Sony Bravia X90J isn’t being sold as the brand’s best TV of 2021, but it’s best mid-range 4K option and the successor to last year’s popular X90H model.
Available in four sizes (50-inches, 55-inches, 65-inches and 75-inches), the Sony Bravia X90J comes kitted out with a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports, a revamped Google TV operating system and Sony’s XR Cognitive Processor.
These days, the processor inside your TV is where the magic happens. LG has the Alpha series, Samsung has the Quantum Processor, and the XR Cognitive Processor here is the same one inside Sony’s best TV: the MASTER Series A90J OLED TV.
Sony’s pitch for the XR Cognitive Processor is that it thinks the way that the human eye sees. It picks up on the part of the screen that’s most important and focuses on enhancing that rather than touching up the whole thing at once. For example, a close up might enhance a character’s eyes rather than their ears.
During our hands-on with the X90J, we got to see the difference that the XR Cognitive Processor makes in action. While it wasn’t mind-blowing, it was definitely noticeable.
Compared to the processor, the twin HDMI 2.1 ports on the X90J feel like a compromise. They aren’t the only ports on the TV, but they’re the ones that matter the most. If you want to rely on a soundbar rather than the TV’s own tweeters, or if your home entertainment setup includes more than two consoles, there might be some extra work required to make things fit together – since one of the HDMI 2.1 ports doubles as eARC. If you can make it work though, you’ll be able to get 4K playback at up to 120-frames-per-second.
One last stop in port-town: Although Sony advertises that the X90J has variable refresh rate support, this feature is not yet available, pending the release of a software update for the TV. If you’re looking to pair this TV up with an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, that’s definitely something worth keeping in mind.
While it isn’t OLED, Sony says that the Full Array LED backlight with XR Contrast Booster inside the Bravia X90J allows for higher peak brightness and deeper blacks. The impact of this feature was noticeable for content like the jazzy and explosive action sequence that opens Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, but even more prominent in older content that the XR Cognitive Processor has upscaled.
For HDR-heads and surround sound fanatics, the Sony X90J features Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and DTS X support. It also supports Netflix Calibrated Mode and IMAX Enhanced content if you can find it.
Like many modern smart TVs, the Sony Bravia X90J has a dedicated game mode. This setting basically turns off the post-processing inside the TV so that you can benefit from a reduced level of input lag.
During my hands-on with the TV, I found that it did help in the hectic shootouts of Resident Evil Village’s Mercenaries mode, but it definitely hurt the picture quality overall. In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, it shifted the tone of the colour and made things a bit grainier than they looked with Game Mode disabled.
I don’t know if I’d notice the additional input too much, but I definitely noticed the influence it had on the visuals. Of all the games I tested in Game Mode, Monster Hunter: Rise felt like the game that got the biggest bump from the feature.
The last part of the picture here is the new Google TV operating system. Previous Sony TVs have relied on Android TV. This one relies on the same software interface you’ll find in the new Chromecast with Google TV.
Personally, I found the new look – which pulls in content from pretty much every streaming service out there and puts it at the centre of the experience – to be a tangible improvement. Moment to moment, it reduces friction by cutting down on the number of menus you have to manage.
Most TV marketing comes down to big numbers, be it the number of pixels, the number of backlighting zones and the number of inches. It’s about keeping things simple. Most people who buy TVs care more about what they’re going to do with it than the minutiae of what’s going on inside it.
But here’s the thing. A lot of consumers aren’t really shopping based on peak performance. They just want something that’ll make everyday content consumption and gaming look good. Even in a time when next-generation display tech like OLED, Mini LED and Micro LED march towards affordability, buying TVs can feel like a senseless money sink.
The Sony X90J is not the kind of cheap TV you can walk in and out of ALDI with, but it’s priced to move at $1995 for the 50-inch model, $2295 for the 55-inch one, $2495 for the 65-inches and $4,299 for the 75-inch model.
After an evening messing around with it, my biggest takeaway is that the Sony Bravia X90J forgoes the opportunity to push boundaries in favour of strong fundamentals.
It’s not one for those looking for the latest and greatest or an acronym-laden argument for spending more money. But, if you’re after an easy answer to every home entertainment setup’s biggest question, Sony are hoping you’ll come away enticed by what the Bravia X90J has to offer.
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