Sony continues to be uniquely open-minded when it comes to providing fans with a choice of TV technologies. So as well as offering both ‘standard’ and new Quantum Dot OLED TVs in its latest range, it also carries both ‘standard’ LED models and premium Mini LED models such as the £2,199 65X95L that’s under the microscope here.
As usual with Sony’s more high-end LCD TVs, the 65X95L isn’t afraid to go bright. This makes perfect sense on a philosophical level; after all, if you’re a brand that offers a wide range of TV technologies, you might as well push the individual advantages of each of those technologies. And in premium LCD TV’s case, especially those that use Mini LED lighting, that means the ability to go super bright without suffering as many backlight clouding and greyness problems as normal LED TVs.
The 65X95L’s exceptional brightness makes its presence most instantly felt when watching high dynamic range scenes that fill the whole screen with bright pictures. Exactly the sort of content, in other words, that rival screen technologies, especially traditional OLED, can struggle with. In the TV’s Vivid mode such scenes explode off the screen with nothing short of astounding brightness and intensity. So much so, actually, that while the mode is a phenomenal showcase of just what Mini LED can do when it comes to raw light output, the effect is actually far too strong for regular, extended viewing.
Luckily, though, the picture still classes as exceptionally bright with much more balanced and believable modes such as the default Standard and, with Dolby Vision sources, Dolby Vision Bright presets. Even in these more constrained modes you still get a dazzling show of HDR’s literal brilliance— especially when it comes to capturing the intensity and luminosity of bright daylight conditions.
Even Dolby Vision Dark mode, which is designed to be the most ‘accurate’ way of watching Dolby Vision sources, appears with exceptional intensity and punch, suffering much less of a dip in brightness from the DV Bright option than you see with most Dolby Vision-capable TVs.
To put some numbers on all this, the 65X95L proves capable of pumping out a massive 1560 nits of brightness on a 10% white HDR window in its standard model, and this holds up to 1,000 nits even in the TV’s accurate Cinema preset.
While we’ve seen blissfully unashamed HDR brightness worship from high-end Sony TVs before, though, we’ve never previously seen it married to the sort of light control the 65X95L delivers. For instance, Sony’s second stab at Mini LED backlighting massively reduces the potential for backlight ‘blooming’ (grey halos) around stand-out bright objects in an HDR picture. Even torches or streetlights beaming against a night sky cause remarkably little light haloing or general black level instability.
The effectiveness of the 65X95L’s suppression of blooming is just as importantly obvious during scenes where predominantly dark images are punctuated by subtle areas of gentle, low-intensity deal. There can occasionally be a trace of ‘smokiness in the presentation of dark scenes punctuated by multiple bright objects, but this is so subtle and momentary when it happens that I suspect most people won’t even notice it unless they’re actively looking for it.
Further evidence of just how outstanding the algorithms driving the 65X95L’s backlighting are finds shadow detailing in even the darkest scenes remaining outstanding at all times. There’s none of the hollow, empty, flat look to the darkest picture areas that you can see with lesser LED/Mini LED models. This remains true even when using the two Dolby Vision presets, despite these presets causing widespread ‘black crush’ problems for other TV brands.
Making the 65X95L’s freedom from both blooming and lost shadow detail all the more impressive is the fact that both strengths are delivered against a backdrop of outstanding black levels. So deep, rich and convincing can Sony’s TV get with very dark scenes, in fact, that dark scenes look as immersive and intense in their own way on the 65X95L as its gorgeous bright scenes; there’s no hint of that dark scene ‘deficit’ that so often has to be tolerated with LCD TVs.
I don’t even feel the need to qualify how impressed I am with the 65X95L’s delivery of true black in dark scenes by adding ‘by LCD standards’. Even the black bars around wide aspect ratio films appear almost completely free of clouding interference.
