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Review: Sony Bravia Core – streaming service for Bravia XR televisions

Bravia Core: what about the offer?

Is it available yet? Yes, once the TVs are available Bravia Core will also be available. That means in concrete terms: now.

Which TVs do you get Bravia Core with? These are the Z9J, A90J, A80J, A83J, A84J, X95J, X90J, X92J, X93J and X94J. The films from the Sony Pictures Entertainment offer are divided into two categories: films that you can stream without limitation, and films that you must purchase with credits. Unlimited streaming, that actually means for two years (for the Z9J and A90J) and one year for the other devices. This period starts when you create your Bravia Core account. As far as credits are concerned: ten credits come with the purchase of a Z9J or A90J, five credits for the other devices. You must use up those credits before twelve months have expired. Movies that you have redeemed with credits can be viewed within Bravia Core until February 23, 2026.

But what after the expiration of your subscription or after the end date of your credit movies? Sony is still thinking about that. For the time being it is not possible to pay for renewal or extra credits.

Bravia Core: Overview of the interface

Streaming services generally have a very similar interface: a number of movie covers that you can scroll through. That is also the case with Bravia Core. Moreover, the service only offers movies, so you don’t have to search for a TV series category. But little distinction is made between the full range of films. We click open the menu on the left, and there, apart from the home screen and the search option, we find four different categories.

These are the films that you can stream unlimited (Unlimited Streaming), the offer that you have to buy me credits (Movies to Redeem), the IMAX Enhanced films (Experience IMAX Enhanced) and the extras (Studio Access). Finally, there are the settings.

First minus: the service is currently quite difficult. Sometimes we click on the Home page and nothing happens for a long time, or we get to see a blank page. Clicking another content category can often take 10 seconds. So Sony clearly still has to work on improving the response speed.

Bravia Core: the film offer

In the Unlimited Streaming section we currently find 36 movies, but Sony informed us that more than 100 will be available. Moreover, this selection is adjusted at least four times a year, so that new films are regularly available. The Movies to Redeem category is a bit more extensive, Sony mentions more than 300 films, we counted 339 films. That selection will also be renewed regularly. Since you only have five or ten credits, that will be a difficult choice. Some movies are in both categories. Then you can choose whether you just want to view it, or redeem it with a credit so that it remains available to you.

In what quality are those films available? That varies, some is available in HD (1,920 × 1,080), but according to Sony, the majority should be available in 4K HDR. In addition, there is IMAX Enhanced, more about that later.

Which films are available in 4K HDR or only in HD? There was no line to draw in there. In any case, do not assume that well-known names are a guarantee for 4K HDR. Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, turned out to be only available in HD.

Experience IMAX Enhanced

Some of the films (more than 50 according to Sony), which can be found in their own category, are in ‘IMAX Enhanced’ quality. What does that mean in concrete terms? IMAX Enhanced it is best to consider it as a kind of quality label. The films are available in 4K HDR, and use a proprietary Digital Media Remastering technology (DMR) designed by IMAX. It is optimized to reduce noise and film grain and to display the image as faithfully as possible on a 4K HDR screen.

For sound, IMAX partners with DTS. IMAX Enhanced titles can use DTS: X. But unfortunately, both Bravia Core itself and the current generation of Sony Bravia XR TVs only support classic DTS, not DTS: X. Sony recommends that you watch the movies with the IMAX Enhanced Picture Preset. You have to activate it manually, automatic activation (as is possible for Filmmaker Mode) is not possible. Personally, we also prefer the Custom image preset for these films, since the IMAX Enhanced preset uses some light image processing (contrast enhancement and color enhancement) that we prefer not to see.

Studio Access

Anyone who is a big fan of extras on DVD or Blu-ray will be happy that Sony has also provided something similar in Bravia Core. You will find all kinds of extras in Studio Access. You will also find the extras (if there are of course) when you view the details of a movie. From storyboards, to alternative recordings for TV, cut scenes, music videos, featurettes, you name it.

A downside here is the highly variable quality. All items we tested were only available in HD 1,280 x 720. For older films such as Ghostbusters, the quality was also abysmal (read: poor DVD quality). In more recent movies like The Amazing Spiderman or Jumanji Welcom to the Jungle, the quality was fine, even though the resolution was limited to 720p. Sony also announced that some items are only available in 480p.

