Being able to serve up the kind of peak highlights required for traffic-stopping HDR ultimately comes down to brightness, and the most effective weapon is a full array backlight. But, most of the time, in order to get the kind of brightness needed for HDR there are big trade-offs in terms of cost and screen depth.
So it speaks volumes that the XD93 series, this year's Sony HDR champion (if that 5000nit prototype monster seen at CES doesn't hit the high streets), is preposterously thin. Just 35mm at its apex, it achieves its impossible thinness with an ingenious Slim Backlight Drive that's able to deliver the kind of brightness and contrast required for effective HDR.
The XD93 review unit sent to techradar is a 55-incher that retails for £2,000, but it's also available as the 65-inch KD-65XD9305, starting at £2,800.
Dressed to impress
There's no getting away from the fact that this is a fine-looking flatscreen. To signify its high-end credentials, there's a gold vein running through the edge of the frame. This apes the gold design affectation seen on Sony's High Res Audio speakers.
The set sits on a refreshingly practical central pedestal, which means you can park it on pretty much any TV furniture you like without the need to break out the ruler to see if it will fit. Also in the box is a simple hang-on-the-wall loop bracket.
Connections include four HDMIs, a SCART, component/composite AV inputs, plus three USBs (one fast 3.0); however, curiously these USB ports seemingly don't qualify as an input within the Android shelf interface. There's also Ethernet and an optical digital audio output.
All the HDMI inputs are HDCP 2.2-enabled, which means you can use them with external 4K sources, like a Sky Q STB or 4K Blu-ray player. Remember, though, that this Sony's HDMI inputs need to be manually assigned to support HDR and associated high-end picture parameters (designated Enhanced HDMI) in the menu jungle.
Onboard is a dual-band Wi-Fi antenna that runs on both the 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz frequencies. There's also Wi-Fi Direct and Google Cast.
Around the back, Sony has introduced a neat cable management system to keep things tidy. Cables run from the HDMI board, through plastic gulleys, until they flow from the back of the pedestal. This works fine as long as you don't use overly chunky cabling, however using all the ports may also prove congestive.
The remote control supplied with the XD93 is unique to say the least. Sony has jettisoned traditional buttons in favour of rubberised bumps and ridges. The result is as awkward to use as you might imagine. It's super clicky, too. Android OS is a tough enough landscape as it is, but this just makes things a magnitude worse.
It does come with an integrated Bluetooth microphone though, so at least you can voice search – and, given the problematic nature of the remote, speech recognition is surprisingly reliable.
The set boasts twin Freeview and dual satellite tuners. Significantly, Sony also provides a YouView overlay for terrestrial TV watchers. This cleverly integrates all the main channel catch-up media players, which is to say BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5.
The smart OS is, of course, Android-based. It's home to Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, both of which are 4K-enabled, as well as YouTube, Wuaki.tv, Dailymotion, the BBC's sport and news apps, plus more of dubious calibre.
The Android TV platform remains something of an acquired taste. While Panasonic and LG have gone minimalist with their smart offerings, Android keeps things busy. The main Home page is stacked with shelves, from tutorials to a plethora of featured apps, then inputs and then more apps. The Settings menu sits at the bottom of the home screen stack.
There is some relief, though. To jump to picture controls, you can use the Action Menu. Sony also offers up a browseable content bar which encourages you to mooch through curated content, be it live broadcasts, iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix or your own connected devices.