Sony Bravia XR A90J, analysis and opinion

Sony unveiled its 2021 TV range at CES las Vegas, announcing a range full of technological innovation. The Sony Bravia A90J is the spearhead of that

In 2020 we had the opportunity to analyze the A9G Master Series and the experience was really good – this is its analysis--. Not for nothing as it was the top model in Sony's OLED TV range.

In the new version for 2021, the Japanese brand improves the cinematic experience by promising a brighter screen, better image processing thanks to a new cognitive processor, and a commitment to optimizing the integrated sound.

Sony Bravia XR A90J is the first of the new generation OLED to reach the Spanish market and makes it loaded with all those technologies, making it a perfect starting point to take the pulse of everything that Sony's OLED range will bring to us in 2021.

The screen as the protagonist and wishes fulfilled on the remote control

Once again the high-end Sony TVs are uploaded to our test table with the Sony Bravia XR A90J, the first model of the new 2021 baking that reaches the Spanish market. This model cites some of the new features that Sony will implement in all other models.

That's why this will be the perfect analysis not only to determine if Sony maintains the level of quality is demonstrated in the Sony OLED Master Series A9 that we analyzed here last year, but also allows us to take the pulse of Sony's new generation of OLED TVs.

In this case, Sony has sent us a unit with a size of 65 inches that offers an impressive appearance since it is released from its packaging, maintaining that minimalist sobriety that characterizes the televisions of the Japanese brand.

We have before us a TV with dimensions of 144.4 x 83.3 x 4.1 cm and 22.5 kg of which most correspond to a screen that stands out for its thinness challenging the laws of physics with a panel only 5 mm thick.

It is compatible with VESA 300 x 300 anchorage systems to install it on a wall, but if its destination is to rest on a piece of furniture, say it has two legs that are installed at the ends of the TV.

These legs can be placed in two different positions depending on whether you are installing a soundbar or not.

Switching from one to the other is as simple as swapping the legs leaving the screen literally resting on the furniture – a position that reminds us of the pioneering Sony OLED A1– or by lifting it 70 mm to make room for the soundbar under the screen.

Personally, I prefer designs that bet on a central stand like the one the previous generation looked like, although it is also true that this system of lifting legs offers better stability and integration with other devices.

The leg system is very easy to assemble and you just have to choose the position that the legs will have to slide them on the guides and fasten them with two screws on the back of the TV.

Personally, I prefer designs that bet on a central stand like the one the previous generation looked like, although it is also true that this system of lifting legs offers better stability and integration with other devices.

The leg system is very easy to assemble and you just have to choose the position that the legs will have to slide them on the guides and fasten them with two screws on the back of the TV.

Lines are also smoothed and instead of opting for a square "backpack", the rear of the Sony Bravia XR A90J shows a smooth curve as you approach the sides to maintain that feeling of lightness.

Hidden behind detachable panels we find the set of connectors and ports distributed in two groups that point to the side or down depending on the ease of access they require.

Pointing down, for example, we find antenna and satellite jacks, Ethernet connector, optical audio, three HDMI connectors (two of them HDMI 2.1), and a USB connector with recording functions.

On the side, we find the fourth HDMI port, two USB ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, composite video input, and audio connectors for the center channel. The power connector, on the other hand, is located right on the opposite side.

The only physical button present on the TV is in the form of a small square button that can easily go unnoticed, located between the connectors on the side and edge of the TV. Simply press it to activate the basic function menu and move around that menu using short presses or by holding down to adjust the volume, channel, or input source.

Sony is used to offering a good cable management system on its TVs, but in this case, we have been surprised by virtually non-existent cable management. It makes some sense if the TV rests on the furniture, but if you opt for the elevated position it leaves all the cables exposed.

This system is limited to a cover that will disguise the backward passage of the cables through the legs, but nothing to do with the complete system of staples and flanges that drove and concealed the cables in previous versions.

The Sony Bravia XR A90J features a remote control that is very similar to the previous generation but, when viewed in more detail, we find that the wishes of many users have been fulfilled with details such as the backlighting of the keys and the incorporation of two additional shortcut buttons.

OLED TVs achieve maximum splendor when viewing the content in a low-light room. In this environment, it was strange to force users to use the controller blindly. That's why Sony has decided to incorporate a lighting system into the keys that activate just by taking the controller.

