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Sony XBR-X930D series review: Thin, beautiful TV provides OLED alternative for hundreds less

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  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 1x component video input
  • 3x USB ports (2x version 2.0, 1x version 3.0)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • Stereo audio output (minijack)
  • RF (antenna) input
  • Remote (RS-232) port

Sony's input selection is solid, including four state-of-the-art HDMI inputs (all are HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2) and plenty of other jacks. Custom installers will applaud the RS-232 port, although they might be annoyed at the huge external power supply.

Picture quality

The Sony X930D delivers a superb overall picture characterized by accurate color, prodigious light output and the deepest black levels I've seen yet on an edge-lit LED-based LCD. That said, in overall contrast and punch it still can't quite match the best LCD TVs I've tested with full-array local dimming backlights, let alone OLED TVs.

Even so, the X930 deserves the same 9 in this category I awarded the Vizio P-Series and the Samsung JS9500 in 2015. It has better color than either one, better brightness than the Vizio, and combats blooming (where halos of stray light surround bright objects against dark backgrounds) better than the Samsung. Among the three I rank the Vizio highest, but it's very close and each has its merits.

In case you're wondering, I no longer test 3D performance.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: The Sony was excellent in a dark room for an LED LCD (especially an edge-lit one), albeit not quite as impressive as the OLED TV or the Vizio. Its black levels were lighter (grayer) in very dark areas, and it showed a bit more blooming in mixed-brightness scenes. Watching "Deadpool," for example, in the aftermath of the fire in Chapter 17 the Sony's letterbox bars and shadows looked slightly brighter than those two. I also noticed slight blooming in Chapter 12, where the lights near the bars brightened a bit.

On the other hand the Sony's highlights were better than the Vizio's, so contrast and pop on the two were very close. Compared with the Samsung 9500, the Sony's black levels were a bit brighter in some areas but the Samsung's worse blooming made it less impressive overall. The LG UH8500 and Samsung KS8000 both showed much grayer blacks than the others.

Bright lighting: The Sony is a light output beast, falling short of only the Samsung JS9500 in overall brightness with standard window patterns, and beating it with full-screen (all-white) patterns. With the most color-accurate bright-room mode, Cinema Home, it was still plenty bright.

Unlike the other 2016 LCD sets from LG and Samsung, the Sony was equally (searingly) bright with standard and HDR content. And speaking of beasts, that peak number for the Samsung KS8000 in HDR is not a misprint (it did decrease over time, however; see that review for details).

Light output comparison

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung UN65JS9500 Dynamic 958 411 Movie 884
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492 HDR Auto 923
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1346
LG 55UH8500 Vivid 610 403 HDR Bright 601
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid 502 572 Calibrated Dark 468
Sony XBR-65X930D Cinema Home 451 279 HDR Auto 923
LG 65EF9500 Vivid 431 146 Cinema 399

[Update June 27: Samsung KS8000 results updated after re-measurement]

The Sony's screen was middling at reducing reflections, falling short of all of the TVs in the lineup with the exception of the JS9500. It maintained contrast and black-level fidelity very well in a bright room however.

Color accuracy: Going by the numbers, the Sony was the most accurate TV in my lineup, delivering some of the best overall grayscale and color measurements I've ever seen. With program material it lived up to the test patterns, with vibrant, saturated colors that maintained accuracy even in dim areas like the bar scene in Chapter 7 of "Deadpool." Most of the TVs in my lineup looked very good, but side by side the Sony was just a touch better to my eye.

Video processing: I have no major complaints in this category. The balance between smoothing and motion resolution, controlled by MotionFlow, isn't as easy to achieve as on sets like the Samsung and LG. For film-based sources (including scripted TV and movies) I recommend using the True Cinema mode because it preserves the correct cadence of film without smoothing. The same goes for Off and the Custom mode if you select "Min" Smoothness.

