Sony X90J series review: Polished expertise, excellent picture

In my years of reviewing I’ve discovered that the best TVs made by manufacturers like Vizio and TCL can carry out in addition to better-known nameplates like Samsung and the TV granddaddy of all of them, Sony. The query TV consumers face is whether or not to pay a pair hundred {dollars} extra for the sleeker design and superior cachet of an “S” model. The midpriced X90J is Sony’s strongest try but to persuade you to pony up — only a bit.

Don’t Like

  • More costly than competing TVs with comparable picture high quality.

The X90J has a greater picture than final 12 months’s commendable X900H, and whereas the X90J did not carry out fairly in addition to the TCL 6-Series, the 2 had been very shut in my side-by-side comparisons. The Sony is vivid with nice contrast for each commonplace and HDR content material, and whereas it would not match the punch of the TCL or the Hisense 65U8G — each of which value much less — it is nonetheless an excellent performer.

Sony’s smooth appears and the Google TV working system rating extra factors in its favor, as does its next-gen console support (it has 4K/120fps inputs and Sony guarantees VRR… someday) and built-in NextGen TV tuner. But whether or not you buy this TV actually comes all the way down to how a lot you worth Sony’s model. The X90J might be the most effective worth in Sony’s TV line this year, however in order for you the best value overall, it is nonetheless the TCL.

Sizes in Sony X90J series

Model quantity Screen measurement
XR50X90J 50-inch
XR55X90J 55-inch
XR65X90J 65-inch
XR75X90J 75-inch

In addition to the fashions above, Sony can also be promoting the 100-inch X92J with comparable specs. It will get its personal mannequin line, nonetheless, due to a distinct bezel configuration and, , its humongous measurement. It ships later this summer for $20,000.

Lean again in black

The X90J would not deign to make use of silver or off-gray to distinguish itself — it merely wears all black, on a regular basis. From a distance it appears like each different black slab of TV, however nearer inspection reveals touches just like the beveled body edge and a slim slit underneath the refined Sony emblem. The stand’s legs angle the panel again barely from plumb, an impact seen in profile however not straight-on.

David Katzmaier/CNET

The distant is old-school Sony: Way too many buttons, most of which you will by no means use. I desire the sleeker, easier clickers of Samsung and Roku, in addition to the motion-infused wands of LG. 

Google TV, no Chromecast required

Until TCL’s Google TVs arrive later this 12 months, Sony is the one TV maker to construct in Google’s newest big-screen working system. Google TV, additionally out there on the new Chromecast, has a number of upgrades and enhancements in comparison with the older Android TV system discovered on TVs from Hisense and others. Both programs provide the identical number of hundreds of apps — greater than Samsung and LG, and on par with Roku and Fire TV — however Google TV is extra polished to make use of.

Sony X90J

David Katzmaier/CNET

The For You part allows you to select which providers seem in Google TV’s listing of advisable exhibits. Choices embrace main names like from Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max and Sling TV, however as standard Netflix is not included. Search leans closely into Google Assistant voice instructions, with recommended phrases like “Show me free movies” front-and-center, and I respect the flexibility to dive deeper into sections like Comedy TV Shows or New Movies. All informed, I nonetheless desire the straightforward, app-based menus of Roku, partially as a result of Google TV nonetheless appears cluttered with stuff I do not need, nevertheless it’s a extra succesful system than Samsung, LG or Vizio.

New for this 12 months is Sony’s BRAVIA Core streaming service, which delivers Sony Pictures and a few Imax films in “UHD BD equivalent quality with streaming up to 80Mbps.” If you are a stickler for picture high quality and like the choice, it could be value shopping for the movies there as a substitute of a competing service like Vudu, Apple or Amazon, however personally I’d select the larger compatibility of one other service. I did respect that my X90J pattern unlocked 5 free films, nonetheless.

Local dimming, meet game-friendly connections

Key TV options

Display expertise LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with native dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR appropriate HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Smart TV Google TV
Remote Standard voice

The X90J is Sony’s most inexpensive 2021 TV with full-array local dimming, a characteristic that illuminates totally different areas of the display independently for higher distinction — and an important picture enhancement for any critical LCD-based TV. Unlike Vizio, Hisense or TCL, Sony would not disclose the variety of dimming zones on its TVs, and whereas extra zones usually equate to raised efficiency, that is not at all times the case.

