Sony’s Bravia XR A95K-series TV delivers fantastic color, brightness, black, processing, and sound. It’s arguably the best smart TV on the market–and it’s priced to support that theory.
Price When Reviewed
$3,499.99 MSRP (on sale for $2,879.00 at the time of this review)
Best Prices Today: Sony Bravia XR A95K-series OLED TV (65-inch model XR-65A95K)
This Sony Bravia XR A95K-series is the second TV we’ve seen based on Samsung Display’s new RGB OLED technology. It’s also arguably the best (by a slim margin) thanks to Sony’s processing and audio expertise and a superior smart TV user interface (Google TV). We like it. A lot.
Buying the best OLED TV, however, will cost you: At the time of this review, the 65-inch model we tested was on sale for between $2,879 and $3,000–about $1,200 more than Samsung’s very competitive S95B ($1,800 on sale), and almost $900 more than LG’s still excellent C2/G2 OLEDs ($2,000 on sale).
This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best smart TVs.
Bravia XR A95K-series features and design
By far the most notable feature of the Sony’s A95K-series is its 120Hz, 3840 x 2160, pure RGB OLED display. If you’re not familiar, the LG OLEDS that have held sway over this market segment for the last few years are WRGB. That is, they use a fourth white sub-pixel to increase peak brightness when needed. WRGB works very well, but tends to reduce color saturation in bright spots. In spite of this, LG OLEDs have very good color accuracy the vast majority of the time.
The pure RGB technology in the A95K-series uses only red, green, and blue sub-pixels, so it maintains color saturation when highlights get brighter. In our testing, it seems Sony plays up this advantage and over-saturates at some points. I say “over,” but the effect is extremely pleasing to the eye.
The A95K’s other outstanding feature is its use of the display glass as a planar speaker. The rear-mounted impellers, driven by 60 watts of total power, vibrate the panel to very good effect, making it one of the few TVs whose sound you won’t feel an immediate need to augment.
Back to the more mundane aspects: The 65-inch unit Sony sent us is very thin: 1.75-inches at the caboose used to house its electronics and those sound impellers. It sits on a rather massive stand, bolted to two L-brackets that themselves bolt to the stands. The whole deal with its extremely thin bezel is very attractive, as you can see in the image below.
The 65-inch Bravia XR A95K weighs just under 60 pounds, with the stand contributing another 30 or so pounds. It was a bit of a bear to wrestle myself, but doable. I suggest help from a friend, which wasn’t available to me at the time. The VESA mount point is a 300mm x 300mm pattern.
Port selection is top notch: Four HDMI ports, two of which support 120Hz refresh rates, variable refresh rate (VRR), and auto low-latency mode (ALLM). One HDMI port also supports eARC. You’ll also find a coax connection for an over-the-air TV antenna or cable/satellite set-top box, ethernet, composite audio with a center speaker input, optical S/PDIF) audio out, RS-232, and two USB-A ports (one at the side of the TV, the other near the bottom).
There’s a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) adapter on board, and the Bluetooth radio features latency compensation. There’s support for HDR10 (but not DR10+), Dolby Vision, HLG, Calman auto calibration, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos (and precursors). There are a number of sound modes (EQ) as well as faux 3D audio upscaling. The TV automatically adjusts its audio for room conditions during setup.
I stream movies across my local network, and the onboard media player (which also supports USB mass storage) has matured into a top-notch entity with exceptionally wide codec support.
In short, there’s little state-of-the-art missing from this TV.
Sony Bravia XR A95-series’ smart TV interface and remote control
Sony uses the Google TV interface here, which has matured into a reasonably efficient and navigable creation. I quite liked that the home row is occupied by the input and main settings icons rather than content Sony is selling.
The voice remote, which supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, is the vastly improved, smaller, more focused model Sony started shipping last year. It’s backlit for use in dark environs and sports dedicated buttons for settings, input, and transport control. I like its balance of minimalism and functionality quite a bit more than Samsung’s austere remotes that force you onscreen for almost every task.
I will also say that the Sony remote feels nice in the hand. While I appreciate Samsung’s solar-rechargeable One Remote from an environmental point of view, the slightly greater heft of Sony’s battery-powered remote provides more substantial tactile feedback. That said, you still need to use onscreen selectors to enter numbers and the like. Sigh.
As far as user interface/remote synergy is concerned, you can change settings and see the effect in real time, which can make all the difference if you’re tailoring the picture for specific content. There are a host of options for that task–far more than the non-videophile likely wants or needs. I was fine with the template settings Sony provides: Standard, Cinema, IMAX, and so on.
All in all, I found using Sony’s A95K significantly more efficient than Samsung’s Tizen-based S95B.
The Sony Bravia XR A95K-series’ picture and sound quality
While the A95K’s image isn’t perfect, it’s darn close. The color is rich and spot on to the naked eye, there’s plenty of peak brightness (without blowing out color, thanks to the panel being pure RGB rather than RGBW), and the blacks are; well, this is an OLED TV, so the blacks are great.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t inform you that Sony’s A95K is not quite as bright as Samsung’s S95B. It’s not really noticeable in real life, but there is a slight drop-off, likely on purpose, as both TVs use the same basic panel technology.
If I were to be picky, the gradients in the dark end of the spectrum weren’t as accurate as they are with LG’s WRGB panel, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off most users will never notice.
Screen uniformity is awesome, viewing angles are superbly wide, there’s no blooming around bright objects and the overall picture is in a word: lush. That’s standard for OLED, though, and I did notice a bit of glare from some steep viewing angles, but only when the test room’s harsh and bright lighting was at full blast.
The A95K features a heat dissipation layer that’s absent from Samsung’s and LG’s OLEDs. This allows the TV to remain bright if you have a constant highlight present on-screen. As for how Sony handles burn-in (elements that remain visible, as with old CRTs if you left a static image in place too long) under such circumstances, I don’t know, and I didn’t want to find out on Sony’s dime. Suffice it to say that OLED panels are not the best technology for static image display.
Processing defects were exceedingly rare and minor. There was a touch of shimmer and moiré, but not on the scale you’ll see with LED-backlit LCD TVs. The same can be said for rendering fine lines and jaggies.
Note that Sony’s Motionflow smoothing setting didn’t cure the A95K’s judder issues, only increasing the CineMotion value tamed it–and tamed it well. Motion was very smooth.
The sound, thanks to Sony’s planar drivers, is spectacular for a flat-screen TV. It won’t replace top-tier outboard gear, but lay off purchasing a soundbar until you hear it–you might just decide you don’t need one. Most notably, the TV actually produces bass. And not a minuscule amount either.
Additionally, the A95K also supports Sony’s 3D audio devices such as the the SRS-NS7 neckband speakers we reviewed recently.
The Sony Bravia XR A95K-series is fantastic, but pricey
So, the Sony Bravia XR A95K is likely the best 4K UHD TV we’ve ever seen. But its primary competition–the 65-inch Samsung S95B–was selling for $1,200 less at the time of this review, and Samsung’s picture-processing prowess is just a gnat’s eyebrow behind Sony’s. During everyday use, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference. LG offers even cheaper OLED TVs, some of which are still among our favorites.
If you want the absolute best smart TV, you want one from the Sony Bravia XR A95K-series. If you don’t care about the two to five percent improvement you might never notice, a more efficient user interface (LG’s WebOS is also far better than Samsung’s Tizen), or superior onboard sound quality, then the competition offers the better bottom-line value.
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