Bravia Core: Search and Settings

Settings for a streaming service? There are not many, but in addition to the choice for which audio and subtitles you want, Sony has a handy extra. You can tinker extensively with the display of the subtitles: larger or smaller font, different color, different background, more or less transparency. The options are endless and we find that very useful. After all, in HDR movies, white subtitles can be very bright, and you can fix that via these options. The only other option is to set up Pure Stream, more on that in a moment.

A large library of films, that’s nice, but only if you have wide search options. All the movies from 2015? Movies with Scarlett Johansson? Or directed by Quentin Tarantino? All Sci-Fi movies? Unfortunately, all those searches turn out to be impossible. The only option is to search by title. Only on the Home page we found three genres: Family movies, Sci-Fi and Drama.

So there is certainly work to be done if Sony wants to make its service more attractive and user-friendly.

Bravia Core: Pure Stream

Bravia Core uses a Pure Stream, a technology to deliver very high quality streams. The maximum quality is 80Mbps, which is comparable to an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. You activate Pure Stream via the settings. It is on or off choice. If you deactivate Pure Stream, the bitrate is limited to a maximum of 20Mbps.

Whoever activates Pure Stream does not automatically receive 80Mbps. The service provides an adaptive bitrate (like all other streaming services) that adjusts according to the available bandwidth on your internet connection. Calculate that you need about 45% extra bandwidth, compared to the desired bitrate. For 80Mbps you must therefore provide a reliable 115Mbps bandwidth, for 30Mbps you must have 43Mbps bandwidth.

Anyone who hopes to play safe and connect the TV via ethernet (wired) will have to be disappointed. The ethernet port on TV is only a 100Mbps port. In practice, this provides about 85Mbps bandwidth, so that the maximum bitrate is around 60Mbps. In our own test, the maximum was 50Mbps (top left of the screenshot below). You can always check which bitrate you are currently using by pressing and holding the ok button on the remote.

If you want the full Pure Stream experience, you have to connect via WiFi, and guarantee excellent WiFi coverage in your home, so that your connection delivers stable over 115 Mbps. We fear not an easy task in many homes.

Another thing to keep in mind: at 20Mbps (so with Pure Stream off) you get about 9 GB of data per hour. So count on 18GB for a typical movie (2 hours). Anyone who uses Pure Stream at its maximum potential (80 Mbps) can do that number four more times: a movie is 72 GB. If your internet provider limits your volume, pay attention.

Bravia Core: Finally, watch!

How was the image quality? Excellent. Movies in HD, 4K HDR or IMAX Enhanced, they deliver a good picture. We found it difficult to determine whether Pure Stream is a real added value, without being able to place two TVs next to each other. Even with a maximum bandwidth of 20Mbps, the result is in any case very good.

But here too the interface sometimes played tricks on us. When we left the film somewhere in the middle, the ‘resume’ function turned out to be quite wrong. It is not a big problem that you restart a few minutes early, but often we even ended up right back at the beginning of the film. Fortunately, fast forwarding went pretty fast, but still. Resuming seems to us to be a basic function, it just has to work. You can go backwards or forwards in the movie in steps of 30s. But really fast forward or rewind could be better. As soon as you start rinsing faster than 2x, there is no more picture. Needless to say, that’s not very useful.

Conclusion

Bravia Core is a nice extra for the buyers of a Sony Bravia XR TV. The offer is quite wide, and varies from recent to classic. That you can only watch ten (or even five) films from a range of more than 300, Sony makes up for by offering a large number of films with ‘unlimited streaming’. And of course, you don’t pay a euro for it, so we can’t really complain about the offer. There are still some sharp edges. The user interface could be faster, better, and above all we liked to see more and better search options.

Image quality varies from Full HD to 4K HDR and is excellent, although we see some strange choices. After all, Sony TVs support Dolby Vision / Atmos, but Sony’s own Bravia Core does not. It only delivers HDR10 / DTS. And although IMAX Enhanced can use DTS: X (the DTS counterpart of Dolby Atmos), neither the service itself, nor Sony TVs support DTS: X. Logic escapes us.

The future of the service is also not entirely clear. Your unlimited streaming subscription will expire after two years, and there are currently no plans to extend it. Our advice: enjoy the free movies you get, more choice is always better, and don’t think too much about it.

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