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I not too long ago launched into a quest for a new 4K TV, after having lived fortunately with an HDTV for 10 years. As typically occurs in purchases like this, I wound up spending greater than I had deliberate and received one thing higher than I anticipated. We’re empty nesters, and there’s just one TV in our modest swankienda; we spend a few hours an evening watching it. I wished one thing that may final us not less than one other 10 years.
I wound up with a 55-inch Sony Bravia, a XR55X90J. It’s a 2021 mannequin, launched at this yr’s digital CES commerce present, and one which had been anxiously awaited by TV geeks. It replaces final yr’s X900H, and is available in 4 sizes: 50, 55, 65 and 75 inches. I purchased it from Amazon.com and paid about $1,200 for it. That was roughly $500 greater than I’d deliberate to spend initially, however to date I’m glad I did.
(It will likely be useful so that you can learn final week’s Launch Notes e-newsletter and its information to buying a TV earlier than you proceed, in case you have not already, because it incorporates an evidence of the maddening acronyms round 4K TV tech. In the event you subscribe, it’s in your inbox. In the event you haven’t subscribed but or deleted final Tuesday’s subject, you may learn the information on Forbes’ website.)
The X90J is an LED TV, which implies it makes use of LED lights to light up a liquid-crystal show, or LCD. The LEDs are behind the display, with the sunshine pushed out via tiny dots. That is typically known as Quantum Dot know-how, however Sony calls it a “Triluminous” show. That is essential to know as a result of the X90J sits close to the highest of Sony’s line of LED TVs, slightly below its higher-end – and higher-priced – OLED TVs, that are identified for his or her greater distinction and brighter colours. The X90J approaches the image high quality of an OLED in some facets.
However OLED TVs are too wealthy for my pockets, so this Sony mannequin received me the place I wanted to be when it comes to high quality and options. Moreover an awesome image, I wished:
• At the very least 4 HDMI ports with assist for the HDMI 2.1 normal and ARC/eARC. I wished to make use of the 2021 Apple TV 4K as the first approach to watch films and TV exhibits, and to work its finest, it wants that HDMI 2.1 assist.
• HDR assist, in addition to assist for each Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Imaginative and prescient video.
• An over-the-air tuner that helps the brand new ATSC 3.0 normal, which permits for 4K video from native broadcast stations.
• Full Array Native Dimming, which I didn’t know I wished till I discovered about it. It’s this function that basically drove me over my funds.
Right here’s the way it breaks down:
It’s by no means easy to unpack and arrange a big-screen TV like this, however Sony’s design made it much less onerous. You may both mount it on a wall, or connect legs to be used on a TV stand; I selected the latter. Putting in the legs was a snap – they’ve outsized tabs that slide into slots on the underside of the TV. It’s nonetheless a two-person job, however it’s so much higher than having to make use of a screwdriver.
Sony’s new TVs use the Google TV interface (extra on that in a second), however you can too set it up with out that. The setup course of walks you thru both strategy, and each are easy. There’s an audio setup course of that makes use of a sequence of very loud, staccato bursts whilst you purpose Sony’s non-backlit distant on the display. It provides the TV’s audio system a really feel for the room for simulated encompass sound, and it’ll scare the bejeezus out of your cats.
You’re additionally proven settings for the type of data gathered by the TV, and given the choice to permit or deny it. You may forestall personalised advertisements from showing on the house display, however you may’t forestall advertisements altogether. That’s simply part of doing enterprise with Google.
In case you are planning to make use of a streaming stick that plugs straight into an HDMI port, reminiscent of an Amazon Fireplace TV or a Roku stick, remember that the 4 ports on this TV are shut collectively. After I plugged in a Fireplace TV stick, it blocked one of many ports subsequent to it.
Additionally notice that solely two of the 4 HDMI ports assist the two.1 normal.
The Google TV software program (till not too long ago branded as Android TV) is superb. It’s easy, intuitive and places the apps you use most on the prime of the display. It additionally learns what you watch and can make suggestions drawn from all of your content material sources, together with broadcast, cable, streaming and on-demand. You may additional fine-tune it by ranking prompt content material.
