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Sony Master Series XR-55A90J Review 2021

Sony is no stranger to OLED TVs, and impressed us with the Master A9G Series when we tested it two years ago. The Master Series A90J is Sony’s latest flagship OLED model, as well as its best TV to date. It’s one of the brightest OLED panels we’ve had in the lab, with one of the widest color gamuts. And it offers advanced features including far-field microphones for hands-free Google Assistant voice control and an XR Sound system that’s good enough to replace a dedicated soundbar. It’s undoubtedly pricey at $2,999.99 for the 55-inch XR-55A90J we tested, but it’s a worthy home theater splurge that easily earns our Editors’ Choice award.

A Premium Design

The A90J is a slim, simple, and stylish. The glass of the OLED panel runs edge to edge, with only a quarter-inch black border around the active picture. The bottom of the screen holds the only bezel, a similarly narrow brushed metal strip that holds the TV’s far-field microphones and indicator light. The aluminum-laminated OLED panel is only a fraction of an inch thick, though the back of the TV thickens out to 1.6 inches of plastic casings for the electronics that drive the screen, and the two actuators mounted behind the panel that provide the sound.

Two narrow, rectangular, gunmetal feet keep the A90J upright on flat surfaces. By default, the feet simply hold the TV stable, with the bottom of the screen nearly flush with your entertainment console. The feet can also be rotated to lift the TV up a few inches, in case you want to place a soundbar under it. The 83-inch model has a third configuration that moves the feet from the edges of the TV closer to the middle, so you can place the big screen on a surface that isn’t as wide as it is.

All ports and connections, except for the power cable, sit on the left side of the back of the TV. An HDMI port, two USB ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a 3.5mm combination composite video input and center speaker channel input, a 3.5mm remote receiver, and a pair of speaker terminals for the center speaker channel face left. The center speaker channel inputs let you connect an A/V receiver to use the TV’s built-in speakers to serve as the center channel for a larger surround system. Three more HDMI ports, another USB port, an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm RS-232C port, an optical audio output, and an antenna/cable connector face downward, just past the left-facing ports. Two of the HDMI ports (3 and 4) are 4K120-capable; the other two only support 4K60.

Sony Master Series A90J

The included remote is button-laden but elegant, thanks to a brushed metal plate on top giving it a sense of premium quality. It’s a long, slim wand with a circular navigation pad in the middle. A number pad and dedicated service buttons for Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube sit above the navigation panel, along with a Google Assistant button and a pinhole microphone. Volume and channel rockers and playback controls sit below the pad. It feels comfortable in the hand, and connects wirelessly to the TV so you don’t need direct line of sight to use it.

Google TV and Google Assistant

Sony is moving on from Android TV as its preferred smart platform in favor of Google TV. It’s effectively an upgraded, streamlined version of Android TV, providing largely the same apps, services, and features, but with a friendlier interface that more readily aggregates and recommends content.

All of the big streaming services are here, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Twitch, and YouTube. You can mirror your phone, tablet, or computer screen to the TV using Apple AirPlay or Google Cast.

Sony Master Series A90G

Google TV also provides access to Google Assistant. It lets you use voice commands to control compatible smart home devices (which includes virtually all major smart home brands at this point) and the TV itself, search for content to watch or listen to, and get general information like weather reports and sports scores.

Google Assistant is a standard feature on all televisions that use Android TV or Google TV, often accessed by pressing and holding the Google Assistant button on the remote and speaking into the microphone on it. And you can do this with the A90J, but you don’t have to, as the A90J features far-field microphones that let you use Google Assistant simply by saying, “OK, Google,” without pressing any buttons. It’s very useful if you want to just tell the TV what to do without picking up the remote. If you’re concerned about privacy, the microphone can be manually cut off using a switch on the back of the TV.

Sony Master Series A90J Performance

The Sony A90J is a 4K OLED TV with a 120Hz refresh rate. It supports high dynamic range (HDR) content in HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision.

We test TVs using a Klein K-80 colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ Calman software with methodologies based on Imaging Science Foundation’s calibration techniques.

As an OLED TV, the A90J can’t get as bright as modern high-end LED-backlit LCD TVs. However, Sony is pushing the technology’s brightness as far as it can with new panel engineering and its OLED XR Contrast Pro image processing. With an HDR10 signal, the A90J shows a peak brightness of 180.833cd/m^2 with a full-screen field of white. This is unimpressive, though normal for an OLED panel completely lit up. OLEDs get significantly brighter the less area that needs to be fully illuminated, and with an 18% field of white, the TV’s peak brightness jumps to 632.348cd/m^2. With a 10% field, it shoots up even higher to 775.534cd/m^2.

