Sony first introduced Mini LED TVs this year with the released of the X95K and Z9K series. These are the first models to incorporate a mini-LED backlight matrix instead of a traditional LED scheme. Sony has taken longer to introduce this technology than some of its competitors such as Samsung or LG, but this decision is in line with the conservative strategy that the Japanese company tends to follow, which sometimes slows down the introduction of certain innovations.
In this review, we’re going to look at the X95K the 4K LED flagship for this year and is equipped with the Cognitive Processor XR. It features a VA panel with a remarkable native contrast ratio that is exceptional thanks to the mini-LED backlight system.
As we’re about to see, this X95K has plenty of features to fight in the high-end segment, that’s more crowded than ever this year and is joined by the new TVs with QD OLED panels from Samsung and Sony.
Looking at its design, the Sony X95K has a premium design with thin bezels and a good finish. The result is a very elegant look. In terms of construction, it’s one of the most solid TVs on the market today.
You only have to take this TV out of the box to realize that it exudes an unusual solidity. And fortunately, that’s the case. The polycarbonate used by Sony to make the back cover is of excellent quality, and the profile that finishes off the edges of the panel is impeccably machined from aluminum. Of course, this X95K is not as thin as OLED TVs, as they do not use the LED backlight matrix.
Mounting the stands of this TV is a breeze. Each of them is securely fastened with just two screws, and the all-metal construction makes them very rigid. However, their most interesting feature is that they can be mounted in three different positions.
The position of the legs that gives the board maximum stability is the one in which they are the farthest apart, holding the board closer to the table.
The position you see in the picture below is the middle position, where the feet are relatively close together. However, you can also place them next to the ends of the TV in two other positions: with the panel raised a few centimeters or very close to the surface on which we placed the TV.
This is not the only Sony TV that offers us this flexibility, and I think it’s a very good idea for users to have this leeway, since it can help us adapt the TV to the surface on which we want to place it. The position of the feet that gives the panel the most stability is the one where they are the farthest apart, keeping it closer to the table, but its stability is also very good in the middle position, which you can see in the next picture.
The Sony Bravia XR X95K is running Google TV, which is the most versatile platform. The Google TV interface brings the user closer to the content of the installed apps by displaying recommendations of series and movies that the user is watching or might be interested in.
As you navigate between different screens and settings, the same smooth flow is maintained, ensuring an excellent user experience.
Google Play and the huge range of apps available also make it one of the most optimised and promising operating systems available today, at a time when Tizen and WebOS are starting to get a little tired of the load of new features and functionality.
Another of Sony’s strengths in this area is its connectivity to other devices in the living room, such as TV players or set-top boxes, with which it can be integrated so that you don’t need another remote control, as you can control them entirely with the TV remote.
I couldn’t confirm which MediaTek SOC, among others, is responsible for making this OS work, but I suspect it’s the same one that was built into last year’s A90J MASTER series. In any case, the user interface on this TV works very smoothly and the time it takes to launch and close applications is minimal. I also like the design of the user interface, so I have no objections in this area.
Sony TVs usually leave the factory reasonably calibrated, and this model is no exception. The only parameter I wanted to adjust slightly was the color temperature.
Outside the box, it’s perfectly comfortable. To take it a step further, using a sensor and professional calibration software would be ideal.
To go a step further, ideally you would want to use a probe and professional calibration software. Otherwise, you risk ruining the factory calibration. However, with the right calibration tools, it is possible to achieve near perfection and resolve colorimetry with extraordinary accuracy.
Before we go any further, it’s important to take a look at the HDMI connectivity on this TV. Only two of the four ports, labeled 3 and 4, implement the 2.1 standard. The other two inputs are HDMI 2.0, and I think that’s a mistake.
Only two of the four ports built into it, the ones labeled 3 and 4, implement the 2.1 standard. The other two inputs are of the HDMI 2.0 type.
A high-quality TV with the ambitions of this X95K should offer four HDMI 2.1 inputs, not just two. To a large extent, this limitation is dictated by the MediaTek chip, but I think Sony should remedy this.
