Debut 65in curved display proves that Sony is still a titan of 4K/UHD TV
Curved screens remain a source of debate in AV circles. Yet regardless of whether you love or hate them, you can’t ignore them – and that goes for manufacturers as well as punters. So I find myself faced with the 65S9005B: the first curved TV launched in the UK by Sony. And a very striking sight it is too.
For starters, it’s big: 65in of big to be precise. And it’s joined in the S9005B range by a 75in sibling. I’ve always felt that curved TVs make more sense at really large sizes, so Sony thinking big for the S9005B is a good move. Especially as its bigscreen credentials are underlined by a native 4K resolution.
The 65S9005B wears its size handsomely. Its left and right extremities feature rounded and – by modern standards – chunky edges, with stripes of light cutting across the middle. Two boldly angled feet support the TV and, of course, the screen curves gently back from you at its centre.
And when I say ‘gently’, I mean it. Sony’s curved debutante doesn’t feature nearly as severe a bend as models from Samsung and LG. The company says it has based the S9005B’s curve on research by Japan’s Kyushu University to find the best balance between curved screens’ positive points – greater immersion and image depth – and negatives – distracting geometry issues during off-axis viewing and distorted onscreen reflections.
Its deep and rounded edges aren’t just a design statement. In fact, they house another in a growing line of Sony TV audio innovations: a Multi-angle Live Speaker system. This uses a series of speakers firing at different angles – including behind the TV – to deliver a much wider soundstage than you’d typically get. In fact, Sony claims the 65S9005B’s speakers can deliver a genuine surround sound experience, with effects sounding like they’re coming from behind you.
And it sort of works. The Multi-angle Live Speaker system casts forth a huge soundstage that’s detailed, punchy and dynamic enough to do a very decent impersonation of an external home cinema system. And, yes, there’s an occasional hint of surround channel audio.
Among the set’s picture talents is Sony’s X-Reality Pro 4K video engine, as well as calibration tools that include local dimming controls; black level ‘boosters’; various colour options including multiple levels of Sony’s LiveColour processing (the set sports wide gamut ‘Triluminos’ technology); and some welcome flexibility over how strongly the upscaling engine works.
Connections include HDMI 2.0 ports to support 4K 60p feeds. The TV can also stream Netflix’s HEVC H.265 4K content. Smart features are built on Sony’s SEN platform. It’s pretty strong on the content front (notwithstanding the absence of 4OD and ITV Player apps), but its interface is ponderous. Android TV looks a far slicker proposition.
At this price, you will expect to be blown away by the 65S9005B's picture performance – but for a few uncomfortable moments I wasn't. As soon as dark scene cropped up in a movie or TV show I couldn’t help noticing patches of backlight clouding – at least when watching in a fairly dark room. Thankfully, this can be countered by reducing the backlight considerably (as far as its 1 setting for really blacked-out rooms) without leaving images looking unwatchably dim.
Also worthwhile is the Dynamic LED control, which enhances black level response without upsetting the PQ apple cart. For bright room viewing I suspect you will prefer to revert to one of the set’s brighter presets. The key point is that tools are available to address the initial clouding problems.
And the 65S9005B is outstanding in most other key areas. For starters, the night-time race to the depths of the Louvre in Edge Of Tomorrow shows some gorgeously rich, convincingly deep black colours that stand in stark contrast to the milky greyness found on less well-engineered TVs.
Connected to this black level talent is an ability to bring out lots of the subtle greyscale shading, deep colours and shadow details you need to make dark scenes look convincing. These qualities are especially welcome in a 4K environment, where any loss of detail is keenly felt.
Feed the 65S9005B some 4K material and it delivers the maximum impact from its souped-up resolution. 4K 60p footage from the 2104 FIFA World Cup, documentary footage sweeping over World Heritage sites, film clips – with all I was never less than wowed. Detail levels are sensational, delivering a flawless, real-life look. Sony’s excellent motion processing means the intense sharpness scarcely misses a beat when there’s motion in the frame, and it's backed up by flawless colour blends and transitions.
Netflix’s Breaking Bad and House of Cards 4K streams, meanwhile, perhaps look slightly less clean than they do on Samsung’s UHD range-toppers, but still impress. The quartet of 4K nature docs also available on Netflix at the time of writing are less appealing, but this is the fault of the content, not Sony’s telly.
The 65S9005B also reminds me how good Sony’s upscaling processing is. Polished images like those on the Man Of Steel Blu-ray are noticeably more detailed and dense than on HD TVs, with scarcely a hint of additional noise. Even better, Sony’s system handles grainy Blu-rays without exaggerating the source.
As with every 4K/UHD TV, upscaling standard-def material with conviction proves a struggle. But you'll be doing everything you can to avoid feeding the 65S9005B anything less than HD.
For 3D, this premium screen uses an active system, which is great for making the images from my Godzilla Blu-ray look detailed and dense in a way that genuinely enhances the stereoscopic effect. However, shots containing a lot of depth of field and distant objects that stand out against a contrasting background – Godzilla standing tall against brighter skies, for instance – suffer distractingly with crosstalk double ghosting. Active 3D still has its issues, even on a 4K TV.
As for Sony's decision to adopt a curved design... well, the bottom line is that while the gentle curve is quite aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t have much effect (negative or positive) on pictures. It is nice, undoubtedly, to be able to watch a curved TV where you don’t have to be sat in a smallish sweet spot to avoid the picture looking distorted, and don’t feel bugged by reflections from your room distorting right across the screen. But the benefits the curve can bring to your sense of image depth are also reduced. Not to the point where they’re completely negated, but I found myself questioning whether the 65S9005B’s curve justifies it costing £700 more than Sony’s flagship flat 65in 4K TV, the outstanding 65X9005B.
Put that issue aside and the 65S9005B is another class 4K act from Sony – and it’s great to see the Japanese brand bringing its own ideas to the curved TV table. Yes, this screen is expensive, but if you’ve been bitten by the style bug and are feeling flush then it makes a sensible audition.
Price: £3,900 Approx
Highs: Terrific overall image quality and outstanding audio; 4K upscaling; gentle curve reduces reflections and geometry issues
Lows: Curve doesn’t enhance images much; expensive versus its flat sibling
3D: Yes. Active
4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160
Tuner: Yes. Freeview HD
Connections: 4 x HDMI (including 2.0 options); 3 x USB; Ethernet; integrated Wi-Fi; digital audio output; headphone jack; RF input; CI slot; component video input; RGB Scart
Sound: 60W (from a Multi-angle array)
Contrast ratio: 'Over 1 million'
Dimensions (off stand): 1,549(w) x 873(h) x 115(d)mm
Weight (off stand): 40.7kg
Features: USB multimedia playback; DLNA media playback; 4K X-Reality Pro processing engine; SEN Smart system; Triluminos panel technology; Multi-angle Live Speaker system; X-tended Dynamic Range; fourteen preset picture modes; Advanced Contrast Enhancer; Intelligent MPEG Noise Reduction; NFC; Screen Mirroring; Wi-Fi Direct; Opera web browser; HEVC support; optional wireless subwoofer
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