Sony A90J BRAVIA XR, review: Best OLED TV of the year

This is not the case with the new Sony A90J Bravia XR, the Japanese brand’s flagship OLED for 2021 and a firm candidate for one of the best televisions of the year. This year OLEDs have a new argument in their favor. It is widely known that their blacks are spectacular, but at the level of brightness they lagged somewhat behind. 

This is our review of the Sony A90J Bravia XR. After several weeks testing it, here we tell you all its characteristics and what our feelings have been. A television that incorporates the new ‘Cognitive XR’ processor, next-generation OLED panel and Google TV system. A high-end that has taken a step forward in one of the most criticized aspects on previous occasions and that offers one of the best cinematographic experiences that can be achieved today. In this article we are going to discuss about Sony A90J BRAVIA XR review.

Sony A90J Bravia XR: technical specifications

The Sony A90J incorporates the latest Sony technologies. We are before its OLED reference model and the first to add the XR cognitive processor, which gives its name to the range and involves the implementation of algorithms with artificial intelligence in sections such as image, contrast, color, scaling, movement or even the sound.

Listed as ‘Master Series’, the A90J is available in 55, 65 and 83 inches, with this first size being the one we have been testing. It features a 4K UHD resolution, rear heatsink, and Dolby Vision support. Additionally, Sony incorporates a renewal of its imaging technologies. A processing that this year is configured to analyze the different elements of the image, interpret how the human eye focuses it and try to adapt it in the most realistic way. An addition that the vast majority of brands introduce and it is precisely where each manufacturer manages to offer a particular experience.

Inside the TV we find a MediaTek processor, comparable to previous models, along with 16 GB of storage and the presence of Google TV, compatible with the Google Assistant, devices compatible with Alexa, Chromecast and Apple AirPlay. A software update that remains patent and is complemented by a new aluminum backlit remote control.

The Sony ‘Master Series’ A90J adds the latest OLED panels and has most of the technologies on the market, from Dolby Vision to HDMI 2.1. But its strength lies in the ‘Cognitive XR’ processor, an addition to try to excel in image, color, scaling and sound.

At the sound level, the Sony A90J Bravia XR incorporates Acoustic Surface Audio⁸ + technology, which emits the waves from the screen. It has XR Surround 3D system to generate surround effect and adds technologies such as Voice Zoom 2 to improve voices and dialogue. In total, a 60W system with a double 10W driver accompanied by two 20W subwoofers.

Four HDMI ports are added for connectivity, among which we have HDMI 2.1 and HDMI eARC, prepared to transmit content and games in 4K up to 120 fps.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR Specification

PANELOLED Master Series 4K UHD 10-bit 120Hz
SIZE55/65/83 inches
RESOLUTION3,840 x 2,160 dots (16: 9)
HDRDolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG
IMAGE PROCESSORCognitive Processor XR
XR Super Resolution
XR Smoothing
Live Color Technology
XR Triluminos Pro
OLED XR Contrast Pro
XR HDR Remaster
XR Motion Clarity
GPU Mali-G52
CONNECTIVITY802.11a / b / g / n / ac, Bluetooth 4.2, HOGP, SPP, A2DP, 2 / AVRCP, Chromecast built-in, Apple AirPlay, Homekit, 2 (digital) / 1 (analog) tuners
PORTS2 x HDMI 2.1 (VRR / ALLM), 2 x HDMI 2.0, HDCP2.3, eARC, 1 x hybrid composite video, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x RF, 2 x IF, 1 x optical digital audio output, 1 x minijack for headphones and 3 x USB
SOUNDAcoustic Surface Audio +
Power Delivery: 20 W + 20 W + 10 W + 10 W
Dolby Atmos, Dolby Audio and DTS Digital Surround, Voice Zoom 2
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT122.3 x 70.9 x 4.1 cm (without stand)
18.6 kg
PRICE2,599 euros (55 “)
3,599 euros (65″)

Classic OLED minimalism with a side leg design

In the Sony A90J the edges are practically non-existent, reaching the panel practically from end to end of the television. As in other OLED televisions, the design stands out for its minimalism and extreme thinness. The edges and panel thickness are half a centimeter and when it comes to the thickness of the TV, the A90J measures 4.1 centimeters at its widest point.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR TV stand
Sony A90J BRAVIA XR stand

The construction of the Sony A90J is excellent, with very good finishes and the minimalism of the OLEDs.

