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Sony Bravia XE94 (KD75XE9405) review: The 75in TV to rule them all

Vincent Teoh
26 Jul 2017
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
4,999
inc VAT

A monstrous 75in screen combines with deft HDR presentation and fantastic image processing – the Sony XE94 is a top-end TV to lust after

Pros 
Class-leading 4K upscaling
High peak brightness makes for stunning HDR
256-zone full-array local dimming performs superbly
Cons 
Limited viewing angles
Slow response time
1080P input lag is a little high
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Sony is on a roll this year. According to recent data from industry analyst IHS collected in the first half of 2017, the Japanese brand grabbed 39% of the global market share for all TVs priced above $1500, beating its South Korean rivals LG (35.8%) and Samsung (13.2%). One big factor in Sony’s recent success could be its re-entry into the OLED TV fray, but it certainly helps that its LED LCD models are some of the best in the business, as evidenced by the frankly outstanding Sony KD-75XE9405 that we’re reviewing here.

Sony Bravia XE94 review: Design, sound quality and Android TV

The Bravia XE94 series is available solely in one gigantic screen size of 75 inches, so it’s definitely not a TV for smaller living rooms, but it looks sleek and stylish despite its size. In terms of its design, it’s unmistakably the bigger sibling to the impressive KD-55XE9305 we tested three months ago. A slim black bezel partners with a neat central table-top stand, and the crosshatch-patterned rear is supplied with multiple cover plates to help keep all the cables neatly tidied away.

Even the in-built speakers, so often a point of criticism with today’s slimline TVs, are worth mentioning. With reasonable bass output and dialogue clarity, sound quality is well above average for a flat-screen TV.

Sony's Android TV interface is just as slick as ever, too, and the only major streaming service which it's lacking is Now TV – you'll need to shell out for a Roku or dedicated Now TV box if you're a subscriber. Otherwise, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and Amazon Video are supported out of the box. 

Sony Bravia XE94 review: The best backlighting in the business

It's the KD75XE9405’s picture quality which sees it reign supreme, delivering a sumptuous image that tops pretty much every other LED-backlit LCD television in 2017 – unless, that is, Sony or one of its rivals have a surprise launch up their sleeves for September’s IFA trade show in Berlin.

The main reason behind the Bravia XE94's stunning picture quality is full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight technology. This allows different parts of the LCD panel to be illuminated or darkened independently of each other, which contributes to visibly higher contrast (especially for HDR) since darker areas of the image aren't be washed out by the presence of brighter elements on screen.

The effectiveness of any FALD system is determined by two factors: the number of individually dimmable zones, and how deftly the TV’s dimming algorithm is able to control the brightness of each and every zone.

Following in the footsteps of Sony’s flagship ZD9, the KD-75XE9405 excels on both fronts. We counted 256 dimming zones, representing a big leap over the 96 zones implemented on its direct predecessor, the Sony XD94. Whilst the higher number of zones provides improved backlight control, the Sony XE94's local dimming algorithm is also a masterclass in the art of halo suppression. A quick primer: haloing (also commonly referred to as blooming) is an effect that you’ll notice around bright objects on a dark background, where you’ll see light spilling out around the edges, and it’s caused when the dimming zones on a TV are larger than the onscreen object.

This means that lesser TVs can struggle with some of our tests, but not so the KD75XE9405 – even in HDR mode (where the higher light output tends to exaggerate blooming), we didn't witness any significant blooming or haloing artefacts that bothered us, as long as we sat directly in front of the TV (more on which later).

Sony Bravia XE94 review: HDR, viewing angles and gaming performance

The Sony XE94 is also capable of producing a prodigiously bright image – which is just what you need for top-notch HDR performance. We measured a peak brightness of 1285cd/m2, which is surpassed only by the Sony ZD9, the Sony XE93, the Samsung KS9500 and the Samsung Q9.

This extreme brightness, however, is matched with a subtlety of presentation that makes for a superbly realistic HDR viewing experience – Sony’s excellent tone-mapping does a simply superb job of translating the HDR information on Blu-ray discs and other sources to best suit the XE94’s capabilities. The wide-ranging HDR format support is equally welcome, too: after the latest Android Nougat 7.0 update, the KD-75XE9405 supports HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) formats, with Dolby Vision compatibility scheduled to arrive later following another software upgrade.

The video processing on the Sony KD75XE9405 is exemplary, largely thanks to the presence of the firm's X1 Extreme processor which boasts arguably the best in-TV scaling we've seen, providing sharp and detailed yet impressively artefact-free upconversion from non-4K sources. Another fantastic feature is [Smooth Gradation], a Sony-exclusive processing technique that irons out stripes of colour banding in what should be smooth gradients, making even ropey standard-definition content look passable.

The main weaknesses of the Sony XE94 can be attributed to the VA-type LCD panel used, which exhibits limited viewing angles (colours and contrast suffer off-axis) and slower response time (so dark objects travelling across a lighter background may leave a trail). In [Game] mode, the television's input lag is also slightly higher at 43ms when fed with 1080p signals, though thankfully it drops to 25ms with native 4K games when no upscaling is needed.

Sony Bravia XE94 review: Verdict

The KD-75XE9405 delivers an immersive big-screen experience that should rank among the best in 2017. Sony's LCD-making know-how has pulled together a raft of top-rung specifications that impress across the board, and especially when it comes to HDR. The only question is whether you can find the space (and the money) to get it into your living room.

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