Why the penchant for curved TVs? For some brands it's all about style, and perhaps just as much about keeping up with the competition, but Sony's take on the curved TV is genuinely refreshing. Although the Japanese brand was showing-off the 65-inch KD-65S9000B from its new S9 Series on the IFA 2014 show floor, it was in a room off the main arena that we caught up with this incredible 4K creation to see if its curve has a purpose.
Immediately noticeable on the KD-65S9000B are its side-mounted speakers, which have – naturally – a rounded grille as well as smooth and curved edges. It all looks very smooth, perhaps, but not slim. Far from it.
The speakers are at least three inches wide on either side, with Sony's designers also swerving the trend for super-slim bezels; top and bottom of the 65-inch panel are around 20mm of black bezel, which is at least three times as much as on most flagships TVs. The KD-65S9000B also eschews a slim depth, with about an inch at the top tapering to double that lower down.
It's really all about those side speakers, which are the cornerstones of a 4.2-channel Multi-angle Live Speaker set-up. Front and 'rear' (as you would find in a traditional surround sound speaker array) speakers are positioned either side, with two subwoofers at the back; the result is essentially a built-in soundbar that tries to create a convincing quasi-surround effect.
Extra grunt comes from a wirelessly attached (though optional) new subwoofer from Sony, the SWF-BR100. Measuring 21x21x39cm, it's also compatible with Sony's X Series and W Series of TVs.
As well as being 'gently contoured', the KD-65S9000B is an Ultra HD 4K TV with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. It's got all the gubbins from Sony's lab, such as 4K X-Reality PRO, X-tended Dynamic Range, and wide colour gamut-toting Triluminous Display.
On a side-panel behind the left-hand side of the KD-65S9000B as it's watched are all the ins and outs, including a trio of USB slots and HDMI inputs. Those HDMIs are all 2.0 spec with HDCP 2.2, so can handle high frame rate 4K material, while HEVC compatibility means compliance with 4K streaming from Netflix and (announced at IFA 2014) Amazon Prime 4K.
A headphones slot, a Common Interface slot and a RF input to fuel its TV tuners are also back there. The KD-65S9000B also has four VESA holes for wall-mounting, though that would look (a) very weird and (b) would probably bring down the unlucky wall. The KD-65S9000B is a true heavyweight in all senses.
The highlight of the KD-65S9000B is easily the Multi-angle Live Speaker. We spent a bit of time watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 4k in a special room, with some decent bass providing the core of a sound-field full of both detail and surround effects. Effects appeared to move over our head and from left to right in stunning fashion.
Dialogue sounds really beefy and clear, and although it's the treble detail that dominates (which can sound a little harsh at time), there's no doubting the power of Multi-angle Live Speaker, particularly with that subwoofer in tow.
Picture-wise, the KD-65S9000B impresses, too, with luscious 4K detail and colours that pop, with some excellent contrast levels, too. However, we did notice traces of both film judder and picture noise within black areas of images. The KD-65S9000B can also host active shutter 3D pictures, though none was showing at IFA 2014.
The "surround TV" concept comes alive on the KD-65S9000B not because of its curve but because of its exceptional sound system. It's those chunky speakers, built-in soundbar and wireless subwoofer that truly impress, which suggests that by freeing designers of the need to create super-slim screens, the curved TV concept could yet have an important role to play in the future of home entertainment.
The KD-65S9000B – which comes with a Privilege Movies 4K hard disk containing five native 4K movies from a choice of ten – is out in October for €3,999 (around £3,175) and forms part of Sony's stated ambition to grab 30% of the 4k TV market by the end of 2014. The 75-inch KD-75S9000B, also in the Bravia S90 Series, will cost more than twice as much at €8,499 (around £6,747).