The TV feels like what it is, a premium model. There are touches of aluminum here and there and you can see the excellent overall construction. This year Sony opts for a totally straight OLED, without vertical inclination, and with a system with two side legs and two positions.

Sony offers the possibility of placing the feet of the television completely at table level or raising the television a few centimeters to leave space to place something underneath, for example a sound bar. In our case, taking into account the good sound quality of the television, we opted to keep the legs resting on the living room furniture.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR Specification

In OLED we believe that this system of side legs is quite appropriate, although for some it can be a problem when placing it. The TV can be hung on the wall (VESA 300 x 300) and on the 83 “model there is an additional arrangement with centered legs to improve stability and allow the TV to protrude slightly.

The Sony logo is located on the bottom frame in the corner and a status LED is located in the center, along with the microphones, ambient light and infrared sensors. Only if we approach a few centimeters are they appreciable and at first glance it seems that the lower edge is completely black, ideal for not obstructing vision.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR jack
Sony A90J BRAVIA XR Back

The rear is solidly built, but not aesthetically striking. Here Sony is welcome to take a practical approach, although more comprehensive cable management is missing.

The power port is on the right side, but all the other connections are on the left, divided into two areas: one facing the side and the other facing down.

In the first side area we have an HDMI port, two USB, a 3.5mm jack, composite video input and another receiver for headphones with which to use the television as the central channel of an external sound system. In the lower area is added an extra USB port, the Ethernet connection, optical audio output, the antenna and three additional HDMIs.

User experience: Google TV, Bravia Core and a new remote control to match

Google TV
Google TV

Despite the name change, Google TV is still Android TV. In the end we have the same applications, the operation is equivalent and we continue to have the same compatibility with the Google assistant. So far everything falls within what is expected, but the truth is that this 2021 the experience with Google TV is exceptional.

During my first use I thought that Sony had introduced a new internal processor because everything was very smooth. An excellent experience, with fast animations and smooth transitions between menus. The truth is that Sony maintains its MediaTek processor from the previous generation, supplemented with 3 GB of RAM. But it doesn’t matter much, because the fluency is very good.

According to the data of the AIDA64 application, the Sony A90J has 4 GB of storage of which just over 2 GB is free.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR picture quality

A reliable system, with the Google seal and with more and more tools. Samsung’s Tizen or LG’s webOS may have a more striking design or have an extra point of performance, but with the Google TV update and its current status, I think the A90J can boast of an operating system.

Initial setup with the A90J is super easy. When placing the Google account it is like setting up a mobile and in fact, it remembered the passwords of the most classic applications such as Netflix, Disney + or Prime Video. Point in favor of cloud syncing.

Once inside Google TV, the use is quite intuitive, although with this new design, access to less-used applications has been hidden and content recommendations are brought to the fore. With Google TV on many occasions it is not necessary to open the app to find the video or new chapter of the week. We will simply have it on the main page.

Due to its stability, content recommendation, good synchronization with the mobile and access to a large number of applications, Google TV is the ideal system for the Sony A90J.

Synchronization with the mobile is easy through Chromecast and the voice search offers very precise results. Here you can see the good work of Google in content indexing.

Along with Bravia XR televisions comes Bravia Core, Sony’s new streaming service. It is its own rival to Netflix or Disney + from where Sony offers access to content from Sony Pictures Entertainment. With the A90J we will have two years of subscription and 10 movie credits to buy recent titles available on Bravia Core.

Right off the bat the design of Bravia Core seems simple, but it shows that Sony intends to bet on this service. The performance can be improved and at times we have noticed that it took time to load the best quality. Although, during these weeks it has been updated on different occasions so we understand that Sony is working on profiling its performance.

The catalog is generous, with many classics and some recent films available, reserved for purchase with credits. Many of them are available in 4K HDR format and for example with Vin Diesel’s ‘Bloodshot’ or ‘Monster Hunter’ you get excellent quality. Sony promises a bit rate of up to 80 Mbps and in our experience, the base load times are very good. Although we do believe that there is room for improvement when it comes to moving through the chapter or navigating through the menus.