This still isn’t as bright as high-end LCD TVs like the Hisense H9G (1,146.921cd/m^2), but it’s very bright for OLED. And since it’s an OLED, it can produce perfect black levels for an effective “infinite” contrast, something LCDs can’t do.

Sony Master Series A90J

The A90J truly excels at color, especially for HDR content. The above chart shows color levels with an SDR signal compared with Rec.709 broadcast standards, and with an HDR signal compared with DCI-P3 digital cinema standards, both using the TV’s Cinema picture mode. SDR colors are balanced and accurate out of the box, with reds and greens shooting a bit further in range for a slightly more vivid picture than usual. HDR colors, meanwhile, cover almost the entire DCI-P3 color space. Greens fall a little short and reds overshoot a bit, but the TV still demonstrates incredible range. The only complaints for out-of-the-box color performance are that whites run a little pink and yellows somewhat red, but they’re very minor divergences.

See How We Test TVs

BBC’s Planet Earth II looks gorgeous on the A90J. Colors are vibrant and saturated while still looking natural, from the greens of leaves to the blues of water. The excellent contrast and color make the picture look downright lifelike. Fine details like fur and bark are crisp and clear, and can be easily discerned whether they’re in bright sunlight or dark shade.

Deadpool also looks excellent on the A90J, with the red of Deadpool’s costume appearing vivid under the overcast light of the opening scene. The burning lab fight shows off the TV’s strong contrast, with shadow details coming through clearly in the darkness against the bright light of the flames.

The party scenes in The Great Gatsby really shine on the A90J. The cuts of black suits and the textures of dark hair are all clear, even with the sharply contrasting whites in the same frames. Skin tones look saturated and natural against the otherwise sharply monochrome sets.

We test input lag using an HDFury Diva HDMI matrix to measure the amount of time between when a TV receives a signal and the screen updates. In Cinema mode, the A90J shows an input lag of 151.9 milliseconds, which is far too high to be comfortable. However, switching to the Game picture mode makes that lag drop to just 9.9ms. That’s less than half of the 20ms threshold we use to consider a TV to be among the best for gaming.

Sony Master Series A90J

Standout Sound

Speakers are usually a perfunctory aspect of a TV, typcially a set of downward-firing drivers a handful of watts each to provide enough sound to easily hear what you’re watching. Sony put more thought than this into the A90J’s XR Sound system, combining conventional drivers with actuators mounted behind the screen. The TV features a pair of 10-watt actuators for higher frequencies and a pair of 20-watt drivers for lower frequencies, for more audio power than typical TVs. 

The actuators serve a much more immersive purpose than simply providing crisp sound. The sounds they generate seem to come directly from the screen, rather than simply the general area of the TV. The result is audio that better matches exactly what you’re watching, and a capable center channel that can be integrated into a surround sound system.

To help improve the effect, the A90J features an auto-calibration process where the TV plays a series of tones that the microphone in the remote measures from your main viewing location in the room, and then adjusts the tuning of the speakers based on the acoustics it picks up. It sounds good enough that you can think twice about adding a soundbar, though it lacks the power of a soundbar and subwoofer combination.

An OLED Worth Splurging On

The Sony Master Series A90J is a fantastic example of a flagship OLED TV. It’s very expensive, yes, but it offers an excellent picture with plenty of brightness for an OLED panel and one of the widest color gamuts we’ve seen in any TV. It’s also packed full of features thanks to Google TV and its far-field microphones, including hands-free Google Assistant voice control. Throw in strong audio and gaming performance, and the A90J easily earns our Editors’ Choice award.

If you want a good picture and lots of features, but don’t want to spend nearly as much money, check out the aforementioned Hisense H9G. It uses Android TV, which is a bit less streamlined than Google TV, but it also offers hands-free Google Assistant and provides very strong picture quality, including much higher brightness than any consumer OLED is capable of. You can also consider Vizio’s OLED TV series, which isn’t as bright as the A90J and doesn’t have quite as many smart features (and no voice assistant), but still offers an excellent picture for less than half the price.

Sony Master Series XR-55A90J

The Bottom Line

The Sony Master Series A90J line of TVs has an impressively bright OLED panel with one of the widest color ranges we’ve seen, along with powerful audio performance on par with dedicated speakers, making it worth the high cost of entry.

Sony Master Series XR-55A90J Specs

Panel Type OLED
Screen Size 55 inches
Resolution 3,840 by 2,160
Video Inputs Composite, HDMI, RF, USB
HDR Dolby Vision, HDR-10
HDMI Ports 4
Streaming Services Yes
Screen Brightness 632.35 nits
Black Level 0 cd/m^2
Contrast Ratio Infinite
Refresh Rate 120 Hz
VRR Yes
Input Lag (Game Mode) 9.9 ms

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