You should utilize the Sony-supplied distant, or you may press the Google Assistant button and management the TV by voice. It really works in addition to any voice-based assistant, and positively higher than Apple’s Siri. And since Google TV is searchable throughout all of your sources, the finest approach to search out the exhibits and films you need to watch is basically by simply asking Google to search out it for you.
In the event you wish to futz together with your TV’s settings, you’ll love the X90J. Sony’s settings are detailed and deep, and dealing with them may be like falling down a rabbit gap. However for fast tweaks, urgent the settings button on the distant brings up an editable row of panels on the backside of the display with the mostly modified settings. Need to change the video mode from Normal to Cinema to eyeball-melting Vivid? Swap from a soundbar to the built-in audio system? Increase the brightness? Greater than a dozen panels may be scrolled via, and there’s a common Settings panel for full entry.
Settings are additionally particular to completely different inputs. You may configure the audio and video in another way for every content material supply, be it a recreation console, streaming field, cable or over-the-air channels. There are limits, although. For instance, units that use Dolby Imaginative and prescient get restricted settings tweaks as a result of the know-how is designed to ship the perfect colours and distinction by default.
The X90J’s image is glorious. Out of the field, colours are shiny and distinction is sharp. As with OLED shows, blacks listed below are very black, even in a well-lit room. Numerous that has to do with the Full Array Native Dimming function, which breaks the Sony’s image into 24 zones during which the LEDs fireplace independently. This function can also have a facet impact referred to as “blooming,” during which light-colored textual content on darkish backgrounds can seem with a halo impact. The X90J suffers solely a light case of this; you actually must look to see it.
As I discussed earlier, there are a number of video modes with pre-set tweaks – Vivid, Cinema, IMAX Cinema, Sport, Graphics, Photograph and Customized. In case you are watching in the Netflix app, you’ll additionally see a Netflix mode, which supposedly configures the image to match these utilized by Netflix’s personal enhancing screens. I don’t personal a recreation console, so can’t touch upon how that mode impacts the look of video games. However the others didn’t actually appear to enhance the look of something a lot – I desire Normal mode for almost the whole lot.
The Customized mode is beneficial, as a result of it means that you can play with settings to see in case you can enhance them. However even with this, I by no means actually arrived at any configuration that beat out Normal.
The most effective-looking content material is that which makes use of Dolby Imaginative and prescient, to the purpose that I go in search of exhibits and films that use it. Professional tip: Watch the movie model of Lin-Handbook Miranda’s “Within the Heights” on HBO Max, which is shot in Dolby Imaginative and prescient and actually exhibits off what that tech can do.
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Lastly, the X90J can ship video at a refresh fee of as much as 120 Hz, which primarily is used for gaming. Most films and exhibits show at 60 Hz. The X90J will finally get Variable Refresh Price functionality, which might modify how briskly the display can change relying on what’s wanted – it’s coming in a software program replace later this yr, Sony says.
Right here’s the one place I had issues with the X90J. I’m utilizing it with an LG 2.1 soundbar related by way of the optical hyperlink on the TV. After I received it arrange, I couldn’t get the sound to simply play via the soundbar. Even when I attempted to flip off the built-in audio system in settings, they nonetheless performed together with the soundbar.
I wound up reaching out to Sony tech assist. It took two completely different chat periods, however I lastly received it to work correctly. The repair: Unplug the whole lot, take away the ability twine for not less than two minutes, then plug the whole lot again in. That brought on the X90J to reconfigure itself and re-recognize the soundbar, and the whole lot works.
The X90J’s inside audio system usually are not too dangerous, positioned within the again of the TV so sound is bounced off the encompassing partitions. They lack enough bass, however highs and mid-range sounds are spectacular for built-in audio system. The TV helps Dolby Atmos spatial sound. My soundbar doesn’t assist it, sadly.
However in some unspecified time in the future, I’ll improve. And that’s the factor I actually like concerning the X90J. I really feel like I’m profiting from solely a fraction of its capabilities. I’m set for enlargement properly into the following 10 years with this TV.
Have questions on 4K TVs? Ask me!