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Sony W9 review - FlatpanelsHD

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


By Rasmus Larsen (@flatpanels)
15 Jul 2013




Sony W9 (W905 in some regions) is the latest XBR 9 series from Sony. Seasoned readers and TV enthusiasts will probably notice that Sony has revived its Triluminos brand with the W9. With W9 Sony has also moved in a new design direction and has taken a different approach to the Smart TV features, with one of the main features being the TV SideView app.

Sony has decided to release fewer TVs this year and instead put much more efforts into a few. We will find out if that is a good choice in our Sony W9 review. Join us and see if Sony can compete.

We have the 55 inch version. Sony W9 is available in 46 and 55 inch sizes in USA called 46W900 and 55W9000. In Europe it is called 46W905 and 55W905.

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Size: 55" widescreen
Resolution: 1920x1080
Response time: -
Contrast ratio: -
Brightness: -
Viewing angles (H/V): 178/178
Panel type: LCD-TV with edge LED
Wall mounting:
Swivel stand:
Dimensions (HxWxD): 72.3cm x 124.1cm x 3.7cm (without stand)
Weight 19.7 kg
Built-in speakers:
Inputs
VGA
DVI (but possible to convert through HDMI)
Audio (type) (Audio in/out)
S-video
Composite
Component
HDMI (4 inputs, 1 HDMI 1.4)
Outputs
Audio (type) (1 output, headphones)
S/PDIF (optical)
Other

Price and retailer:

US retailerUK retailer


Our first impressions

Sony W9 is simple, yet elegant. Except for the small box with the Sony logo in the center, it is minimalistic to its core. The frame bezel is slim, although not as slim as some of the latest TVs from Sony’s competitors. The edge of the bezel is cut to resemble a diamond cut on watches, and is sparkling with a greenish/bluish tone with light hits.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


Unfortunately, the base is made from plastic. Even though it appears to be metal it is instead a plastic cover with a silver look. That is a shame as it would have given W9 a more exclusive touch if Sony had chosen truer materials – but we suspect it would also add significantly to the price. The base also has a swivel function.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


Input and output connectors are found on the back and most point either down or to the side. Only a few analog inputs (that you shouldn’t use anyways) and the Ethernet plug point out towards the back wall. We could not care less about the analog inputs but we would have liked to see the Ethernet connection point in a different direction. But you can obviously just use the built-in WiFi instead.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review



Test tools

Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done via Blu-Ray and Media center/PC.

We use our own monitorTest. The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here at FlatpanelsHD.

Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.

All contrast measurements are based on the ANSI methodology.

Functionality

Sony W9 comes bundled with two remotes. The first one is a new, much smaller remote with buttons arranged in a sort of diamond pattern. The upper part of the remote is mostly concerned with the internet features and the “SEN” button takes you directly to Sony Entertainment Network where you can find TV apps. It is made from plastic and feels cheap. It also has a NFC chip at the back. We will get back to that in a short while.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


The second one can be seen below. It is the classic Sony remote with buttons in all colors and a jumble of them. We suspect that half of them are never used. We still cannot help to wonder why TV manufacturers in recent years have been so eager to include two remotes with their TVs. The third option is to control the TV with your smartphone or tablet via Sony’s app. We will get back to that shortly.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


Let us instead start with Sony’s new Smart TV platform that is called SEN (Sony Entertainment Network). The start screen is a simple app overview with no confusing graphics or animations. From here you can access popular services such as Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and so on. Sony’s app catalogue is growing but most of the apps are still fairly irrelevant – at least we think so.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


The Netflix app largely resembles the PlayStation3 app. It is divided into sections and allows you to search. It also includes the Just for Kids section. In W9, Sony has integrated a faster processor, which also allows you to stream in Netflix’s Super HD encoding level. Still, navigation feels a bit sluggish and loading screens occur from time to time.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


The YouTube app is also largely identical to other Smart TV apps and allows you to browse trending YouTube videos, go into YouTube categories or search for what you want. Still, many videos that are available from the YouTube website are missing from the app. This is not only true for Sony but for all Smart TV manufacturers and relates to – yes, you guessed it - rights.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


There are also a couple of other useful apps such as CineTrailer that shows theatrical movie trailers, Red Bull TV with access to Red Bull’s extreme sports content, Vimeo (YouTube-like service) and a few simple games. However, overall we are left unimpressed with Sony’s TV app universe. Navigation still feels too sluggish, and quantity/quality us not satisfactory. If you want a fairly cheap and much better “Smart TV” experience leave some of your dollars for a PlayStation 3 instead - or the coming PlayStation 4. You could also opt for the Apple TV box or one of the Rokus. That will leave you in a whole other world of satisfaction.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


Let us jump to some of the other internet and network features of the W9, namely Sony’s TV SideView app that shows a lot of potential. TV SideView is basically an app for Android smartphones and tablets as well as Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The app can control the TV but also has a complete TV guide that lets you navigate through your channel list on the touch screen of your mobile device.

