Sony X900H – Features and Design
The X900 series is historically where Sony introduces it’s newer technology. This year is no different and perhaps it’s even better for gamers. If you’ve been living in a bunker with Kimmy Schmidt (hello, 2015 reference), maybe you’ve missed the news that new consoles are arriving this November and with them comes the next step in display technology – 4K at 120Hz. Because of the bandwidth necessary to send all those 1s and 0s down a cable, in order for this marvel to reach our eyes, our displays need to have HDMI 2.1 connectors. There are three Sony 4K TVs that will support it, and the X900H is one, the least expensive at that. (The other two are the 8K Z8H and Z9G and they start at $6,000 and $8,000, respectively.)
Along with 4K/120, HDMI 2.1 allows for other gamer-friendly goodies. We’ve seen these individually before, but never all on one TV until this year. Variable refresh rate (VRR) – from 48-120 Hz – and auto low latency mode (ALLM) are two. The X900H is the only Sony in 2020 that will include both. VRR will help eliminate any screen tearing encountered giving a smoother, less distracting image. Auto low latency mode will detect a game source and turn on game mode, decreasing input lag. Another auto-detect mode on the X900H is Auto Picture Mode. Since the X900H and PS5 are both Sony products, the company has made sure that the two interact well together. When Auto Picture Mode is on and a PS5 is sensed by the X900H, it will automatically switch the picture mode to either game or a chosen setting that the user can set up. With Xbox, it will switch to Cinema.
There’s an enormous “But” coming. As of this writing, if you buy a X900H, you will not have the capability for 4K/120 (if you happen to get your hands on a RTX 3000 series graphics card), or variable refresh rate (VRR), or auto low latency mode (ALLM). Sony plans to enable those features with an upcoming firmware update scheduled to come out…sometime. Hopefully before the beginning of November. That said, if you have an Xbox One X, you can currently set it to a 1080p/120 output.
Beyond the hot topic next-gen console/HDMI 2.1 features, the Sony X900H has what you would hope for from a mid-$1,000 TV in 2020. For HDR, it supports HDR10, HLG (which is the main broadcast HDR delivery method), and Dolby Vision. It’s a 10-bit vertical alignment (VA) panel with full-array local dimming. Sony doesn’t publish the number of dimming zones on its TVs, but it looks to be fewer than most of its competitors. Number of dimming zones isn’t what makes great local dimming, though, and while there are fewer on the X900H than, say, the Hisense H8G, the Sony performs better.
The X900H has Sony’s Triluminos technology, which is basically its version of quantum technology. It helps increase color brightness and accuracy for a wider color gamut. Sony was the first manufacturer to release a TV with quantum dot technology back in 2013, and it’s now included with all of the company’s models.
The visual design of the Sony X900H is pretty minimal, which I like. There’s a thin silver frame around the thin bezels and an understated Sony badge at the center bottom. The feet, which in previous years were angled at around 45 degrees, are now thinner and perpendicular to the panel. They also are not secured in with screws, just friction. It admittedly terrified me when I first assembled the X900H, but they stayed firmly in place, even when I had to move the TV on a couple occasions. They are set wide (44.375 inches on the 65-inch model), so make sure your TV stand or table is wide enough for them.
Around the back left of the TV are all of the side-facing connections. There are four HDMI 2.1 ports with HDCP 2.3 (one with ARC), an optical digital audio out, two USB (one 2.0 and one 3.0), 3.5mm headphone out, composite video, Ethernet, cable RF, RS-232C, and IR blaster in. The X900H also supports Wi-Fi (and leads you through connection on initial setup).
Under the bottom bezel is a push button that opens up a limited menu if you misplace the remote. Don’t misplace the remote. The push button menu is clunky. The remote on the other hand is pretty good (it’s the same that came with last year’s X950G) and an improvement over the H900F version. The majority of buttons you’ll need are clustered around the central directional pad, easily within thumb’s reach, and there’s voice control capabilities through the remote as well.
The user interface is built on the Android TV platform. It’s a good full-screen interface that runs and scrolls quickly. Sony says the speed has been increased by 50-60% over previous versions and it definitely feels faster. There’s a significant number of apps available through the Google store, and the X900H comes preloaded with a few, including Netflix. There’s also a separate Netflix Calibrated picture mode that the X900H will automatically switch to when you start up the installed app. (If you use Netflix through a console or streaming stick, the Netflix Calibrated mode will not be available. Only through the TV interface.) The apps in the interface can be assigned to the TV input menu for easy selection.