The controller maintains the premium look of its predecessors, with a metal front with a brushed finish. The distribution of the buttons follows the same guidelines as the controls of the previous generation.

Its use is very intuitive and clear, so it only takes a few minutes to get hold of the most common access buttons and settings. At the bottom of the controller are the content playback controls and the volume and channel change controls.

In the middle, the navigation buttons through the interface with the central circular key as the protagonist, and other function keys and accesses to the home screen of the SmartTV platform.

On top of these buttons, another important development in this version is the addition of two new shortcut buttons to streaming content platforms that add to the two that already counted last year's controller. In this case, these buttons provide access to YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video.

The remote includes a dedicated voice assistant button that recognizes voice commands while holding down, which helps maintain privacy. The TV itself incorporates a pair of microphones visible at the bottom of the TV.

However, to invoke Google Assistant with the famous"OK Google" directly from the TV without having to press the button on the controller, it will be necessary to activate it from a switch that enables the microphones at the bottom of the side connectors.

In this new generation, there is a remarkable improvement in the integration of voice control in the apps and the SmartTV platform, so it is enough to say the name of a series of content for the assistant to take you directly to the content in its corresponding streaming service.

In general, the Sony Bravia XR A90J offers a design that maintains the same philosophy as its predecessors, although it loses some packaging in leg integration and cable management.

In return, the remote gains in utility with new additions that improve the experience of using the TV in day-to-day life.

A brighter display controlled by a ubiquitous cognitive processor

One of the keys for any TV is to have a bright screen in the broadest sense of the word. Sony has managed to take a step further in the image quality already offered by the TVs of the Master Series AG9series, incorporating two elements that make it even better than in the previous generation: a brighter screen and a smarter processor.

Specifically, we are talking about a 65-inch OLED Master Series display with 4K UHD resolution (3,840 x 2,160 pixels), 10 bits of color depth, and HDR support (HDR 10, HLG, and Dolby Vision IQ) in which four subpixels (WRGB) are used to enhance the brightness of the screen.

So far nothing new because, in essence, they are the same features that Sony also offered in its model last year. The main novelty is that LG Display, supplier—unofficial, but known—of the OLED screens that mount Sony TVs, has improved the manufacturing system of its panels, getting each LED diode to shine more intensely.

To this structural improvement of the display, Sony has added its own vintage incorporated aluminum foil as rear support for the OLED panel that acts as a heatsink and allows to lower the working temperature of the small LED diodes that form each pixel.

This allows them to shine more brightly and for longer and not limit the way to point peaks as before to prevent the panel from being damaged.

This is an important milestone in OLED technology, which usually lays behind brightness levels concerning LED or QLED LCD technologies, but which with this small step approaches that brightness intensity while maintaining purer blacks.

In addition to a new panel, one of the most important changes in this new Sony Bravia XR A90J is the arrival of the new Sony XR Cognitive Processor. Such an important component for the new generation that it has even sneaked into the official name of the TV.

The processor is a key piece for a TV, and this XR Cognitive Processor incorporates a series of algorithms that emulates the human perception of content, so that it optimizes images and sounds to enhance those areas and nuances that the human brain perceives first, generating an improved image that approaches the way our brain interprets images and sounds live.

For example, when seeing the image of the protagonist in the foreground, the human brain tends to look first at the eyes of the protagonist, and then start a journey through the rest of the image as his clothing, the background, or where he looks.

It is a way of perceiving the images and sounds instinctive and common to all humans and is widely used in the composition of scenes in photography, cinema, or painting to guide the viewer's view to some particular point of the scene.

The new XR image processor integrated into the A90J analyzes all these elements and uses different imaging technologies—with names accented from the marketing department such as XR Triluminos Pro, XR OLED Contrast Pro, or XR HDR Remaster—but which in short aim to optimize the sharpness, brightness, contrast, or intensity of colors based on how the human brain would.

In our tests, we have noticed a substantial increase in brightness in HDR content, where a really brutal brightness and contrast ratio is flaunted. At this point the credit is not only for LG Display, Sony provides the excellent color management that we already found in the previous model to offer exceptional image quality.