It’s important to say at this point that arch rival Samsung is also very good at controlling backlight clouds and halos with its Mini LED TVs. In fact, I’d say Samsung is the best in the business at this key aspect of LCD picture performance. However, Samsung TVs typically reduce - sometimes quite drastically - the brightness of stand-out bright objects in dark scenes to keep backlight blooming to a minimum. With the 65X95L such peak brightness dimming is much less noticeable - both in terms of how aggressive the brightness reduction might be, and how instantaneously it happens. There’s hardly ever any sign of the slight distracting delay in the backlight making its adjustments - even when a film cuts sharply between dark and bright shots - that you get with so many LCD TVs that use local- or frame-dimming light control systems.
Sony has a history of refusing to sacrifice the brightness of HDR highlights with its LCD TVs, to be fair. But previously the trade off for this has been some pretty obviously backlight blooming. Seeing that resolved so well by the 65X95L while brightness remains so consistently intense feels like we’re having our cake and eating it for the first time with a Sony LCD TV, arguably, since the brand’s legendary ZD9 range from 2016.
As if the good news about the 65X95L’s pictures wasn’t already prodigious enough, its remarkable brightness and light control also feeds into a fantastic colour performance. The volume (saturation plus luminance) of tones it can reach is outstanding, delivering every last drop of spectacle from famously vivid and intense HDR masters, while also handling much subtler fare with a level of perfect, striping-free blending and balanced finesse that ensures you benefit from every last drop of nuance and thematic intent a director/colour grader intended you to see.
Such a combination of the spectacular and the ultra-refined is rare indeed, even in 2023’s newly advanced TV world.
The ability of Sony’s Triluminos colour engine to map content so well to the capabilities of the 65X95L’s screen plays its part, too, in how richly detailed and textured its pictures look. As you would expect, this is particularly true of native 4K images, which look pure, direct, crisp and full of depth and ‘presence’ without looking over-sharpened, gritty, overly processed or ‘forced’.
The latest version of Sony’s acclaimed Cognitive XR processor, though, also actually makes Sony’s already class-leading upscaling of HD sources even more exceptional, creating an even more lifelike, believable, dense and ‘close to 4K’ look. Not least because the upscaler’s ability to tell the difference between noise and actual picture data in a sources is second to none.
The 65X95L’s impressive but natural sharpness remains intact, too, when there’s motion in the frame. Its panel actually avoids excessive judder and motion blur without any motion processing in play, but if you wish you can smooth the edges off judder without either generating lots of processing noise or making the picture excessively fluid by setting Sony’s Motionflow setting to Custom with its Smoothness and Clearness elements set to level one or, at a push, two each.
if you look hard enough, you can find some minor chinks in the 65X95L’s picture armour. For starters, as mentioned in passing earlier, its Vivid picture preset is pretty much unusable. It comes on incredibly strong, looking for the first few seconds utterly spectacular thanks to its massive brightness and explosively bold colours. You soon realise though, that it’s also totally unrealistic, over-aggressive, prone to ‘white outs’, and beset by colour noise. It’s perhaps not quite as aggressively bad as the same mode on Sony’s (otherwise excellent) A80L OLED range, but it’s certainly not a mode I’d recommend unless you just want to show the TV off to someone who isn’t very au fait with the finer things in AV life.
A second issue is that while backlight haloing/blooming is brilliantly controlled when viewing the TV head on, it becomes much more noticeable if you watch the TV from an angle of any more than 20 degrees or so off axis. So you do need to consider your room layout and typical seating positions before definitely deciding the 65X95L is the TV for you.
Even watching the 65X95L straight on can reveal just a faint hint of blooming in the most truly extreme circumstances - such as white subtitles, the bright yellow rain jacket and red balloon standing out against a near black backdrop that appears on the It 4K Blu-ray home screen. Circumstances as extreme as this are relatively rare during regular video playback, though, and in any case the blooming is so limited in terms of both its reach across the screen and, especially, its intensity that you probably won’t even see it when it’s there for most of the time unless you’re specifically looking for it.
