Although the annual Consumer Electronics Show isn’t happening in the conventional sense this year, 2021’s virtual version still has the top names in the industry showing off their new wares. One of the first major announcements of the year was the new lineup of Sony OLED and LED TVs, dubbed “Bravia XR.” The Sony Bravia XR lineup comprises five different models, and includes both 4K and 8K TVs. Since the resolution wars have plateaued in recent years, you won’t be seeing anything greater than 4K or 8K this year (and likely for years to come). Instead, these new model lines are all about tech refinement, better connectivity, and increased picture processing power.
The headlining feature of these new Sony TVs is the Cognitive Processor XR, All of the Bravia XR models will be powered by the new Cognitive Processor XR, a chip that leverages what Sony is calling “cognitive intelligence.” According to Sony, this is a more advanced processing technique than artificial intelligence, and better mimics the way a person watches TV. The system continually monitors the TVs picture, analyzing it in hundreds of tiny zones and making adjustments per zone. So while traditional AI processing might alter an entire scene based on its contents, e.g. boosting green saturation for a scene in a lush forest, cognitive intelligence processing can alter just one element of that scene. A Bravia XR TV detects the main focal point of a scene and applies relevant enhancements to only it.
Other features that will be standard on all Bravia XR TVs include:
HDMI 2.1 Inputs – This feature is a must-have for anyone shopping for a new TV to use with todays’ newest video game consoles, like the PlayStation 5. Last fall, we took a look at some of the best TVs for next-gen gaming consoles. The common factor between all of those TVs was the presence of an HDMI 2.1 input, which is required to take advantage of today’s advanced gaming technologies. At the time, only a few Sony TVs featured HDMI 2.1.
But the new Bravia XR line goes all in on the tech. Gamers will get full 4K/120fps/120Hz compatibility, and be able to take advantage of VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low- latency mode). And these advancements will also pay off for non-gamers. HDMI 2.1 ports mean the Bravia XR TVs will be compatible with any upcoming video players, and can easily handle high frame rate or 8K video streams. Plus, the ultra-high refresh rate also means that sports, action movies, and anything that features fast-moving content will look better.
XR Surround and 3D Surround Upscaling – These audio processing systems create a virtual surround sound experience without the need for additional speakers.
Google TV with Chromecast Built-In – Sony’s implementation of Android TV is our favorite smart TV OS. Integrated Chromecast makes it easier than ever to get content from your smartphone to your TV—no extra equipment needed.
Ambient Light Sensor – These TVs can sense the light levels in your viewing room, and automatically adjust the screen brightness to compensate.
Voice Search and Google Assistant Compatibility – Use your voice to find shows on streaming apps, or control any of your integrated smart home products via Google Assistant.
Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos – All Sony Bravia XR TVs will be fully compatible with the latest Dolby audio and video processing technologies.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the complete Sony Bravia XR lineup:
Sony MASTER Series Z9J LED
Continuing the tradition of Sony’s Z-series TVs, the Z9J will be the brand’s premiere LED TV. Featuring 8K resolution and every enhancement Sony offers, this TV should leave you wanting for nothing. In past years, the Sony Z-series has routinely earned our vote as the best Sony TV available, and by all indications that’s likely to continue with the Sony Z9J.
Sony MASTER Series A90J and Sony A80J OLED TVs
The Sony A90J Bravia XR is the brand’s flagship OLED TV. While Sony OLED TVs have always offered stunning picture quality that bests that on LED TVs, the one area they have fallen short is in peak brightness. A higher peak brightness means the LED TVs are able to display brighter brights, and therefore a more convincing HDR picture. It’s for this reason that we have usually found the Z LED to be better overall TVs. But the A90J employs a new Sony technology, XR Contrast, that boosts peak brightness to get closer to what their LEDs can offer. If this lives up to expectations, the A90J OLED may finally take the “Best Sony TV” crown from the Z9J.
This year’s Sony OLED TVs also feature an advancement to the brand’s revolutionary Acoustic Surface Audio, which used the glass screen of the TV as a sound transducer. The new system, XR Sound Position, leverages the XR processor to better match the sound to the source on the screen—making it appear as if the audio is coming only from precisely that position.
The Sony A80J includes most of the features of the A90J, except for the MASTER Series designation. And, to be honest, it’s not clear what difference that makes at this level, since the A80J is equipped with all of the features that badge usually infers—chiefly Netflix Calibrated Mode and IMAX Enhanced capabilities.
Sony X90J and X95J 4K LED TVS
These are the flagship Sony 4K LED TVs for 2021. Both model lines feature Full Array LED backlights, which, in conjunction with the XR Contrast Booster and XR Triluminous Pro technologies, offer significantly better contrast ratio than edge-lit LED TVs. That means brighter brights, darker darks, and an overall better-looking HDR picture.
If you’re on the hunt for a massive centerpiece for a new home theater, and don’t want to go with a video projector, the Sony X90J might be your best bet. That model will offer a 100-inch version—Sony’s largest available LED TV in 2021.
Pricing and availability have not yet been confirmed. We traditionally begin seeing new Sony TVs in March of each year, but with much of the industry still recovering from supply issues due to the pandemic, it’s a little more difficult to forecast ETAs. We’re hoping to have them in our showroom as soon as possible.