Sony W9 LED television with Triluminos display review
40in, Freeview HD, 1,920x1,080 resolution, 3D: yes, 4x HDMI
For this review we tested the 40in model in the W9 range (KDL-40W905A), but it's also available in 46in (KDL-46W905A) and 55in (KDL-55W905A) screen sizes. All models have identical specifications except for their dimensions and power usage. We're confident that image quality will be practically identical across the range.
Sony's TV range has always looked sleek and minimal, but this year's flagship W9 is a gorgeous set that’s finished with quartz to give each laser-cut bezel edge an aqua tint when it catches the light. It's not just good looks that sets this TV apart, though. It's the first to include Sony's redesigned Triluminos colour system.
Triluminos is essentially a new backlighting system built using Quantum Dots, which shine blue LED light through green and red optical elements to produce a theoretically wider colour gamut than a traditional LCD backlight. Many modern TVs are now capable of producing the entire colour gamut of a Blu-ray disc, so the W9 isn't unique in this respect.
In practice, colours have an intensity we're not used to seeing from an LCD TV, as they’re vibrant without looking unnatural. Because Triluminos is part of the backlight and not a software algorithm, you can't reduce this intensity, but you probably wouldn’t as landscapes look rich and facial close-ups show natural-looking skin colours.
It uses edge LED backlighting rather than a full array setup, but the KDL-40W905A has some of the best black levels we've seen from an LCD TV. Sat side by side with a plasma TV, we were hard pushed to decide which was best. There are barely any signs of clouding or backlight bleed, and it produced deeply black colours even during scenes that were otherwise brightly lit. The one exception is if you sit at an angle to the TV, as wider viewing angles compromise contrast and colour. Sat face on, however, this is about as good as LCD TVs get.
That's true regardless of content thanks to Sony's image processing techniques, which are among the best we've seen of any TV this year. X-Reality Pro, the frame creation and motion smoothing system, can bring out extra detail from high-definition broadcasts and even make standard definition channels look good, with effective noise reduction and edge sharpening that doesn't generate any visible artefacts.
Even Blu-ray video benefits from X-Reality Pro. It sharpens hair incredibly well and adding detail to textures such as faces. When you pause the action and get close to the screen it's possible to spot the noise this effect creates, but it's basically impossible to see when watching films at full speed.
3D video hasn't been Sony's strong point in the past, but the KDL-40W905A gets off to a great start by including four pairs of active 3D glasses in the box. That should be enough for the average family. Extra pairs are available (£17, from www.amazon.co.uk).
When playing 3D films and games, the KDL-40W905A creates a real sense of depth thanks to the vibrant colours and high contrast in darker scenes. Live Colour works best here, as although it pushes the intensity too far for regular viewing, it gives 3D content a pleasant punch. Thankfully, the KDL-40W905A saves image quality settings by pre-set, rather than for the TV as a whole, letting you tweak for Blu-ray, games or broadcast TV without affecting the others.
The KDL-40W905A has a ducted speaker design, which is supposed to create more bass than TVs without it, but we didn't think it made much impact during films and games. There's ample volume but not much bass, and the very high end sounds a little harsh. Detail was reasonable but there wasn't much in the way of stereo separation, so you'll still want a dedicated set of speakers for the best experience.
The KDL-40W905A is every bit the flagship TV thanks to a comprehensive set of Smart TV features and ample connectivity. It has four HDMI ports with support for Audio Return Channel (ARC) and MHL. ARC is a great feature, as it means you can play your TV’s sound through a home cinema amplifier or surround sound system, while MHL lets you display your smartphone through your TV. It also has SCART and component video inputs, digital optical and 3.5mm audio outputs and three USB ports. You can use one of the USB ports to add an external hard disk so that you can record TV programmes, while the others let you play media files using the integrated media player. We were able to play almost all of our multimedia files, although native DivX videos weren't recognised. With Ethernet and integrated Wi-Fi, you can also stream files from a DLNA-compatible media server like a PC or NAS device.
Another neat feature of the KDL-40W905A is near-field communication (NFC). Both the TV and the small secondary remote control have built-in NFC readers, which means you can pair compatible Xperia smartphones and tablets to the TV for instant screen mirroring. We had no luck with a Samsung Galaxy S4, though, so this is only useful for Sony device owners.
You can also interact with the W9 using Sony’s TV Sideview app, available for iOS and Android. It gives you full control over the TV, a detailed TV guide, the ability to browse your local network for files and lets you schedule recordings. Once on the same network, you can also display content held on your phone on the TV.
Even without a smartphone, you can still find plenty of content on the TV thanks to the Sony Entertainment Network (SEN) portal, catch up TV from BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 (sadly not ITV player or 4OD), plus on-demand films from Netflix, LoveFilm and Sony's Video Unlimited service. It also has YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, a web browser and a dedicated 3D channel for movie trailers and short films.
It's far easier to find your way around the TV now that Sony has finally replaced the ageing Cross Media Bar (XMB) with a completely new interface. It's very responsive and looks much slicker thanks to high-definition graphics and sharp text.
The 40in Sony W9 is currently cheaper than the excellent Samsung F8000. Although the competition has more catch-up services, Sony has a real edge in terms of picture quality this year and there are plenty of features for smartphone owners to get the most from the TV. However, it's still more expensive than a larger Panasonic GT60 plasma, which matches it for image quality. The W9 might be one of the best LCD TVs you can buy, and thoroughly deserves its five star rating, but Panasonic GT60 models are better value overall.
|Audio outputs||optical S/PDIF out, 1x 3.5mm input, 1x 3.5mm output|
|Other||headphone output, CI slot, RJ45 LAN (DLNA), 3x USB, Wi-Fi, NFC|
|Tuner type||Freeview HD|
|Power consumption standby||0W|
|Power consumption on||63W|
|Warranty||one year RTB|