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Sony is playing it safe with its 2023 4K TVs

Sony is playing it safe with its 2023 4K TVs

The company's latest TV sets are carefully updated rather than boldly upgraded, they'll still go for gold
Sony will be bringing to market updated products of all three display technologies it’s currently building TVs around, the pictured A95L QD-OLED being the best one among them. (Image: Sony)

We may never know why Sony decided to be a no-show in CES 2023 as far as TVs are concerned, but – based on what the company announced during its online media briefing a few days ago – it can’t have been because of some big secret that needed guarding or some truly exciting surprise kept in store: even a cursory glance at its 2023 4K TV lineup reveals a year of careful updates rather than one of bold upgrades. Which would be perfectly fine if we didn’t know what Sony is truly capable of. What’s more, some of us were hoping that a few long-standing issues Bravia fans were having with past models would be addressed in 2023. As it turns out, there will be more waiting on those.

So, here’s what’s new with 2023 Sony Bravia 4K TVs in detail (the company did not share any details regarding its 2023 8K models yet), plus a few things the company did not share but most tech reporters following its products will probably have figured out by now. Shall we?

Sony QD-OLED TVs are back and better than ever

The Bravia A95K was widely – and rightfully – regarded as the best 2022 TV when it comes to cinematic picture quality and Sony clearly intends for its successor, the Bravia A95L, to keep that crown in 2023. As expected, the new model will come in three sizes – 55, 65 and 77 inches in diagonal, just like Samsung’s equivalent models that use the same QD-OLED panel – and, since Sony promises that the A95L will be considerably brighter, we’ll have to assume that it’s also using Samsung’s newest QD-OLED panels, theoretically capable of delivering 2000 nits of peak brightness in certain situations.

The Bravia A95L looks different than its 2022 predecessor and will strive to be much brighter too. Whether Sony’s claim about a “200% increase in brightness” hold water remains to be seen. (Image: Sony)

With more light to play with, as well as the help of the third-generation Cognitive Processor XR – which is doing some thermal analysis work for the QD-OLED panel itself – the A95L should be even more impressive than the A95K. Sony’s new top TV is once more employing a heat-diffusion sheet, protecting its QD-OLED panel more effectively and pushing brightness further for longer periods of time. Acoustic Surface Audio Plus is also making a return, using the screen itself as a big, versatile multi-point speaker, allowing for “positioning” of effects on different parts of the screen and enabling the new Acoustic Center Sync function (which works very well with Sony’s top soundbars).

It’s worth noting that the A95L’s design is different this year, following the steps of last year’s Z9K rather than the A95K’s (whose design was beautiful but divisive because of its bold stand). The A95L’s stand is once more bringing the screen quite close to a furniture’s surface, but it can also be adjusted to raise it just enough for a soundbar to fit underneath.

The Sony Bravia A80L will be based on “traditional” LG OLED Evo panels, but those are perfectly capable of delivering a beautiful picture. At the right price, the A80L may surprise a lot of people. (Image: Sony)

Sony also unveiled the Bravia A80L, its latest “traditional” OLED TV model. This will be offered at 55, 65, 77 and 83 inches, it will also be making use of the latest Cognitive Processor XR and Acoustic Surface Audio Plus, while featuring a simpler design that’s still elegant. Sony never talks specifics when it comes its products’ subsystems, so there’s no official word on which LG OLED screens the A80L is built around. But based on the fact that it does feature Sony’s XR OLED Contrast Pro tech, just like the A95L, the A90L is almost certainly making use of LG OLED Evo panels (with no heatsink), which are more than capable of excellent picture quality despite the lower brightness.

Sony’s top MiniLED and LED/LCD TVs look promising enough

Apart from the Bravia QD-OLED and OLED models, Sony also announced the successors of its most capable and most popular LED/LCD 4K models of 2022: the X95L and the X90L respectively. The former is yet again based on MiniLED technology, meaning that its backlight system is helped out by a great number of MiniLEDs instead of a smaller number of conventional LEDs. This allows for way more individual dimming zones and far greater control of local dimming as a result, something that last year’s X95K promised but did not deliver at the level of quality Sony fans expect.