Sony sent us the Xperia Tablet Z to try out TV SideView but we also tested the iOS version. Before you start you have to pair the devices. This is not done automatically even though you have the tablet/smartphone and TV on the same network. You have to manually add the TV from the app and enter the passcode shown on the TV. Cumbersome, but when you are done the fun starts.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


The TV guide in the TV SideView app automatically installs the TV channel list available on the TV and you can even remove the ones that you never watch. You can see what is currently on for each channel and click to learn more about the show. When you want to switch to a TV channel it is as simple as clicking on the touch screen. Just click on the TV channel name and the TV switches TV channel. The TV guide in the TV SideView app appeared accurate for our TV channel list. And if you want to set up a reminder or plan a future recording you can do that directly from the TV SideView app, too.

The TV SideView app also has an app launcher. It is a pretty simple, yet powerful concept. From the app launcher you get a list of your TV apps and if you click on Netflix on your smartphone display, the TV automatically jumps to the Netflix app. It works and is a great way to skip all the extra menu steps usually associated with launching apps on Smart TVs. At times it took a little while to load the app list but that was a minor thing as it the overall experience was fairly good.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


TV SideView also has the basic TV remote buttons that let you browse through menus and control the TV. It is tucked away in a separate section and mostly resembles Sony’s physical remote control layout. We had hoped for a more intuitive implementation. For example, why not implement the volume slide directly on the main screen of the TV SideView interface? That would have been a nice little touch.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


The TV SideView app also allows you to turn on the TV when switched off. That is a great addition as we unfortunately often find that smartphone/tablet remote apps are unable to do so. So thumbs up Sony. The iOS and Android version of the app is largely identical. We found no major or important differences or limitations. The main limitation of TV SideView is that it works only if you have your antenna cable plugged directly into the TV. If you receive TV channels through an external TV box you are out of luck.

But there is another major difference between using an Android and iOS based smartphone/tablet with Sony W9. Sony W9 has Miracast built in so if you own an Android device you can use Miracast, which basically lets you mirror the smartphone or tablet screen onto the TV screen. And if you buy one of Sony’s latest Xperia models with NFC you can also utilize NFC one-touch by bumping your smartphone/tablet onto the back of the TV remote to pair the devices and mirror your Android screen. Think of Miracast as Android’s many-years-late alternative to Apple’s Airplay (except one major limitation of Miracast, read on).

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


From here you can open apps, games or browse through your content library as you normally would and everything shows up on the TV. There is a small delay that will affect game performance but for most other tasks it is irrelevant.

Sony W9 review
Sony W9 review


However, there is one major drawback with Miracast. It is simply a bad, bad design in its current state. Sure, screen mirroring works as intended, so what is the problem? Well, Miracast is based on WiFi Direct and the WiFi Direct connection overrules your home network WiFi connection. In human words, that means that whenever you activate Miracast you cannot browse the internet or stream video/music from any internet source - unless you want to use 3G/4G.

So let us say you want to stream a YouTube or Vimeo video, or maybe just open an app that relies on an internet connection, while using the screen mirroring feature… Well, you cannot, unless you want use a 3G/4G data connection. And good luck with your data cap after a few hours of video streaming. Also, because you have been disconnected from your home network, you cannot access your photos or videos stored on NAS servers or other devices in your home.

In my book that pretty much renders Miracast useless. At least until this limitation is fixed (without relying on nerdy tweaks and fixes). Airplay is still a far more powerful tool, as it has no such limitations. And you can add Airplay to any TV for just $99 (even lower through some retailers) bucks with the Apple TV box. Do yourself a favor and do that instead.

Lastly, Sony has implemented USB recording (only in Europe) that also integrates with the TV SideView app as well as the on-screen EPG. USB recording requires that you connect an external USB hard drive but besides that it is pretty straight-forward. You can record a TV show by pressing the red ‘record’ button or rewind to the point where you switched to the channel. Recording capabilities are left largely unchanged compared to previous years’ Sony TVs.