We believe that the default color profiles you have adjusted on this TV take a leading role as, more than ever, they make a difference in the experience and accuracy in color management you get.

We take as an example the Netflix Sky Red series, a very energetic series in which you play with light and photography brilliantly. The ideal profile to enjoy this content in Dolby Vision is its Brightness variant as the content is compatible with this HDR standard and the light sensor allows you to adjust the color calibration to the ambient light of your room.

When used, you can enjoy all the brightness of the neons and the reflections of the Tenerife sun in its maximum splendor, without losing detail in the dim lighting of the interiors of the rugged club.

When trying to use any other color profile, the brightness of the screen is reduced by losing details and nuances, or directly fretted with exquisite color calibration when Live mode is activated, which by many 1,300 nits of brightness offered by this color profile, loses all precision in the skins.

This is a high-end OLED TV from Sony, so the image quality is a constant, but this image quality gains many integers simply by choosing the right color profile, and believe me when I tell you to notice the change when using the right image mode.

To watch generalist content on TELEVISION, the Standard mode is the most suitable as it maintains a very good fit in skins – in news presenters or contests, for example – while maintaining a good level of brightness.

For sports, Sports mode raises the revolutions of motion processing and sharpness adjustment to provide a sharper picture of players; while improving color calibration in SDR(Standard Dynamic Range) content, Cinema or Personal modes are the ones that offer the best quality and color accuracy.

Surprisingly, you get a good definition from HD-resolution sources – such as TDT content – or from sources with other resolutions thanks to the XR processor's 4K scaling. The same cognitive principle that we discussed at the beginning of this section also applies to these contents, showing very natural and free images of artifacts or halos that reveal an excess of processing.

In the analysis of the Sony Bravia AG9 of 2020, we already said that the motion processing of this model was one of the best on the market. With the movement processing of the Sony Bravia XR A90J, the Japanese firm has surpassed itself by raising the bar.

Making a custom MotionFlow adjustment improves sharpness in action scenes without increasing frame interpolation resulting in the "telenovela effect" that ruins the cinematic experience. The result is action scenes that don't lose that movie fluency but without falling into a whirling of out-of-focus slings.

Sony has finally put batteries in the realm of gaming on its TVs and incorporates HDMI 2.1 functions with native support in its high range and is not limited to the"PS5 Ready" like the Sony XH90s we analyzed here, allowing you to display game graphics in 4K resolution at 120 Hz and implement the automatic low latency mode (ALLM) that already incorporate the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles.

The arrival of the variable refresh rate (VRR) that Sony has promised to activate using a firmware update shortly remains in the air, but that at the time of publication this analysis is not yet operational.

Of the 150 ms of average latency delivered by the Sony Bravia XR A90J that we are analyzing in Cinema mode, it lowers up to just 9.9 ms of input latency when Game mode is activated and the TV adjusts its parameters to deliver the best gaming performance.

Despite offering full support for the HDMI 2.1 standard, Bravia XR A90J has some drawbacks as it only features HDMI 2.1 on two of its four connectors, and one of them is the only one compatible with the four eARC.

This means that if you're connecting a Home Cinema sound system or set-top box that uses the enhanced audio return channel(eARC) functions, and you plan to connect more than one state-of-the-art console, you'll have to choose between keeping your eARC device connected or changing the cable from the free HDMI 2.1 jack.

This is a more common scenario than it may seem as it is enough to have contracted a pay-TV service over the Internet like Movistar+, whose set-top box uses eARC to bring audio to the Dolby Audio quality TV so that only one of these HDMI 2.1 ports is free for state-of-the-art consoles.

Also, many juicers do not settle for using a single gaming platform but maintain both consoles and change depending on the game. It is sufficient for a user to meet these two conditions for the two HDMI 2.1 connectors to be insufficient. Sony, why not integrate eARC into one of the non-HDMI 2.1 ports so you don't have to choose?

We liked the sound of the previous generation, Sony gives more of the same

One of the conclusions we draw from our analysis of the Bravia AG9 Master Series that we analyzed a few months ago is that we were looking at one of the best-integrated sound systems we had tested on a TV and that even when it was conditioned by the 49-inch screen that model mounted.