Sony’s implementation of MiniLED tech left something to be desired last year – which is why the updated 2023 4K model, the X95L, will have to deliver a seriously impressive picture to make up for that. (Image: Sony)

So the company is making a few changes this year for its flagship LED/LCD model. First, it will be employing many more MiniLEDs in the X95L’s backlight array so as to offer a greater number of controllable dimming zones and, hopefully, address image quality issues such as blooming or haloing in a more effective manner. Second, the company will call upon its famous Backlight Master Drive tech and the capabilities of the third-generation Cognitive Processor XR so the A95L can drive brightness higher without contrast taking a major hit or the aforementioned image quality issues becoming distracting. Sony’s local dimming algorithm remains the best in the business, but we’ll have to wait and see whether there are enough local dimming zones here to actually raise the bar for LED/LCD picture quality in Sony’s 4K offerings.

In terms of design the X95L retains the overall look of its predecessor and one of its three different stand positions on offer will allow for the use of a soundbar underneath the screen. New for this year: Acoustic Multi-Audio Plus, the TV set’s sound system, is equipped with a pair of frame tweeters that raise the sound position and is also working with Sony’s best soundbars flawlessly (via the Acoustic Centre Sync function). The X95L will be offered in 65-, 75- and 85-inch variants.

The Bravia X90L will strive to be considerably better than last year’s X90K and so deliver even more value for money. Not an easy feat… but it might just pull it off. (Image: Sony)

The X95L will obviously not be cheap, but for mainstream consumers (gamers in particular) Sony is once again offering a well-equipped, premium model that will be way more affordable: the Bravia X90L. This one does not employ MiniLED backlighting, but it does feature the third-generation Cognitive Processor XR and Full-Array LED backlighting consisting of more local dimming zones than last year (Sony would obviously not comment on their number), so picture quality-wise it should be superior to last year’s X90K. It will also be offering three different options for its stand (one will be soundbar-compatible) and a new, gigantic 98-inch diagonal option along with the 85-, 75-, 65- and 55-inch ones. Now that, that almost 100-inch TV, at the right price…

The 2023 Sony Bravia HDMI situation: room for improvement, again

Sony talked about a lot of other things regarding its best 2023 4K TV models in its presentation, but not about HDMI connectivity. During the Q&A that followed the reason became apparent: the vast majority of the new Bravia TVs will be equipped with just two full-speed HDMI 2.1 ports (one of them being the eARC port that soundbars use), leading everyone to believe that Sony will be using the same Mediatek HDMI control chip most other Bravia models used in the past.

Sony’s 2023 QD-OLED TV will be the only one using Mediatek’s Pentonic 1000 chipset, which is bringing new functionality to the table but still does not offer more than two HDMI 2.1 ports. (Image: MediaTek)

This will probably be disappointing to people who planned to connect more than two HDMI 2.1 devices to these new Bravia TVs – or more than one plus a soundbar – but… it is what it is: we all hoped that this thorny issue would be resolved in 2023, it seems that it hasn’t, we’ve all complained about it enough, there are ways around it for people who actually need three HDMI 2.1 sources connected to the same TV all the time, we’d rather move on.

Interesting detail: Sony mentioned that one specific Bravia 2023 model, the A95L, offers Dolby Vision Gaming support as well as multi-window functionality, which means that this QD-OLED TV is most probably using Mediatek’s new Pentonic 1000 chip, not any of the previous ones (the two HDMI 2.1 port limitation still applies).

All in all, though, it seems that – on a hardware level, at least – Sony chose to play it safe this year: every one of the aforementioned 2023 Bravia TVs offer sensible, noteworthy updates over their predecessors without trying anything too different or anything truly groundbreaking. It seems that the Japanese manufacturer chose to focus more on software and functionality with these 2023 models, which is an area worthy of a separate article – so stay tuned for that!

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