Sony TV’s A8 series really impressed us last summer. A few months later, here comes the Bravia A90J, a model slightly above, since this OLED TV is part of the XR Master Series. With a starting price set at 2,700 euros, is it becoming the new benchmark for OLED? Is its 4K HDR @ 120 fps display its only argument? Answer in our test.
Sony is one of the benchmarks in television. It’s not the only one, of course. But its status is indisputable. We saw this last year with the tests of several televisions in our columns. Whether the XH95 and XH90 models, with Full Array LED screens. They both prove that the LCD has what it takes to provide a great experience at a moderate price. Or be it with the A8, which has become our master stallion in 4K OLED television.
Also read – Mi TV Q1: Xiaomi lied about the 4K 120 Hz compatibility and reimburses the dissatisfied
Last January, Sony announced the arrival of new LCD and OLED TVs at CES 2021. There is one 8K Full Array LED model, several 4K Full Array LED models, and two OLED models. These are the A90J and A80J. The first is the most expensive, but also the one with the most technology. Support for HDMI 2.1. The 4K display at 120 fps (yes, both at the same time, isn’t it Xiaomi!). Support for HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The Netflix calibration mode. Etc.
The Bravia A90J is part of the XR Master Series. It is therefore a top-of-the-range model. When we first presented it to you, however, we were very surprised that it did not have the certifications developed by Sony for gamers. She is neither ” Ready for PlayStation 5 ” or ” Perfect for PlayStation “. Does that mean it is not suitable for video games? This is one of the questions we will answer in this comprehensive quiz.
Pricing and availability
The Bravia XR A90J comes in three sizes. The smallest measure 55 inch diagonal. This is the one we received in testing. The medium model measures 65 inch. Finally, the largest model measures 83 inch.
As you read this, the Bravia XR A90J is already available in France. You can find it at most specialized brands, such as Boulanger, Fnac, Darty or even BeDigital. Some models can be purchased online, while others must be ordered in-store.
The 83-inch model is not yet available in France at the time of writing. But Sony promises it will arrive “sometime in the year.” Its price is also not yet known.
The 55-inch model is offered in France at the recommended retail price of 2699 euros, which is 700 euros more expensive than the 55-inch Sony A8 when it was launched. The 65-inch model is offered at 3599 euros, or 600 euros more than the 65-inch Sony A8 when it was launched. The XR A90Js are also slightly more expensive than the Bravia AG9, which launched at 2,499 euros and 3,499 euros in 55-inch and 65-inch versions respectively.
The design of the A90J is relatively simple. Sony retains the many strengths of previous OLED ranges. You find a sober and elegant rectilinear slab. Small borders surround the screen. And an extreme finesse characterizes its profile on the upper part. Naturally, the Bravia thickens as you descend towards the feet in order to integrate various technical elements: connectors, modem, motherboard, electrical transformer, audio equipment, etc.
You will notice a gray brushed metal effect bar that highlights this screen. In it, you also find some technical elements. First of all, a light sensor. It is used to adjust the backlight and white balance according to the light conditions in the room. So you are not dazzled, but the image is still readable (while significantly reducing energy consumption). Then you will find an indicator light that lights up when you interact with the remote control. Finally you have two microphones to use Google Assistant without having to use the remote control. One of them is also used to adapt the sound according to the geometry of the room.
The front of the TV is almost completely covered with a protective glass slab, while the rear is protected by a large polycarbonate frame. You can distinguish three locations for the connectors (on the left when you are in front of the television) and for the power supply (on the right). These locations can be masked using covers supplied with the television. But you may prefer not to use the one that obstructs access to HDMI and USB ports in particular: it is handy that it is easily accessible.
To put the television down, you have two T-legs. They are installed by inserting the two screws into slots at the bottom corners of the product. There is only one possible distance: it measures 115 centimeters. You will notice that you have two ways of positioning the feet. Either flat the lower edge of the television then touches the piece of furniture on which it is placed. Either on the edge, thus allowing the television to be slightly raised. Choose your preferred position based on your audio setup.
Contrary to popular belief, the high position is clearly preferable to the first if you don’t have a soundbar, because that frees up space for the two small subwoofers that are housed in the lower end. More logically, it is also preferable if you have a sound bar positioned behind the TV, so that the screen lets sound through. If you have installed your soundbar in a cabinet under the TV (or if you have a 5.1 system with wireless satellites), then the low position will be ideal.
