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Review: Sony X95K miniLED LCD

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Sony's first LCD TV with miniLED has arrived. X95K replaces last year's X95J as the company's most advanced 4K LCD TV. Besides the miniLED upgrade, X95K features two HDMI 2.1 ports and Google TV with streaming apps. It also comes with a redesigned remote control.

We are testing the 65-inch version of X95K.

 Also read: Sony 2022 TV line-up


Price and retailers:

US retailer
UK retailer
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First impressions

X95K is a massive TV that weighs more than 30 kilograms in its 65-inch version. It can be wall mounted but make sure that the wall is strong enough to support the weight, especially if you are planning to buy the 75- or 85-inch model – the largest screen weighs 53 kg. For comparison, last year's 65-inch X90J (with a simpler FALD system) came in at 22.9 kg. The metal feet found in the box can be placed either in a wide or narrow configuration which allows you to more flexibly place the relatively large screen on your existing TV cabinet. In the wide configuration the feet can also be raised to make room for a soundbar underneath the TV, as seen above. The feet provide a solid foundation under the heavy TV. In addition, the TV has a metal frame that matches the feet in color tone. All ports face either down or to the side, and can be hidden behind detachable compartments that make up the checkered back panel. The TV is not exactly slim either and compared to QN95B, where Samsung has managed to make the back flush despite employing a similar miniLED backlight system, X95K looks a lot bulkier. One key difference of course is that Sony has all ports built in as opposed to Samsung's external One Connect box. MiniLEDs may be smaller than conventional light emitting diodes but the backlight implementations in premium LCD TVs are getting bulkier, heavier and more energy-hungry.

User experience & features

Setting up the TV takes a little time but it is a straightforward process that initially takes you through the Google TV setup process and later Sony's added steps. You can set up the TV as a Google TV or a 'basic TV' if you prefer to use an external media player such as Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield. Once again in 2022, Sony is using the MediaTek MT5895 system chip in X95K. It first appeared in 2020's Sony X900H / XH90 that we benchmarked in 3DMark and GFXBench against a Philips Android TV, Nvidia Shield and Apple TV 4K. MediaTek MT5895 is a relatively slow chip that works fine as a video platform but not particularly well as a platform for gaming and other more advanced use cases that Android TV / Google TV could potentially enable. The fact remains that even in 2022 our Smart TVs remain much slower than our smartphones, despite the much higher price tag. We will include new benchmark tests in future reviews of Android TVs and Google TVs once we get next-generation SoCs. The fact that Sony X95K uses the same SoC as last year's models also explains why it is running Android 10 rather than Android 11 or 12. Sony is committed to providing OS updates but has not commented on the timeline. In essence, X95K is identical in terms of Google TV functionality to last year's models so we refer to our Sony A90J review for an evaluation of the user interface and features as well as Sony's Bravia Core streaming service.

Operation

Sony 2022 TVs come bundled with a new simpler remote control with fewer buttons; 25 buttons as compared to 49 buttons on last year's remote. X95K has a premium version with a metal coating on top while the cheaper models (A80K OLED and down, X90K LCD and down) come bundled with a black plastic version. The new remote design improves usability. Combined with Google TV's simple navigation scheme, the remote feels inviting and easy to use. It is a cleaner look but there are still too many redundant buttons in our opinion including four sponsored buttons for Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube. The buttons have a slightly better feel too due to increased resistance. Below you see the two new remote controls from Sony. The one to the right is the premium version that comes bundled with X95K.

Sony X95K review

Sony X95K review

Other than the metal coating on top, which feels a little cooler to the touch, the premium version is identical to the cheaper plastic version. It too has a plastic surface on both sides and underneath. It feels slightly heavier but overall still too cheap for TV like X95K. It is a little baffling how a relatively cheap media boxes like Apple TV can come bundled with a sleek and premium aluminum remote control while much more expensive TVs come bundled with cheap plastic remotes. In our opinion it is not a good place to cut costs as the remote control is how you interact with the TV on a daily basis. The new remote control has backlit buttons that automatically light up in a dark environment, which is a nice feature.

Sony X95K review

TV audio

X95K is fitted with something Sony calls 'Acoustic Multi-Audio', which involves using sound positioning tweeters in the TV to improve the positioning of the left/right channels and voices. These are supplemented by bass speakers on the back. During set-up you are asked to go to your typical viewing position after which the TV uses the remote control's microphone for room calibration.