Over the past couple years, Sony has been working on the quality of sound that its TVs provide. The company has continued that development with a new design for its down-firing speakers called X-Balanced. It’s a new driver and enclosure which it says has more bass and clearer mids over the previous oval speakers that were used. I admire Sony for trying to make TV speakers decent because honestly, they’re usually garbage. TV speakers need to be small due to the size and width of TV chassis, and that’s a formula for thin, piercing sound. So I’m going to surprise myself and say that the X900H’s actually sound pretty decent. They are definitely a bit mid focused and high-end can be forward and surprising if the volume is too high, but they are serviceable. But I’d still budget in a soundbar at least if you can afford it.
Sony X900H – Testing and Gaming
For measuring the accuracy of a display I use Calman calibration software, a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, VideoForge Classic for 1080p SDR patterns, and HDR patterns from Diversified Video Solutions. Custom picture mode is the one Sony has tuned for best grayscale and color accuracy and is the one I used for all TV and movie watching (except for Netflix shows that automatically engaged the Netflix Calibrated mode). I also looked at accuracy of Game mode, since that is what most will be using while gaming for the input lag reduction.
Out of the box in both SDR and HDR, the Sony has excellent color accuracy and very good grayscale accuracy. The grayscale brightness in HDR is a little under target in the midtones (between 60 and 80 percent of white) which can cause bright white highlights to be a bit startling. In SDR, as gray gets closer to white there can be a slight blue tint, but it’s only noticeable in test patterns, not in real world content. Color accuracy had a DeltaE value of 3.2 in both Custom and Game mode, with all the color points being slightly oversaturated (a look that many people enjoy). There’s an auto-cal feature on the Sony to be used with Calman that can improve grayscale tracking and color to near perfect values if you have the capability or want to do so, although it certainly isn’t necessary.
The Sony X900H isn’t the brightest HDR TV available, but the light output is still very good and at times can seem overly bright in a dark room. With a Peak 10% window I measured 522 cd/m2 (or nits) in SDR and 508 nits in HDR. The highest brightness I measured was with a Peak 25% window in HDR that was just under 750 nits. A lot of people look to 1,000 nits as the current golden standard for brightness, and it’s a good target to strive for, but the Sony is still plenty bright without hitting it.
While the full-array local dimming on the Sony performs well, its limited number of dimming zones does lead to some excessive blooming especially with small white sections on a black screen. The viewing angle is also not very good, and starts to show a loss of brightness and rise to the black level at off-axis viewing of around 30-degrees. The screen is also pretty reflective with direct light, so if you have any lamps around your sitting location, there’s a good chance you’ll get a large light flare on your screen from it when it’s on.
Terra 2 of the Halcyon system popped with color on the Sony. The color variety is one of my favorite visual parts of The Outer Worlds, and the mixture of plants looked great. Play was smooth and I didn’t feel any lag from controller to screen. The input lag on the Sony in game mode measured 17.2ms in 1080p with my Leo Bodnar tester (outside game mode it was 86.2ms). The minimal lag won’t affect your game at all.
Sea of Thieves recently had a major content update and it’s always one of my favorites to check HDR. Bright highlights really pop on the X900H. Scrolling by the sun at one point actually caused me to squint and glance away as if I was outside looking at the sky. Some added location sky effects, namely an enormous foreboding red tornado over an island, looked gorgeous and terrifying.
The detail and rust color of the refuse leading up to the orphanage in Blade Runner 2049 accentuates the decay of our future world, and the colors on the Sony made it feel real. Once inside the orphanage, there was some pretty good detail within the shadows. There was nice depth to the stacks of books around Mister Cotton’s office. But as K explored the darkness of the orphanage looking for the toy from his memory, some of that detail in the darker areas were lost.
Sony X900H – Purchasing Guide
The Sony 65-inch X900H (XBR-65X900H or sometimes seen as X90H) has a MSRP of $1,400, but can usually be found for less. At the time of writing, it was for sale on Amazon for just under $1,000. It comes in 55-, 75-, and 85-inch versions as well that MSRP for $1,000, $2,000, and $2,800, respectively.