The Vivid and even Standard presets can suffer with a little clipping (lost detail and shading) in areas of peak HDR brightness - though the Cinema mode fixes this beautifully while still looking impressively bright and vibrant. Finally, some very aggressive transfers that use unusually high peak light mastering values can look a tiny bit murky with shots that contain an extreme mixture of dark and light areas.
For the most part, though, the 65X95L combines Sony’s LCD division’s love of brightness and spectacle with levels of light control the brand’s LCD TVs have never managed before - and the results are consistently breathtaking.
The 65X95L carries a premium ‘Acoustic Multi-Audio+’ speaker system that delivers 60W of total power and includes tweeters built high up in the left and right sides of its frame in a bid to make sound effects come from the right area on the screen. And for the most part it works brilliantly.
For starters, the speakers are powerful enough to both go seriously loud by TV standards, and project the TV’s sound over a much wider area than most built-in TV audio systems. This projection has a vertical as well as horizontal element to it, creating an effective ‘layering’ effect that helps separate the different elements of a dense film soundtrack while serving up a wall of sound that tallies perfectly with the size of the 65-inch screen.
Even better, the 65X95L populates its impressively scaled sound wall with strikingly abundant, clear and most noticeably of all, accurately placed detailing. If someone opens a door on the left side of the screen, you clearly hear its sound appearing on the left side of the screen. You can hear objects moving around the screen correctly too, while dialogue sounds lifted vertically so that it seems to be coming from the screen rather than from somewhere underneath the screen as can happen with more traditional TV sound systems.
The speakers support enough dynamic range to deliver both peak trebles without harshness (until you push volumes to extreme levels, anyway) and bass with enough depth and presence to stop action scenes sounding thin or weedy.
In a perfect world the sound would push forward into your room a bit more aggressively, and the two built-in subwoofers would drop a bit deeper - though since slight buzzing interference can sneak in with the most extreme bass moments, perhaps Sony has opted to rein the bass in before it causes the drivers to collapse rather than trying to push the subwoofers to places they can’t sensibly go.
Since the 65X95L uses Google TV for its main operating system, initial set up is a mixed bag of simplicity and chore. On the simple side, if you’ve installed the Google Home app on your phone you can use that to take away some of the most tedious initial set up stuff, such as getting on your Wi-Fi, connecting with your Google account if you already have one, telling the TV which streaming apps you have accounts for, and establishing some basic control and ‘smart’ preferences.
You still, though, need to run through quite a number of set up routines on the TV itself, including a groan inducing amount of ‘consumer rights’ agreements.
Connectivity is good, with two of its four HDMIs proving capable of handling 4K/120Hz and variable refresh rate feeds from the latest gaming consoles and PC graphics cards. Though the 65X95L doesn’t join LG TVs in being able to support 4K/120Hz and Dolby Vision simultaneously. It continues to be an ‘either/or’ situation, as with Sony’s 2022 TVs.
It’s worth saying, too, that Samsung and LG’s premium TVs support 4K/120Hz on all of the HDMI ports of their premium TVs rather than just two. In truth, though, two ‘cutting edge’ HDMIs will likely be enough for most households’ needs.
While we’re on the subject of gaming, the 65X95L takes a respectably (though not class-leadingly) low 18.8ms to render images in its Game preset, and offers a couple of special bonus features for PlayStation 5 owners: Auto HDR Tone Mapping, where Sony’’s console detects the Sony TV it’s connected to and adjusts the console’s HDR output accordingly, and Auto Genre Picture Mode where the TV can auto-detect and adapt to game or video sources.
Sony helpfully gets around Google TV’s ‘blind spot’ when it comes to some of the UK’s most important streaming services by incorporating the YouView platform. This is an ‘umbrella app’ rival to the more widely known Freeview Play service - which Google TV also doesn’t support.
