Sony's best 4K TV gets full-array LED dimming

Sony's array of LED LCD TVs at CES 2014 is topped by the XBR-X950B series, its first 4K set to include local dimming in a full-array LED backlight. If the company's previous efforts are any indication, it should have a great picture.

David Katzmaier

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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The XBR-X950B is Sony's best 4K TV for 2014. Sony

Sony's 4K resolution XBR-X950B series, available only in 65- and 85-inch varieties, packs the company's premiere LCD picture quality enhancements.

We're fans of the effect of local dimming, an LED LCD backlight technology that dims particular parts of the screen to improve contrast, the single most important picture quality factor. The X950B series promises some of the best dimming technology around.

The company originally used the term "direct LCD" to describe the X950B's LED backlight, but than changed it to "full-array," a term that traditionally denotes more LEDs and dimmable zones than the direct variety. A full-array local dimming backlight was found on the best Sony TV we've reviewed in the last few years: the XBR-HX950. Other picture enhancements include Sony’s new X-tended Dynamic Range technology, which "leads to unprecedented brightness and deeper detail even in the whitest whites or darkest blacks on the screen to deliver a truly brilliant picture quality" according to the company. If it performs as well as Dolby's version, it might be worthwhile. Another extra we like is the Triluminos LED backlight design, which improved color on the W900A we reviewed last year.

The company also touts the "iconic Wedge" design, which incorporates "large front-facing Magnetic Fluid speakers for deeper, more powerful and clearer sound in a smaller footprint." I guess Sony learned its lesson with the big-eared X900A.

Like most major-name 4K sets announced at the show, Sony's support HDMI 2.0 and feature AVEC decoding for 4K streaming services like Netflix. They're also compatible with MHL 3.0 for 4K output from smartphones and tablets.

Check out the rest of Sony's TV lineup at CES 2014.

Updated to specify a "full-array" local dimming backlight instead of "direct."