In conclusion: an interesting addition that will allow those who buy the A90J access to more content. In this case from Sony itself.

It does seem too early to incorporate Bravia Core into the TV remote. However, the Sony A90J controller incorporates shortcuts for Disney + and Prime Video, as well as Netflix and YouTube.

The Sony Master Series range offers a brushed aluminum control, which transmits a very good feeling and with a large number of buttons. It has a central pad, numeric keyboard and a button for voice with microphone, which we can use to control the television.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR TV Remote
Sony A90J BRAVIA XR TV Remote

The remote does not need to be pointed directly at the center of the TV, which is welcome. It feels comfortable and light in control and also has an accelerometer to activate the new backlighting of the keys , to facilitate its use in the dark. Precisely when this OLED is most enjoyed.

Image quality: glowing in the dark

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR picture quality

To put the Sony A90J to the test we have used 4K UHD content from different sources. On the one hand, from the services of Netflix, Disney +, Youtube or Bravia Core itself, which have movies or series compatible with Dolby Vision and excellent image quality, such as the recent ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ or the spectacular series documentary ‘Earth at night’, very appropriate to enjoy with an OLED like this A90J. On the other, we have opted for some films such as ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’ or ‘The Dark Knight’ on Blu-Ray.

We have used the television as it is calibrated as standard, although later we have touched some parameters based on the RTings calibration recommendations. These Master Series televisions are factory calibrated by Sony engineers and the truth is that the color representation is excellent, although those who wish to go one step further can do so using the CaIMAN software, with which it is compatible.

When using the television, it will be usual for us to change the image mode, depending on the type of content and the conditions of the room. Here the options are enormous and although the settings are very precise and allow you to configure dozens of aspects, the most practical thing is to switch between some of the recommended modes. Be it the calibrated mode for Netflix, IMAX Enhanced or the dark and bright Dolby Vision modes, I feel the latter the one that I personally ended up using the most.

The result is surprising as soon as you turn on the television. I have been able to review high-end models from previous years, including top OLED and LED TVs, and without a doubt this Sony A90J offers one of the best cinematic experiences available today. Without having yet been able to test 2021 models from competitors like Samsung, LG or Panasonic, Sony’s flagship offers unparalleled contrast, color, brightness, movement and shadow detail. A step forward that confirms that this year, OLED televisions have taken an important step forward.

The jump in the brightness delivery capacity of the Sony A90J is more than evident, maintaining the perfect contrast of the OLED but with much more striking and bright tones.

The Sony A90J is a very noticeable improvement over other models. Either by the new Bravia XR cognitive processor, by the use of new OLED panels or by that rear aluminum heatsink that allows increasing the brightness of the pixels by dissipating the temperature of the diodes. In the sector there is discussion about whether this A90J uses the latest LG Display panels and Sony itself does not comment on it. We don’t have the answer, but based on what we’ve been able to experience, there has clearly been a leap from the previous generation.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR quality

Calculations of maximum brightness in nits yield exceptional data for an OLED. Up to nearly 1,300 nits according to RTings. A result obtained in live mode with a 2% advantage. That is, an extreme situation to test the television that does not represent the usual situation. And this is where the A90J’s greatest advantage lies: the increased brightness is noticeable scene by scene.

We are not talking about the sun appearing as bright as possible or that it will dazzle us with its brightness, but that the colors are more vivid, there is much more detail in the shadow and in those scenes where you need to increase nits, the A90J does not have as much problem like other OLEDs. And this has a brutal effect on the image quality, because the difference between the absolute black of the OLED and the higher brightness delivery capacity creates an amazing image.

The Sony A90J is capable of offering very good shadow detail for an OLED. We know that the contrast and blacks of these TVs are perfect, but they were sometimes in evidence compared to high-end LED TVs by offering darker overall images, where details were sometimes lost in the chiaroscuro. Thanks to the improvement in brightness, the A90J has taken a leap in that regard where it lacked the most in the comparison.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR experience

Equivalent to the contrast enhancement LEDs did a few years ago, OLEDs achieve much more compelling brightness delivery this year. Combined with Sony’s good processing and great shadow detail, we have a spectacular picture.

