Sony XR-42A90K – Design
The design of this small OLED TV is in line with what we already saw on the 55A95K. That means you don’t get a hyper-slim TV, but you do get a sturdy and robust looking model. That does not alter the fact that we find the Sony very handsome.
The screen has a fine border that bends towards the back, but apart from the 5 mm wide black screen border, there is actually no frame to be seen. The back is finished in a beautiful square pattern.
The central base plate guarantees a very stable setup. You can mount them in two ways. With the screen low against the TV cabinet, the typical setup for most TVs.
Or you can mount the screen a little higher, about 7 cm above the table surface. This setup is useful if you still want to use a soundbar (as in the photo below), or if you want to use the Sony as a monitor for your PC.
Sony XR-42A90K – Connections
The selection of connections corresponds to what we saw on other Sony models this year. Two HDMI 2.1 connections that deliver the full 48 Gbps bandwidth, and the following HDMI 2.1 features : ALLM, 4K120 and VRR.
Remember to switch the HDMI input to the correct configuration in the settings (Channels and Inputs / External Inputs / HDMI signal format). Sony offers four different options, so think carefully about what exactly that HDMI connection should be able to do. For example, anyone who opts for Dolby Vision immediately excludes 4K120 and VRR.
We also find two USB connections, a composite video and stereo minijack input, and an optical digital output. There is no headphone jack, you have to use Bluetooth for that. All connections point downwards or to the side.
Sony XR-42A90K – Ease of use and smart TV
The TV is equipped with the MediaTek MT5895, like other Sony models. It delivers a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU, 3GB of RAM and the Mali-G52 GPU. Google TV (Android 10) runs smoothly on it, so that the user experience is excellent. A possibly interesting solution for some is the ‘Basic TV’ option. This allows you to use the TV mainly with external connections and live TV. Although there are only apps available, but as soon as you need to update you still have to log in with a Google account.
Those who nevertheless opt for the full Google TV experience will be presented with a very extensive range of content. Because that is actually the essence of Google TV: giving you as many recommendations as possible, of course preferably as relevant as possible to your taste. For that, Google TV takes a lot of control over how the screen looks. On the Home screen you can determine which apps appear. But you can’t change the big advertisement for Disney + content.
Still, we find the recommendations on this platform much more useful than on other platforms. The reason is that Google shows the recommendations in categories, such as “superhero movies”, “science fiction series”, or “movies with an Oscar”. Recommendations can also come from different services, and you can decide which ones. The only limitation is that not all streaming services can be used in this way yet. For example, you cannot include Netflix in the list, and local services are also missing. But who knows, that might change in the future.
It is very easy to adjust something in the settings via the quick menus. The possible settings appear in a ribbon at the bottom of the image, but you can determine what appears and in what order. The input key also shows the possibilities in this way. Moreover, not only the external inputs but also apps appear in that list.
Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV.
|Image control||Image||Colour||Sharpness / Motion|
|Wide Mode: Auto
4/3 Default: Normal
Auto Display Environment: Off
Image Range: +1
|Picture Mode: User
Auto Picture Mode: Off
Ambient Optimization Pro: On / OffBrightness: Max
HDR Tone Mapping: Gradation
Black Level: 50
Black Adjust: Off
Adv. Contrast Optimization: Off
Peak Illumination: Mid/High
|Color: 50 Color
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
Reality Creation: Auto
Random Noise Reduction: Low
Digital Noise Reduction: Low
Smooth Gradation: Low MotionFlow: Auto, or smoothness 1-2, brightness Low.
Movie Mode: High
Sony XR-42A90K – Image quality
We suspect that the Sony XR-42A90K (A90K series) is equipped with the same type of panel as the LG 42C2. A newer type, judging by the spectrum analysis, and just like on the A95K, Sony measures the temperature in different zones to prevent overheating.
