The Sony XR-65A90J A90J series is Sony’s undisputed 2021 4K flagship model. The OLED TV got a new processor with extensive AI functionality and a new OLED panel that should be brighter. Android TV got an update to Google TV. Lots of new things to check out!
Sony XR-65A90J – Specifications
|What||Ultra HD OLED TV|
|Screen size||65 in (164 cm), flat|
|Connection||4x HDMI (2x v2.1 48 Gbps, 2x v2.0, ARC/eARC, ALLM, HFR, VRR after firmware update), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 1x center speaker, 3x USB, 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.2|
|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, voice control, Cognitive processor XR|
|Dimensions||1,502 x 834 x 317 mm (incl. foot)|
|Weight||22.5 kg (excl. foot)|
|Consumption||SDR 138 (G) / HDR 156 watts (G)|
Sony XR-65A90J – Design
A 65 inch OLED TV, it remains a particularly impressive appearance. The panel is wafer thin, the entire profile, including the rear module, is 4 cm thick. Compared to the A9, that is almost 2 cm slimmer.
The titanium black fine metal edge is a nice detail, the back is decorated with a vertical stripe pattern. The finish is fine.
The supplied feet of the A90J series can be mounted in two positions. In the standard position, the device is barely a few millimeters above the cabinet. And pay attention, the feet stick out left and right next to the TV. If you switch the feet, they lift the TV just under 7 cm so that there is room for a soundbar.
Sony XR-65A90J – Connections
The A90J is equipped with four HDMI connections, two HDMI 2.0 and two HDMI 2.1. The latter have the maximum bandwidth of 48 Gbps. Which HDMI 2.1 features can we find? For gamers, they are equipped with ALLM, and support for 4K120.
The Sony also offers VRR, but that requires a firmware update (date unknown). And finally, there is also support for eARC. If you want 4K120 support, you must switch the input to ‘Enhanced format’ in the settings (Channels and Inputs / External Inputs / HDMI Signal Format). You also have to explicitly activate Dolby Vision on the HDMI connection. And both choices are mutually exclusive, so pay attention to how you set up the TV.
There are also three USB connections, a composite video and stereo minijack input, and an optical digital output. Those who listen with headphones can use them both wired and wirelessly via Bluetooth. The A90J is also equipped with speaker connections so that you can connect it to your AVR as a center speaker. All connections point to the side or down, so wall mounting is no problem.
Sony XR-65A90J – Ease of use and smart TV
The A90J features the same chipset that we found on the 2020 XH90. The MediaTek MT5895, equipped with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 CPU, 3GB RAM and the Mali-G52 GPU. That chipset provides a great user experience, every action in the interface runs smoothly and quickly.
This Sony is also one of the first models with the new Google TV, since version 10 that is the successor of Android TV.
We already saw that new is not necessarily better with the latest version of LG WebOS, and it seems to us that Google TV suffers from the same problems. The interface still fills the entire screen, but where you could extensively personalize the home screen with Android TV, that possibility seems to have disappeared with Google TV. At the top you can choose the ‘Home’ screen or ‘Apps’. The Home screen shows a limited selection of your apps, which you can still adjust.
In the rows below, Google TV shows recommendations from various streaming apps. In our case, those were Prime Video, myCanal, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Viki, Molotov, and Rakuten. We have to disappoint those who hoped to be able to replace it with Netflix, for example, that option seems to have completely disappeared. Plex did appear in the list as soon as we installed it. Even simply changing the order didn’t seem possible.
We’ll be doing a separate review for Google TV soon, when we’ve had a little more time to evaluate the new interface.
Fortunately, not changed: Sony’s shortcut menus. You can adjust a whole series of settings via a ribbon at the bottom of the screen, and you can also personalize that list. The input key also shows a ribbon at the bottom of the screen, in which you will not only find external inputs, but also apps. This list is also adjustable so you can use it as a quick launch barbalk
The XR-65A90J’s remote control is largely unchanged. The only adjustment is that you now have four pre-programmed shortcuts: YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. Furthermore, this remains an excellent remote. The slim remote is light, is pleasant to hold, the keys are easy to press and give good, clean feedback. The layout is fine and all the important functions are within reach of your thumb.
The brushed metal finish accentuates its fine character. And it’s backlit, a feature we certainly appreciate. A motion sensor detects that you hold the remote and activates the lighting if there is not enough light.
The A90J series is equipped with a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2/C/S2) but only has one CI+ slot. Watching and recording another channel at the same time 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.
Sony is also launching its own streaming service this year: Bravia Core . This service will be available exclusively on the XR models. The service provides access to the Sony Pictures Entertainment movie library in high quality. For the time being, the service was a bit sluggish because it has not yet been officially launched. The interface is also somewhat limited, so we limited ourselves to an evaluation of the image quality. We bought the movie Brightburn, with one of the ten credits you get when you buy the TV. The stream peaked at around 40Mbps at one point, but stayed around 24Mbps most of the time. That’s well below the 80Mbps Bravia Core can provide, but the picture quality was excellent.
