Sony XBR-X900E series review: Midpriced TV blessed with a high-end look, feel and picture

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The Good The Sony XBR-X900E evinces excellent image quality, with deep black levels, accurate color, solid video processing and best-in-class high dynamic range performance. Its modern, minimalist styling is a cut above budget models. The Android TV operating system beats many competitors with more apps and integrated Google Assistant.

The Bad Costs more than Vizio and TCL TVs with similar image quality. Smart TV and voice control features can occasionally be slow to respond.

The Bottom Line The Sony XBR-X900E has the sweet style and superb picture quality to tempt midrange TV shoppers away from Vizio or TCL.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8

The Sony XBR-X900E is Sony's least-expensive to deliver truly excellent image quality, thanks in large part to full-array local dimming. That feature allows different areas of the screen to dim independently, and in my experience it's the number one contributor to great picture quality on an LCD TV

It's no coincidence that the two other highest-rated LCD TVs I've reviewed this year, the Vizio M series and the 55-inch TCL 55P607, also use local dimming. Since those TVs cost significantly less than the X900E, and "it's a Sony," you might automatically assume they look worse. You'd be wrong. In my side-by-side comparisons each one showed advantages and disadvantages in different areas -- the Sony has slightly worse black levels and contrast, for example, but the best HDR (high dynamic range) image of the three. In the end I rated all three the same for picture quality.

That leaves the other stuff. For its higher price the X900E has hands-down better styling than those other two, with a modernist look that might be worth the price difference by itself to you. If not, perhaps you're tempted by its neat-o Android TV operating system, packed with apps and boasting integrated Google Assistant, just like an Android phone.

In the end, the Sony XBR-X900E is one of the best TVs of the year, sitting squarely between the "best-picture-for-the-money" appeal of the Vizio M and TCL P, and the "best picture, period" appeal of OLED TVs like the LG C7 series. If you don't want the Vizio/TCL for some reason, and you're reluctant to step up to OLED, this is the TV to get.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sleek, minimal, no-nonsense looks

All TVs today have super slim, usually black frames around the picture, and the X900E is no different. Its frame is even slimmer than most, however, at about half the width of the Vizio M series, for example, for pretty much maximum screen in minimum cabinet. And its black is complete, all business and just one accent: a thin chrome strip below the discreet Sony logo on the bottom.

Antidote to the cheap-looking splayed leg stands found on many competitors, Sony sets the X900E atop a traditional center pedestal, a raked-back chunk of subtly reflective metal that lifts the panel enough to create a sensation of floating, when seen from a low enough angle.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google-powered Smarts, but not so fast

Sony's sets run Google's smart TV system, and it beats the homebrew solutions from Samsung and LG (if not Roku TV) in one important area: app coverage. It's also better, in pretty much every way, than Vizio's system.

Unfortunately, the responsiveness of Sony's Android TV system, while tolerable for the most part, wasn't as quick as many of its competitors, particularly Samsung and Roku. At times the home page would take forever to load, and Google's little loading icon popped up more than I'd like to see it elsewhere. The system even lagged when I hit the "Action Menu" key during streaming to call up a picture adjustments. Methinks Sony could invest more in processor speed on this TV.

Of course there's an easy, inexpensive cure for pokiness: throw on a $70 Roku Streaming Stick Plus. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The X900E's app suite is almost as comprehensive as Roku's. Apps that support both 4K and HDR include Amazon and Netflix. Apps with 4K but not HDR capability include YouTube, Google Play Movies and TV, as well as an UltraFlix app with some niche 4K content. Sony's own Ultra app, exclusive to Sony TVs, also has 4K and HDR movies by Sony Pictures on a purchase-only basis (typically $26-$30 each). On the other hand the Sony TV's Vudu app offers neither 4K nor HDR support, even though the app on Nvidia Shield Android TV (as well as Roku) has both.

Other apps abound including PlayStation Vue, CNNGo, HBO Now, Plex, PBS Kids, Sling TV and of course numerous lesser apps along with games are available via the Google Play Store (don't get too excited; it's specific to Android TV, and much less extensive than the one on your phone). Speaking of phones, many more apps can be cast to the Sony via its built-in Google Cast functionality, which works just like a Chromecast.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Voices in the living room

Sony's remote has a voice button that, as of November 2017, summons Google Assistant, similar to the voice assistant featured on Android phones. She even talks back through the TV's speakers. In my tests most commands worked as expected, although for a lot of stuff, particularly on-screen navigation, you'll need to have the remote in hand anyway.

The biggest downside, as before, was lack of responsiveness at times. There was sometime a significant delay before it was ready to take commands. In general, the experience was less satisfying than Assistant on Nvidia Shield, but it's still pretty cool -- and the best voice integration in any TV yet, with the exception of Alexa on Amazon Fire TV Edition. Check out my deep dive with Nvidia Shield's Assistant for more.

Better than talking into the remote, in my book, is being able to utilize a far-field mic and talk into thin air. Sony TVs are at the forefront of Google Home and Amazon Alexa integration, too. Alexa owners can use their devices to control many features on the TV, hands-free, no remote required, using a "beta" app. When I tested it on Sony's OLED it worked well, as did that TV's integration with Google Home speakers. I didn't retest either feature for this review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Full-fledged features and connectivity

The best picture-enhancing extra on the X900E is full-array local dimming. It improved black levels and contrast by illuminating different areas of the screen separately as needed. Unlike Vizio or TCL, Sony doesn't disclose the number of dimming zones. Moreover, it claims the more-expensive X940E (which we haven't reviewed) actually performs even better than this TV, even though it uses an edge-lit local dimming system.

Key features

Display technology LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with local dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR compatible HDR10
Screen shape Flat
Smart TV: Android TV
Remote: Standard with voice

Other picture-centric extras include a native 120Hz refresh rate, a notable improvement on paper over the fake 120Hz refresh rates (they're actually 60Hz native) found on the Vizio M and TCL P series. On paper, anyway; in our tests (below) it didn't make much difference.

Unlike Vizio and TCL, Sony doesn't support Dolby Vision HDR format, just HDR10 and HLG. The company will be adding Dolby Vision to higher-end models like the X930E/X940E LCDs and XBR-A1E OLED by the end of 2017, but the X900E won't get that update.

  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0b, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports
  • 1x component video input
  • 2x composite video input (1 shared with component)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • 1x headphone/subwoofer audio output
  • 1x RF (antenna) input
  • RS-232 port (minijack)

The X900E has a very healthy selection of jacks, especially compared to the relatively paltry Vizio M. Unlike many of Samsung's sets, the Sony actually has analog video inputs, both composite (yellow) and component (red, green and blue) for legacy (non-HDMI) devices. All of the HDMI inputs will work with 4K and HDR devices, but for best results Sony recommends using input 2 or 3 (which have higher bandwidth than the others) with 4K Blu-ray players and making sure to engage "HDMI enhanced" mode. Click here for details.

Picture quality


The X900E is an excellent performer, especially with HDR (high dynamic range) material, but in my side-by-side tests it didn't significantly outperform the Vizio M series or TCL P series. All three score an "8" on my 2017 image quality scale, falling short of only the OLED TVs I've tested, which cost a lot more.

The combination of local dimming and high light output on the Sony result in great pop and contrast in both bright and dark rooms. Video processing was better than the M or the TCL P series, but not as good as some other competing sets, while color was exceedingly accurate.

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