Sony X95K review

Voices are not as 'direct' as in Sony's OLED TVs, despite Sony's best intentions to mimic the OLED's 'Acoustic Surface' system. X95K's speakers perform more in line with a typical TV speaker system and unsurprisingly it lacks bass. For a TV measuring 65 inches or larger in diagonal the speaker system feels slightly underpowered for movies and series, and it is not a good music system either. Our recommendation is to pair Sony X95K with an external soundbar or sound system. X95K supports Dolby Atmos for internal playback and output via HDMI eARC. It also supports 'Acoustic Center Sync' together with a compatible Sony sound system to let the TV act as a center channel – something we will examine in more detail in our upcoming review of Sony's HT-A9.

Calibration

Like other Sony TVs, X95K has a total of 8 picture modes (Vivid, Standard, Cinema, Game, Graphics, Photo, IMAX Enhanced, Custom) of which most are redundant. You should avoid 'Standard' and 'Vivid'. The most accurate SDR picture mode is 'Custom' although its default setting is too bright unless you engage the light sensor. Like other Sony TVs, X95K supports Calman auto-calibration if you have the equipment and software, or if you want to pay someone to calibrate your TV. An 'IMAX Enhanced' picture mode has – for some reason – made it to Sony's TVs but it does not provide any benefits and it significantly overshoots the intended Rec.709 color gamut for SDR as you can see in our measurements. It is hard to see IMAX Enhanced support in TVs as anything but a marketing push and Sony should either remove it or alternatively replace it with Filmmaker Mode. On the other hand Sony offers one of the most accurate Game modes in any TV, which shows that Sony cares about how PlayStation games are presented. As you can see all SDR modes slightly overshoot the green primary. It is not much but to fix it you will need to do a more advanced calibration. As for HDR, 'Custom' actually undershoots the PQ EOTF brightness curve a little. On our X95K sample 'Cinema' was the most accurate HDR picture mode and the one we recommend users to select. X95K hits close to 1300 nits peak brightness (or 1500 nits in 'Standard' mode with a much higher color temperature) but not without severe blooming – more on that in the next section. With Dolby Vision content you should select Dolby Vision Dark if you want the most accurate picture. We measured DCI-P3 coverage to 93% and Rec.2020 coverage to 70%, which is visibly lower (i.e. less saturated primaries) than all OLED TVs but on par with Samsung's miniLED LCD TVs such as QN95B. Sony should make efforts to improve its LCD TVs' color saturation.

Measurements

In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here. Note: Starting last year, we implemented a new method for measurement of average power consumption in SDR and HDR, meaning that earlier measurements are not 1:1 comparable. Power consumption in 'Calibrated' SDR mode is measured with the screen to approx. 100-110 nits to normalize the measurement across TV models (our recommended calibrated picture settings may differ). The new method will be used in all TV reviews going forward. Note: We include calibration settings only for SDR, not HDR. For our calibration we have deactivated the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight setting according to your environment. You may prefer to have it enabled.
Sony X95K review

