Sony 2021 TVs – Beautiful or true to the original?
Sony opened with the question: what is our objective? Do we want to be true to the original intent of the creator, or do we want to create beautiful images from a human perspective? The answer is apparently both. Sony illustrated that with a house, the foundations of which represent the faithful rendering. Those foundations are based only on logic, but are of course essential. The house that is being built on those foundations is the ‘beautiful’ part. That is based on human insights.
To bring that human touch, Sony is now introducing the Bravia XR series with ‘human cognitive technology’
Sony 2021 TVs – Cognitive technology
That’s a mouthful: human cognitive technology. What does it mean? It is making use of the knowledge about how people see, hear and perceive correctly. The best example is the focus on the focus point in the picture. The elements in the foreground, the faces in the picture. They demand more attention than the rest of the image. Sony wants to work with that. In addition, attention is paid to the influence that different elements in the image have on each other. Contrast and sharpness, light and color. You cannot just tinker with one element without influencing others. An extensive comparative analysis between all those parts, but also between different parts of the image and even between different consecutive frames, should give a new dimension to image processing. This approach comes on top of the AI techniques that Sony already used in its previous processors, the X1.
Sony 2021 TVs – Cognitive Processor XR
In the new processor we find a lot of existing techniques, but under new names. For example, there are four categories: XR Color, XR Clarity XR Contrast, and XR Motion.
- In XR Color, for example, we find XR Triluminos Pro and XR Smooting (formerly known as Super Bitmapping). The XR Motion contains XR Motion Clarity.
- XR Clarity includes XR 4K / 8K Upscaling (formerly X-Reality Pro) and XR Super Resolution. Where in the most recent versions it used a noise database and a detail database, a third database is now added for restoring textures.
- XR Contrast Booster is the new name of Xtended Dynamic Range. It comes in three versions with increasingly better peak brightness: XR Contrast Booster 5, 10 and 15, for the X90J, X95J and Z9J respectively.
- XR OLED Contrast Pro: Only available for the A90J which gets higher peak brightness and overall higher brightness, thanks to an aluminum laminate on the back of the screen that provides better cooling. Of course, this technology immediately reminds of the Panasonic top OLED models.
In addition to the classic approach, the Cognitive Processor XR also uses a ‘cognitive’ step for all these components. In doing so, he searches for the focal point of the image and adjusts the processing accordingly. Moreover, he takes all aspects of the image into account, and uses an analysis that can even cover different frames. A good example was the XR Contrast Booster that recognizes faces and still sends a little more light to them to prevent the region around the eyes from remaining too dark.
Technical image demonstrations
Demonstrating image and sound quality in a video conf-call is not easy. But Sony has done its best to show us something. In a kind of ‘debug’ mode we could see what the new processor does. It was visible that the analysis was done in different zones. In the demo there were nine, but Sony repeated regularly that the number of zones is actually much higher.
Successive demonstrations showed how the processor, for example, detected detail. The processor is clearly able to recognize highly detailed faces, even if they are only partially visible. In order to optimally adjust the processing, he determines which part of the image is in ‘focus’. This often turned out to be the actor in the picture, or the elements in the picture that are in the foreground.
Following demonstrations showed how the processor analyzes color and light in each zone. He can then adjust it individually. A good example was how the tone curve was adjusted locally. The cross-analysis of all parts must then ensure that adjustments in a zone, or of an aspect, do not adversely affect the rest of the image.
Sony has always placed a strong emphasis on the Creator’s Intent, and that message will remain the same this year. But on the other hand, it is clear that those who disable all these improvements (for example by choosing the Custom image mode) will still largely, or even completely, miss these improvements. Our tests should show how important that is.
The new processor also has something to offer for audio. 3D Surround upscaling converts a stereo or 5.1 soundtrack to a 5.1.2 soundtrack. XR Sound Position (the former Acoustic Surface Audio and Acoustic Multi Audio) must then ensure that the image actually appears to come out of the screen, instead of somewhere below the screen.
Of course you cannot hear that in a video call, which is why Sony had prepared videos with the measurements of a Siemens HW-SSL-SCASET4, a meter that visually shows the sound pressure.
The OLED models still use Acoustic Surface Audio. The A90J gets a new, larger actuator that is additionally equipped with two rings (one for high and one for mid), as opposed to the single ring in the previous models. With the A80J, the subwoofer that previously fired backwards is now mounted in such a way that it fires forward, through the screen, as it were. For this it is mounted against a perforated plate. The demos showed very clearly how the sound came straight from the screen, especially compared to the LG CX, where the speakers are at the bottom.
The Z9J has tweeters on the side and the top of the screen. These are ‘frame tweeters’ where an actuator makes the frame vibrate. The classic speakers are located at the bottom and the subwoofer at the back. Here too the demo showed very clearly the impact of that choice, the side and top speakers lift the sound up to the center of the image.
Naming of Sony 2021 TVs
A small detail, Sony has set the naming convention of its models all over the world. For example, you had the AG9 and A9G. This year everyone will use the same convention, for example the Z9J.