Finally, note that it is possible to hang the TV on the wall, but this will slightly obstruct the speakers. In this case, a remote audio system (sound bar, etc.) will be strongly recommended.
Now let’s take a look at the remote control. On this point, Sony remains on its positions, since you find almost the same ergonomics remote controls from the A8, XH90 / XH95 or AG9 series. The numeric keypad at the top. A directional cross surrounded by keys linked to Google TV (ex Android TV). And video stream control at the bottom. A built-in microphone for voice searches. Etc.
Here the remote control benefits from a brushed aluminum finish, as with many high-end Bravia models. On the less expensive models, you will rather find a black metallic finish. The buttons are rubber. And, as before, there is no touch surface to navigate certain applications more easily.
There are two big novelties in this remote control compared to other models accompanying Sony televisions. First, the buttons are backlit. We noted in our previous Bravia tests that this feature was sorely lacking. Sony therefore offers here a remote control that can finally be fully used in a dark room “cinema atmosphere”.
The second novelty is to be found on the buttons dedicated to streaming services. The number of buttons has increased from 2 to 4. Above all, the assigned services correspond more to today’s uses. Previously you had a Netflix button and a Google Play button. Today you will find the button Netflix, of course, and you find three buttons for Prime Video, Youtube and Disney +. Google Play therefore disappears from the dedicated keys. It’s a good idea.
On the other hand, for subscribers to other SVOD services, such as Apple TV +, OCS, Canal Play or the very recent Salto, you will have to continue to use the Google TV interface, since these buttons are not configurable. In addition, these buttons launch the applications installed on the television and not the one you might have on your Internet (here a Freebox Pop), even if it is possible to control the Freebox with the television remote control.
This remote control is classic, of course, but it remains easy to use. It certainly deserves to be simplified, especially with regard to the buttons. We wonder, for example, if it is still useful to keep the numeric keypad, or if the colored “function” keys are still useful.
Now let’s move on to wired and wireless connectivity. Wireless side, you have the choice between a connection WiFi ac dual band and one connection Bluetooth 4.2 (to connect a keyboard, a gamepad, etc.). Thanks to WiFi, you connect the TV to your Internet router in order to access the Play Store or the various audio and video streaming services preinstalled or integrated by you.
But that’s not all, since this connectivity also provides several ways of interacting with your smartphone or tablet: Apple AirPlay 2, Apple HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Cast or Google home. You can mirror your screen on the TV, control the TV by voice or with an Android application for example. Few televisions offer so much.
Wired connections are plentiful, as always, and are split into two sets. The first is accessible on the left edge of the television. You will find a port there HDMI, two ports Usb, an analog video input, an analog audio output 3.5 mm jack and a port PCMCIA to connect a card to access a television package.
In the second set, you find the rest of the connections. From left to right: the coaxial socket for the antenna, two sockets for the satellite, one socket Ethernet (so as not to saturate the WiFi with video streaming), an optical audio output, three other HDMI ports (to arrive at 4) and a 3.0-compatible USB type-A port (recognizable by the blue tab).
Of the four HDMI ports, two of them are compatible HDMI 2.1. Remember that this standard is necessary to benefit from many features and improved video quality. HDMI 2.1 indeed paves the way for 4K at 120 frames per second (and 8K at 60 frames per second), variable refresh rate (VRR), better interactivity with other audiovisual and video game devices, than whether for sound or image. Two HDMI ports on the A90J are therefore HDMI 2.1 compatible. These are certainly the most important.
With or without wire, the connectivity of the television is simply exemplary. No wrong note. No forgetting. Retrogaming fans and those who still have an old VCR might be screaming because the scart socket is no longer there. If you are in this case, be aware that there are scart to composite RGB converters to then use the analog video input. So you are not (totally) lost.
Now let’s talk about the most important thing in a television: the image. And let’s start by recalling the technical elements of that of the A90J. Our test copy measures 55 inch, that is, 139 centimeters. It displays images in Ultra HD (4K), i.e. 3840 x 2160 pixels. That is to say a resolution of 80 pixels per inch. It might sound lightly put like that, but it’s a very nice resolution for a screen of this size. If you go for the 65-inch or 83-inch models, the resolution drops to 67 pixels per inch and 53 inches, respectively.
