Sony X90J BRAVIA XR Full Array LED 4K TV Review – Cinema on demand

The Sony X90J Bravia XR has been one of the trickier TV’s for me to review. You see, just like gaming monitors at a certain price range, it’s really hard to find an objectively bad one. The same is true for 4K Smart TV’s between $1500 – $2000 where the X90J starts at $1795 for a 50-inch model. This is considerably cheaper than the excellent LG C1 OLED I reviewed not too long ago and begs the question — is the X90J half as good as the LG C1 given the price?

Obviously not. The X90J is a great TV all around with a lovely 4K, Full Array LED panel powered by a Cognitive Processor that apparently understands how humans see and hear. It’s got all the major HDR formats including Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for cinematic audio. Gamers will come for the HDMI 2.1 for 4K 120fps and Google TV smart features make it a breeze to operate.

After a few weeks living with the X90J, I’m walking away surprised at how smart this TV is when it comes to displaying all sorts of content with almost no input from me.

Sony X90J BRAVIA XR Review

The X90J unit I am reviewing is the 55-inch model that retails for $1,995 which is about $800 less than a similarly sized LG C1. The X90J isn’t an OLED TV but rather an Full Array LED LCD with a VA panel which basically means excellent contrast, vibrant color and fast response.

Sony’s website doesn’t say it but a little digging around the internet revealed that the X90J has a total of 24 dimming zones which is quite few for a panel this large. For context, the Asus ROG monitor I reviewed a little while ago has 512 zones on a much smaller 34-inch panel.

Nevertheless, the X90J performs wonderfully with almost imperceptible transition between the zones. This is great because I couldn’t see any of the halo-effect normally associated with such panels. The panel handles reflections well but because it’s a VA panel, things don’t look so good unless you are sitting in relatively front and center.

The X90J produces a great picture with rich color helped by the aforementioned rich contrast. The TV has Sony’s Cognitive Processor XR that uses a gamut of AI wizardry to tune the image in real-time. Depending on what you are looking at, the tv adjusts instantaneously to give you the best possible looking picture. There are several picture modes including Graphics, Photos for people who want to connect their PC to this TV.

I am impressed with how the X90J can drastically vary the picture based on input. Games and graphics looks vibrant and rich with deep contrast while movies and series in Dolby Vision are faithful homages to the directors film vision. The X90J has three dedicated modes for film — Dolby Vision Light, Dark and Imax Enhanced. There’s also a special Netflix mode that is also tuned specifically for Netflix Original content.

One of things I noticed a lot with the LG C1 was the Soap Opera Effect which is basically what happens when a TV over sharpens and smoothens motion so films look more like a Soap opera than a film. This might be great for watching Sports or the news but not a movie. The X90J has been the best TV I’ve seen that highlights the difference and uses that fancy Cognitive Processor to identify apply all the right settings and color profile to match the filmmakers vision — meaning, movies look like what you’d see in the cinema.

Of course, the X90J gives you almost complete control over the final picture via a custom profile that you can tune however you want. The on-screen menu is easy to navigate with clear descriptions of what everything is and does but it’s still won’t be easy for everyone but the nerdiest of picture nerds to get as good a balance as the presets

Gaming for the next gen

The Sony X90J plays nicely with PC’s connected via HDMI 2.1

The X90J has all the modern trappings for a good gaming experience. It has a fast VA panel, two HDMI 2.1 port for 4K 120 fps gaming that the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are famous for. Other features include ALLM and VRR though at the time of this writing, that feature hasn’t been enabled. Like many of you, I don’t have either of the new consoles yet so I could only test the gaming quality by attaching an RTX 3080 powered gaming laptop I’m reviewing to the TV via a high speed HDMI cable.

Initially, I couldn’t get Windows 10 to recognize the 120Hz refresh of the TV and a little search on the interwebs revealed that I had to dig deep into the X90J’s system settings and change the default format of the HDMI 2.1 port. Turns out, it defaults to Enhanced Dolby Vision which lo and behold only supports 4K 60Hz which is a bummer. Anyhoo, after fixing that, Windows acknowledged the 120Hz refresh and I was able to do some serious 4K gaming.