The Samsung S34A650 is often remembered as the QLED TV that got deep enough black to stand up to OLEDs. This year with OLEDs like the A90J we have the opposite side: OLEDs with a convincing enough brightness to try to rival the latest Full Array LEDs (FALD). We will not fool ourselves. Neither MiniLEDs achieve the perfect contrast of OLEDs nor are they at the level of the latest LED models (with brightness peaks easily above 2,000 nits), but it does confirm that OLED technology is at an important maturity point and is on its way to becoming the technology par excellence.

We have excellent viewing angles, with virtually no color distortion when viewed from an angle or reflections of any kind. The uniformity of the panel is also at the level of what is expected in a high-end range. And the color representation is ideal, where the red or green tones have the necessary intensity, without being saturated. Particularly Sony’s work in the color aspect seems to me to be the most successful and one of the sections where this television can stand out from others.

Image processing revolves around the new Bravia XR cognitive chipset. To date Sony’s algorithms identified the scene and applied its own alterations. This year the chipset promises to be able to differentiate the different elements and apply the processing based on how we would perceive the image. If, for example, a character appears, focus on him. If your scene is buildings in a night sky, add an extra glow to the city. Sony talks about an XR image and although we find it very difficult to check to what extent this processing is carried out, the result is convincing.

The textures of the animals, the landscapes, the nuances in nature… after spending hours watching David Attenborough, the image of the A90J is superb and manages to fully immerse us in what we are seeing.

Our analyzed model has been the 55-inch one, although that does not stop us from still waiting for the 8K resolution to reach Sony’s OLED TVs. This A90J would have been an excellent model to release this technology. We stayed at 4K UHD resolution, more than enough for 55 inches. In the contents of this resolution, the sharpness and detail are also at a very high level, but for FullHD, the upscaling to 4K is really achieved. Here we would also say that the new processor has an extra point compared to previous generations.

When we watch television channels, we can apply the standard mode, cinema or sports, with an increase in movement smoothing. IMAX Enhanced is also usually available, a more precise step than the cinema mode although we continue to stick with the Dolby Vision mode, where we have most noticed that this Sony A90J shines in its splendor. In the absence of HDR10 + compatibility, it is good that Dolby Vision has become so popular.

With the Personal mode we can configure the television to our liking, being able to adjust the clarity, the noise reduction, the color temperature, the black levels, the HDR tones, the homogeneity of the Motionflow or adapt the brightness and the saturation of the colors. A whole series of adjustments that are there, but thanks to the different image modes and the excellent factory calibration, they do not need to be modified to have an outstanding image.

The Sony A90J also has ambient sensors, to adapt the image according to the brightness of the room. A sensor located on the lower center edge.

For its detail in the textures, the outstanding viewing angles or the excellent factory calibration. The image quality of the Sony A90J is round in practically every aspect.

For its precision, for the detail, for the nuances, for those perfect blacks and for that brightness that until now we have not had, the Sony A90J lives up to its name of Master Series. It is an awesome TV. One of those that make you rethink to what extent it is worth paying more for a television. With the A90J I have enjoyed series and movies like never before. Normally when I was analyzing a television I would just look at the details and try to remember what the others were like. But this time it was different. I’ve spent hours watching content that otherwise would have closed long before. Simply because the image had me stunned.

HDMI 2.1 available on two of the four ports

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR ports
Sony A90J BRAVIA XR Ports

With the arrival of the new generation consoles we will need a television that can make the most of them. The Sony A90J is one of them. An ideal television to play games for its excellent representation of HDR content and its great reliability when it comes to rendering fast scenes. However, there are some limitations that keep this model from becoming the ideal television for gamers.

How could it be otherwise, the TV has HDMI 2.1 connectivity. However, only ports 3 and 4 support 4K at 120 Hz, the rest are 4K / 60. It is also the case that port 3 is also the HDMI eARC port, which will usually be used to link to a sound system. In practice we will only need an HDMI 2.1 port to connect with the PS5 or Xbox Series X, but it would have been interesting if all the ports had this capacity.

Latency in gaming mode is very good, although Sony could have outlined the gaming experience a bit more. HDMI 2.1 is only in two ports and we do not have the update with VRR and ALLM yet.

The experience when playing is very good. Through the HDMI 2.1 ports we can enjoy rates of up to 120 fps in compatible games. In dedicated Games mode, the input lag of this Sony A90J has dropped to 8.5 milliseconds.