If the 4K resolution lends itself very well to panel sizes below 75 inches, beyond this limit, the 8K definition is more justified and brings a real more visual. The grain is finer. The image is more detailed. And it is even possible that it also improves the rendering of HD and Full HD content. So we would have liked the 83-inch A90J to be offered in 8K, even if this definition is not 120 Hz compatible, even in HDMI 2.1.
The slab is obviously OLED, like we said before. You can see opposite a photo of the sub-pixels taken with the microscope of the Find X3 Pro. See how the subpixels turn off and turn on as needed: yellow display at the top left and blue display at the bottom right. There are four subpixels: blue, green, red, and white.
OLED technology offers infinite contrast ratios and, by extension, makes an object brighter because there are no edge effects. And this despite a lower maximum brightness than an LCD panel. Speaking of contrast, the A90J is obviously HDR compatible. And even HDR10, HLG (Anglo-Japanese technology), Dolby Vision. No forgetting here either.
The native refresh rate of the panel is 100 Hz. But the slab has the capacity to go up to 120 Hz. As of this writing, the A90J is not VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) compatible, but it will be thanks to an update promised by Sony. This technology will decrease or increase the refresh rate depending on the equipment, including game consoles. As a result, flicker caused by the difference between the console and the TV rate disappears.
The image processor is the Bravia XR, a new processor that incorporates a part of artificial intelligence. Theoretically, this makes it possible to analyze the image in real time and adjust the display object by object. We cannot say if this is true. But visually, the work done by the processor is impeccable. In terms of colorimetry, the A90J is compatible with a wide range of colors. Note that the TV is also compatible IMAX Enhanced and Netflix Calibrated.
In addition to these two automatic modes, the A90J offers seven display modes: standard, cinema, game, photo, graphics, intense and expert. Let’s see what our probe gives us as information about these seven modes. As expected, the most color-friendly mode is cinema mode. The opposite would have greatly surprised us. Almost perfect average temperature at 6700 °. Average gamma at 2.2 and Average Delta E at 2.4. These are very good numbers. The maximum brightness here reaches 161 cd / m². This is the only small weak point here. Expert, game and graphics modes offer almost the same features.
The standard, intense and photo modes are less well calibrated. They accentuate the contrasts and some colors become too bright. The standard mode is the one that offers the least maximum brightness, with just over 100 cd / m². And the intense mode is the one that offers the most to more 340 cd / m². It is also the one that breaks all records in terms of Delta E, 7.3, or average temperature, 12,300 °. A few colors are still good, such as yellow, orange or standard green. All the others are saturated. Too bad it is not possible to take advantage of the accuracy of cinema mode and the brightness of intense mode.
Let’s finish this visual part with our impression of a user. They can only be very good. The quality of OLED panels is still as high as ever. Whether it’s watching a movie or a series, or playing a game (we’ll talk about video games in a specific section), the A90J delivers a very good quality experience. This is what we expected. And we are not disappointed.
The Bravia A90J is equipped with a 2.2 audio system. This means you have two speakers and two subwoofers. The two speakers ” Acoustic Surface Audio Are located at the rear of the A90J, rather on the sides of the television, about ten centimeters below the top rim. These two speakers vibrate the panel, giving the impression that sound comes out of the image. The two subwoofers are located on the lower edge of the television. You can discover them here in photo.
The power announced by Sony for its audio system is 60 watts globally. You have 20 watts per speaker and 10 watts for each subwoofer. In use, the power offered by the TV alone is pretty good, but it will depend on several things. First, the volume of the room and the distance from the TV. The location of the TV (on a cabinet or on the wall). And the position of the feet.
When the television is placed about twenty centimeters from the wall and the feet are in the up position, the sound offered by the A90J is of very good quality. Lots of details. Lots of depth. And rich bass, which is pretty amazing for such a flat TV. And this screen vibration system to convey part of the sound is surprising. We obviously continue to prefer external systems, especially those where the subwoofer is dedicated. But the A90J does not demerit, quite the contrary.
The A90J uses the remote’s microphone to help position the viewer (assuming they keep the remote with them) and thus adjust the audio balance. Two caveats behind this rich idea. First, the effect will be less striking for all other spectators, especially if the distance between them and the remote control is large. Then it only seems to work if you use the equipment built into the TV and turn itself off with a sound bar. But the idea is excellent.
If you are adopting an external audio system, be aware that the sound of the A90J can help enrich your configuration. Indeed, thanks to the Accoustic Surface Audio technology, television can become a “passive speaker”. Then you really have the impression that the sound is coming from the television (which it is) while having the benefits of surround sound. That too is a great idea.