Sony W9 also has DLNA support and USB playback support. We tried with a few video formats and codecs. Here is what we found:
  • Played - 720p video in .mkv with H.264 profile 5.1
  • Did not play - 1080 video in .mkv with H.264 profile 4.1
  • Did not play - 1080p .avi video
  • Played - 1080p video in .mkv with VC1 codec

    Energy consumption

    Compare power consumption measurements on different TVs and monitors with our interactive power consumption applet here.


    Standby 0.8 W 0.8 W
    SD+HD 78.2 W 78.5 W
    3D 109 W 113 W (Cinema 1)


    After calibration we measured average power consumption to 78.5W on the 55 inch version of Sony W9, which is fair and comparable to other LED.

    Stand-by consumption was measured to 0.8 W with the ‘wake-on-LAN’ feature activated that allows you to turn on the TV from the TV SideView app. Without, W9 consumes 0.1W in stand-by.

    Calibration on Sony W9

    Below you can see an out-of-box measurement in the Standard mode with the light sensor deactivated.

    Sony W9 review


    The graph says this:

    Right graph: The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two; here it’s the difference between the measured color on the panel and the desired color.

  • A delta value higher than 2 means that a human eye can perceive a slight visible deviation from the actual color.
  • A delta value over 4 or 5 results in visibly wrong colors.
  • A delta value between 1 and 2 means that it is very hard to perceive a visual deviation in colors.
  • A delta value lower than 1 is basically perfect color accuracy.
  • Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.

  • No big surprises here. Sony W9 acts like pretty much any TV today. With the Standard picture settings colors are oversaturated for the most part. Color temperature is also quite high at 9655 Kelvin, which means that images appear too bluish and cold. Brightness was measured to 239 cd/m2, but as said above we deactivated the light sensor so that explains the fairly high brightness level.

    Not shown in the graph above is the fact that Sony has also added far too much artificial sharpening to images. All these are standard tricks on TVs nowadays. It looks impressive in stores with carefully selected promotional videos but at home it looks pretty terrible.

    We changed to Cinema 1 profile and took a new measurement.

    Sony W9 review


    The Cinema 1 profile is interesting. We received some background on it recently when we visited Sony’s Hollywood movie studios (article on that coming up shortly). It has been carefully calibrated according to the image standards and the work that Sony is doing in its movie studios. Sony has deep knowledge in this field so we thought it was interesting to hear how the consumer TV division and the movie studio division collaborate.

    What we found is that the Cinema/Movie profile offers much more accurate colors but that gamma is a bit too high at around 2.3. There is a debate going on regarding gamma 2.2 versus gamma 2.3-2.4 for dark room viewing. We will not engage in that discussion in this review but we might take it up at a later point. For now we just wish to reiterate that we aim for 2.2 gamma.

    Color temperature is now also much closer to our 6500 Kelvin target, which ensures that images are neither too reddish/warm nor too bluish/cold. The Cinema 1 profile is quite good and we are happy to see Sony put this kind of effort into it.

    We wanted to improve color accuracy and to achieve 2.2 gamma so we calibrated W9.

    Sony W9 review


    The calibrated result is not much different than the Cinema 1 measurement. We tweaked a few things and managed to improve color accuracy just a bit. We are very satisfied with the result.

    Below are our calibrated settings.


    Viewing mode: Cinema 1
    Backlight 4
    Contrast 90
    Brightness: 50
    Color: 50
    Hue: 0
    Color temperature Warm2
    Sharpness 50
    Noise reduction Off
    Dot noise reduction Off
    Reality Creation Off
    Smooth gradation Low
    Motionflow True Cinema
    Film mode Auto
    Black corrector Off
    Adv. Contrast Enhancer Off
    Gamma -1
    LED Dynamic Control Off
    Auto Light Limiter Off
    Clear White Off
    Live Color Off
    Detail Enhancer Off
    Edge enhancer Off
    R Gain -1
    G Gain -5
    B Gain 0
    R Bias 0
    G Bias -1
    B Bias 0
    Eco (light sensor) On/Off


    Note: Some picture profiles are enabled through the System Settings menu – not the Display menu. The Eco option (found in the System menu) is set to On/Off in the table because it depends on your preferences. Eco (light sensor) is the automatic brightness adjuster that adjusts brightness according to surrounding light conditions.

    Picture quality on Sony W9

    In this section we go through picture quality with the calibrated settings.

    Sony W9 has the same semi-glossy panel found in most modern LED models. It reflects light from windows and other lighting sources but it also reduces color washout. It can act as a mirror during daytime, especially if you watch dark movies or play dark, creepy video games, but it also has some advantages. For example, it adds vividness and maintains contrast in pictures during daytime, and we suspect that is why more and more TV manufacturers use it.