In any case, the panel provides very good uniformity. There was hardly any deviation to be found in both dark and bright images. The best calibrated image mode is ‘User’. This makes for very pleasant images. The gray scale is a bit too cool (light blue overtone). We see that systematically at Sony, but we don’t think it’s a serious deviation, especially because the color reproduction is otherwise very good. Only cyan tones pull a little too much towards blue, but that will never really stand out without a solid reference next to it.
The Sony shows a lot of black detail, and together with the deep contrast of the OLED panel and the beautiful colors, the images are fantastic. Leave the Light sensor activated if you don’t always look during darkening, but set the ‘Peak lighting’ to the highest setting if necessary.
Sony XR-42A90K – HDR
What we already saw on the LG OLED42C2 is confirmed on this Sony. The small image sizes are not as clear as the large sizes. But Sony seems to us to be even more careful than LG. The peak brightness in the ‘User’ image mode is 550 nits on a 10% window. That is significantly lower than the LG’s 715 nits, although Sony does catch up with the difference on the 2% window where it can peak to 650 nits. On the completely white screen, the peak is 127 nits, which is slightly more generous than the LG.
The Sony has a very wide color range, 95% P3 and 68% Rec.2020, which are very nice figures. The ‘User’ picture mode is also very well calibrated, so that the Sony makes optimal use of its capabilities.
The processor ignores metadata and analyzes the image itself. You can also ask via the menu to give priority to the visibility of all light nuances or to go for maximum brightness. We prefer to go for maximum nuances. The image then has very nice black detail and almost all white detail. Only in some cases you lose a little white detail, but the general tone of the image always remains correct, even if the material has been mastered very clearly. The color reproduction can even be called excellent, even in challenging circumstances. Although the difference in peak brightness is obvious when you put a 55 inch model next to it, it doesn’t bother at all without that reference. Sony also supports Dolby Vision, so you can view a lot of HDR material in that excellent format.
Gaming, Reflections and viewing angles
The OLED screen has an excellent viewing angle and can handle reflections well, although it’s best to minimize them for optimal results.
The HDMI 2.1 connection has an input lag of 17.5 ms (4K60) and 9.2 ms (2K120), and thus seems optimal for competitive gaming. Xbox Series X gamers should keep in mind that you cannot combine 4K120 and Dolby Vision. In that respect, it clearly delivers less value than the LG OLED42C2, which can handle that combination and also has four HDMI 2.1 connections.
Sony XR-42A90K – Sound quality
Even in this smaller model, Sony has opted for the Acoustic Surface solution that they also use in their larger OLED models. In other words, this TV also uses its screen as a speaker, supplemented with a small woofer module for bass reproduction. The 2×10 +1×5 Watt configuration is of course a lot more modest than that of the large models. So you should not expect wild audio experiences, but the result is nevertheless very good. Sound comes straight from the screen, and remains pleasant even at a lot of volume without excessive distortion. The portion of bass is rather small, so no thunderous movie soundtracks. You can have the sound calibrated for the acoustics of the room with a short calibration procedure.
Sony XR-42A90K – Conclusion
This little Sony has a lot of excellent features, not least its excellent image quality. Still, we were somewhat surprised by the somewhat low peak brightness. Sony is clearly playing it safe when it comes to burn-in. Technical downsides are further limited to the HDMI 2.1 connections. You only have two, and they can’t combine 4K120 and Dolby Vision , but it must be said, the latter is only an issue for Xbox Series X gamers.
The image quality rests on the performance of the excellent processor and the OLED panel. Sony offers very good, measured image processing that provides excellent detail, light and color nuances. The calibration is very good, you can expect beautiful images with accurate color reproduction. The Acoustic Surface provides decent audio, and with Google TV you have an almost endless amount of entertainment available.
But if there’s one thing that disappoints us, it’s the price. This is excessively high for this size, especially when compared to competitors such as the LG OLED42C2 .
- Excellent, subtle image processing
- Excellent calibration, nice image quality
- Good motion sharpness
- Excellent audio for this format
- Renewed, handy remote
- Slightly less bright than expected
- Only two HDMI 2.1 connections
- Mandatory choice between Dolby Vision and 4K120 via HDMI