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First look: Sony's 2023 X95L (miniLED), X90L, X85L with zone dimming – no new 8K TVs

01 Mar 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

Sony has announced its 2023 LCD TV line-up. X95L with miniLED and X90L have improved zone dimming and X85L gets zone dimming for the first time. There are no new 8K TVs. Here are our first impressions.

Let's start with what was not announced at Sony's launch event in London this month: 8K TVs.  When asked by FlatpanelsHD, Sony argued that the "market is limited" (by some accounts, the 8K TV market actually fell in 2022 compared to 2021) and that Z9K was a late launch in 2022, so instead of launching a new 'Z9L', last year's Z9K it will carry over into 2023.

Sony said that its decision not launch new 8K TVs in 2023 was not due to the EU's updated energy consumption regulation that will go into effect today. Manufacturers are still allowed to ship 8K TVs in 'Eco' mode with heavily subdued brightness and picture settings, leaving the user to decide if he/she wants to switch the TV to a better picture mode with significantly higher energy consumption.

Besides 8K, Sony's 2023 LCD TV line-up looks little changed at first glance. We have the two high-end models X95L with miniLED zone dimming – what Sony likes to call 'Backlight Master Drive' – and X90L with full array local dimming as well as the X85L, X80L and X75WL mid-range models.

 Also read: First look: Sony's 2023 QD-OLED & OLED TVs: A95L (55-77") and A80L (55-83")

2023 Sony LCD TV line-up

There are still some noteworthy developments, however. Both X95L and X90L come with an increased number of dimming zones and higher brightness (see last section). X85L is the successor to last year's X85K and will for the first time have full array local dimming – but fewer zones than X90L. Update: Sony North America has also announced X93L which is a carry over from last year's X95K with the new software features (Game Menu, Eco Dashboard) but not the new 'XR Clear Image' processor feature discussed later. X93L will be available in 65, 75 and 85 inches, while X95L in North America will be available only in 85 inches.
Refresh rate100/120Hz100/120Hz100/120Hz100/120Hz50/60Hz50/60Hz
AudioAcoustic Multi Audio+Acoustic Multi AudioAcoustic Multi AudioStereoStereoStereo
OSGoogle TVGoogle TVGoogle TVGoogle TVGoogle TVGoogle TV
Bravia Core
Pentonic 1000
Sizes65, 75, 85 (only 85" in the US)65, 75, 8555, 65, 75, 85, 9855, 65, 7543, 50, 66, 65, 75, 8543, 50, 55, 65, 75
X90L will be available in 98 inches with 4K resolution for the first time. Sony previously offered a 98-inch Z9G 8K LCD TV but at $70000 it was crazy expensive. We still do not know how much the 98-inch Sony X90L will cost but we expect it to be sold at a much more reasonable price as competition in the +90-inch segment is heating up after TCL's launch of an inexpensive 98-inch LCD TV last year.

Sony X90L 98

The 98-inch Sony X90L LCD TV. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Sony X90L 98

The 98-inch has carrying handles. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

In case you still had any doubts about what Sony really considers its flagship model, MediaTek's more powerful Pentonic 1000 chip with Dolby Vision 4K 120Hz support is reserved for the A95L QD-OLED TV. However, X95L and X90L still feature Sony's 'Cognitive Processor XR' that in 2023 gains an 'XR Clear Image' feature to clean up the image in various ways depending on the signal. It takes into account resolution, encoding, bitrate and other parameters to apply adaptive noise reduction and super resolution, Sony explained. All 2023 Sony models run Google TV and come with Bravia Core, which is Sony's premium streaming service that delivers a selection of Sony Pictures movies in up to 80 Mbps bitrate with IMAX Enhanced aspect ratio, DTS audio, and soon Dolby Atmos. Learn more about Sony's plans for Bravia Core in 2023 here. Sony is the only TV maker to offer a streaming service that more or less matches UHD Blu-ray so it is perhaps a little ironic that Sony's 2023 models are still limited to 100 Mbps on the LAN port, forcing you to use WiFi or a USB LAN dongle to reach Bravia Core's 80 Mbps bitrate level due to overhead in streaming (requires 115 Mbps). There is a built-in microphone in all 2023 models except X75WL for voice searches, a new Game Menu with quick settings that are useful for gaming and Eco Dashboard that lets you see how your TV settings, including picture settings, affect power consumption. Sony's X95L and X90L models are equipped with an 'Acoustic Multi Audio' speaker system that utilizes tweeters in the frame in an attempt to mimic the effect of the 'Acoustic Surface Audio' in the OLED TVs where human voices sound as if they are coming directly from the image. FlatpanelsHD has tested previous models with 'Acoustic Multi Audio' and while it does have an effect, it does not match the speakers in Sony's OLED TVs. X95L has a new implementation called "Acoustic Surface Audio+ with actuators that vibrate to produce sound from the entire screen", said Sony.

