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Review: Sony XR-55A95K (A95K-serie) QD-OLED-Television

Review: Sony XR-55A95K (A95K-serie) QD-OLED-TV is a winner for whom movie enjoyment is the top priority along with other users.

The 2022 Sony top model, Sony XR-55A95K,  is equipped with Google TV, Acoustic Surface speakers, a new remote control, but above all a QD-OLED panel. We are curious what performance Sony has achieved from this new screen technology.

Sony XR-55A95K – Specifications

 

What Ultra HD QD-OLED TV
Screen size 55 in (139 cm), flat
Connections 4x HDMI (2x 48 Gbps, 2x 18 Gbps, ARC/eARC, ALLM, 4K120, VRR), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 1x center speaker, 2x USB, 3x antenna, Bluetooth
Extras HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, Google TV (10), Chromecast, Airplay 2, USB/DLNA media player, DVB-T2/C/S2, CI+ slot, Cognitive processor XR, Bravia Cam
Dimensions 1,225 x 753 x 265 mm (incl. foot)
Weight 21.2 kg (excl. foot)
Consumption SDR 84 (G) / HDR 114 watts (G)
Recommended retail price 3,300 euros

Sony XR-55A95K – Design

Sony’s design only responds to the slim OLED panel to a very limited extent. On the contrary, the construction of the XR-55A95K (A95K series) looks much wider in profile than you would expect from slim OLED technology. Not only is the screen a bit thicker, but the housing of the electronics takes up almost the entire back. It is mainly a contrast with the hyper-slim Samsung S95B.

But honestly, even if that profile is a bit more striking, the Sony XR-55A95K (A95K series) looks very nice and the finish is top. The dark gray frame is barely noticeable, the back is finished with a nice pattern of squares. And the device stands on a foot plate that is the same width as the device. The construction is also remarkably sturdy and stable. We don’t think that foot plate is aesthetically pleasing, but opinions can differ about that.

The base can be mounted in two ways, pointing backwards, where the device itself leans a little backwards, or pointing forwards where the device is upright. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you cannot place a soundbar in front of the TV without hindering the image.

Sony XR-55A95K – Connections

The XR-55A95K (A95K series) offers four HDMI connections, that goes without saying. But Sony still sticks to just two HDMI 2.1 connections that deliver the full 48 Gbps bandwidth. They also offer the following HDMI 2.1 features : ALLM, 4K120 and VRR support. The latter has certainly been the case from the start this year.

Do not forget to switch the HDMI input to the correct setting 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, who chooses Dolby Vision immediately excludes 4K120 and VRR.

The Sony XR-55A95K offers two USB connections, a composite video and stereo minijack input, and an optical digital output. The headphone jack is gone, you have to use Bluetooth for that. Do you want to use the TV as a center speaker in your AV receiver setup? That’s possible, you can connect it via the speaker connections on the side. All connections point to the bottom or to the side, cable management has been thought of, and you can finish everything neatly with a cover plate.

Sony XR-55A95K – Ease of use and smart TV

Since 2020, the chipset of the Sony TVs has not changed. But that is not necessary. The MediaTek MT5895 delivers a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU, 3GB RAM and the Mali-G52 GPU. Google TV (Android 10) runs smoothly on it. Apps start quickly, the user experience is fine. The Sony prompt responds both in the menus and in the apps.

Our first impressions of Google TV were not too positive last year. The interface is nice, yes, but there weren’t many personalization options. That was different with Android TV. But look, Google TV has made steps in the right direction, and important ones.

Disney+ takes center stage on the Home screen and you can’t change that. But for the rest of the recommendations that you see when you scroll down, you can determine whether a number of services provide input. These are Prime Video, Apple TV and Disney+. Netflix remains a notable absentee from that list. But what we found most interesting is that Google TV doesn’t show those other recommendations by service, but rather by genre. For example, in our overview we found war films, but also superhero fiction series, or recommendations based on our interest in The Expanse. That’s a much more interesting way to browse content.