Other picture-centric extras embrace a local 120Hz refresh rate, a notable enchancment on paper over the fake 120Hz refresh rates (they’re truly 60Hz native) discovered on cheaper TVs. The X90J helps all the major HDR formats, including Dolby Vision. Unlike Samsung, TCL and Vizio, Sony would not use quantum dots, so its HDR color gamut is not as extensive. 

Sony X90J

David Katzmaier/CNET
  • 4x HDMI inputs
  • 2x USB ports
  • Composite AV enter
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • 1x headphone/subwoofer audio output
  • 1x RF (antenna) enter
  • RS-232 port (minijack)

The X90J’s enter choice is excellent, if not but as succesful as some rivals. The first two HDMI inputs are fundamental HDMI 2.0 whereas Input 3 and 4 work with some HDMI 2.1 features, specifically 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second — nice for avid gamers who need to reap the benefits of excessive body charges from an Xbox Series X or Sony PlayStation 5. Input 3 additionally helps enhanced audio return channel

No enter handles VRR (variable refresh rate) nonetheless, an additional most rivals provide. Sony says VRR will arrive with a future firmware replace, however did not specify when. It stated the identical factor concerning the X900H from final 12 months, and that TV nonetheless would not help VRR. Neither does Sony’s personal PS5 console, but.

The X90J’s antenna enter incorporates a built-in ATSC 3.0 over-the-air tuner, which permits it to obtain NextGen TV broadcasts. Those are nonetheless solely out there in a small variety of markets so I did not get the possibility to take a look at this characteristic, nevertheless it’s good to know that when the broadcasts change into extra widespread, X90J homeowners will not have to attach an exterior tuner field to look at. The X90J is the cheapest 2021 TV with a NextGen tuner.

Unlike lots of Samsung’s and LG’s units, the Sony truly has an analog video enter, albeit composite-only, and I additionally respect having a headphone jack.

Sony X90J

David Katzmaier/CNET

Picture high quality comparisons

Sony’s baseline native dimming mannequin has excellent picture high quality, with deep black ranges, vivid highlights and excellent accuracy. It cannot get fairly as vivid as both the TCL or Hisense I used for this comparability, a distinction that confirmed up in vivid rooms and with vivid HDR photos specifically, however its distinction and black ranges in blended content material had been on par and in lots of areas it was extra correct than both one.

Dim lighting: The X90J carried out nicely in house theater conditions, as I noticed in the course of the darkish Dol Guldur part of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on commonplace Blu-ray (Chapter 3). With brightness calibrated for a dim room, the Sony, TCL and Hisense all regarded very comparable when it comes to black stage in areas just like the letterbox bars and shadows of Gandalf’s cage, for instance. Details in near-black areas just like the stone stairs and ruined crags of the fortress appeared pure and well-defined on the entire TVs, and whereas the Sony had a slight edge it was shut sufficient to require a side-by-side comparability to discern.

Bright lighting: The X90J is a vivid TV, with comparable luminance to the X900H final 12 months. It did not outshine the competing TCL or Hisense fashions in my side-by-side comparability, nonetheless.

Light output in nits

TV Brightest (SDR) Accurate shade (SDR) Brightest (HDR) Accurate shade (HDR)
Samsung QN65QN90A 1,622 1,283 2,596 1,597
Hisense 65U8G 1,569 1,500 2,214 2,214
TCL 65R635 (2020) 1,114 792 1,292 1,102
Sony XR65X90J 951 815 945 847
Sony XBR-65X900H (2020) 841 673 989 795
Vizio P65Q9-H1 (2020) 768 629 1,305 1,084
Samsung QN65Q80T (2020) 664 503 1,243 672
LG OLED65G1 377 334 769 763

Vivid is Sony’s brightest commonplace dynamic vary (SDR) setting and as standard it has extremely inaccurate shade. For an correct picture with SDR I used the Custom setting with brightness at Max and Peak Brightness turned as much as High — it labored, however I’d desire Sony to have a separate, correct picture mode for vivid rooms, like Vizio with its Calibrated mode.

Unlike earlier years the brightest excessive dynamic vary (HDR) mode wasn’t Vivid, as a substitute it was the more-accurate Standard. Since Standard is about 100 nits (roughly 10%) brighter than Custom, it is a first rate alternative in order for you most brightness for HDR however do not demand the accuracy of Custom.

The Sony’s display end was superior to the TCL and Hisense at dimming vivid reflections and preserving distinction and black ranges, though the distinction wasn’t main. I most well-liked the Sony’s bright-room picture to that of the opposite two in most scenes, though it wasn’t nearly as good general as Samsung fashions I’ve examined beforehand.