The two remote controls that Sony ships with this TV look like. The one on the right has a traditional arrangement of buttons, while the one on the left is sleeker and includes a motion sensor that activates the backlight on the buttons when you pick it up. The latter remote is a bit better made than the other and also includes four buttons for direct access to Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, and Bravia Core.
It uses a VA panel with RGB subpixels and Sony uses a filter to increase light diffusion and thus improve the viewing angles of this TV. This layer that is added to the TV is responsible for the subpixels not being sharper. Since VA panels suffer from poor viewing angles, such a solution is necessary to overcome this handicap.
The homogeneity with which the mini-LED backlight matrix diffuses light is remarkable. In the image below, there is a subtle loss of light at the edges of the panel, but it is much more noticeable in the picture than when the TV is in front of you. In practice, I can’t criticize its performance in this area.
The 65-inch version of this TV we tested implements 384 independent local-dimming zones, so in theory it should be able to combat blooming more effectively than sets from this brand that rely on a conventional FALD backlighting scheme (blooming is that flaw that shows up as a halo around the brightest areas of each image).
Does the mini-LED backlight really combat this error better than the solution with standard LEDs? Yes, it undoubtedly does. However, the blooms have not completely disappeared. In an unfavorable circumstance like in the picture below, it is still present, but very attenuated.
In fact, it is virtually imperceptible while reading conventional content. This is due to both the mini-LEDs and the algorithm that controls the local dimming of the backlight.
In the image below, we can see the deep blacks that this TV offers when the image it is reproducing requires it. The native contrast ratio of VA panels is high, but it’s surprising how much better it is thanks to mini-LED backlight support when done properly.
One of the areas where this TV really excels is the level of detail it can pull off. When we give it high-quality HDR content, it manages to recover a high level of detail in the highlights (the brightest areas of any image), but what surprised me the most is the amount of detail it recovers in the shadow areas. In this area, it is almost unbeatable.
Here’s another of the X95K’s strengths: right out of the box, it solves colorimetry very convincingly, but after I calibrated it in this area, it earns an undeniable A-. Human skin is one of the X95K’s best textures. Human skin is one of the most difficult textures to recreate, and this TV manages to reproduce it with surprising believability. Furthermore, high-frequency noise is negligible even on the most complex textures, such as the golden armor of the person in the image below.
In terms of reproducing high dynamic range content, this TV stays true to the strategy Sony has been pursuing since the proliferation of HDR technology: It can handle Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG, but not HDR10+. It’s a shame that such an ambitious proposal doesn’t offer full support for this content.
The quality of this TV that convinced me the most in terms of image quality, and that it shares with other Sony products, is its distinctly cinematic aesthetic. With a high-quality video signal, the image processing comes into its own. Enjoying a beautifully photographed movie like “The Revenant” on this big screen is a real pleasure.
In the picture below, we can see that the anti-reflective coating that Sony engineers used to minimize high-intensity reflections on the panel does its job effectively. A high-end TV like this can’t afford to fail in this area, and fortunately this X95K is up to the task.
In our tests, the TV’s typical power consumption was just under 250 watts, a figure that’s in line with the power requirements you’d expect from a state-of-the-art LED LCD set with a 65-inch diagonal. There is nothing to complain about in this area.
To evaluate this TV’s gaming performance, I turned to our Xbox X series and some very latency-sensitive titles like Mortal Kombat X, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps.
As we’ve just seen, cinema is very comfortable on this TV, but video games make it a bit more uncomfortable. And one of the reasons is that we have to decide whether to enable adaptive VRR sync or Dolby Vision support on the HDMI input we connected our console to.
The problem is that the Xbox Series X console supports both technologies, so it can’t reach its full potential when we connect it to this TV.
However, the picture quality when gaming is very high. Everything we noted in the previous section of this review is also present when using this TV for gaming, although some of the features found on higher-end TVs from other brands are missing, such as the game information bar and support for NVIDIA’s G-SYNC Ultimate and AMD’s FreeSync Premium adaptive refresh technologies.
Finally, the input latency varies between 17 and 19 ms when gaming mode is enabled. This is not a shocking value, but low enough to give any demanding gamer a satisfying experience in genres that require higher latency, such as first-person shooters or fighting games.