Unfortunately all of those modes also achieve "Min" motion resolution (300 lines). The only way to improve it is to dial in a mode -- like Standard, Smooth, Clear or a Custom Smoothness setting of 3 or more -- that creates the Soap Opera Effect. The most effective, namely Clear and a Custom Clearness setting of 2 or 3, engage backlight scanning which dims the image. Unless you're really sensitive to blurring, it's best to stick with a less smooth mode like True Cinema.

I also checked out the CineMotion settings with a 1080i source and the default, High, looked best with film-based material; lower settings introduced too much judder. I did not spend much time evaluating the Reality Creation processing under the Clarity menu, because with high-quality sources like HDTV and Blu-ray, I prefer minimal or no "enhancements."

Input lag tests revealed 37ms in Game mode. That's not up to the world-beating Sony sets of a couple of years ago, but still very good.

Uniformity: The Sony was fine from off-angle, no better or worse than most of the other LCDs in the lineup, which all lost significant fidelity compared with the OLED. My review sample also showed a large slightly darker spot in the middle left of the screen with test patterns, but it wasn't visible in program material unless I looked for it with diligence and just the right material. It contributed a slight "dirty screen effect" during hockey, for example, but no worse overall than any of the other TVs.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

HDR and 4K video: The Sony is an excellent HDR performer overall, demonstrating prodigious light output and accurate color.

As I saw with the Vizio P-Series, the look of HDR is very dependent on content, and in the case of Netflix's "Marco Polo," the improvement over standard dynamic range was subtle. I compared four streams at once: 4K/HDR on the Sony, the Vizio and the Samsung KS8000, and standard dynamic range on the LG OLED. The LG actually looked the best of the three thanks to its deep black levels and superior overall contrast, although in some outdoor scenes the Sony looked better, delivering the extra vibrancy I've come to expect from HDR shot outdoors.

Between the three LCDs, the Sony looked the best overall, with superior highlights to the Vizio and much better black levels and contrast than the Samsung. The other two also seemed to saturate colors, particularly skin tones, too much, while the Sony was more balanced.

Next up was watching 4K Blu-ray on the Samsung UBD-K8500. Unfortunately my test setup doesn't yet allow me to compare multiple TVs using the same source, so I made do with comparing standard Blu-ray and switching to multiple TVs. With "Mad Max: Fury Road" in 4K HDR, the Sony looked great, with that characteristic pop in highlights like the sun glinting off chrome, superior detail in bright areas like the clouds and, most importantly, wider, more impressive color (as long as I selected the Auto or BT.2020 color space; DCI didn't look nearly as good) especially in red areas like the flames from the roadsters and the insane storm.

HDR colors on the Samsung JS9500 looked redder by comparison, and the Vizio didn't have quite the same pop -- another testament to the Sony's superb light output. On the other hand the Vizio, the JS9500 and of course the LG OLED delivered deeper, more realistic black levels, which was even more apparent with HDR sources because they demand maximum backlight settings. With darker scenes in HDR, like Max's run through the warrens in Chapter 1, it was obvious that the Sony is an edge-lit display, and while it was excellent, it didn't quite match the overall contrast and punch of the full-array models or the OLED.

According to my measurements the Sony's HDR color was more accurate than the JS9500 or the LG OLED, and it covered a bit more of the DCI color space (about 91 percent). For more info check out my notes.

The Sony was also able to pass the full resolution of 4K from YouTube, and played through a suite of 4K test patterns from Florian Friedrich with no issues (as long as I left Reality Creation turned off).

Geek box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.005 Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 270 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.36 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.827 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.674 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.712 Good
Avg. color error 1.520 Good
Red error 1.675 Good
Green error 1.466 Good
Blue error 1.522 Good
Cyan error 1.523 Good
Magenta error 1.436 Good
Yellow error 1.495 Good
Avg. saturations error 0.9863 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.2 Good
Avg. color checker error 1.3616 Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) 91.3 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1080 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 37 Good

Sony XBR-65X930D CNET review calibration report

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