"Excellent picture quality that is completely satisfactory."

  • Very bright

  • Impressive black levels

  • Movement handling of the highest quality

  • Excellent out-of-box color

  • No support for variable update rates

  • Unstable table stand

You might not need a TV as great as the Sony X950H, but if you see one in person, I'm willing to bet you'll want it.

To be honest, if you're interested in a Sony TV with great picture quality and player-friendly features, the Sony X900H, which sits right below the X950H we reviewed here, is a better choice. However, if you are one of those who only needs the best picture quality from an LED TV, the X950H is for you. If you want the best picture quality Sony is making this year – and indeed one of the best TVs to buy in 2020 – you should consider the Sony A8H OLED TV.

For perspective, the X950H is available in 49-, 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch versions for $ 998, 1198, 1698, 2798, and $ 3,998, respectively (non-sale price). The X900H is available in 55-, 65-, 75-, and 85-inch variants priced at $ 998, $ 1298, $ 2198, and $ 2798, respectively. That translates to a $ 400 premium for the 65-inch X950H over the X900H.

For those who don't know, I'm a non-apologetic fan of Sony's best TVs. The reason: image processing. Sony's stated goal of making the Creator's intention come true is certainly a line of marketing, but this is something the company has succeeded in doing through a vision chip that takes an LED TV panel off the shelf every business Can buy and convert into a work of art.

To be clear, I understand that this type of accuracy is not a priority for many buyers, and it is true that there are many less expensive TVs out there that would be a more practical choice for most people. The X950H is certainly a niche TV, and Sony makes no apologies for it. Is it right for you Let's find out.

Out of the box

Prepare for a rather complicated unboxing experience. A lot of plastic adheres to the X950H, presumably to protect its beautiful, shiny design accents. There's also a ton of paper in the form of product manuals and setup guides that I usually want to throw in the trash.

Dan Baker / Digital Trends

In that case, you may want to stick with the installation instructions when you stand mount the TV – or just watch my X950H unboxing video – as installing the TVs … is less than intuitive. On the plus side, there are two ways to align your feet. One places feet on the far ends of the TV, the other points inward for a tighter footprint (but it looks goofy).

Once the TV is set up, you'll likely admire its form factor. The X950H doesn't have a particularly thin profile due to its local full array dimming backlight system, but its bezels are almost non-existent. Sure, there's still a black panel in your room, but it's a classy one.

Sure, there's still a black panel in your room, but it's a classy one.

Depending on the lighting in your room, you may find that the TV's screen creates a kind of rainbow effect when it is turned off or when dark content is displayed in a bright room. I believe this is due to a combination of anti-glare treatment and a panel layer that improves the image quality out of the angle. I've seen this on other TVs, and while I didn't find it a problem during most of my testing period, I was a little apprehensive while trying to watch Netflix's notoriously dark Ozark when sunlight fell into the room. I saw less of myself and the room, but I also saw a hazy rainbow.

configuration

Studies have shown that most people do not make any adjustments to picture settings when they bring their TVs home. If you don't, please know that the X950H's out-of-the-box “standard” image preset is one of the least disgusting I've seen from any manufacturer.

If you buy that particular TV, I'd bet you want the best picture quality possible. To do this, I would recommend starting with the "custom" mode, which has the best color accuracy in box. The custom mode may be a little dark. So you can adjust the backlight setting to get the brightness level you want. Otherwise you don't have to touch anything else.

sony x950h 4k hdr tv review sonyx950h 200807 9Dan Baker / Digital Trends

sony x950h 4k hdr tv review sonyx950h 200807 5thDan Baker / Digital Trends

sony x950h 4k hdr tv review sonyx950h 200807 8Dan Baker / Digital Trends

sony x950h 4k hdr tv review sonyx950h 200807 7Dan Baker / Digital Trends

This works for SDR content, but you also want to choose the HDR picture preset that you like best for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision content. I suggest going to the YouTube app, looking for 4K HDR content, and playing one of the clips shown. Go into the picture settings and choose the HDR picture mode that you like the most.

For Dolby Vision adjustments, I recommend playing a Dolby Vision-enabled clip from Netflix. Go back into the picture settings and choose the Dolby Vision preset (light or dark) that you like best.

An additional note for the setup: Sony offers a "light sensor" option, with which not only the brightness of the X950H, but also its gamma curve is automatically adjusted to the lighting situation in your room. I find the feature to work very well, but it will also darken the picture in dark rooms. So if you prefer the most punchy HDR experience you can get, this feature should be turned off.

sound

I don't often talk about the sound quality of a TV as it is almost always poor and in dire need of at least a soundbar for something other than watching the news. With the X950H, however, it's worth discussing.

Two additional speakers offer impressive tricks.

Sony's sound strategy with the X950H was to place small speakers on each side of the TV that sit just below the top to give the sound a sense of directionality and spaciousness. These two additional speakers work with the two downward facing speakers on the bottom of the TV and do some impressive tricks. While I wouldn't call the sound high-fidelity, I'll say that the sound is way better than most TVs and action-packed movies that add some immersion.