Color accuracy: The Sony was stable earlier than calibration, other than a slight bluish tinge, and afterward was excellent. The Battle of the Five Armies has a muted palette till the very finish when Bilbo returns house, and the sensible greens of the Shire hillside, the blue of the sky and even the colourful yellow, purple and blue doorways got here by means of superbly on the X90J. As standard nonetheless it did not outpace the opposite units considerably after adjustment, both with the film or take a look at patterns.

Video processing: The X90J had no points delivering correct 1080p/24 cadence with its Motionflow controls within the Off place, which might be the most effective for movie purists. Meanwhile the Auto setting launched the buttery smoothness of the soap opera effect. Then there’s the Custom setting, which has adjustable Smoothness and Clearness.

A Smoothness setting above 1 introduces important SOE, whereas 0 turns it off. I truly did not thoughts the slight smoothing that the 1 setting introduces (some purists would possibly), however its impact on movement decision was actually slight, so I’d in all probability persist with 0. The Clearness setting ramps up black frame insertion to improve motion resolution, nevertheless it would not have any impact (other than dimming the picture) until you’ve got acquired Smoothness at 2 or larger. In different phrases, there isn’t any strategy to get the most effective of each worlds — excessive movement decision and no SOE — with one setting.

Sony talks up its cognitive processing however with The Hobbit I discovered it robust to pick any benefit the X90J had over the opposite two TVs. Details regarded comparable and until I performed with the Reality Creation settings, which added additional processing I did not actually like, any variations had been refined at greatest.

Uniformity: Each of the screens was roughly comparable at delivering a fair picture throughout the complete floor, with no main vivid or darkish spots, banding or different main points. From off-angle the X90J was barely higher at sustaining shade constancy than the TCL and about the identical because the Hisense, whereas the Sony’s black stage constancy from off-angle was just like the others, though it did present much less blooming than both one.

Sony X90J

David Katzmaier/CNET

Gaming: Although it lacks the flowery sport extras like devoted modes and standing shows discovered on 2021 fashions from LG and Samsung, the X90J remains to be an excellent gaming TV. Playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on Xbox One X, its default 4K HDR picture was excellent, with higher shadow element than Hisense and about the identical because the TCL — essential for making out hidden enemies. Highlights and general brightness had been dimmer than the opposite two however the Sony nonetheless had loads of HDR punch.

With each the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the X90J dealt with 4K/120 fps enter on HDMI 3 and 4. At first that did not appear to be the case, nonetheless — each consoles indicated that they’d maxed out at 4K/60 after I initially related them. I surfaced the problem with Sony and was informed to ensure the HDMI setting (discovered at Settings > Channels & Inputs > External Inputs > HDMI sign format) was right. 

Changing it from Enhanced format (Dolby Vision) — which limits enter to 4K/60 — to Enhanced format did the trick; solely within the latter setting will the X90J deal with 120fps enter at 4K. Playing Ori and the Will O Wisps on Series X regarded suitably easy. It’s value noting that non-Sony TVs delivered 4K/120 routinely in my checks, with out me having to regulate these sorts of settings.

The X90J served up low input lag in game mode at round 17 milliseconds for each 1080p and 4K HDR. That’s a pair milliseconds extra (worse) than the X900H final 12 months and a pair extra off the tempo of the least-laggy TVs, for those who’re counting, however I doubt even the twitchiest of avid gamers would discover.

HDR and 4K video: The Sony X90J delivered an excellent HDR picture. While it did not match the affect of the opposite two, each of which regarded persistently brighter, the Sony was extra pleasing with blended theatrical content material and in addition confirmed much less blooming. Between the three I most well-liked the TCL in most scenes general, however the Sony is an in depth second.

Watching the montage from the Spears and Munsil 4K Blu-ray, for instance, vivid pure scenes regarded excellent on all three TVs, however the TCL and particularly the Hisense had been markedly brighter, an impression confirmed by spot measurements. The setting solar above the lake, for instance (2:10) measured 391, 560 and 621 nits on the Sony, TCL and Hisense respectively, a distinction that was simply seen. Another apparent distinction got here with the objects on largely black backgrounds, such because the peacock feather (2:59), the place the Sony’s “black” appeared as extra of a darkish grey across the edges of the feather and the corners of the display, in comparison with the deeper black of the opposite two, particularly the TCL. 

To its credit score the Sony hewed nearer to the goal EOTF than the Hisense, which confirmed some brighter shadows among the many buildings and a flatter, less-natural look on the crocodile, for instance, however the distinction wasn’t drastic. The Sony’s HDR shade additionally regarded excellent, regardless of its smaller gamut measurements. The flowers and butterflies appeared lush and well-saturated, higher than the TCL and about the identical because the Hisense. 