The A90J is compatible Dolby Atmos, DTS Digital, Dolby Digital + and Dolby AC-4. That is almost all of the audio technologies that are of importance in the audiovisual industry today. However, the value of these technologies depends greatly on the content and your equipment. However, if you buy a soundbar that is compatible with any of these standards, you are sure to get the most out of it.
The A90J offers five audio modes to adapt the equalizer to the content. There is the mode Standard, a little flat, the modes Music and Dolby Audio that round off the bass to enjoy musical content, modes Cinema and Dialogue which reinforce the frequencies of the voices (useful for films) and the mode Sport which reduces the bass and reinforces the mids. Please note that there is no synchronization of the audio mode with the video mode.
The A90J is one of the first televisions on the market to adopt Google tv, the interface that replaces Android TV. Overall, Google TV is just an update to Android TV, so to be honest. The new version takes the fundamentals of the previous one, quite simply. Few of the ergonomic and structural changes.
Among the most significant changes is the new settings menu more in line with the changes coming to Android 12. You access it by clicking on your profile image. In this menu, you will find large rectangular buttons similar to what we discovered in the first public beta of Android 12.
The first button is used to access your information. The second to Google TV settings (with the usual tabs like Networks, Privacy, Applications. Etc.). The third (with the time) to the screen saver (finally manually activatable). The fourth to sources (which include physical connections, network devices, and applications in use). And the fifth to image settings. There are other ways to access these functions, including from the remote control.
The picture settings menu, the most important here, is easier to navigate. Not only does it contain explanations of each important setting, but it also includes visuals to better understand each change. The basic settings offer a pack of settings according to the uses, while the settings of the brightness, colors, sharpness, movement or video signal tabs really go into detail.
The reception always consists of a vertical screen, with sections that follow one another below the other. The drop-down banner displays recommendations based on your preferences. These recommendations are pushed by Google, but do not necessarily concern the services of the firm. If you are a Prime Video subscriber and not Netflix, Google TV only suggests content that you can potentially enjoy (like the Roland Garros matches here on Prime Video).
You certainly won’t need to install a video app on the TV – it already comes extremely well supplied. Maybe even too much. We counted no less than fifteen streaming VOD services preinstalled on the A90J. There are the must-haves, like Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Apple TV +, and Disney +. There are also more French services, such as MyCanal, Molotov, RMC, Rakuten TV, Salto (a service recently launched by M6, France Télévisions and TF1), France.tv, Pluto.tv. You will find CrunchyRoll, specialist in Japanese animation, or YouTube Kids which is aimed at the youngest.
And there is Bravia Core. The latter is a “high-end” VOD streaming service developed by Sony. In particular, you will find rental films in all genres. The idea of Bravia Core is to provide a unified end-to-end experience. The film settings (colors, contrast, light) are suitable for television. And vice versa. The goal is, as always, to get the most accurate image. This is a service that is in part akin to Netflix Calibrated Mode that changes TV settings to “the director’s view.” The result is cool for lovers of the technicality of the image, but it does not replace Netflix or Prime Video in terms of content.
The internal storage space of the television is 16 GB. However, most of it is monopolized by Google TV and all the apps that are already preinstalled. The space available for your applications is relatively tight: only 2 GB. So don’t download too many games, and leave your multimedia files on a USB stick or external storage medium.
In addition, this storage space cannot be used to record programs from the TNT HD tuner or a linear package. You will need to plug a storage medium into one of the USB ports for this (preferably on the USB 3 port). Be careful, therefore, to take a suitable medium: you will be unable to record a movie in 4K on a medium that is too slow.
Performance and consumption
Let us now evoke the performance part for the different uses of video decoding. We’re talking about running a few games in particular, since it’s possible to go to the Play Store and install a few apps. The A90J operates a MT5895 of MediaTek, a quad-core chipset composed of four cores Cortex-A73 clocked at 1.8 GHz and a GPU ARM Mali-T860 MP2. They are accompanied by 3 GB of RAM.
This is the same platform as the Bravia XH90. We have subjected the platform to a few benchmarks: 3D Mark and GFX Bench, in particular. We found slightly higher scores with the A90J. So it did surprisingly better, with more frames per second on the same tests. The difference is not obvious, however. It is possible that the difference lies in the operating system which is not the same.
