The Sony X900E is a mid range 4K television that runs on the Android TV platform. Sony televisions have been a household staple for my whole life. The build quality and reliability have had such a high reputation that in my house, when deciding to purchase a new television, the discussion started and quickly ended with Sony.
When Sony announced that it would using Google’s Android TV software platform, it was an exciting proposition. The combination of the Sony’s television expertise, and Google’s forward thinking TV interface, sounds like a perfect combination on paper. This review will explore if this combination works and if it’s worth your investment.
Recently Best Buy Canada has sent me a series of the latest home theatre devices from Sony to test out. This series includes 4K televisions, home theatre sound systems, hi-def speakers, and an Ultra-HD Blu-ray player. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my thoughts and experiences with these devices.
Sony X900E – modern television, minimal design
The Sony X900E features a minimal bezel that allows the user to focus on and become immersed in the content. This minimalism extends throughout the design of the television, creating a device that would look attractive in almost any living room. The HDMI ports are conveniently located on the side of the television, preventing you from having to blindly reach for ports that are traditionally located on the rear. The port location enabled me to easily connect new devices and it also assisted with cable management.
The Sony X900E has a multi-functional base
The stylistic legs of the television are designed to provide an impression of a floating
television, but they also serve several purposes. The rear of the legs can also be used to direct and hide cables. This built-in cable management delivers a clean appearance even when there are many devices connected to the TV. With other TVs, I’ve resorted to using tape to hide unflattering cables, so this functionality is a very appreciated feature. The base of the legs is connected by an angled pedestal that is designed to accommodate Sony’s new lineup of home theatre speaker systems. I had an opportunity to test this out with several of these speakers and it does a very good job of integrating with the speakers for a seamless and cohesive design.
Sony’s aging remote control design needs work
I’ve noticed that manufacturers like Samsung and LG have gravitated towards a modern remote control that features few buttons and concentrates on the most used functions and settings. For the X900E, I was disappointed to see that Sony uses a remote design that’s been used for the last decade. I feel that there are too many buttons on this aging design. It adds unneeded complexity for a large number of users who only need access to the necessities.
With the addition of Android TV, the user interface has become far more simple and accessible. This simplicity should negate the need for additional controls.
Since the remote control is the main method of interacting with the television, I would have appreciated if Sony brought some attention to delivering controls that align with the simplicity of Android TV. The buttons also have minimal depth and it can be hard to differentiate the buttons in the dark. One positive note is that the remote is made out of a durable material that is easy to clean.
Features of the Sony X900E
Android TV delivers one of the best television interfaces
Sony is one of the few television manufacturers that support Android TV for its native interface. Prior to Android TV, Sony’s television interfaces felt like they were quickly aging when compared to LG’S WebOS and even Samsung’s Tizen. The competitor’s interfaces understood the value of minimizing buttons, and realizing that people did not navigate or access content like they used to. Today, audiences are finding more content through streaming apps and are becoming less dependent on traditional cable subscriptions. Sony’s shift to Android TV has delivered a more user friendly interface that accommodates a modern user’s needs and behaviour.
Android TV is very similar to the interface and operating system found on tablets and smartphones. As a result, there are user friendly features that make a great translation to the television interface.
Apps and settings are easy to find as they are all represented by clear and colourful icons. This layout and design is similar to what you’d find on an Android mobile device. Another benefit from the Android operating system is access to the Google Play Store. This means, you’ll have open access to the latest versions of popular apps like Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube. The store also has a library of more sophisticated games that can be controlled by compatible Bluetooth game controllers.
Voice control is accurate but some features are a work in progress
The microphone located on the remote enables you to interact and make requests with voice commands. Since the software uses Google’s voice recognition, it delivers the same incredibly accurate voice interpretation that you would experience with an Android mobile device.
You can also use voice commands to switch your TV input to another device. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I said “Switch to Playstation”, it automatically switched the input and turned on the Playstation. I found that the vocal commands work best when they are associated with Google services (Searching YouTube, Google Play). Unfortunately at this time it doesn’t work well when it’s required to communicate with other services. For example it’s unable to search for movies specifically on Netflix or play a song on Spotify.
While these features are not available today, its highly likely they’ll be available in the near future. The greatest benefit of Android TV is that it’s constantly improving its apps and system functionality. This operating system will provide one of the best opportunities to have access to the latest improvements in software.
4K and HDR provides a noticeable visual upgrade
The X900E offers support for both 4K and HDR content. If you are planning to purchase a television, investing in a one that has these capabilities will deliver an exceptional level of detail and extend the life of your investment.
4K content is becoming more accessible and readily available. With 4 times the resolution than traditional HD video, you can expect increased clarity and detail. On the X900E, you will be able to access this 4K/high resolution media directly from Netflix and YouTube. The ethernet port on this TV provides access to a wired internet connection, so you can reliably stream ultra high resolution content. You can also use an Ultra-HD 4K Blu-ray player to view high quality 4K and HDR compatible movies.
I had an opportunity to test the full potential of this television’s 4K and HDR capabilities with the Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray player. The benefit of using a dedicated UHD Blu-ray player is that it delivers 4K video that is not dependent on an internet connection. 4K movies have larger video files and require a very fast internet connection to deliver a consistent picture quality. These Blu-rays are a great option for 4K movies if you have a limited or slow internet connection.
Using the Sony X900E
Android TV is easy to use
Sony’s decision to use Android TV as its main operating system rather than proprietary Sony software, is my favourite thing about this television.
As I mentioned, Android TV delivers an intuitive user experience where navigation is pleasant and everything is easy to find. The ability to install new apps and games also opens the door to easily add functionality to the television. Within minutes, I was able to download games that were very enjoyable and entertaining.
4K and HDR deliver immersive & cinematic experience
Watching 4K and HDR movies on the X900E is immersive and detailed. The additional resolution allows you to see tiny details that are easily lost on a traditional HD display. The increased level of detail in 4K is quite subtle but impactful. The clarity and additional detail becomes more apparent in scenes that contain angles that are close up. Overall, the high resolution adds to the sense of immersion and is certainly worth investing in as more platforms are supporting the evolving standard.
HDR adds definition to dark scenes and luminance to specific areas of the screen that require extra brightness. I feel that HDR is where you’ll begin to see a very noticeable upgrade in colour and contrast. With HDR, this television delivered scenes that had realistic lighting and vibrant colours. Dark scenes had more visible detail, and bright elements added more dimension to the picture
Final Thoughts on the Sony X900E
The Sony X900E delivers a compelling combination of software and technology. With Android TV you get an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate. You also get access to a large library of apps and games with the Google Play store. This television is also capable of delivering the best possible picture quality with 4K and HDR. These high resolution capabilities should be considered a pre-requisite if you are purchasing a television today. The increased detail and level of immersion that you can experience is definitely worth the investment. With growing support on platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and Ultra-HD Blu-ray, its becoming a lot easier to find compatible content too. If you are looking for a mid-range television that will have a lasting and high quality impact, the Sony X900E is certainly worth your consideration.