Sony Eco Dashboard

The new Eco Dashboard in Sony's 2023 TVs. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

First look: Bigger, brighter, better

Sony had placed the new X95L with an improved miniLED backlight next to last year's X95K and LG C2 (OLED) to demonstrate how the higher number of dimming zones in X95L vs. X95K improves contrast and luminance control, and reduces blooming. Sony said that X95L is 30% brighter than last year's X95K and has up to 20% more dimming zones, depending on the screen size (last year's 65-inch X95K had 432 zones). All three TVs were in Vivid mode. No photos were allowed in this room. The first demonstration with the lights turned on in the room revealed that X95L can reach higher peak brightness in bright scenes compared to both of the other TVs, but it does not match the depth and contrast of LG C2 even in a bright room. In another demonstration Sony turned off the lights in the room to demonstrate that X95L has less clouding and blooming than last year's X95K (our review here), and to demonstrate how it can automatically adapt its picture to the room lighting based on the built-in light sensor. It seemed to work as intended and it was clear that Sony has managed to reduce blooming and clouding in especially the black movie bars. In the last demo Sony changed the three TVs to 'Custom' picture mode, which is the company's most accurate picture mode. Dark movie scenes showed improvements over last year's X95K but we still saw a significant level of clouding and blooming on X95L. The more important point here is perhaps that the LG C2 OLED (Sony's A80 series is designed to compete with LG C2) delivered a significantly better picture and much more accurately matched the RGB OLED reference monitor. I therefore fell compelled to reiterate my conclusion from last year's X95K review: "Sony offers significantly cheaper TVs with much better picture quality (every Sony OLED TV)".

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Stepping down to X90L, Sony said that it is 30% brighter and has up to 60% more dimming zones. In one setup, Sony compared X90L to last year's X90K and Samsung's QN85B. With all three in Vivid mode, last year's X90K showed excessive levels of blooming and X90L still exhibited heavy blooming in many areas of the picture including the black bars but less so than X90K and it was evident that it can reach higher peak brightness. None of the three excelled or came close to matching the reference monitor. X90L still struggled especially in dark scenes where the picture appeared blown out, almost as if a haze was over it, but both of Sony's X90 ranges were noticeably better than Samsung's QN85B (IPS) in the demo clips that Sony had selected. The most drastic difference was probably seen with X85L, which now has full array local dimming. Compared to last year's X85K and Samsung Q80B, it delivered a picture with improved black levels and higher peak brightness – Sony said that it should be around 60% brighter. The improvement was significant, but obviously X85L still exhibited blooming, clouding and poor blacks. The Samsung once again fell through. Sony demonstrated how 'XR Clear Image' can help clean up the picture and while it did seem to be capable of removing noise and enhance details in some areas of the picture, we would need more time with it to fully evaluate the effects. For most video scenarios, we would argue that it is up to the content creator to apply such enhancements, if they really want to, and it is not at all hard for streaming services to do as they can release a new version of a movie or series with the push of a button. We were not allowed to film the part of the presentation about the new Game Menu as the design is still being tweaked so the pictures below are from the main presentation. Sony demonstrated how various gaming functions can be quickly switched on and off. A fixed crosshair in the center of the screen, which is customizable, can help the user aim in shooting games, while the 'Screen size' feature can downscale the PS5, Xbox og PC signal to take up a smaller part of the screen; useful for gamers sitting very close to their screen, according to Sony. VRR can also be switched on and off with a toggle.

Sony Game Menu

Sony's new Game Menu in the 2023 TVs. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Sony Game Menu

Sony's new Game Menu in the 2023 TVs. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Another part of the demonstration focused on the TVs' integration with Sony soundbars and the HT-A9. There are no major changes in this area so we refer to our hands-on article from Amsterdam in October 2022 where we spent time inside a Dolby Atmos mix stage and Sony's ecosystem of '360 Spatial Sound' products. In addition to the line-up introduction, Sony demonstrated Google TV, Bravia Cam, the new Eco Dashboard, and more in the video below, shot by FlatpanelsHD in London.
Pricing and availability details will be announced later. Full specifications can be found in the TV Database by clicking the model names below.

Sony 2023 LCD TVs – specifications


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