As with the XH90, this TV cannot replace your PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch. But you can install some 8/16 bit console emulators (like SNES9X for example) and the experience will be good. We tested for our part Dead Trigger 2, a game that has long served us as a benchmark. And it runs pretty well. Especially since you can pair a console controller.
After experiencing the performance, let’s move on to TV consumption. Sony announces that the A90J (55, 65 and 83 inches) consumes 113 kWh, 138 kWh and 194 kWh (per 1000 hours) in standard mode, which is higher than a Sony LCD TV for an equivalent size. Obviously, this measure should obviously be taken with caution. First of all, automatic brightness can reduce this consumption when it is dark (but also increase it during the day). Then some modes considerably increase the brightness, as we saw with our measurements in the “screen” part of this test.
On the watch side, the A90J consumes 0.5 watt. This is well below the standby power consumption of LCD televisions. Be careful with hands-free mode (which uses the microphones under the panel to activate Google Assistant): the television consumes 20 times more energy standby when it is on than when it is off. And for good reason: it constantly monitors whether you are going to call it with the magic phrase “OK Google”.
We couldn’t test this television without addressing the issue of video games. As a preamble, we note that the A90J is not certified “Perfect fot PlayStation” or “Ready for PlayStation 5”. Hence this important question: should you buy this television if you are a gamer? The answer is yes, even if the reflection of the panel is greater than that of an LCD panel. There are several reasons for our answer. And we will of course detail them here.
First reason: the image, of course. The colorimetry of the game mode is one of the best among all the modes offered by this television. And so much the better, since the television detects that a console plugged into one of the HDMI 2.1 ports is on. It automatically switches to game mode. This is one of the big advantages of HDMI 2.1 for gamers.
Second reason, the integration of two HDMI 2.1 ports. You will no longer need to choose between your soundbar and your game console. The HDMI 2.1 standard offers real advantages for these two types of devices (and many others): better control of devices, adoption of profiles colorimetric according to use, integration into complex audio configurations, etc. With two ports, you get a good picture AND good sound when you play.
Third reason, the A90J is compatible 4K at 120 frames per second, as we reported earlier. This goes hand in hand with HDMI 2.1 technology. But, as Xiaomi proved to us, not all HDMI 2.1 compatible televisions are capable of combining 4K definition and 120 frames per second at the same time. Here, of course, it is.
Fourth reason, thanks to OLED technology, you also benefit from a imperceptible afterglow, much lower than what televisions with an LCD panel can offer. And the delay in the display (the time between when you activate the A90J and when it appears on the screen) is also very weak, just a few milliseconds.
The fifth reason is not yet active, but will be with an update: the variable refresh rate (VRR). This technology is particularly interesting with new game consoles, which can vary their display frequency depending on the game. With VRR, the A90J will be able to eliminate the unpleasant flickering effects that occur when the console refresh is not synchronized with that of the television. In the meantime, it will be up to the console to do this job.
Nous savions d’ores et déjà que Sony est une référence sur le segment haut de gamme avec des télévisions OLED de très grande qualité. Notre test en 2020 de l’A8 le prouvait déjà. Nous n’étions donc pas étonnés, au démarrage de ce test, à être enchantés de retrouver cette qualité, aussi bien dans le design, la qualité de l’image et la profusion des connectiques. Mais, au fur et à mesure que notre test avançait dans le temps, l’A90J a réussi à nous surprendre.
D’abord parce que les défauts sont très peu nombreux dans ce produit si complet. Un peu de réflexion sur la dalle. Une luminosité un peu faible dans certains modes d’affichage. Et une colorimétrie confuse dans les modes les plus lumineux. Et, pour être vraiment tatillon, un nombre de services de streaming préinstallé qui tend à complexifier plus que de raison l’expérience utilisateur. Avec pour conséquence de réduire considérablement l’espace de stockage interne disponible pour les applications, moyen le plus simple de personnaliser l’usage au goût de chacun.
Mais l’A90J bénéficie de tellement de qualités et d’atouts que ses quelques défauts sont rapidement gommés. Qualités visuelles. Qualités design. Qualités audio. Qualités multimédias. Qualités techniques. Évidemment, la Bravia XR A90J est un modèle qui n’est pas à la portée de tous les budgets. Mais, si vous êtes prêt à faire cet investissement, vous ne serez pas déçu, que vous soyez joueur ou amateur de film et de série.