The last few Sony TVs I’ve looked at have had excellent sound, but the sound on this X95K is simply superb. The physical limitations of the thin chassis of today’s TVs are insurmountable, but Sony engineers have managed to make this unit replicate an exceptionally wide soundstage with remarkable dynamic capacity.
Its most valuable feature is the almost surgical precision with which it separates dialogue from spatial effects.
The bass also has respectable power. Its most valuable quality to me, however, is the almost surgical precision with which it separates dialogue from room and sound effects. Other TVs fail when forced to deal with dynamic sequences, but this X95K prevails where some of its competitors lag.
Quite simply, this means that if you want to improve your sound performance, you’re bound to reach for a high-quality soundbar or, even better, a dedicated multichannel set. Most low and mid-range soundbars I’ve tested sound worse than this TV, so you’d better sort them out.
Veredict and final opinion
If we are sometimes a bit critical of the Sony X95K, it is because the 2016 Backlight Master Drive backlight, a locally dimmable backlight with standard LEDs, has gained such a reputation. The X95K uses mini-LEDs and produces quite a lot of light and a very wide color gamut, but in HDR, local dimming can’t prevent the sometimes obvious halos on bright objects. This is the result of some disappointment.
However, it can show its full potential with bright content and in bright environments. Sports fans are therefore a better target audience than real movie fans in our opinion. Sony’s processor offers very good image processing, and the sound quality is also good. It also has a lot to offer gamers, as long as you consider the limitations of the HDMI ports.
However, the recommended retail price, which seems to be unanimously followed, is much too high in our opinion, especially compared to similar models from Samsung and TCL.
Sony’s first foray into the world of LED-backlit mini TVs leaves us with a very positive review. Its most compelling asset is its top-notch overall picture quality, which allows it to easily compete with the best LED LCD TVs on the market. Moreover, its ability to deliver high brightness and its refined image processing ensure that it performs very well when we ask it to handle HDR content.
Another point in its favor is the exceptionally compelling sound quality. In fact, as we’ve seen, it offers such a high dynamic range, such punchy bass, and such meaty vocals that if you want to improve your sound performance, it’s best to switch to a dedicated multichannel system and skip the soundbars. And, of course, I can’t neglect the placement flexibility offered by its feet.
However, this set of virtues does not hide the weaknesses of the TV. Unfortunately, it’s not capable of handling HDR10+ content, and it’s unfortunate that only two of the four HDMI inputs implement the 2.1 standard. Also, as we have seen, you can enable VRR technology or Dolby Vision support, but not both at the same time. There are more interesting TVs for gaming, like the latest offerings from Samsung or LG, but for movies, this X95K is a safe value.
See price Sony X95K on Amazon
Google TV with Dolby Vision HDR
Google TV with Dolby Vision HDR
Google TV with Dolby Vision HDR
Sony X95K is a very interisting to TV for demanding users that wants a great picture quality. Its Mini LED backlight with Local Dimming provides and outstanding contrast with a very high peak brightness and very good color gamut. Its picture processing is also remarkable and it offers a high sharpness with a smooth motion. However, it has two big drawbacks. First, although it has thoushands of Mini LEDs and more than 300 hundred dimming zones, light leakeages are noticeables when you watch it in a dark room. And secondly, its price is in our opinion too high, considering you have for about the same price or even less, new QD-OLED TVs in 65". In big sizes, you also have Sony OLED A80K and LG C2 series which doesn't have any problem with halos in a dark room. Nevertheless if you watch it in a bright room its high peak brightness and its Anti-Reflection Filter makes this model difficult to beat. Its sound is quite good and Google TV provides a very good experience with thousand of apps.
- The overall picture quality is really good
- Mini LED backlight
- Its maximum brightness is high
- Wide color gamut
- Its sound is so good that a soundbar is not indispensable
- The placement flexibility offered by its stand feet is a clear plus for it
- Sometimes light leakeages are visible in a dark room
- No HDR10+ content processing
- Only two of the four HDMI inputs comply with the 2.1 standard
- VRR technology or Dolby Vision support can be enabled, but not both at the same time