Such is the competitiveness of the TV market, the Sony KD-65XG9505, which has been available for barely five minutes, has already dropped from £2199 to £1999.
We actually carried out all of our testing and settled on our rating at the original retail price, with value being one of this TV’s greatest strengths. So, we weren’t exactly expecting a price cut so soon. Not that we’re complaining.
This is Sony’s top 2019 model below its Master Series ZG9 8K LCD and AG9 OLED, and it’s intended to bring the Master Series’ authentic approach to a greater audience.
The XG9505 (or XG95) also has big shoes to fill: it’s predecessor, the XF9005, was a What Hi-Fi? Award-winner at both 49in and 65in. But this 65in XG9505 is a real success. It might not be the best TV you can buy for any money, but it’s a superb proposition at its price.
This is a 4K LCD set with a direct, full array, LED backlight. Sony isn’t being specific about the number of individual dimming zones or giving out a peak brightness figure, but we’re not expecting Samsung Q90R specs here – the Sony XG9505 is £1800 cheaper than Samsung’s 4K flagship after all.
While last year’s XF9005 used Sony’s X1 Extreme processor, the XG9505 gets the same X1 Ultimate chip found in the 2019 Master Series models. With around twice the processing power of the X1 Extreme, the X1 Ultimate adds extra features such as Object-Based Super Resolution, which actively identifies objects on screen and enhances their appearance using intelligent algorithms.
The X1 Extreme’s core features carry over, too, so you still get the likes of Object-Based HDR Remaster (for intelligent contrast enhancement), Super Bit Mapping HDR (which reduces banding), and Dual Database Processing (for cleaner, shaper upscaling).
Those are all Sony-specific picture features, but the company is also doing a great job of supporting and including broader TV standards such as Netflix Calibrated (a Netflix-specific set of picture settings) and IMAX Enhanced (for IMAX Enhanced content). On the HDR front, there is compatibility for standard HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. HDR10+ is not included, but given the relative paucity of available content, we don’t imagine many potential buyers being put off by that.
Sony continues to source its TV operating system from Google, and the XG9505 has Android TV 8.0 pre-installed. Android TV is responsive and snappy on the XG9505, thanks largely to the abundant processing power on tap. It’s still a fairly cluttered and unwelcoming operating system compared to the slick, colourful offerings of Samsung and LG, though.
Android TV does give you access to tonnes of apps, though, including Netflix and Amazon Video (both in 4K and Dolby Vision) for subscription-based streaming, Google Play Movies & TV (in 4K and HDR10) and Rakuten (HD-only) for pay-as-you-go movies and TV, Plex and VLC for playing your own files, and Spotify, Tidal and Deezer for music.
While Android TV itself misses a few catch-up apps, Sony has added YouView, ensuring you get the full selection – BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5. The only app absence of any real significance is that of Now TV, for subscription-free streaming of Sky content. The TV does have Chromecast built-in, though, so it is possible to ‘cast’ Now TV from your phone or tablet.
Connections are all on the back of the TV, with most facing downwards but some to the side. These are easy to access thanks to a generous recess and the overall curve of the back panel. The selection includes four HDMI 2.0 sockets, three USBs, ethernet, an optical output and a dedicated 3.5mm headphone connection. There’s an old school AV-in for legacy connections, plus sockets for aerial and satellite. There’s no Freesat tuner on board, though, so few UK buyers will be making use of the satellite sockets.
After years of complaints about its rudimentary, cluttered remote, Sony has finally updated the design. The zapper that comes with the XG9505 is a vast improvement; longer, slimmer and more ergonomic, it is much nicer to hold. It’s also nicer to use, thanks to well-spaced buttons that have a nice, positive click.
This is 2019, so voice control is an option, too. It’s better on the XG9505 than many rivals, thanks largely to Google Assistant being built-in to the operating system. We also like that Sony has built a microphone into the TV itself as well as one in the remote, which means you can go totally hands-free. Anyone nervous about devices constantly listening will appreciate the orange light that lets you know when it’s on, and also that the TV’s inbuilt mic can be deactivated.
Sony has been making laudable efforts to improve the sound of its TVs in recent years, with the Acoustic Surface tech of its OLEDs, which involves small actuators vibrating the whole screen, being a real highlight, particularly in how it spatially ties the audio to the onscreen action.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to apply the same approach to a backlit, LCD TV, but Sony is keen that the XG9505 exhibits similar ‘Sound-from-Picture’ qualities so has introduced its ‘Acoustic Multi-Audio’, which partners two front-firing full-range speakers with two tweeters mounted to the rear panel and firing out to the sides. These are said to make it sound as if the audio is coming from the screen.
