There's a revolution in resolutions happening in the world of television. The now ubiquitous full-HD standard of 1920x1080 pixels, once the cutting edge of clarity, is being superseded by what's been termed 4K or ultra HD, able to deliver four times the detail. Of course, this being new tech, 4K screens also come with four times as many caveats... See all digital home reviews for more.
One thing's for sure, 4K isn't a fad. By the end of the year, most major TV brands will have committed to launching UHD resolution screens.
Sony is first out of the gate, with its X9 models. The 55-inch KD-55X9005A sells for £3999 and the KD-65X9005A, reviewed here, will set you back £5999.
Expensive undoubtedly, but in the world of leading-edge LCD, this can be considered pretty competitive stuff –less than a year ago both Sony and LG were tentatively touting 84-inch 4k screens priced in excess of £20,000. See also: Group test: what's the best TV?
Sony KD-65X9005A 4k TV: design
When it comes to design, the KD-65X9005A is a knock-out. Sony's decision to build in forward-facing high-grade speakers obviously makes a massive difference to the set's audio performance, but the way the slimline magnetic fluid drivers have been sculpted directly into the fascia is nothing less than artful.
Connections comprise four HDMIs, SCART, component/composite video, three USBs and ethernet. Wi-Fi is built in. Two remote controls are bundled, a standard Sony remote and a simplified Bluetooth option with integrated NFC chip. This facilitates a quick sharing link with the TV, and has been optimised for use with the brand's Xperia Android phones.
The user interface on this set is exactly the same as that found elsewhere in the Sony range – the brand's engineers sadly haven't utilized the extra resolution to create a bespoke UHD UI. Still as an interface, it's easy to use.
The internet TV provision is reasonably solid. Catch-up services include BBC iPlayer, Demand 5, Netflix, Lovefilm, YouTube and others. Multimedia file playback compatibility is broad across a LAN and from USB drives.
To help evaluate this screen, we were supplied with a 4k media player featuring well-chosen movie clips and promotional footage in UHD. Predictably, the results were spectacular.
Sony KD-65X9005A 4K TV: extra resolution
The ultra-fine 3840x2160 resolution of the panel compels you to view close, yet you're never aware of any pixel structure. Indeed, while you need a large screen to appreciate the extra resolution, the idea is to sit near rather than far away.
The catch, of course, is that there's no native 4k video available. So for the time being that throws the challenge squarely over to the set's upscaler. Thankfully it doesn't disappoint.
Unlike Sony's 84-inch KD-84X9005A screen, 4K processing here is handled by two rather than three chips. The first scales incoming content to full-HD dimensions, leaving the second to handle the conversion up to 3840 pixels across.
To do this, the chip incorporates a powerful image database. Algorithms decide what type of image manipulation to apply, and the result is beautifully rendered, cinematically smooth images.
The impact of the 4k treatment on full-HD content is subtle yet beneficial. HD from the set's Freeview HD tuner takes on an unusual solidity, while Blu-ray discs exhibit pronounced depth. If a disc is mastered from a 4k source, residual high-frequency information left in the image can be exploited by Sony's processing. The results look remarkably good.
Sony KD-65X9005A 4K TV: 3D
Almost by accident, the set also does a fabulous job with 3D. Unlike regular passive 3D screens, there's no loss of image resolution. Sky 3D and stereoscopic Blu-rays are scaled up to 4k, and then halved back to 1080p by the passive glasses. The resulting 3D is detailed, immersive and comfortable to watch.
Motion handling is top notch. The set employs a number of fast refresh techniques, dubbed Motionflow XR 800Hz, which retains full detail within fast moving content, without obvious artefacting.
Another area where the KD-65X9005A shines is colour fidelity. A Triluminos-branded Quantum Dot filter has been placed over the LED backlight which boosts the colour gamut. Images sing from the screen. Black levels are deep, particularly when viewed in low ambient light rather than fully blacked out conditions. See all TV reviews.