In the case of the Sony Bravia XR A90J we reaffirmed that conclusion because, in essence, it uses the same Acoustic Surface Audio+ sound system that used that model, using the display as a speaker from which the sounds are projected.

This system uses two sets of actuators located left and right on the screen that makes the TV screen vibrate imperceptibly to the view to generate sound. That is, the sound literally comes from the screen.

Supporting these 10W actuators we find a pair of 20W woofers, each located on each side in the upper third, which are responsible for supporting the reproduction of the most serious frequencies.

In total, they are 60 W of power that offers a convincing sound that seems to lie coming from a screen and not from the membrane of a speaker for its power and good balance.

The actuators on the screen manage to reproduce sharply the mid-tones and treble, such as dialogues and part of the effects, while woofers take care of the low frequencies that require more travel so it delivers a sound without distortions.

The set allows you to create a wider and more faithful atmosphere of sound that is being displayed on the screen. An example is the dialogues, where each character's phrases are clearly separated on either side of the screen, aligning the on-screen position with what the ear perceives.

The TV features an audio calibration system that uses the remote control as a reference point to orient the sound to provide more accurate spectator positioning.

Adjusting the surround sound values can intensify this extended sound sensation that goes beyond the limits of the screen, but in no case can it be considered as surround sound since at all times the front feel of the sound is maintained.

Android 10 hits Sony TVs with Google TV

Sony has been one of the few TV manufacturers that have not been complicated developing its own operating systems and have opted for Android TV since its inception.

This has allowed you to maintain access to a SmartTV platform with extensive connectivity. The Sony A90J we're analyzing evolves with Google TV integration.

The advent of this new connectivity platform has been a before and after in integrating the new generation of TVs into the home entertainment ecosystem. Google TV has enabled better integration of streaming services and other devices with which they share space in the room such as smart speakers, set-top boxes, soundbars, game controllers, etc.

For example, since we mentioned Movistar+ set-top boxes, Sony TVs have gone from not recognizing these devices at all on their models just a couple of years ago, to fully integrating their operation into their remote control.

This enhancement is a major leap in the convenience of use by making the Bravia XR A90J's remote control the only one you need to control all the functions of the content displayed on the TV even when you do so from other devices.

The most visual part of Google TV can be found in the home tab, where the screen is filled with recommended content from installed streaming apps (Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV, YouTube, etc.) and TV channels. In this way, it is the content that comes to meet the user and not the other way around.

The Google App Store is also more accessible on the Apps tab consolidating Google TV as one of the most versatile operating systems for TVs.

This operating system also allows you to communicate with other devices through Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and send content using the built-in Chromecast, as well as support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Homekit.

How Android works on the MediaTek MT5895 quad-core processor with 3 GB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage is impeccable. With quick transitions between different menus and TV options.

Google TV maintains a certain duality between the new version of the interface, from which apps, games, and content are managed, and the TV's adjustment options, which maintains the look of the previous generation with explanatory menus of each function. It would have been nice for Sony to integrate the TV controls into one more Google TV tab.

Also, it maintains the access bar for quick settings, which gives the user the ease to adjust the appropriate image or sound mode for each content.

Another important development that this Sony A90J brings underarm is the addition of the Bravia Core platform, a Sony-exclusive streaming content service that will be pre-installed on the brand's high-end TVs in 2021.

Sony Bravia XR A90J
dimensions144.4 x 83.3 x 4.1 cm
weight22.5 kg
Type of screenOLED TV
Screen size65"
Screen resolution3,840 x 2,160 pixels
Aspect ratio16:9
Image processorSony XR Cognitive Processor
HDR formats and image modesDolby Vision IQ | HDR 10 | HLG | IMAX Enhanced | Netflix Calibrated Mode
Voice controlFrom the remote control
soundAcoustic Surface Audio+| Dolby Atmos and DTS | 60W (2x 20 W + 2x 10 W)
Home automationGoogle TV and Google Assistant from your | alexa.
consumption138 W (Maximum)
Connections4 x HDMI (2x HDMI 2.1) | 3 x USB 2.0 | LAN | Digital optical output | CI | Coaxial TDT | Satellite| WiFi 5 (802.11ac) | Bluetooth 4.2 | Chromecast built-| AirPlay 2 and Homekit
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