“Picture quality that far exceeds your expectations”
- Great black levels
- Impressive HDR highlights
- Extremely accurate color
- Clean picture
- Snappy Android TV response
- Reflective screen
- VRR for games not yet available
How can a $1,300 65-inch TV provide value? By providing picture quality that punches well above its price point. That’s what the Sony X900H does, and it’s generating a lot of excitement in TV enthusiast circles for that very reason.
For a few years now, movie buffs, home theater owners, and just about anyone who wanted to get the most beautiful TV picture quality they could for their money have been looking at Sony’s “mid-tier” X900 series models. Mid-tier in price, yes, but considering Sony’s consistently excellent picture quality, not mid-tier in performance.
This year, the X900H adds a bonus. The set offers (or will soon offer, rather) features that none of its other TVs will this year — Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), especially appealing to gamers. If you want a Sony, and you want the best gaming experience, especially with next-generation consoles like Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, this is the TV to buy. Here’s what you will get.
Out of the box
The X900H is, by far, the easiest TV I’ve set up this year. In the box with the TV is Sony’s unnecessarily long remote control, batteries for the remote, some product literature, and two legs — or, feet if you prefer.
You’ll note I didn’t say anything about screws, and that’s because you won’t need them. The stand legs just pop right into slots under the TV cabinet, no screws required. I was pleased with how stable the stand wound up being, but I’m not sure how I feel about the look of ultra-slim blade-style feet, nor was I impressed with the cable management solution, which is basically just a clip on the back of the feet.
Also not in the box is a breakout cable for older component or composite video cables. I’m not sure how many folks are still rocking a classic console or VCR who might need to use one of these connections, but know that if you do, you’ll need to get your own breakout cable to make the connection.
Features and design
The X900H has a sleek, understated look. It has thin bezels, not a ton of trim, and it’s more plastic than metal. The X900H’s total depth is 2 7/8-inches, so depending on what kind of wall mount is used, the TV should look inconspicuous on a wall.
An important note on the X900H’s screen. It’s fairly reflective. This is usually not a problem when watching bright content, but I wouldn’t plan on watching Game of Thrones or Ozark on a bright day with the windows open without seeing some room reflections.
Under the hood, the X900H is armed with Sony’s X1 4K HDR processor. It’s not the hot-rod X1 Ultimate processor found in more expensive models like the Sony A8H OLED we recently reviewed but based on my experience, it still delivers the refined, clean look that differentiates Sony’s TVs from others.
With the X900H you will get four HDMI 2.0 inputs, one of which will support ARC. I mentioned earlier that the X900H will eventually support VRR for gaming, but the update that enables it has not yet been deployed as of this review’s publish date, and Sony does not have an estimated timeline for that feature coming to this TV.
A quick note related to the above. I asked Sony why it was that this TV hadn’t been updated to support VRR yet, or why it isn’t supported right out of the box. Sony’s response boils down to standards. As a partner with the CTA, NAB, and various other standards organization, Sony prefers to see all standards testing completed before it deploys a new technology like HDMI 2.1 or any of the features with which it comes. Sony cites a consistent, stable experience as being very important to its customers.
I can respect Sony’s stance, but while its competitors are offering features its TVs don’t have, I think Sony, for the moment, looks like it is trailing behind. Regardless, not having VRR at launch is no reason to not purchase this TV. Its picture quality is too good for the price.
Contrast, which is the most noticeable element of picture quality, is based on black levels. The darker a TV can get, the higher the contrast and the less brightness is needed to achieve high contrast. One of the reasons that X900H excels is that it has very good black levels. That is owed to Sony’s backlighting system.
An LCD screen is lit up from behind by an array of LED backlights. In order to keep black levels from turning gray, the backlight system must be carefully controlled. That control, which includes various zones — or groups — of lights is called local dimming, and that local dimming is powered by an algorithm. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Sony has the best local dimming algorithm in the business.
With a solid basis of black, the X900H doesn’t have to get extremely bright to appear vivid. Using Portrait Display’s Calman software and a SpectraCal C6 colorimeter, I measured the X900H’s peak brightness in a 10% window at 750 nits for a sustained period of time. With competing TVs boasting 1,500, 2,000, and even 3,000 nits of peak brightness (see Vizio PQX), The X900H’s may seem a bit low, but I assure you 750 nits will get you a very enjoyable HDR experience, even with the lights on, and especially with the lights off.
Sony has the best local dimming algorithm in the business.
To put things into perspective, the Samsung Q90T offers about 1,400 nits of peak brightness in HDR Movie mode (same 10% window test), which is almost double the X900H. However, the 65-inch Q90T also costs $2,500. That’s $1,200 more than the Sony X900H reviewed here. I can tell you from experience that, other valuable features notwithstanding, the experience of having double the brightness in reserve alone is not worth more than $1,000.
Moving on to color, I was impressed by the X900H’s out-of-box color accuracy in the Cinema and Custom picture presets, both in SDR and HDR modes. The TV required very little tweaking to get color accuracy down under the visible threshold, meaning most users will never need to touch a thing to get an outstanding color experience from this TV.
Beyond those core picture elements, Sony’s X1 processor delivered a very clean picture, even with low bitrate content streamed from sites like Netflix and Hulu. I witnessed minimized contouring and color banding while watching. The performance of the upscaling and other processing elements exceeded the Hisense H8G Quantum I’m currently evaluating, and was as good and even better in some cases than the Samsung Q90T.
This came as no surprise, as Sony’s processing has always been the best in the business. Also of no surprise was the cleanliness of the VA panel, which exhibited no dirty screen effect (DSE) or blotchiness.
All of these individual elements came together to provide a rich, brilliant, vibrant, and clean picture. On more than just a few viewing occasions, I found myself not taking notes and just admiring the TV. It’s not as jaw-droppingly stunning as Sony’s A8H OLED, but it delivers a similarly satisfying cinematic experience for a fraction of the price, and that’s value in my book.
The Sony X900H has one of the best picture quality to price ratios you’ll find this year. Its screen is a little reflective, and off-angle viewing on this type of LED/LCD TV is never great, but those two blemishes can be overlooked thanks to rich, colorful, and cinematic picture quality.
Is there a better alternative?
Not yet, and not in this price class, though I have my eye on several upcoming Vizio models. For gamers seeking more immediate gratification, I would suggest looking at the Samsung Q70T which costs the same for a 65-inch model, supports VRR and auto low latency mode (ALLM), and should exhibit compelling picture quality as well.
How long will it last?
The TV itself should last for many years, with new features promised in the near future to support next-gen gaming consoles.
Sony offers a one-year warranty for its X900H series TVs, provided you purchase the TV from an authorized dealer. The warranty is specific about keeping product packaging, so take a look at the fine print.
Should you buy it
Yes. If Sony’s picture quality is what you crave, but you want to minimize the dent in your wallet post-purchase, the X900H is an excellent choice.
- Samsung Q90T 4K HDR QLED TV review: Mostly exceptional
- Hisense H8G Quantum 4K HDR TV review: Value verified
- The best TVs for 2020
- Vizio’s 2021 TV line has new QLEDs with 3,000 nits of eye-searing brightness
- Sony A8H 4K HDR OLED TV review: Superbly cinematic