Not so long ago, a 49in TV was considered pretty huge – but not any more. Manufacturers now consider a 49in screen as small, and rarely produce sets with flagship features at that size. In fact, OLED TVs don’t go below 55in, at least not yet.
All of which makes the Sony KD-49XG9005 a bit of an outlier. While it isn’t an OLED and doesn’t feature absolutely all of the bells and whistles in Sony’s arsenal, it’s closer to the top of the company’s 2019 range than one might expect. What’s more, it’s an absolute belter of a telly.
The KD-49XG9005 is essentially a smaller sibling of the XG9505 TV, which is available in sizes ranging from 55in to 85in and which we've already reviewed in 65in form. It has a similarly understated design that boasts slim, dark bezels that effectively disappear once the lights are off. The splayed feet look decidedly awkward and require a fairly wide surface for the TV to stand upon, but are designed like that to accommodate a soundbar.
The XG9005 doesn’t come with the new remote control bundled with the XG9505 models, making do with the older, more cluttered and line-of-sight-dependant zapper of previous TVs, which is a shame.
Specs-wise, the downgrades from XG9505 to XG9005 are to the processor and the sound system. While XG9505s get Sony’s current top processor, the X1 Ultimate, the XG9005 gets the X1 Extreme. The latter lacks the former’s Object-based Super Resolution, which is designed to enhance the crispness of individual items on display by referencing them against a vast database of images. There's an argument that, at 49in, there’s less need for such technology.
Screen type LCD
Operating system Android TV 8.0
HDR formats HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
On the sound front, the XG9505’s fancy Acoustic Multi Audio speaker arrangement is missing from the XG9005, with a more typical, near-invisible speaker system taking its place.
Almost every TV in Sony’s 2019 range runs Android 8.0 as its operating system, and the XG9005 is no different. With each update, Android TV gets a little more stylish, less cluttered and more customisable, but it’s still a long way behind the bespoke operating systems of LG’s and Samsung’s current TVs.
Sony does at least overcome the catch-up app shortcomings of other Android TVs by adding YouView to its sets. That ensures you get the full roster – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5 – as well as other streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play Movies & TV. Those last three all deliver 4K and HDR, right up to Dolby Vision in the case of Netflix and Amazon. The TV does not support Samsung’s HDR10+ format, as is the case across Sony’s entire range.
Only two of the set’s four HDMIs support 4K with HDR. This shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s worth bearing in mind that top-notch sources, including 4K Blu-ray players, 4K streamers and 4K consoles such as the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, will need to be plugged into HDMI 2 or 3 in order to perform as they should. Gamers should note that an input lag score of 41.5ms in the dedicated Game mode is a bit slow by 2019 standards, but only the most hardcore gamers will notice any delay.
The XG9005 is packed with tweakable picture options, which would be overwhelming were the TV’s out-of-the-box settings not almost spot-on. It’s vital that you turn off the Light Sensor when watching non-HDR content (the option is unavailable when HDR is being received) and we recommend that you also disable the noise reduction options. Other than that, you just need to consider Live Colour – we set to High for HDR content and Medium for SDR, but it’s worth experimenting to find your personal preference.
Playing Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 on 4K Blu-ray, the Sony immediately impresses with its punch and crispness. In fact, it makes the recently reviewed Samsung QE49Q70R look a little dull by comparison.
Here, whites are pure and bright, edges are razor sharp and light-to-dark contrast is pronounced. There’s real solidity and three-dimensionality, and colours are both richer and more natural than they are from rival sets. There’s organic subtlety to skin tones, striking punch to neon lights and richness to sunsets.
Motion has long been Sony’s forte and the XG9005 continues the trend. There’s just a touch of shimmer to exceptionally tricky bits of motion, but the general balance of sharpness and smoothness is spot on in the default Auto mode. You could eradicate the shimmer entirely by turning the motion processing off, but you’d introduce a little judder and blur, skewing the compromise the wrong way.
Switching to The Hateful Eight on standard Blu-ray, the Sony once again proves a master of colour. The film is rather monochromatic, but the Sony digs up the colour in the open fires and candles and the faces of the characters, without boosting anything artificially. It does a great job with the intentional film grain, too, neither smoothing it into non-existence nor mistakenly enhancing it as some rival sets do.
Move into standard-def territory and the Sony does an admirable job in terms of detail, contrast and colours. While it doesn’t quite manage to smooth out the rough edges of the low-res signal as some the best upscalers around can do, the overall image is perfectly palatable.
The only slight flaw in the Sony’s picture performance is its blacks. While dark detail is plentiful and bright highlights stand out strikingly against black backgrounds, the Sony doesn’t have the tight backlight control necessary to stop light bleeding from the bright parts of the image into those that should be dark.
The black depth isn’t terribly weak – in the majority of images you’d hardly notice that the blacks aren’t entirely black – but some light does seep into the black bars at the top and bottom of the widescreen presentation.
While it lacks the Acoustic Multi Audio speaker arrangement of the XG9505 models, designed to make audio sound as if it’s coming directly from the screen, the XG9005 still sounds very impressive by class standards.
This is a more direct, dynamic and fuller bodied presentation than we expect from smaller TVs, and there’s a surprising degree of space and atmosphere to the soundstage. It goes loud, too – just 50 per cent volume is more than enough for a decent movie audio experience in a standard sized room.
Of course, while the Sony sounds good for a TV, it can’t compete with a half-decent soundbar, and we recommend you take advantage of those awkwardly splayed feet and add one.
We’re used to 49in TVs being disappointingly downgraded over their larger siblings but, while not every spec has made it down from the XG9505, the XG9005 bucks that trend by offering a fair few fancy features.
Clearly, Sony cares about those buyers who are limited to 49in but still want an excellent TV, and that’s just what it’s produced. This is a lovely TV to watch, it sounds good by prevailing standards, and its app selection leaves you wanting for little. Buy with confidence.
- Picture 5
- Features 5
- Sound 5
Read our Sony KD-65XG9505 review
Read our Samsung QE49Q70R review