Hands-on with Sony's 2014 4K televisions

Sony gave CNET a hands-on look at the range of 4K televisions for 2014 including a look at House of Cards in 4K.

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David Katzmaier/CNET

Sony has unveiled its 2014 4K televisions with a private event in New York designed to illustrate the new models' video and audio performance, as well as give a preview of 4K content including House of Cards.

The company pitted its X950B, X900B and X850B televisions against its rivals and highlighted the evolution of its own local dimming system: which has powered notable past models including the W900 .

The X-tended Dynamic Range PRO is Sony's best full-array dimming system and is featured on the X950B, while the stepdown X900B gets the non-pro version which is edge-lit dimming only. Meanwhile, the X850B is frame dimming.

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Sony assembled four TVs for a comparison which included the 65-inch Panasonic ZT60, the 65-inch Sony X950B, the 65-inch Samsung UH9000 and the 55-inch X900B.

Compared against the Samsung HU9000 specifically, the X950B had better blacks and shadow detail, according to the demonstration. The X950B held up remarkably well against the ZT60 as it was able to get better white highlights than the now-discontinued plasma. Sony claims the TVs were set to their default cinema modes, but traces of motion compensation were visible on the Panasonic and we would have preferred to see it placed in THX mode instead, or calibrated would have been even better.

While color wasn't a focus of the demonstration, Sony's TVs now feature version II of the Triluminos technology it debuted in 2013. While the company is mum on the details Triluminos is now developed inhouse and no-longer includes Quantum Dots.

Sound, on the other hand, was a big focus, with particular attention paid to the speakers on the X900B. The TV incorporates front-facing "Magnetic Fluid" speakers alongside a separate fabric tweeter and incorporating a dedicated cross-over network. The speakers have changed subtly in appearance over last year's X900 with the biggest change now a transmission line-type wedge at the bottom for better bass response.

Content
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David Katzmaier/CNET

Sony said that unlike Netflix, which is now streaming in 4K, its own Video Unlimited 4K content will remain a download-only service for the immediate future via the FMP-X10 or FMP-X1 players, not the TVs. This is because the TVs don't have onboard storage and according to Sony adding a hard drive won't work. The representatives who were on-hand said this was to ensure sufficient bandwidth, which it said was over three times that of the Netflix streams (~15 Mbps versus 50 Mbps).

The highest profile 4K content at the moment is undoubtedly House of Cards, and Sony allowed CNET a preview of how it appears. Though both seasons of the show may bear the 4K logo only the second season of House of Cards is currently in 4K resolution. We saw a brief excerpt of the program, but the scene looked really grainy and it wasn't enough to tell if the extra resolution is beneficial or not. Watch this space.

 

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