Sony XR-65A90J – Image processing
Sony has been using the name X1 for its image processor for a number of years, but 2021 marks the start of a new chip, the Cognitive processor XR. ‘Cognitive’ refers to the intention to do image processing in a similar way as people look at an image. The AI functionality examines the focus of the image and accentuates it. Read a comprehensive overview of the new approach of the Cognitive Processor XR here .
Of course, the new processor builds on the expertise of the previous models. And the results don’t lie. The A90J delivers very good deinterlacing, and quickly and reliably detects different video and film frame rates. Moiré effects or jagged edges are therefore a rarity. So leave your digital TV set-top box in 1080i. Only in horizontal running text (the so-called ‘tickers’) we still see that they slightly shake.
The noise reduction is very good, both for random noise and compression noise (blocking). The ‘low’ setting delivers great results for both settings, and is a must if you also want to use Reality Creation. That setting provides some extra sharpness, and noise reduction is then essential to avoid emphasizing noise. Be careful with Reality Creation in Ultra HD sources, as it can cause image errors in very fine detail. ‘Smooth Gradations’ is still one of the best, if not the best, solution for eliminating visible color bands in soft color gradients. Choose the ‘low’ setting, even then most problems are eliminated, even in our very difficult Game of Thrones test scene, with no visible flickering. The upscaling results are top, and we dare to say that Sony’s new processor shows a good approach. The images benefit from the processing, but it’s subtle enough to never be distracting.
With the introduction of Motion Clarity, the Sony also has ‘black frame insertion’ (BFI) since last year, which adjusts the duration of the black frame. With ‘Motionflow’ in the ‘User’ mode, set ‘Brightness’ to 1 to make all the detail visible in fast-moving images. You can adjust ‘Suppleness’ to taste, depending on your own taste. We like the results best with ‘Smoothness’ on 2 or just the ‘auto’ setting. Sony has an excellent Motion Interpolation algorithm, but we notice that it still leaves a little too many shocks visible in fast pan images. LG, Panasonic and Philips perform slightly better there.
|Image Control||Statue||Color||Sharpness / Movement|
|Wide Mode: Auto
4/3 Default: Normal
Auto Display Environment: Off
Picture Range: +1
|Picture Mode: User
Auto Picture Mode: Off
Light Sensor: OnBrightness: Max
HDR Hue Mapping: Gradation
Black Level : 50
Black Adjust: Off
Adv. Contrast Optimization: Off
Peak Illumination: Center
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Colour: Off
Reality Creation: Auto
Reducing Random Noise: Low
Digital Noise Reducing: Low
Smooth Gradation: LowMotionFlow: Auto, or Smoothness 2, Brightness 1.
Movie Mode: Auto
Sony XR-65A90J – Image quality
Sony uses a new OLED panel, which is equipped with an aluminum laminate panel that serves as cooling. The processor also takes into account the temperature in different zones to optimize the brightness. Finally, for peak brightness, it can activate all sub-pixels (WRGB) at once. Whether it also uses the new OLED materials, Sony did not tell us. Unfortunately, you can’t learn anything new based on the pixel structure, which is identical to last year’s panels.
But as soon as we set up our spectrometer, we see that the Sony XR-65A90J has the same spectrum as the new LG OLED evo panel. Presumably they both use the new materials anyway, but we are not really sure about that.
In any case, the uniformity of the screen is excellent. No visible stripes. We also notice that Sony displays the very darkest tones (1 to 3% gray) considerably purer than the LG G1. The latter shows a lot of dithering in those very dark tones. In normal footage it never stands out, but in dark images with a lot of detail, the Sony can display that detail more clearly. The annoying flickering in very dark scenes that some other models suffer from is completely absent.
We choose the ‘User’ image mode, which produces the best results. Leave ‘Peak Lighting’ in the ‘Middle’ position, the image will then be bright enough for most conditions. If there is a lot of ambient light, you can still choose the ‘High’ setting. Leave the light sensor on, which this year not only takes into account the amount of light there is, but also the color temperature of the light.
In the ‘User’ image mode we recognize Sony’s typical and excellent calibration. The gray scale is tinted slightly too cool (very slight blue overtone), and with a gamma value of just under 2.4, the beautiful OLED contrast results in a handsome and immersive image. The A90J also shows a lot of black detail, and also shows a lot of color in very dark scenes. The color reproduction is excellent, making images very natural and realistic. For viewing in ambient light, you can lower the ‘Gamma’ setting from -2 to 0, or for a slightly more intense image, choose the ‘Cinema’ preset.
Sony XR-65A90J – HDR
Sony still supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. Just like with LG, you have to do without HDR10+, but again, we no longer consider that a downside, the momentum of HDR10+ is too small.