Be warned, you’ll need a hell of a rig to drive 4K 120fps in most games. I managed to get Doom Eternal to run at 120fps by tweaking the settings and the X90J was fluid and responsive and the HDR looked amazing. Forza Horizon 5 was absolutely stunning though I could only hit 4K 60fps with ultra-settings. Thanks to the ALLM, the X90J knows when a console is connected and automatically sets the Game picture mode for the lowest latency and responsiveness.

Disappointingly, there is no dedicated game interface like on LG’s or Samsung TV’s to help you tweak the TV’s gaming settings which is a sad to see missing. Also missing is VRR or any type of Adaptive Sync but as I said, unless you have a monstrous rig, most games I tested never exceeded 80-100fps so this was never a problem. All in all, the X90J gives a wonderful gaming experience with no perceptible lag.

Sounds as good as it gets

The Sony X90J has a wealth of ports including two next-gen HDMI 2.1 and eARC

In keeping with the cinema feel, Sony has gone to lengths to ensure that the sound coming out of the X90J can match the quality of what you see on screen. The TV uses two 10W speakers in the back as well as two side-mounted tweeters to create surround sound even if the content you’re watching is stereo. The TV can map your room using some fancy echo location to create a suitable sound profile to match.

Now let me be clear — this is still a TV and the speakers can only do so much. Yes, the sound is crisp, clear and can get loud but as usual, it’s lacking in bass. It’s still very usable sound and I enjoyed watching content and even playing games — especially those which support Dolby Atmos. The reality is that if you really want the cinematic experience Sony promises, you’ll have to fork out for one of their Atmos soundbars that will sit nicely between the X90J’s feet.

Besides Dolby Atmos, the X90J has several dedicated sound profiles for gaming, music, dialogue and more so you have plenty of options. I do wish it had an AI Sound mode like the LG’s which automatically detects the type of content on screen and adjusts accordingly. Overall, I’d say the X90J sounds great — for a TV.

Powered by Google

Google TV is simple and intuitive with plenty of apps and smart feature

The X90J has a ton of smarts that’s all held together by Google TV. If you’ve ever used an Android Smartphone, then this experience will be right familiar. Google TV is very simple, well thought out and fairly snappy operating system. Setting up is wonderfully simple especially if you have said Android phone which will allow you to automatically sign in to all your apps and services which, believe me, saves a ton of time and painful password entering using a remote.

In terms of interface layout, Google TV dashboard presents you with a selection of movies or shows it thinks you’ll like in a carousel that you can slide through. Beneath that is another row of top picks and beneath that is your apps. Being Google, you get all the essential streaming and TV apps — 7000 of them. The more you watch and rate content, the smarter the system gets at making recommendations for you.

The remote of the X90J really could be better

Additionally, you can control everything using either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Just press the mic button on the remote and talk away. You can tell the TV to search for content, load apps or control attached devices like your console. As long as you have any Google smart home devices, you can use the X90J as a hub for all of them which is very handy.

The Sony remote is a pretty standard, plastic log with a whole bunch of tiny rubber buttons, a navigation key and dedicated streaming app buttons. It’s functional but not much more and I honestly can’t say I like this remote. It’s rather plasticky with an odd textured back cover and really small rubber face buttons that just aren’t pleasant to use. The number of times my wife and i found ourselves squinting to find the volume mute button is testament to that. But you could of course, just voice commands I suppose.

Verdict

The Sony X90J BRAVIA XR isn’t the kind of TV that immediately wows you but the more you use it, the more you appreciate what it does to enhance your viewing pleasure. Watching content has been a joy not so much because of sharper images or mind-blowing colors like the LG but more like how it feels like being in a Cinema. Gaming is great especially for next-gen console owners but PC Gamers might be wary of the lack of VRR or Adaptive Sync. I also wish the TV had beefier speakers out of the box.

At $2000, the X90J is cheaper than a similarly sized OLED but still faces some stiff competition from screens like Samsung Q60A or TCL 6-Series Mini-LED TV’s which can often be found cheaper. But like I said at the start, in this price range, it’s so hard to find a TV that’s bad and the X90J is far from bad. It’s really good.


Sony Australia kindly loaned us the X90J BRAVIA XR for the purpose of this review.

Sony X90J BRAVIA XR Review
LIKES
Excellent picture processing
Google TV is intuitive
Great gaming performance
Great for streaming services
DISLIKES
Speakers could be better
Pricier than it needs to be
Remote isn't great to use
8.5
Bring cinema home

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Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

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