It comes as little surprise that the XG9505 is made of materials less luxurious than those found on the likes of the Samsung Q90R and LG C9, but from across the room this TV looks smart and stylish, with a simple, black design that doesn’t draw lots of attention in a well-lit room and does a good job of hiding in the dark.
The splayed feet that Sony introduced last year remain and still look a bit awkward, although they do leave plenty of space for a soundbar. The bigger problem with them is that they necessitate a wide stand. On this 65in version the distance between the ‘toes’ of each foot is 119cm. By comparison, the Samsung Q90R’s pedestal stand is just 29cm wide.
Its 6.9cm depth means it's not super-slim, but at 23.5kg (without feet), it is relatively light for a TV this size, so it should be relatively easy to wall-mount.
This is a great Sony TV, but it’s not perfect - and we're going to get the negative points out of the way first.
The XG9505’s most obvious weakness is its backlight, which doesn’t allow the set to go properly dark and does allow light to bloom around bright objects on otherwise dark backgrounds.
A standard credits sequence is a nightmare for a backlit TV, and this Sony struggles to do justice to the bright, white text without sacrificing a good deal of black depth. In normal viewing, the issue is most noticeable in the black bars at the top and bottom of a widescreen presentation, with light bleeding in from the main picture.
Viewing angles aren’t great, either, with black depth and colour vibrancy quickly lost as you move off-axis.
That said, these are common issues for backlit TVs. In fact, we’ve only tested two that don’t have them; Samsung’s Q90R and Q85R models, the most affordable of which (the Q85R) is £2999 at 65in. In other words, the XG9505’s flaws are somewhat forgivable given its price.
So, with the bad stuff out of the way, it’s time to focus on the good. Perhaps predictable given Sony’s track record, the XG9505’s motion processing is excellent. We prefer the Auto setting to the default Custom mode, but with either option selected the motion is significantly better than that of even the most expensive TVs from the likes of Samsung and LG.
Screen type LCD with direct LED backlight
Operating system Google Android TV 8.0
HDR formats HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Here you get smoother, sharper motion with much less shimmer and flicker and none of the unpleasant over-sharpening or unrealism referred to as the ‘soap opera effect’. The Sony’s motion simply doesn’t exhibit those little defects that draw the eye in a negative way.
This is also an exceptionally bright and vibrant picture for the price. By default, the picture is somewhat dull, but switch Live Colour to High and the image comes to life, adding punch and lusciousness while steering clear of over-exaggeration.
On the contrary, the subtlety and nuance remains where needed, so the Sony is able to combine eye-poppingly colourful effects with natural skin tones in the same image.
We play the 4K Blu-ray disc of Alien: Covenant on 4K Blu-ray, and the realism of the colour palette is reinforced. The opening scene takes place in an impossibly white room, which the Sony recreates in a bright fashion without washing-out the subtle variances in light and shade.
This scene also features a number of close-ups, and the Sony makes full use of the merciless resolution to display every wrinkle, scar and blemish of each character. Detail levels are high in dark images, too, with the film’s many horrific scenes revealed in all of their gory glory.
Lower-resolution, SDR signals are also well handled, with the Sony producing a really clean, low-noise image, even if you go right down to 576p. Colours remain natural and balanced (some films and TV shows will be best served by Live Colour being moved back to Medium), and 1080p films are sharp and detailed.
Sony’s ‘Sound-from-Picture’ approach is generally impressive, offering a wide soundstage with good placement of effects. While the audio doesn’t sound as if it’s coming from the screen in quite the way it does with the company’s Acoustic Surface models, it is much better than many rivals.
The sound of the grass blowing in the wind as the hapless members of the landing party in Alien: Covenant enter Walter’s stronghold seems to come from the area of the screen it visually inhabits, for example.
It’s a crisp, punchy and dynamic sound by flatscreen standards, too, making movie effects more exciting than expected. In fact, it’s occasionally a little too exciting, with that crispness veering into overly zingy treble from time to time. It’s also a fairly bass-light delivery.
As always, we’d recommend a separate sound solution for an audio performance that matches the quality of the onscreen action. But those determined to stick with the TV’s own speakers will find plenty to like in the Sony’s novel approach.
The very best TVs at this size are currently the LG C9 OLED and Samsung Q90R QLED, and it’s impossible to deny that, next to these, the Sony XG9505 lacks black depth, close contrast control and wide viewing angles.
But those TVs are vastly more expensive than this Sony. Take that into consideration and the Sony’s flaws are easy to live with, especially when it has so many strengths – from brilliantly balanced colours, to excellent detail and some of the best motion processing available at any price.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our Samsung QE65Q90R review
Read our LG OLED65C9PLA review