Accessing the 65X95L’s picture and sound set up menus takes a bit of getting used to given how they fit into the wider Google TV interface - though Sony does provide a couple of buttons on the TV’s ‘smart’ (and helpfully backlit) remote control that give you relatively direct access to all the tweaks you need. Plus the 65X95L supports voice control via Google Assistant.
The Google connection means, too, that the TV can support Chromecasting right out of the box - though there’s also Apple Airplay compatibility if you’re an Apple user.
The 65X95L carries built in Dolby Atmos decoding, which it can both play through its own multi-speaker system or pass on to soundbars or AV receivers using the eARC functionality of one of its HDMIs.
The 65X95L supports the HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR formats, but not the HDR10+ alternative to Dolby Vision (with its extra scene by scene picture information) that some sources use. There’s quite a bit of ‘third party’ picture optimisation, too, in the shape of modes specifically optimised for the IMAX Enhanced format found on a few 4K Blu-rays and streaming services; Netflix; and Sony’s Bravia Core system, which is capable of streaming with much higher bitrates (yielding better picture quality) than any other streaming service.
Talking of Bravia Core, anyone who buys a 65X95L is entitled to 10 free premium movie ‘purchases’, as well as two years of unlimited streaming of Bravia Core’s catalogue of older movie titles.
The 65X95L’s design finds it rocking a fairly deep rear by today’s ultra-slim standards - a result of it using an uncompromising mini LED lighting system. The width of the frame around the screen is on-trend narrow, though, so that it doesn’t distract you from the picture, and handily the feet the TV ships with can be placed in three different configurations. The most elegant set up sees the feet tucking right under each bottom corner, almost like extensions of the screen frame, but the feet can also be positioned closer together so the TV can sit on a relatively narrow bit of furniture, or they can be attached in such a way that they lift the screen up slightly so that a soundbar can be tucked underneath.
Sony’s second-gen Mini LED TV is a big step forward from its predecessor. While it doesn’t use as many dimming zones as some of 2023’s premium Mini LED rivals, its light control is outstanding, allowing Sony to achieve its LCD TV ambition of combining extreme brightness with deep, cloud-free black levels more successfully than ever before. The result is dark scenes that can rival OLED TVs at times, but also spectacular levels of brightness that not only do HDR proud but also make the 65X95L one of those rare TVs that’s as brilliant to watch in a bright room as a dark one.
It Chapter One 4K Blu-ray
An aggressive Dolby Vision master sees the first of the two modern It films pushing TVs hard with an extreme combination of ultra-dark and very bright scenes - as well as many sequences that feature a particularly potent mixture of dark and light areas. The 65X95L takes all this in its stride, ultimately delivering a more consistently punchy and exciting picture than even Samsung’s latest Mini LED TVs manage at the expense of only slightly more backlight blooming.
Spider-Man: No Way Home Bravia Core
The rich colours, impressive 4K detail and bold use of light in Spider-Man: No Way Home provide a great demonstration of the benefits both of Bravia Core’s high bit-rate streaming, and the 65X95L’s dazzling combination of brightness, sharpness and Mini LED-inspired contrast.
Blade Runner 2049 4K Blu-ray
Denis Villeneuve’s mesmerising sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner brings out the 65XL95’s subtler side, letting it show off its almost infinitely nuanced, stripe-free colours and remarkable (for an LED TV with local dimming) shadow detail. Blade Runner’s immense Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also handled very well by the 65X95L’s Multi-Acoustic Audio sound set up, with only a hint of buzzing during its famously heavy bass lines.
Sony’s always excellent Cognitive XR processor joins forces with a hugely bright but also brilliantly controlled Mini LED light engine to produce some of the most vibrant but also refined pictures in the 2023 TV world. What’s more, it does this while costing hundreds of pounds less than the new generation of ultra-bright OLED TVs and Samsung’s most premium Mini LED models.