There is a relevant detail for players that is planned to be corrected in the future but is not activated at the moment. The HDMI 2.1 in the A90J does not have Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) enabled. Sony explains that a future firmware update will receive support for VRR and ALLM, but it is not implemented at the moment. From Technoeager we have asked when this update is expected to be received. We will update when Sony offers a confirmed date.

Exceptional sound to round out a cinema experience

No television can be considered high-end if it does not offer sound to match. Fortunately, the Sony A90J’s audio is as captivating as its image, rounding out the cinematic experience.

As in previous years, we have an ‘Acoustic Surface Audio +’ system, where the sound is emitted directly from the screen, but Sony has increased the power of the activators and subwoofers for a total of 60W. It is a figure below what the mid-range sound bars offer, but its quality may well make us doubt. From our point of view, with the Sony A90J it is not worth betting on a soundbar of less than 200 or 300 dollars.

Sony A90J BRAVIA XR gaming experience
Sony A90J BRAVIA XR Gamings

The TV has a very realistic and extremely fine sound. It is only when we turn the volume up to very high levels that it becomes apparent that the bass is not as deep and the display system pales in comparison to other solutions.

The A90J takes a leap in sound power with its two 10W drivers and two 20W subwoofers. An improvement that falls short of full Dolby Atmos solutions, but offers spectacular sound for an integrated TV system.

We have 10 watt triggers for the high frequencies and two 20 watt subwoofers for the bass. It is a step forward and it shows. However, other manufacturers opt for a different strategy in which they directly incorporate a Dolby Atmos soundbar into the television. It is not a fair comparison, but in those cases a higher bass level is noticeable. Still, it’s surprising the punchy sound the A90J can put out without having a dedicated external subwoofer. A sound system that offers an exceptional experience and that leads us to question how practical other options are.

As with the image, Sony takes advantage of its Bravia XR processor to sharpen the sound and improve the voices and dialogue. We also have a ‘Surround 3D’ sound that emits the waves from the sides and vertically to create an surround effect, compatible with Dolby Atmos. Although as we have commented, without reaching that level.

It also has an equalizer and an automatic acoustic calibration that our living room will listen to to adapt to the ambient sound through the sensors of the television and those of the remote control. The TV can also be used as a center channel speaker by connecting an A / V receiver.

Sony A90J Bravia XR, our opinion

This Sony A90J is Sony’s benchmark for 2021 and by far its best TV. There was little doubt that it would rank as a solid contender for the best television of the year, but we also believe that this time they have hit the mark and offer what many of us expected. A well-built, non-fanciful design, a step forward in sound, and extraordinary picture quality.

There are televisions that attract attention for their brightness, others for the contrast and others for a very high resolution. The Sony A90J brings together in the same product what many of us look for when we want to see something in the best possible way: intensity to amaze us, contrast to immerse ourselves and precision to have an experience as close to reality or what the director wants to show. A balance that Sony almost always offers but that this A90J takes to more convincing extremes; more typical of the price range where it moves.

The A90J Bravia XR is the confirmation that Sony aspires to win in the battle for the best TV of the year. A proposal with very few fringes, a step forward in sound and unprecedented image quality. An OLED TV that is positioned as a reference to watch series and movies.

It is not a cheap TV. Its 2,599 euros for the 55-inch model is significantly above 2,000 for the LG G1 OLED or the Samsung Neo QLED QN95, its main rivals. Sony’s strengths are its factory image quality, Google TV’s good work and exceptional sound. Against it is a higher price, the lack of cutting edge or risk in design and the absence of a better implementation of HDMI 2.1.

Here Sony offers very good latency in its gaming mode, but it may not be the go-to option for taking advantage of new consoles. In the same way that in cinema we are probably facing the best television that we can buy today, in its entirety we can miss some details that lead us to consider other models.

The incorporation of Bravia Core is a good step but it still has a way to go to be a reason for purchase, Google TV is a very serious update and at the level of compatibility and use, the Sony A90J is simple and capable. We are before a reference television. A television that falls in love with its image and that confirms the maturity of OLEDs. An investment that movie lovers will appreciate and where, due to its characteristics, the A90J is expected to remain in the forefront for several years.

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