The Sony menus don’t seem to have changed much to us. With the push of a button you get a ribbon at the bottom of the TV with all kinds of shortcuts. You can also adjust that. The input key not only shows all inputs but also apps, and is thus also a very quick way to switch to another app.

Remote control

Sony has significantly simplified its remote control. Among other things, the numeric keys have disappeared and the layout has been slightly modified. Because it is more compact, it fits better in the hand and the keys have a light, pleasant keystroke. It may not seem very radical, but this new approach does improve the ease of use. The keys that remain all fulfill an essential function. At the bottom, there remain four shortcuts: Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, and Sony’s own Bravia Core. The latter replaces the YouTube key. You can switch directly to live TV via the TV button at the top, but you can also set the button to activate a specific input.

Like the premium remote from 2021, it has a brushed metal finish and the keys light up as soon as you pick up the remote. New is the ‘Find My Remote’ function. You only have to say that command via the Google Home App and the remote makes sound and lights up.

Sony also supplies a second remote with the XR-55A95K (A95K series), with an older design. It does have a numeric keypad. We see only limited added value in this, and we suspect that it will remain in the drawer for many people.

Functions

The XR-55A95K (A95K series) is equipped with a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2/C/S2) but only has one CI+ slot. Watching and simultaneously recording another channel is therefore only possible with channels that are not encrypted. In addition to Chromecast, you can also use Apple Airplay 2. The TV is also compatible with Apple Homekit. Sony has provided an excellent media player that knows how to handle all important video and sound formats.

Bravia Core will also remain available, it is an exclusive offer for the Sony XR models. The streaming service provides access to a whole range of films from the Sony studios. Part of the offer is unlimited free for two years, another part you still pay with credits (the A95K gets 10). There is still no clarity on the future of Bravia Core, what will happen after two years? Can you buy additional credits? So that remains to be seen, for now you should consider it as an extra.

The XR55A95K comes with a camera (the Bravia Cam), which you mount at the top of the screen. Besides the obvious use as a webcam, with Google Duo, Sony also uses the camera for other functions. For example, the camera can adjust the maximum brightness based on the viewing distance, and it warns you if you get too close to the screen (about 1 m). It also adjusts the sound based on your seat. For the time being, none of this seems useful to us. Later, Sony will implement two additional features. We already saw gesture control years ago, but it was absolutely unusable at the time, it remains to be seen whether that will be different now. Finally, the TV will also detect when no one is in front of the screen, and then automatically dim the screen. In any case, they don’t seem like groundbreaking things to us. A good point for privacy:

Sony XR-55A95K – Image Processing

The Cognitive Processor XR comes over from last year. Sony has made some improvements in terms of color reproduction and depth control by distinguishing between foreground and background, but those improvements seem quite limited to us, especially compared to the impact of the new QD-OLED panel.

The performance of the XR-55A95K (A95K series) remains exceptionally good, although we see that nothing has changed in those few weaknesses. You can still see some small shocks in horizontal running text (‘tickers’). Motion interpolation delivers nice results, but in fast pan images it sometimes seems like the processor can’t track and leaves behind shocks or introduces image artifacts. If you want to go for minimal impact on the film feeling, it is best to leave ‘Suppleness’ at ‘1’. For a slightly smoother image, ‘2’ is the best choice. Using ‘MotionFlow / Brightness’ you can activate ‘black frame insertion’ (BFI) to reveal more detail in action scenes, but we found the resulting flickering disturbing.

Other than those comments, the processor gets nothing but good points from us. It quickly picks up on different video and film frame rates, avoids moiré effects and cascading when deinterlacing, and has excellent noise reduction. This comes in handy if you want to give the image some extra depth with Reality Creation without making the noise stronger, although we recommend that you handle it with care. The processor also does an excellent job of smoothing out color bands in soft gradients, so leave ‘Smooth Gradations’ in the ‘Low’ setting. Higher settings quickly give a slightly too flattened effect because the filter erases too much detail. Both in our clear test sequence and in the tricky dark fragment from Game Of Thrones, it worked great.

