LCD panels can’t entirely stop the light. They don’t go fully opaque, so some light leaks through pixels that are supposed to be black. Having an array of individual LED back lights, which are switched on, off or dimmed under the control of the picture processor, can improve contrast by making the areas of the picture which are supposed to be dark even darker.
OLED TVs don’t need that because they can go fully black at the pixel level. So, in effect, they have more than 8 million individually lit cells. With full array local dimming, the question becomes: “How many?” The more elements in the array, the more localised the dimming.
Earlier in the day, during a product demo, I asked the Sony representative how many elements there were in the array for this TV. He declined to say, suggesting that this is a kind of misleading figure since there are other important aspects of an array’s performance, such as the calibration of the brightness control. That’s true, but there are lots of figures specifying home entertainment equipment which are, taken naively, quite misleading. For example, just about every time the output power of some audio device is mentioned.
That evening, in the hotel room with the Sony KD-55X8500G TV, I paid close attention to the panel during the credits of a couple of movies. Credits typically used white text on a black background. On this 55-inch panel, I’d estimate an array grid of five across by four up and down. That is, twenty zones of backlighting.
That’s much better than nothing. But far from leading the field.
Nonetheless, watching regular program content, some of which contained some quite dark scenes, the black levels were generally quite satisfying, and it was rare for backlight break-through to be noticeable.
Not quite plugging in the Sony KD-55X9500G
Streaming is one thing. But do you use a PVR? A DVD player? A Blu-ray player? The Sony KD-55X8500G has a several HDMI inputs. I brought with me an UltraHD Blu-ray player and a few select discs to make sure I could test the TV with known material.
Unfortunately, that proved to be a disaster. Not because of the TV, but because my trusty UHD player seemed to suffer some invisible damage in the Qantas airplane. It looked fine on the outside. It switched on normally. Everything seemed to work. But it would no longer recognise any of my discs.
So rather than using certain movie scenes I’ve isolated which make clear particular aspects of picture performance, I’ve had to rely on general viewing of streaming material, plus some digital test patterns on USB. (This hotel reviewing thing definitely has drawbacks in comparison to having the thing to be tested in my office!)
As best as I could judge, the motion processing of the Sony KD-55X9500G TV was as good as it gets. In several hours of viewing, not once did the artefacts and distortions I look for appear. That speaks very well of the picture processor, since I’m quite particular on this front.
My UltraHD test patterns confirmed that with video content the TV was able to display full colour resolution – 3,840 by 2,160 pixels in each colour – with video. However, rather than offering up 4:4:4 colour with still photos, it fell back to 4:4:0. You probably won’t see the difference with real photos, but I can never understand why some TVs are more capable with colour handling from video than they are with stills.
The grey scale ramp showed good clean graduations between the levels, with no crushing of either blacks or whites.
I wouldn’t call the Sony KD-55X8500G TV a revolutionary improvement of what Sony has previously produced. But it is a very solid, very usable and very pleasing TV and a price that would have been unbelievable a few years ago.
Sony’s site for the Sony KD-55X8500G TV is here.