you even hear a few effects coming from behind you, and the directness of the sound versus the usual ‘reflected’ down-firing speaker systems is a joy to hear.

The 75X9405C is so good, in fact, that it can even rival a good hi-fi system with music – especially when fed high-res Flac or WAV files.

Sensational stuff.

Sony KD-75X9405C

Value

There’s no getting round the fact that $8,000 / £7,200 is a chunk of cash for anyone to blow on a television set. But… put in a wider context it doesn’t actually look that bad in a world where screens larger than 65 inches are certainly not yet mass production items.

Also, it’s worth noting that Samsung’s ‘mere’ (though undoubtedly brilliant) 65-inch UE65JS9500 costs £5800, while Samsung’s 78-inch UE78JS9500 costs £9,999.

Verdict

The 75X9405C isn’t shy about coming forward.

Its already vast 75-inch screen is further expanded by two chunky side panels and an unusually deep rear end. But there’s a good excuse for this bulk, as it enables Sony’s set to deliver the best speakers I’ve ever heard on a TV.

The 75X9405C also carries the new Android TV smart platform – even though this hasn’t convinced me that it’s the future of TV – and best of all it combines a 4K resolution with a direct LED panel design and Sony’s latest picture processing to produce pictures that are, for the most part, deliriously good.

Sony KD-75X9405C

We liked

The 75X9405C’s pictures boast gorgeous colours and one of the best contrast performances in the LCD TV world.

Its sound quality is equally stellar, and some aspects of its smart TV features are well thought through.

It’s also not bad value all things considered.

We disliked

At the time of writing the 75X9405C is something of a work in progress, with its HDR and YouView features still needing to arrive via firmware updates.

The screen’s a little reflective too, there’s occasionally slight disruption from backlight blooming, and the Android TV system feels a bit heavy handed.

Verdict

Aside from its headline Android TV smart platform failing to convince me that it’s the future of smart television, the 75X9405C is an unmitigated success.

Its picture quality is even better than anything Sony managed to produce with the highlight models from its 2014 4K TV range, and its incredibly powerful and dynamic audio is literally music to your ears.

It’s a pity I can’t yet test the 75X9405C’s HDR and YouView features, but even in its currently unfinished state this is one heck of a TV.

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