Main Settings

 

Image Control Image Colour Sharpness / Movement
Wide-Mode: Auto
4/3 Default: Normal
Auto Display Environment: Off
Picture Range: +1
Picture Mode: User
Auto Picture Mode: Off
Ambient Optimization Pro: On / OffBrightness: Max
Contrast: 90
Gamma: -2
HDR Hue Mapping: Gradation
Black Level: 50
Black Adjust: Off
Adv. Contrast Optimizer: Off
Peak Illumination: Center
Color: 50
Hue: 0
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Colour: Off
Sharpness: 50
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-55A95K – Image quality

The most important innovation in the XR-55A95K (A95K series) is of course the new QD-OLED panel . That’s the same panel we found in the Samsung S95B . As with the A90J last year, Sony has provided it with an extra cooling layer, and the processor takes the heat in different zones into account to prevent maximum image retention. We will soon see whether the Sony can also achieve a higher brightness.

The same comments as for the Samsung about the panel structure apply, of course. Due to the triangular configuration of the red, green and blue sub-pixel, high contrast images such as white text on black background have a slightly colored border, but that is only visible from a very short distance (a few centimeters). This may be difficult as a monitor, but completely invisible in front of a TV from the normal viewing distance.

And with the Sony you also have to take into account that strong incident light can activate the quantum dots that are in the front of the screen. As a result, black becomes a little more dark gray with a light pink tint. In clear images, the effect is barely visible. In other words, avoid direct sunlight, especially when viewing dark images. That is actually advice that applies to every TV, but just a little more for QD-OLED.

But we can be clear about the image quality: it is absolutely excellent. The panel of the A95K series has very good uniformity in both dark and bright images, and no trace of dirty screen effect. Switch to the ‘User’ picture mode for the most realistic images. Perfect black provides that typical OLED depth in the image.

The gray scale has a little too much blue and a little too little green, but the deviation is relatively small. Normally this also has an impact on the color reproduction, but it turned out to be very accurate. For both skin tones and general colors, the Sony delivers remarkably good results that are close to reference quality. The screen shows a lot of black detail, Sony emphasizes that slightly by keeping the gamma value in the darkest tones slightly lower.

If you look at a lot of changing light conditions, you can leave the light sensor activated and, if necessary, set the ‘Peak lighting’ to the highest position. The A95K not only adjusts the maximum brightness, but also controls the tone curve (gamma value) and color temperature based on the ambient light.

Sony XR-55A95K – HDR

HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, that is the list of supported formats. Still no HDR10+. But the question is whether that extra cooling was used by Sony to get more brightness from the QD-OLED panel. And the answer is: no. It even seems more like Sony has opted for security and wants to avoid screen burn-in or image retention as much as possible.

On the 10% test window we measure a maximum of 936 nits and on a completely white screen the Sony achieves 196 nits. This puts him just under 10% below the Samsung. Compared to the LG G2, it achieves the same peak on the 10% window, but on larger windows, the Sony has slightly more brightness in excess. If we can draw a conclusion from all this, it is that the WOLED screens have come a long way and that QD-OLED is not a revolution in terms of maximum brightness.

And yet there is a fairly clear difference between the two technologies. After all, the XR-55A95K can boast a wider color range (83% Rec.2020 and 99.8% P3). Moreover, because there is no white subpixel, the A95K, just like the S95B, can still display very saturated colors. For example, pure colors can be 2 to 2.5x brighter than on the G2.

