Technology

Sony’s New Flagship TV Is a Pleasure to Watch—and Listen to

Aside from one of the two remotes being a bit nasty, the only false note is the appearance of the Bravia Cam. This little camera clips magnetically to the rear of the TV’s chassis and peeps Chad-like from the center-top of the screen. Sony intends it to be useful for gesture control, on-the-fly analysis of ambient lighting conditions, and other stuff at some point in the future. But for now it’s only good for making Google Duo video calls. How much did this add to the hefty asking price of the XR-5A95K? “Too much” is my guess.

Setup is as straightforward or involved as you decide you want it to be. Sony’s given a fair degree of autonomy to the end user, but getting an impressive image out of the A95K doesn’t require too much fiddling time. And once the screen is set up to your satisfaction, it’s an enjoyable-going-on-engrossing watch.

Brightest OLED?

Before you get entranced by all the things the Sony is good at, though, you’ll have to get beyond the fact that this “brighter than the brightest OLED TV” technology isn’t really all that much brighter. Where it scores, though, is in the amount of detail, variation, and insight it’s capable of revealing in the brightest scenes.

A viewing of The Midnight Sky makes the point in fine style. It’s a confused movie, but its Dolby Vision HDR picture and Dolby Atmos soundtrack are ideal for showcasing the A95K’s strengths, which are numerous and considerable.

As befits a film mostly set in space, black tones abound, and in the long-established OLED manner, they’re lustrous, deep, and properly varied here. When brightness intrudes, rather than bleaching out and becoming uniform, the Sony retains the detail within them and offers very nice gradations of brightness. This is not in any way typical of “traditional” OLED TVs, and it makes the Sony seem more convincing almost straight away.

In-between these extremes, the color balance the Sony hits on manages to combine vibrancy and naturalism in a very agreeable manner. Skin-tones, in particular, are always believable, even though the A95K has no problem differentiating a healthy complexion from an unwell one. 

And when the other broad disciplines of picture-making are concerned (edge definition, depth of field, pattern stability) the A95K proves utterly assured. Its pictures are smooth and refined, yet packed with detail and variation at the same time.

Switching to a UHD sports broadcast allows the Sony to showcase the excellence of its motion-control. When on-screen objects are moving unpredictably and often in opposition to the movement of the camera that’s televising them. it’s a stern enough test—doubly so when this is happening on a big area of uniform color. But the A95K just grips motion with complete authority. Its control of on-screen motion is absolute, and images are thoroughly convincing as a result.

If you don’t exist on an exclusive diet of 4K content, the Sony’s an effective upscaler, although it has its limitations. High definition content looks great. Not as nuanced as native 4K stuff, naturally, and not entirely immune from picture noise when the going gets complex, but the A95K is a match for the best of its nominal rivals. Only when you step down again and again to real poverty-level content does the Sony throw in the towel somewhat. Elderly programming can somehow look coarse and soft at the same time.

Game for Gaming

Gamers of all kinds will enjoy the A95K but, unsurprisingly, it gets on particularly well with Sony’s PlayStation 5. All of the best features of the next-gen console can be exploited by this TV, and while input lag of around 21 milliseconds is nothing special, the delay is only going to be perceptible to the most demanding gamers. (And they tend to have dedicated monitors on which to do their thing, anyway.) The rest of us can just enjoy the extraordinary picture fidelity, wide-ranging color palette, and, especially, the way the A95K handles lighting effects. 

Some TV manufacturers have entered into alliances with audio companies in order to beef up the sound of their screens. Bowers & Wilkins’ collaboration with Philips on some of its high-end OLED TVs springs to mind. Sony, of course, is a well-regarded audio company in its own right, and given there’s no visible audio system whatsoever attached to the A95K, it’s a very impressive-sounding television.

Low frequencies are gratifyingly low, and have real body to them as well as good control. Detail levels are high throughout, dialogue projects well, and the Sony can get quite oppressively loud before it starts to lose its composure. 

The sound stage it creates is both wider and taller than the screen it derives from, and the presentation is passably dynamic too. So unless you’re resolved to spend proper money, an audio upgrade in the form of a soundbar is unlikely to seem necessary.

In the final analysis, the QD-OLED Sony Bravia XR-55A95K doesn’t tear up the OLED TV rulebook. That it advances the game is undeniable, but it doesn’t change it. What it does do is add to list the list of exceptionally capable Sony televisions that have always been priced to match. 

This sort of money for a 55-inch TV is significant (and the 65-incher costs $500 more), even for a TV that hides a very effective audio system inside its chassis, makes good on the latent promise of your next-gen games console, and is a straightforward pleasure to watch. But the price is justified. Probably. Just about.

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