    Color performance is very impressive on W9. We previously reviewed Samsung F8000 and LG LA8600. We praised the former and W9 is as good as, or maybe even a tad better, than the F8000 from Samsung, which means that almost every color is distinguished correctly. Combined with the accurate colors in the Cinema profile (and after calibration) W9 is amongst the best LCD/LED models right now in terms of color performance.

    One of the new imaging technologies in W9 is Triluminos, also found in Sony's X9 4K TVs. The Triluminos brand is not new, as Sony has used it before, but in 2013 it means something else. We explained a bit about Triluminos in this article. It is important to understand that Triluminos can expand the color gamut on a TV, but only if the content is encoded in the large color gamut. Right now you need one of Sony's new "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray discs that are encoded in the x.v.color gamut that enables Sony to reproduce more vivid reds, greens and blues. This also means that unless you buy or own "Mastered in 4K" you will see no benefit from the Triluminos technology. During the W9 review we had no "Mastered in 4K" discs but we will dig deeper and tell you much more about it in the upcoming Sony X9 (4K) review.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Sony has always had quite powerful picture engines built into its flagship TVs to ensure proper handling of SD content, as well as scaling. W9 obviously builds on that knowledge and technology. Low-resolution SD content, such as conventional TV channels and DVDs, looks pretty good. We noticed no issues. Color and motion performance was as expected. W9 ranks highly in this regard.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    HD content looks impressive and obviously much more detailed than SD content. W9 handles Blu-ray movies correctly at 1080p24 (24 pictures per second) and also does a nice job of reproducing HD channels with a high level of details and clarity. The Standard profile had oversaturated colors but after calibration we found HD reproduction to be very enjoyable with rich, vivid – and accurate – colors and great contrast. We noticed how black appears deep and consistent, and we will try to confirm that with measurements in a bit.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Sony W9 is a fast TV and we found only minimal overdrive trailing issues during our stress testing. We never spotted it during movies or during gaming so that is a good sign. W9 is as fast as Samsung F8000, which means that it should satisfy most users’ needs. Plasma TVs are faster, generally maintaining a higher level of detailing during fast motion, and W9 still suffers from some mild blurring during very fast motion (detailing level reduced), but that is a general thing with LCD panels. W9 is on par with the best-performing LED models. Great to see.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Input lag is crucial for gamers and if you own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 you should care. Ideally we want 0 ms input lag but the perfect world does not exist – yet. Instead we measured 10-15 ms of input lag, which is pretty amazing. It came unexpected because most LED models tend to have at least some level of input lag, even in the Game modes. Plasma TVs have historically been ahead in this area but Sony W9 reclaims the throne. Needless to say, it is an excellent TV for gaming.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Below we have measured black depth and contrast.

    Black level 0.08 cd/m2 0.05 cd/m2
    Brightness 239 cd/m2 147 cd/m2
    Contrast ratio 2988:1 2940:1
    Contrast ratio +/- 50


    After calibration black depth was measured to 0.05 cd/m2, which is a great result that is comparable to Samsung’s F8000. It ensures deep black reproduction and high contrast in pictures. Black depth is important, especially when watching TV in a dimly lit room, and Sony W9 is one of the best edge LED based TVs right now. It is not fully on par with Panasonic’s new VT60 or even Sony’s older backlit LED models - but they had some other issues (read the Sony HX929 review to learn more). A great result from Sony.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Shadow detailing is similarly great and the panel in W9 reproduces pretty much all details in the darker colors tones. In our testing patterns and scenes we found that only the 1-2 very darkest grey tones were hard to distinguish from pure black.

    Black depth is important, but it is equally important to have great light homogeneity. Backlight bleeding / clouding can ruin the TV experience, as many of you probably already know. Therefore we put W9 in a completely dark room to check how it performs.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Luckily, Sony W9 has very minor bleeding issues. We saw a tiny bit of light unevenness in the corner of the panel but it never proved distracting during real use – not even during movies with black bars at the top and bottom.

    3D picture quality on Sony W9

    Two 3D technologies exist. To learn more about the differences between active 3D and passive 3D see this article.