When I switched again to the 4K HDR Blu-ray of Five Armies, the Sony got here into its personal. Highlights and brighter scenes had been nonetheless dimmer than the others however in blended darkish scenes, like Dol Guldur in Chapter 9, the X90J maintained darker letterbox bars than the opposite two, specifically the Hisense, for a extra theatrical look. Between the three the TCL regarded greatest, placing probably the most pleasing stability between brightness and black stage for probably the most constant distinction, however the Sony was very shut.

The Sony’s letterbox bars additionally betrayed much less blooming, or stray illumination, then both of the others, with the ultrabright Hisense once more the worst offender. Comparing colours within the movie, from the raging purple of Sauron’s flames to the mild hillside of the Shire, the Sony and Hisense regarded probably the most pleasing as soon as once more, with the TCL only a step less-saturated. 

Sony X90J

David Katzmaier/CNET

Sony X90J picture settings, HDR notes and charts

CNET is now not publishing superior picture settings for any TVs we review. Instead, we’ll give extra basic suggestions to get the most effective picture with out itemizing the detailed white stability or shade administration system (CMS) settings we might have used to calibrate the TV. As at all times, the settings offered are a guidepost, and in order for you probably the most correct picture you must get an expert calibration.

Prior to calibration, the Cinema, IMAX Enhanced and Custom settings had been probably the most correct on the X90J, with the slight edge to Custom for its extra linear gamma. All three modes confirmed considerably bluish shade temperature and better brightness than my dim-room goal. After adjusting brightness to hit my 137-nit goal, the fundamental two-point shade temperature controls labored fantastically to calibrate the blue forged away, to the extent that I did not want to the touch the out there 10-point system in any respect. Primary and secondary shade accuracy was the same story: correct sufficient that I did not even miss the Sony’s lack of a CMS.

Dark room settings

Display & Sound, Picture menu

— Basic sub-menu

  • Picture mode: Custom
  • Auto picture mode: Off
  • Light sensor: Off

— Brightness sub-menu

  • Brightness: 5
  • Contrast: 90
  • Gamma: -1
  • HDR tone mapping: Off [grayed out for SDR]
  • Black stage: 50
  • Black alter: Off
  • Adv. distinction enhancer: Off
  • Auto native dimming: Medium
  • Peak luminance: Off

— Color sub-menu

  • Color: 50
  • Hue: 0
  • Color temperature: Expert 1
  • Live Color: Off

— Clarity sub-menu

  • Sharpness: 20
  • Reality Creation: Off
  • Random noise discount: Off
  • Digital noise discount: Off
  • Smooth gradation: Low

— Motion sub-menu

  • Motionflow: Off
  • CineMotion: High

— Video sign sub-menu

  • HDR mode: Auto
  • HDMI video vary: Auto
  • Color area: Auto

— Adv. shade adjustment sub-menu

  • HDR mode: Auto
  • HDMI video vary: Auto
  • Color area: Auto

Bright room settings

— Brightness sub-menu:

  • Brightness: Max [or to taste]
  • Peak luminance: High

[no other changes from above]

HDR notes: Custom delivered probably the most correct picture for HDR, monitoring the goal EOTF barely higher than Cinema or IMAX Enhanced and a lot better than any of the opposite modes. Among the three HDR Tone Mapping settings (Off, Gradation Preferred and Brightness Preferred), Off adopted the EOTF closest however the Cinema default, Gradation, was additionally fairly shut. Color gamut measured comparatively low at 87% of P3 whereas secondary shade measurements had been each excellent.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 951 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.25 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.76 Good
Dark grey error (30%) 0.78 Good
Bright grey error (80%) 0.34 Good
Avg. shade checker error 2.00 Good
Avg. saturation sweeps error 1.54 Good
Avg. shade error 1.72 Good
Red error 1.17 Good
Green error 1.89 Good
Blue error 2.87 Good
Cyan error 1.52 Good
Magenta error 1.09 Good
Yellow error 1.76 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion decision (max) 1200 Good
Motion decision (dejudder off) 400 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 13.8 Good
Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 945 Average
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 86.71 Poor
ColorMatch HDR error 2.72 Good
Avg. shade checker error 1.67 Good
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 13.5 Good

Sony X90J CNET review calibration results by David Katzmaier on Scribd

Portrait Displays Calman calibration software program was used on this review.

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