Sony XBR 950G 4K UHD smart TV review: Dated technology with a state-of-the-art price tag
This TV would've been a favorite two short years ago; today, the color and black levels are behind the times.
By Jon L. Jacobi
TechHiveSep 23, 2019 3:00 am PDT
At a Glance
Vastly improved remote
Very goods user interface and channel guide
Slight blue-skew in its color palette
Very pricey for the picture quality
Black levels not up to snuff
This TV barely scratched out its 4-star rating because of its classy looks, good video processing, and 1,000 nits of brightness. But the color can’t match that of QLED or even some less-expensive TVs from Hisense and Vizio.
If you took the Sony XBR 950G home having seen nothing else, you’d probably be more than satisfied. The image has that unique Sony look that so many people love, and the latest remote finally falls in line appearance-wise with the TV’s overall classy design.
But the times they are a changin’, and the 950G is stuck with dated image technology. You can get far more accurate color and better blacks for a fraction of the $1,799 suggested retail price that the 65-inch model I tested costs (street prices are lower). Some might consider that a bit of an issue.
Design and features
I like the look of Sony’s TVs. Based purely on its industrial design, I’d rather have one on my wall or table than any other brand. It’s hard to put a finger on why, and perhaps it’s association from my youth, but there you have it: Look at the picture below and decide for yourself.
The XBR 950G I tested offered 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution and measured 64.5 inches diagonally. That makes it 65-inch class, which is normally short-cutted to “65-inch”. The TV is just shy of three inches thick (2.75) and weighs right around 50 pounds (51.8). That’s on the thick side for an LED TV, and personally I don’t care if my TV protrudes from the wall. But if you’re looking for a TV that blends, this is not it.
The display bezel is very thin, yet the 950G suffers less flex than many TVs I’ve tested. Flex is really only a concern during handling and setup, but it’s nice not to have to treat a TV as if it were a newborn infant for once.
On the back of the TV, you’ll find four HDMI ports supporting HDCP 2.3 and eARC (on one port), three USB ports (one side-facing), an RS-232C control port, composite/audio (4-pin 3.5 mm adapter), optical audio input, remote IR 3.5mm port, coax, and an ethernet port. Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac take care of wireless connections.
Remote and interface
Hallelujah! The dichotomous experience of the best-looking TVs in the business coupled to cheap, motel TV-looking remotes is finally over. The new RMF-X600U remote is still a tad on the large size, but if you’re prone to misplacing remotes, that can be an advantage. The layout is well done, and I had no issue acclimating to the new design. This is much, much better than what I saw with Sony’s XBR 900F.
The Android TV interface is also far better than it was when Sony first shipped it. There’s still a lot of “stuff” on the home screen as shipped from the factory, but the settings are a separate deal now (with a dedicated button on the remote) and it’s highly configurable, so you can remove items that you don’t want or need. I’d call it pretty much even with the competition at this point, and of course there’s all that Google stuff if you’re a fan of the privacy-ignoring empire.
Even better from my particular point of view (streaming from a NAS box), multimedia playback from USB mass media or across the network is now pretty much bullet-proof. Android TV was a mess on Sony; now it’s not. And the apps are generally up to the standards set by LG, Samsung, Roku; i.e., everyone else in the industry. They’re all Linux underneath, so it was always a bit of a mystery as to why Sony’s implementation was so weak.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s also a nice searchable channel guide for broadcast or cable.
Good news first: When it comes to brightness (just shy of 1,000 nits) and HDR (Dolby Vision is supported), the 950G is top-notch. I quite enjoyed watching movies on the TV when I wasn’t being professionally picky. The video processing is very good, and the TV does a particularly good job with smoothing gradients and upscaling 720p and 1080p content—lower resolution material does look better in many cases (when upscaled) than it does on a plain 1080p set.
Color and black, on the other hand, are not up to modern standards. Most viewers will only notice the color issues as a slightly cold feel—the result of incompletely compensated blue-heavy backlighting. If you’re checking this in a store; look for reds that tend towards orange, and greens that shift to lime. A slightly amiss palette is certainly not the end of anyone’s viewing world, but there are cheaper sets out there that deliver truer color.
Black on Sony’s 950G falls prey to quite a bit of backlight bleed, or bloom as it’s often referred to, when anything bright is shown on a dark background. There was very noticeable and rather wide blooming with a zone counter (white square traveling along the edges of the TV—check YouTube). Note that these defects are much easier to spot with the tailored test material that I use than with what viewers normally watch.
Screen uniformity is very good, perhaps a bit better than the Samsung Q80R that I tested at the same time, and the viewing angle is very wide. I didn’t notice any issues when moving to the side until I couldn’t see enough of the picture for it to make a difference.
The sound from the TV is what I’d call passable. There’s not a lot of bass, but if you’re just watching broadcast, it’ll do. If you want to watch movies, hook it up to your audio system.
A good TV, but dated and overpriced
The Sony 950G is a good TV overall. In many ways, including its physical appearance, user interface, and video processing; it’s right up there with its top rivals. But the fact remains that far less-expensive TVs, such as Hisense’s astounding-for-the-price H8F, offer truer colors and comparable, if not better blacks. Sony offers a slighty classier overall user experience and—likely a longer lifespan (at least according to Consumer Reports), but $1,600 compared to $600?
I called out the significantly less-expensive Samsung RU4000 for the same blue-skewed color, so I can’t give Sony a pass for overpricing older technology. The landscape has changed. Don’t overpay for a name.
Edited on September 25th 2019 to remove an inaccuracy about snap-in legs. The legs require two screws apiece.