Dan Baker / Digital Trends

Still, I would suggest developing a better sound system for an experience that sounds as good as it looks.

picture quality

If you've spent a lot of time reading TV reviews lately, you've probably heard a lot about zones and nits. Zones refers to the number of local dimming zones a television's backlight system needs to control black levels and improve contrast. Usually more zones are better.

Nits refers to the measurement of the peak brightness a television is capable of, and as you can probably imagine, is more broadly considered to be better.

Sony breaks both rules. Please allow me to spit out for a moment. Skip the next two paragraphs if you want the end result.

Sony doesn't discuss how many zones its TVs have, nor does it like to talk about peak brightness measurements, claiming in either case that the numbers don't necessarily represent performance. I agree to some extent, but for a grin, I measured the X950H's peak brightness in custom picture mode at around 980 nits (with a 10 nits variance in either direction). For those who didn't know their nits from their gloves, that's a very respectable number.

I didn't count zones because I don't care and it's difficult to work with a Sony TV. Sony has some backlighting magic and is really the only TV manufacturer I know that manages to make the number of zones almost irrelevant. The fact that it is difficult to count the backlight zones in the X950H is evidence of this fact.

The bottom line is that the X950H is more than bright enough to provide a great HDR experience.

The bottom line is that the X950H is more than bright enough to deliver a great HDR experience while maintaining great black levels without suppressing details in low light. The backlight controls are very good, which means that the halos you may see around bright objects on a dark background are minimized quite well. This also results in very black mailbox bars that don't turn gray when the action on the screen turns bright, and doesn't overly brighten the screen when subtitles are used.

Dan Baker / Digital Trends

The out-of-box color is very good in custom mode too and surprisingly good in game mode. Normally the game mode throws the color accuracy to the wind, but with the X950H I was pleasantly surprised that a warmer color temperature was assumed while the overall brightness was very high. More about playing in a moment.

The handling of movements is excellent with the X950H and offers smooth, stutter-free movie playback as well as stuttering movements of 60 Hz content on Netflix and YouTube. The processing of the X950H also eliminates any moiré effect that can occur with very narrow, uniform patterns such as the window grilles or the narrow patterns of high-rise buildings.

The processing of the X950H is really excellent when content with low bit depth is processed by streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube or Hulu (really all of them). With other televisions, it's not uncommon to see an effect called banding over large areas of color – think of a large image of the sky with subtle changes in the color of blue – where there are semicircular bands of color. However, the Sony X950H's processor smooths things out quite successfully.

The X950H has an excellent cinematic picture.

My only complaint about image quality is the out of angle viewing. Contrast and color decrease significantly when you are not in the middle of the television. This is typical of LED TVs with VA panels, but Sony's X wide angle technology made me hope for a better one. Ultimately, I'm glad that no elements of the overall image quality were sacrificed for wide-angle viewing. It's best to just accept how VA LED TVs are and enjoy the superior contrast that they offer.

When all the picture quality components are put together, the X950H gives you an excellent film image. It's deep, rich, and punchy when called to sparkle. Simply put, it's one of the best images I've seen on an LED TV, especially at its price point.

Not for gamers

While the X950H's 18.3 millisecond input lag is good for most casual gaming scenarios, this model lacks the variable refresh rate (VRR) support we're seeing across a wide range of TVs this year. Sony told me that this TV primarily appeals to movie fans and decided not to give it some of the features it blessed its X900H with, including VRR (via future updates) and an ATSC 3.0 tuner.

Android TV experience

Until recently, Android TV was a frustratingly sluggish experience. Fortunately, the on-chip system that is currently used in most 2020 TVs handles Android TV with no significant delays or loading times. Fans of the Google experience will appreciate that previously signed-in apps can be easily updated automatically, eliminating the need to re-enter usernames and passwords. By signing in to Google, YouTube users can keep their viewing history and suggested videos consistent across devices.

Our opinion

The Sony X950H offers great picture quality, surprisingly good sound and a solid Smart TV experience. Image processing improves the visibility of all sources thanks to the excellent upscaling and the ability to clean up content with shallow bit depth. While it may not be the best choice for gamers, it is an ideal television for movie fans. While I am very confident in recommending this TV, I have to be close to the Editor's Choice Award as I think it serves a very niche audience.

Is there a better alternative?

I think the Sony X900H is a handy alternative for those who want great Sony picture quality with gamer-friendly features. The Samsung Q80T is a strong competitor in this price range too. We haven't seen what's coming from Vizio this year and will update this section as soon as we've had some hands-on time.

How long it will take

The lack of HDMI 2.1 compatibility, for which Sony needs a lot of heat, makes me take a break in terms of future security. However, given Sony's solid track record of build quality and the great picture quality of the X950H, I am confident that this TV will be relevant for many years to come.

warranty

Sony provides a one-year parts and labor warranty when purchased from an authorized dealer.

Should you buy it?

Hardcore cinephiles will love the X950H, but most people in the market will likely be looking for better overall value or a TV with more updated features. I say if you are among those who want the best picture they can get from an LED TV right now, the X950H is a great choice. Those who are less enthusiastic may want to look elsewhere.

Editor's recommendations




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