The question everyone is waiting for: Is this Sony brighter? On a 10% window, the maximum brightness is just under 800 nits. That is in any case a lot better than previous OLED models from Sony, which often stayed just below 700 nits. He also scores clearly better on a completely white field, where the result is 164 nits. Those numbers are very close to what we saw on the LG G1, but the Sony A90J generally scores just a little higher. It is remarkable that it is still under the Panasonic HZ2000, which effectively achieves 1,000 nits on a 10% window.
Because we wanted to test how far the screen can go, we briefly activated the ‘Vivid’ image mode, where we actually get 1,350 nits, but only for a few seconds, after which the meter drops to 900 nits. In comparison, the LG G1 reached a max of 870 nits.
The color gamut of the A90J series scores 70% Rec2020 and 97% DCI-P3. That can be compared with the results of the LG G1, here too the Sony scores slightly better.
How do those numbers translate into visual material? In any case, the Sony XR-65A90J ignores metadata and relies on its own analysis of the image. Just like in previous years, this results in very nice images, and the TV shows all white detail up to about 3,000 nits. You can also change the tone mapping yourself this year with the setting ‘HDR tint assignment’. If you choose ‘Brightness’, the image will be slightly brighter, but you may lose some white detail. We left the setting at ‘Gradation’ for best results. And they are very impressive. The Sony A90J series gets just a little more black detail and highlight details from the image, a result of its specific tone mapping. The accurate color reproduction guarantees a beautiful and natural image, with a lot of depth.
Gaming, Reflections and Viewing Angles
The OLED screen of the XR-65A90J has a particularly wide viewing angle and eliminates reflections quite well. We still recommend avoiding direct incident light.
In the normal image modes we measure a lag of 159.8 ms, but in game mode it drops to 16.4 ms, an excellent result. For next-gen gaming (PS5 and/or Xbox Series X), there are a few notes. Please note that VRR will only be available after a firmware update, Sony could not give us a date for that. Also remember that you have to choose HDMI 3 and 4 for gaming in 4K120 or for Dolby Vision support, both together are not possible. Early reports on Dolby Vision gaming on Xbox are limited to 4K60, so it’s not a problem for now. However, since this is about early testing, it cannot be ruled out that Dolby Vision in 4K120 will also be possible, and that would not be possible on this Sony. Finally, ARC/eARC is available on HDMI 3.
Sony XR-65A90J – Sound quality
Acoustic Surface Audio+ remains an exclusive Sony solution. The screen acts as a loudspeaker membrane, two actuators behind the screen make it vibrate and thus produce the sound waves. Two separate woofer modules provide the low frequencies. In the A90J, the actuators feature two drivers, one for highs and one for mids. The woofer modules are slightly larger than last year. With a total of 60 Watts of power, there is enough power available to create a solid sound. A short test procedure adjusts the sound based on the room acoustics.
If the Acoustic Surface has a big asset, then the sound that actually comes straight out of the screen helps the realism. With other televisions you often have the feeling that audio comes more from under the television. The A90J has a burly sound, with well-defined voices, but sounds a bit sharp at times, especially for music. Dive into the settings and turn off the surround mode, it improves the result. The A90J series supports Dolby Atmos, and the surround experience is decent, although it is of course somewhat limited. TVs, even this Sony, are simply not equipped enough for a real surround experience.
Those who wish can use the XR-65A90J as a center speaker in their surround setup, for which the device is equipped with a speaker connection.
Sony XR-65A90J – Conclusion
The XR-65A90J is a worthy Sony top model. Nice design, impressive image, nice sound and excellent ease of use. Are there any areas where it could be improved? Yes, we would have liked to see more than two HDMI 2.1 connections, especially since anyone who uses a soundbar already has to hand over one. The fact that Dolby Vision and 4K120 via HDMI are mutually exclusive choices is irrelevant for the time being, but could force Xbox Series X gamers to make a difficult choice in the future. Finally, we’re not too happy with the new Google TV, but that could potentially improve as Google provides regular updates.
Looking for a fantastic image? Then the Sony XR-65A90J has a lot to offer you. The new OLED panel comes with improved brightness, putting the Sony at the top of the ranking in that respect. The new Cognitive processor XR guarantees excellent image processing without being obtrusive, even in Vivid Image mode, the processor does not go out of style. The Sony scores top results for black detail, and creates beautiful images in HDR with rich colors and intense light accents. The Acoustic Surface guarantees fine audio. The handy remote control (with lighting) and the quickly accessible setting menus also make it very nice to quickly tweak the image. The fact that you also get a new movie streaming service, Bravia Core, is icing on the cake.
The Sony A90J series gets a FWD Excellent logo from us, for its best in class performance. But all that goodies come at a very heavy price, and that costs him half a point. Especially if we look at its direct competitor, the LG G1, which was introduced at a significantly lower price.
- Excellent, subtle image processing
- Top black value and maximum black detail
- Higher peak brightness than previous models
- Very good motion sharpness
- Excellent sound
- Good remote, handy menus
- Only two HDMI 2.1 connections
- Mandatory choice between Dolby Vision and 4K120 via HDMI