And Sony is making excellent use of that potential. The XR-55A95K (A95K series) ignores HDR metadata, but analyzes the image itself to achieve the best result. Via the settings you can give preference to maximum brightness or to make all nuances visible. It is the latter option that we prefer. The Sony really brings out a lot of nuances from the image, but also succeeds in giving those brightest accents just that little bit extra. Where the Samsung still had a slight tendency to clip very clear detail, this is never the case with the Sony. The A95K also delivers a lot of black detail in dark scenes. Combined with the rich but also exceptionally accurate colors, we can say that HDR images have never looked so impressive. The final episode of Obi Wan Kenobi,

Gaming, reflections and viewing angles

Here too, the Sony reaps the benefits of its QD-OLED panel. The viewing angle is almost perfect, and like the Samsung it repels reflections quite well, they look clearly softer than on an OLED screen, but because of the impact on the black level you should avoid incident light as much as possible.

In terms of gaming, the XR-55A95K (A95K series) does have something to offer, but we still seem to lag behind the competitors. Of the two HDMI 2.1 connections with 48 Gbps bandwidth, one is used for eARC. So if you want to use a soundbar or AVR, you only have an HDMI 2.1 connection. The input lag is 17.2 ms (4K60) and 8.7 ms (2K120). An excellent result. The A95K is equipped with ALLM, VRR and supports 4K120. But without Dolby Vision. After all, you have to choose Dolby Vision or 4K120-VRR in the settings. You can’t do both together. This is especially unfortunate for Xbox gamers.

Sony XR-55A95K

Sony XR-55A95K – Sound quality

The Acoustic Surface Audio+ solution also remains Sony’s choice for this new QD-OLED panel. The screen is thus used as a loudspeaker membrane, two actuators make it vibrate. The low tones are provided by two woofers. The solution offers 60 W of power, supports Dolby Atmos and via a short test procedure, the A95K optimizes the sound based on the room.

We have long been fans of Acoustic Surface and the XR-55A95K (A95K series) continues to score excellent in that area. The sound comes straight from the screen, and Sony does a great job of positioning the sound elsewhere on the screen for effect, ideal for movie soundtracks. There is a nice surround feeling and the set has more than enough volume to sound really loud without going out of control. We find the sound slightly less sharp than last year, and by choosing a different sound mode you can still adjust the result. In any case, the A95K is convincing. A good soundbar is undoubtedly better, but then you will have to find a special solution for the placement, after all, the screen is right above the furniture. Thanks to its loudspeaker connection, you can use the A95K series as a center speaker of AV receiver .

Sony XR-55A95K – Conclusion

Sony hits the mark with this QD-OLED TV, it’s a winner for whom movie enjoyment is the top priority. What else should you pay attention to? Avoid strong incident light, which has a negative influence on the black value of the new QD-OLED technology. But we emphasize once again that you are not bothered by this effect under normal viewing conditions. Gamers have to be careful though. You only get two HDMI 2.1 connections that can handle 4K120, and they can’t show Dolby Vision at the same time. If you want an external audio solution, the eARC connection also removes an HDMI 2.1 port.

The Sony XR-55A95K (A95K series) is one of those devices that we would rather keep in the house than pack it back. Deep blacks, intense colours, a lot of brightness and above all an excellent calibration that brings out the best of that potential. Yes, it is a little less bright than the Samsung, but you will hardly notice that in practice. And he more than makes up for that with his attention to perfectly show every nuance in the image. The processor does a great job of presenting all your images optimally. Thanks to the improvements to Google TV, the interface provides a very rich content environment, and the renewed remote fits perfectly with the modern ease of use. With its Acoustic Surface audio, the A95K also delivers very nice sound.

That kind of performance deserves a top score. But it must be said, the Sony is considerably more expensive than the competitor from the Samsung stable. We find that price difference difficult to justify, so try to wait for a good promotion.

Pros

  • Deep black, but also maximum black detail
  • How peak brightness and very intense colors
  • Excellent, subtle image processing
  • Good motion sharpness
  • Very good sound from a relatively slim design
  • Renewed, handy remote
  • Google TV
Negatives

  • Strong incident light has an impact on the black level
  • Only two HDMI 2.1 connections
  • Mandatory choice between Dolby Vision and 4K120 via HDMI
  • Price

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