Picture quality

X95K is the first LCD TV with miniLED zone dimming from Sony and the closest thing we come to a direct successor to 2016's Z9D (ZD9). The company refers to the backlight system as 'XR Backlight Master Drive' and since this miniLED system is what sets X95K apart from the cheaper X90K and many other LCD TVs on the market let us start by examining in detail its capabilities and performance. On the 65-inch X95K we counted 36 dimming zones horizontally and 12 vertically for a total of 432 – almost 150 fewer than on the 55-inch Samsung QN95B that we had next to Sony X95K throughout the review. The number of dimming zones is one of the important factors in determining picture quality on a FALD LCD TV but not the only factor. At CES 2022, Sony highlighted its dimming algorithm that it believes produces less blooming than competitors' LCD TVs. What we found during our examination was not as encouraging, unfortunately. Sony X95K produces heavy blooming around bright objects and since the VA LCD panel in X95K is equipped with Sony's 'X-Wide Angle', which improves viewing angles at the expense of contrast, the picture sometimes gets a hazy or blurred look due to the light "pollution" around bright objects extending to almost the full screen – it depends on the specific HDR scene. It can look quite bad when it happens. While we recognize the need for improved viewing angles in large-sized premium LCD TVs, we are not fans of Sony's X-Wide Angle system as it makes the VA LCD panel (medium-high contrast, narrow viewing angles) look more like an IPS LCD panel (low contrast, wide viewing angles). We would not go as far as to say that Sony X95 is comparable to LG's premium LCD TVs ("NanoCell", "QNED") that feature actual IPS LCD panels, but it falls somewhere between Samsung QN95B and LG's high-end IPS LCD in terms of contrast, blooming and backlight issues.
We measured peak brightness to a little less than 1000 nits on a 1% window and around 1300 nits on slightly larger windows such as 5% or 10% where X95K tends to increase boosting of its dimming zones due to the larger picture area. It reaches almost 650 nits in fullscreen. Overall, X95K's brightness capabilities are comparable to Samsung's QN95B (outside of Samsung's cheating algorithm). Furthermore our X95K sample reached DCI-P3 coverage of 93% and Rec.2020 coverage of 70% which is also on par with Samsung's QN95B but visibly lower than every OLED TV. On paper, the two TVs would appear to have fairly similar performance judging by these numbers that are often used as TV benchmarks, but in reality there are clear differences. As mentioned, Sony X95K has even heavier blooming than Samsung QN95B and sometimes a hazy light affecting large parts of the picture. On the other hand X95K can produce accurate grey tones and colors in HDR as opposed to Samsung QN95B which in measurement situations change its picture to look accurate but in fact is significantly overbrigthened with real content due to changes being made to the PQ EOTF (the light curve for HDR content) – almost to 'Standard' mode's PQ EOTF sometimes. We touched on the issue in our Samsung's QN95B review and have included the same comparison shot below. The HDR picture on Sony X95K is how the scene should look. QN95B changes the scene to look almost like daytime.

QN95B vs. X95K

Samsung QN95B (left), Sony X95K (right)

With real content Sony X95K occasionally produces beautiful HDR pictures in nature and other brightly lit and not-too-complex scenes in movies and series. Here, it delivers even higher brightness than the best OLED TVs can deliver. The same is true for games such as Forza Horizon, with the cars racing along a coastline illuminated by the bright sunlight. However, more often than not the LCD panel's limitations will shine through in the form of heavy blooming around bright objects in movies and games as well as around subtitles, and it can take you out of the immersion. Contrary to popular belief, miniLED can actually make blooming worse as it significantly boosts peak brightness – up to 2x as compared to last year's Sony X90J, for example – in certain scenes without black levels having been improved.
Switching our attention to SDR and Sony's video processor capabilities we found X95K to be an excellent TV in most regards. Since SDR content generally does not force X95K to flex its miniLED dimming zones, both movies and games look pleasing and very balanced with accurate colors and grey tones. For sports viewing LCD TVs excel due to their high fullscreen brightness which can be maintained for the full match without dimming. Sony's video processor remains one of the best for general video processing and upscaling as well as more specific functions such as reduction of color banding and motion handling and smoothing. As discussed in our other TV reviews, especially OLED TVs but also to some extent premium LCD TVs can exhibit a 'stroboscopic' effect when displaying 24fps movies (as stutter is inherent in the content due to the very low framerate) especially in HDR where the higher brightness levels exacerbate the effect. If you are bothered by the effect follow our recommendation for MotionFlow settings. If not, you can leave MotionFlow deactivated on X95K to avoid any type of motion compensation.
For gaming, X95K has roughly 20 ms input lag (with 60Hz inputs) which is slightly higher than some competing LCD TVs and on par with last year's Sony LCD TVs. This should still satisfy most console gamers and you can expect lower input lag with 120Hz input signals and in VRR mode. Luckily, VRR works at launch on Sony's 2022 models so users will no longer have to wait for Sony to prepare a firmware update. PS5 has also gotten its VRR update. X95K has two HDMI 2.1 ports that support up to 4K 120 inputs with and without VRR. Like other TVs, X95K comes with certain PlayStation features that Sony refers to as 'Auto HDR Tone Mapping' and 'Auto Genre Picture Mode'. The former automatically sets HDR levels with supported games while the latter automatically switched in/out of the TV's 'Game' mode. These are also know as HGiG (HDR Gaming Interest Group) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), and you can find these features in TVs from other brands too. Unlike some previous FALD LCD TVs, Sony X95K's 'Auto Local Dimming' menu option remains active in 'Game' mode but it is clear that in both 'Game' mode and to a larger extent VRR mode the TV significantly reduces the capabilities of its local dimming system to ensure low input lag. More advanced local dimming algorithms are possible with packaged content such as movies as the signal can be, and typically is, delayed up to 100 ms for analysis and processing. This is not possible with real-time content such as console or PC games. As a result, the TV's miniLED local dimming system does not perform anywhere near to its full capabilities during gaming and especially HDR gaming suffers. There is very low risk of burn-in but X95K will not match Sony's own or competitors' OLED TVs when it comes to gaming picture quality and the HDR gaming experience. We want to applaud Sony – the PlayStation company – for not succumbing to the temptation to boost or oversaturate colors in 'Game' mode, which goes on to show that Sony is one of the few TV makers who actually cares about how console games are presented on a TV. Sony's 'Game' modes in both SDR and HDR are fairly accurate, with room for improvement. Sony's motion system can use various enhancement systems but X95K does not operate with the same undefeatable scanning backlight approach as Samsung QN95B. X95K still uses PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to control the brightness level of the miniLED backlight but personally I did not experience the same level of eye strain after a long day in front of the TV as I did with Samsung QN95B. Our sample of X95K did not suffer from severe vertical banding or other inhomogeneity issues. However, the edges tend to look a little darker than the rest of the image, as shown below.

