Sony Bravia XR-55A95K Review: Superb Picture and Sound From Sony’s QD-LOED

Aside from one of the two remotes being a bit disappointing, the only false note is the appearance of the Bravia Cam. This little camera clips magnetically to the rear of the TV’s chassis and peeps Chad-like from the center-top of the screen. Sony intends it to be useful for gesture control, on-the-fly analysis of ambient lighting conditions, and other stuff at some point in the future. But for now it’s only good for making Google Duo video calls. How much did this add to the hefty asking price of the XR-5A95K? “Too much” is my guess.

Setup is as straightforward or involved as you want it to be. Sony’s given a fair degree of autonomy to the end user, but getting an impressive image out of the A95K doesn’t require too much fiddling. And once the screen has been set up to your satisfaction, it’s an enjoyable-to-engrossing watch.

Brightest OLED?

Before you get entranced by all the things the Sony is good at, though, you’ll have to get beyond the fact that this “brighter than the brightest OLED TV” technology isn’t really all that much brighter. Where it scores, though, is in the amount of detail, variation, and insight it’s capable of revealing in the brightest scenes.

A viewing of The Midnight Sky makes the point in fine style. It’s a confused movie, but its Dolby Vision HDR picture and Dolby Atmos soundtrack are ideal for showcasing the A95K’s strengths, which are numerous and considerable.

As befits a film set mostly in space, black tones abound, and in the long-established OLED manner, they’re lustrous, deep, and varied. When brightness intrudes, rather than bleaching out and becoming uniform, the Sony retains the detail within them and offers very nice gradations of brightness. This is not in any way typical of “traditional” OLED TVs, and it makes the Sony feel more convincing off the bat.

Between these extremes, the color balance manages to agreeably combine vibrancy and naturalism. Skin tones, in particular, are always believable, and the A95K has no problem differentiating a healthy complexion from an unwell one. 

Where the other broad disciplines of picture-making are concerned (edge definition, depth of field, pattern stability) the A95K proves utterly assured. Its pictures are smooth and refined, yet packed with detail and variation.

Switching to a UHD sports broadcast allows the Sony to showcase its excellent motion control. It’s challenging enough when onscreen objects are moving unpredictably and often in opposition to the movement of the camera that’s televising—doubly so when this is happening on a big area of uniform color. But the A95K grips motion with complete authority. 

If you don’t exist on an exclusive diet of 4K content, the Sony’s an effective upscaler, although it has its limitations. High-definition content looks great, not as nuanced as native 4K stuff, naturally, and not entirely immune from picture noise when the going gets complex, but the A95K is a match for the best of its nominal rivals. Only when you step down to real poverty-level content does the Sony throw in the towel somewhat. Older programming can somehow look coarse and soft at the same time.

Game for Gaming

Gamers of all kinds will enjoy the A95K but, unsurprisingly, it gets on particularly well with Sony’s PlayStation 5. All of the best features of the next-gen console can be exploited by this TV, and while input lag of around 21 milliseconds is nothing special, the delay is only going to be perceptible to the most demanding gamers. (And they tend to have dedicated monitors on which to do their thing, anyway.) The rest of us can enjoy the extraordinary picture fidelity and wide-ranging color palette, and especially the way the A95K handles lighting effects. 

Some TV manufacturers have entered into alliances with audio companies in order to beef up the sound of their screens. Bowers & Wilkins’ collaboration with Philips on some of its high-end OLED TVs springs to mind. Sony is a well-regarded audio company in its own right, and considering there’s no visible audio system whatsoever attached to the A95K, it’s a very impressive-sounding television.

Low frequencies are gratifyingly low and have real body to them, as well as good control. Detail levels are high throughout, dialog projects well, and the Sony can get oppressively loud before it starts to lose its composure. 

The sound stage it creates is both wider and taller than the screen it derives from, and the presentation is passably dynamic. So unless you’re resolved to spend more money, an audio upgrade in the form of a soundbar is probably not necessary.

In the final analysis, the QD-OLED Sony Bravia XR-55A95K doesn’t tear up the OLED TV rulebook. It undeniably advances the game, but it doesn’t change it. What it does do is add to the list of exceptionally capable Sony televisions that have always been priced to match. 

This sort of money for a 55-inch TV is significant (and the 65-incher costs $500 more), even for a TV that hides a very effective audio system inside its chassis, makes good on the latent promise of your next-gen games console, and is a straightforward pleasure to watch. But the price is justified. Probably. Just about.

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