Despite continuing to haemorrhage cash from its TV business, Sony has actually managed to produce some great TVs this year, especially theand . If the Japanese giant is to crawl back into the black, however, it needs to sell lots of high-end TVs, like this one -- the humongous Ultra HD Sony KD-65X9005B, which has a massive £3,600 asking price to go with its huge screen.
This is a top of the range set with Ultra HD resolution, onboard HEVC decoder for 4K Netflix and a host of other goodies. Last year's similarly named 65X9005A produced stunning pictures, so can this set offer much in the way of improvement?
The KD-65X9005B sports Sony's new menu and smart TV system. This means pretty much all of the TV's features are accessible via the homescreen, which you can call up via a dedicated button on the remote. It's laid out as a series of pages with sections for smart apps, media playback and recommendations for what TV shows to watch via the Freeview HD tuner. There's also a few tabs at the top of the screen that provide access to the picture, sound, networking and tuner settings. Thankfully, you can also access most of these directly using the Options button on the remote.
The picture controls lack a full colour-management system, but Sony's picture presets, especially the Cinema 1 mode, are very accurate, so you won't need to do much in the way of tweaking to get the best out of this TV. If you do want to play around there are standard brightness, sharpness, colour and contrast controls, as well as lots of extra settings to give you relatively fine control over the X-Reality Pro picture processing engine.
The KD-65X9005B, like Sony's other 2014 TVs, offers two TV guides. The first is the standard Freeview guide, while the second is a Web-enabled guide that can pull in extra metadata on stuff like actors and directors. The latter isn't worth bothering with though, as it's very slow to open up and then takes time to populate fully.
It's much more sensible to rely on the speedier standard Freeview option. This has a nice, clean layout and is fairly fast to navigate around. It sadly lacks a video thumbnail window to show the programme you're currently tuned to -- a serious let down on a TV costing this much -- but it does at least keep the audio running so you can keep tabs on the show you were watching while you see what's coming up later.
Design and connections
"It looks like the type of TV a drug-dealer would own," my girlfriend said when she first clapped eyes on the KD-65X9005B. Hard to argue with that. Some people are going to love this set's monolithic design, but I'm not one of them.
The TV is massively wide, even by the standards of a 65-inch set. It's so wide the feet, when positioned on the outer slots, wouldn't sit on my extra-wide TV unit, which has accommodated lots of other 65-inch models. Thankfully Sony has added a second pair of slots that are closer to the centre of the TV so I was able to get it to sit on the unit. It still overhung the sides slightly though. The speaker housing is also very shiny and as a result created annoying reflections with the TV positioned near a window.
Sony is trying to make the wedge-like side profile a selling point, but to my eyes it just makes the TV look quite old fashioned, not something that's a plus on a high-end TV costing well over £3,000.
Around the back, hidden behind plastic clip-on covers, you'll find a plethora of ports. These include four HDMI ports, three USB V2.0 ports, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, a Scart socket and component inputs. Sony has also included a port replicator as part of the deal, which will come in handy for those who want to wall-mount the TV. It's a good idea, but as this has its own power supply, it's not quite as neat as Samsung's replicator that it ships with its Ultra HD TVs.
This also has dual Freeview HD and HD satellite tuners, so you can record one channel to an attached USB drive while watching a different channel. The satellite tuners aren't Freesat-compatible however, so aren't much use unless you want to use them to watch foreign channels. Otherwise channels are tuned in a jumbled order and the guide doesn't populate properly.
Sony's latest smart TV system featured on this set has, like the version on all the new 2014 models, a new layout with a page-like structure. There are separate pages that you use to access Sony's Video Unlimited on-demand movie streaming service, the set's digital media player and its line up of smart TV apps, for example. The new layout is better than last year's system, as it's quicker and easier to get to all the various different smart TV features.
The line up of apps, although good, still isn't on a par with Samsung's smart TV system. You do get apps for iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Demand 5, but it lacks the 4oD and ITV Player apps that are found on Samsung's models. Sony's smart TV isn't as fast or as smooth to use either, as every now and again it suffers from random pauses or stutters.
What Sony has added is a few frills around the edges including new Football and Discovery modes. Both of these features are accessed via dedicated buttons on the remote. The former select a picture and audio pre-set designed to show the beautiful game at its best, but fails somewhat due to its overly enthusiastic motion processing.
The latter calls up a thumbnail bar at the bottom of the screen suggesting content you might want to watch drawn from not just upcoming shows on live TV, but also on-demand services such as Sony's Video Unlimited offering and BBC iPlayer. I didn't find either of these features to be hugely useful though.
The massive speakers strapped to the sides of this TV may be a tad ugly to look at, but they sound truly beautiful. In fact this is the best sounding TV I've ever heard. They've plenty of bass reach to deliver low-end effects like thumps and blasts from explosions in action movies, but also excellent mid-range drive for crystal clear dialogue. The sound stage is nice and broad too, and there's a real depth and finesse to this set's sound that you just don't get on its rivals.