Sony X95K review

As discussed earlier, Sony X95K is equipped with an LCD panel with Sony's 'X-Wide Angle' to widen viewing angles. It works well to maintain color saturation but the black level is markedly raised when not looking at the TV from the front. Dark tones also tend to get a purple tone when viewed even from small angles. On the other hand Sony's viewing angle technology maintains full 4K resolution unlike Samsung's high-end LCD TVs that sacrifice effective resolution to improve viewing angles. If you want proper viewing angles you should buy an OLED TV instead.

Conclusion

Sony's first miniLED LCD TV has arrived to take on Samsung and TCL's models, but it doesn't really move the needle. Much like the other TVs, X95K struggles with heavy blooming around bright objects and subtitles in especially HDR mode, coupled with poor black levels due to Sony's 'X-Wide Angle' system that makes the LCD panel perform almost like a hybrid of VA and IPS.
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X95K has its moments, no doubt about that. In SDR, it delivers great pictures as the zone dimming system operates within its natural limits. In very bright, low-contrast HDR scenes it occasionally shines and delivers brighter pictures than any OLED TV can deliver, due to its higher overall brightness. However, as soon the scene gets more complex or bright elements show up in dark scenes it struggles to balance its miniLED zone dimming system. Sony offers one of the most accurate 'Game' modes in TVs and while HDMI 2.1 and VRR work immediately in 2022 – no firmware required – we still find that the many backlight issues get exacerbated too much during gaming, especially with VRR, to make expensive FALD LCD TVs worthwhile as gaming displays, despite the very low risk of burn-in compared to OLED TVs. X95K comes with the same MediaTek SoC as last year's models and the same version of Google TV (Android 10) so the besides a new simpler remote control there is not much to report. Even at 65 inches X95K is a very heavy and bulky TV – not nearly as elegant-looking as Samsung's QN95B. On the other hand we expect Google TV to get regular software and server-side updates, and the Android platform has a more vibrant app store than Samsung's Tizen and LG's webOS. Ultimately, Sony offers significantly cheaper TVs with much better picture quality (every Sony OLED TV). The fact that the 65-inch X95K costs almost as much as Sony's A95K QD-OLED and the 85-inch even more than a 83-inch OLED TV is hard to comprehend. Sony X95K does not match Samsung QN95B's zone dimming system but it produces an overall more accurate HDR picture.

Price and retailers:

US retailer
UK retailer
DE retailer

SDR picture quality
Colors & processing
Game mode accuracy
HDMI 2.1 VRR, no update required
New remote control


Heavy blooming
Poor blacks, low contrast (due to X-Wide Angle)
Google TV still on Android 10
Same SoC from 2020







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