Even if you subscribe to the concept of curved TVs, there’s the issue of viewing angle.
Sit in just the right spot and it’s hard to not be impressed by the extra immersion gained as the screen wraps around you, but sit further back or off to the side and either the effect is lost or the image is distorted.
It's not the slimmest screen we've seen
Sony’s cottoned onto this. But also presumably recognises the marketing potential of sexy curves, which is why it’s jumped on the bandwagon but with a telly that’s far less curvaceous than its rivals (the idea being that the image still draws you in, but there’s less of a sacrifice when viewing off-angle or further back).
We’re not completely convinced of the benefits. At a fairly normal viewing distance the curve is practically unnoticeable – you may as well be watching a flat telly. We’ll admit that viewing angles do seem to be better than most, but it’s very hard to tell whether this is thanks to the curve or simply the result of a good panel.
The KD-65S9005B isn’t ultra-slim, and it can’t match its main rival – the Samsung UE65U8500 – for thin bezels, but it’s got a striking look all of its own.
The way the gentle curve blends with rounded edges at either side is especially neat, and certainly less divisive than the wedge design of its sister model, the KD-65X9005B.
Behind those rounded sections at either side of the screen are actually speaker units, and rather interesting they are too. This is the first Sony TV to process Dolby Digital and DTS signals directly (no downscaling), which it pumps out as virtual surround sound via a built-in 4.2 speaker system.
You’ll know when you’re getting surround sound, because the little horizontal light-strips halfway up each edge glow (unless you’ve elected to keep them switched off), and also because your soundtrack will sound especially large.
You won’t quite be fooled into thinking you’re surrounded by physical speakers and it’s not quite up there with a top Yamaha soundbar, but for a super-neat built-in solution this produces impressively room-filling sound with good weight, punch and nice central focus for dialogue.
So it sounds very good, but what about the picture? Where the Samsung UE65HU8500 goes for a bold, eye-popping performance topped off with metaphorical jazz hands, the Sony screen underplays its brilliance.
Go straight to the (unfortunately still small) selection of 4K content on Netflix, choose House of Cards and you’re treated to a lovely performance. The level of definition adds an extra degree of three-dimensionality to the image and there’s lots of detail.
More after the break
The curve is very subtle and much less than on some rival sets
The Sony looks a touch behind in the sharpness stakes compared to other top 4K TVs we’ve seen, but pay close attention and you’ll notice there’s no real difference in terms of actual detail.
And the Sony has a couple of advantages in terms of contrast and colour. It’s a very dynamic picture that combines very dark blacks with pure and punchy whites effectively, and a rich colour palette adds life and vibrancy without ever venturing into the realm of unreality.
It makes some rivals look grey and flat in comparison. Once you’ve run out of 4K content (which will, unfortunately, only take a few hours) you can switch to the next best source – Blu-ray. As with all 4K TVs, the KD-65S9005B has to upscale even 1080p images to fit its 3840x2160 resolution, and it does so in style.
Again the colours and contrast are the real winners here – there might not be quite as much insight into the darkest parts of the picture as you’d get with some rivals, but those darkest parts are extra dark, without any sacrifice in overall punch or vibrancy. It makes everything seem a little more dramatic and moody, especially the landscapes of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Sony’s motion processing has always been lauded, and it’s still strong here. Fast action is clear and controlled, and camera pans are smooth and generally sharp (although there’s occasionally just a smidge of blur to tricky horizontal motion).
There's a video camera mounted on top of the screen
You can also obviously get your HD fix from the built-in Freeview or satellite tuners, or by connecting a PVR (which the Sony remote can be calibrated to operate), and the performance is excellent here, too.
The colourful BBC Breakfast set is punchy enough to knock the sleep out of anyone’s eyes. Eventually you’ll probably have to drop down to standard definition, which is always a bit of a shame when you’ve got a 4K TV because it has to do so much scaling to the ropey old signal.
Picture quality is up there with the best
Actually the Sony does a decent job here - there’s a fair bit of shimmer to thin, straight edges and patterns, but the overall picture is clear and rich. We would still avoid standard-def wherever possible, but it looks good enough when you need it.
The same is true of 3D. We wonder how many people are interested in watching 3D at home, but those who are will be interested to hear that the Sony is a solid 3D performer that on default settings strikes a good balance between the depth of the image and comfort of the eyes.
And, as well as the outright performance of the set, Sony has also put some effort into making it more user-friendly than most. The ‘Discover’ feature is very good at getting you to content quickly: accessed by flicking up on the touchpad of the mini-remote or pressing the dedicated button on the standard zapper, it calls up a row of content up from the bottom of the screen.
These might be programmes being broadcast right now, on-demand content that’s been freshly added to ‘Video Unlimited’ or BBC iPlayer, or things that you’ve recently recorded. The system needs finessing – there aren’t enough personal recommendations and it doesn’t bring in content from the likes of Netflix (even if you’re signed in).
But it already gets you to good content quicker than most rivals. Power users like us should also be pleased to hear that the Sony can be set to automatically select the right picture mode (‘Scene’) for a given source, and that it’s pretty intelligent in action.
Watch TV and it will select the ‘General’ mode, turn on your PS4 and it will switch to ‘Game’, pop a Blu-ray in (even into the PS4) and it will select ‘Cinema’. These modes can be customised, so you’ve got a system that can be calibrated once for every eventuality and then left to work in the background.
Compare that to Samsung, which hides its ‘Game’ mode in sub-menu after sub-menu (and nowhere near the other picture settings) and you can understand why this might seem a useful feature to many users.
It's a hefty price to pay for this set, but this gorgeous Sony 4K screen is certainly worth it. Its rival, the Samsung UE65HU8500, puts up a formidable fight, and it's a tie between the two when it comes to the amount of detail they both offer.
We're more impressed by the Sony's ability to deliver a subtle picture while still looking punchy and exciting, however. If you're looking for the best premium 4K screen that does it all, look no further than this stunning Sony KD-65S9005B.
Updated on 16.12.14
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