    Sony W9 uses the active 3D system. The 3D glasses have become lighter but are still very clunky. The 3D glasses are powered by a small battery that can be replaced when dead. Sony has some fancier 3D glasses that can be bought separately.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    3D picture quality on Sony W9 is quite good and Sony avoids the extremely heavy 3D picture processing that we saw on Samsung F8000. We still noticed mild crosstalk at times but it was not critical, and W9 is well-suited for both 3D movies and 3D gaming. W9 is miles better than Sony’s first 3D TV and comparable to other top-brand 3D LED models

    However, the main problem with 3D (besides the 3D glasses) is that it is shot in too low frame rate, which, combined with LCD panels’ motion blur tendencies, drastically reduces 3D depth perception and dimension during fast motion. As many of you have noticed 3D still or slow scenes appear to have more depth, so that is still and issue that the 3D industry has to overcome one way or another. The point is that in order for 3D to drastically improve on LED models we simply need a technological breakthrough and higher frame-rate 3D content.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    As said, W9 uses the active 3D system and we noticed the typical flickering from the 3D glasses during daytime. As said often before we recommend 3D plasma TVs if you aim for best 3D picture quality or passive 3D LCD/LED models if you actually plan to use 3D with family and friends.

    PC and Media Center

    In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to select the aspect ratio called “Full" in the TV settings.

    Viewing angles

    We have received reports from readers and colleagues in the industry that viewing angles on W9 are very narrow. We can confirm these reports. Color intensity drops significantly, starting from an angle around 25-30 degrees off to the side, and some colors even change hue. Black/contrast also takes a drop when the TV is viewed from the side.

    Having said so, however, we also need to underline that W9 is not alone. We have seen several examples of equally narrow viewing angles on other LED models. It is fundamental to understand that no LCD/LED model, ever, has had anything close to perfect viewing angles. All LED models suffer – some more than others. It is true that Sony W9 has worse viewing angles that for example LG LA8600, but it is not significantly worse than Samsung’s ES8000 (2012 model) or the new F8000. If you own – or have owned – a Sony high-end TV or a Sharp TV you should have a good idea of what to expect.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    The narrow viewing angles can prove to be a real problem if your sofa is not directly in front of the TV. We therefore recommend that you try to find W9 in a store. If your sofa is placed anywhere else than right in front of the TV, chances are that W9 is not the right TV for you.

    Sony W9 review
    Sony W9 review


    Sound quality

    With W9, Sony has implemented an interesting speaker system that Sony refers to as Long Duct speakers. Sony has some background on how it works on their website but to give a quick explanation it is basically a long duct speaker design in the cabinet where a 1.2 meter speaker duct runs behind the TV panel.

    We heard the first demos a few months back where Sony compared W9 to last year’s HX850. The difference was quite stunning. The speakers appear to have a much wider stereo perspective than typical TV speakers. The sound perspective is wider. The speakers system still lacks punch and bass but overall it was a pleasant surprise to us. And after playing some of our well-known video scenes and our own music we can certainly say that it is a step up for Sony.

    For movies, games and music we still recommend separate speakers.

    Conclusion

    Sony W9 has a new Smart TV platform called Sony Entertainment Network. From here you can access TV apps, such as Netflix, YouTube and more. However, the TV app experience still leaves a lot to be desired and you can get a much better solution with one of the small, cheap media boxes – or even your game console. On the other hand, the TV SideView app for Android and iOS is very convincing. It lets you browse your TV guide directly on the smartphone/tablet screen. From here you can also change the TV channel, read about TV shows and schedule reminders. TV SideView is a brilliant addition to Sony’s TVs and it even integrates with the recording capabilities of the TV.

    When it comes to picture quality W9 delivers. Picture quality is great no matter what you throw at the TV, be it low-res TV channels, DVDs, Blu-rays or streaming. W9 has impressive color reproduction, deep blacks and very good motion reproduction. Additionally, W9 is one of the best TVs for console gaming right now due to its extremely low levels of input lag. The main disadvantage of W9 is its narrow viewing angles that are below average for LED models. But besides that it is hard not to be a bit excited about the Sony W9.

    Sony W9 is also significantly cheaper than some of Sony’s previous 9 series TVs but despite that fact we do not necessarily think picture quality is worse. It just means that you get more for your hard-earned bucks. Do not buy W9 based on its Smart TV apps but based on its picture quality that places it amongst the best LED models right now. The TV SideView implementation is an extra bonus. We therefore consider Sony W9 a great purchase and it receives our Highly Recommended Award.


    Press the award logo to learn more.


    Price and retailer:

    US retailerUK retailer


    Great picture quality Narrow viewing angles Living room
    Black depth and very little bleeding 3D glasses flicker Home Cinema
    TV SideView app is great Smart TV still not very good Console gaming
    Cinema profile Plastic base
    Improved sound system
    Very low input lag


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