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Review: Sony A95K QD-OLED

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It is not often that a new display panel technology makes it to the consumer market and while Samsung Display's launch of a new OLED panel type cannot be described as a revolution, it is an evolution of the technology. QD-OLED still relies on organic light emitting diodes but instead of LG Displays's WRGB with color filters, QD-OLED uses blue OLEDs with quantum dot converters for red and green to make possible a RGB-like OLED panel with potential for cleaner, more saturated primary colors.

The new panel has made it to Sony's A95K flagship 4K TV which in addition to QD-OLED features Google TV, HDMI 2.1, Sony's Acoustic Surface speaker system, center speaker functionality, a built-in camera, and a new remote control. A95K is available in 55 and 65 inches. We are testing the 55 inch model.

 Also read: Sony 2022 TV line-up


Price and retailers:

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First impressions

Despite it QD-OLED panel, A95K does not break with tradition in terms of design. Sony OLED TVs usually have an electronics box on the back that takes up more space than the electronics box on, for example, LG OLED TVs. On this 55-inch A95K the box takes up almost the full space behind the TV panel – more in line with LG's G range. At the top, Sony has made it possible to install a camera. A TV camera is something we first saw on TVs almost a decade ago but it was removed again soon after due to limited capabilities and privacy concerns. The Bravia camera is optional to install and connects to a port as seen in the picture below. The idea is to use the camera to detect people in the room in order to adjust picture/sound accordingly. It also supports gestures, video chat and more. Taking a closer look at the I/O ports, we found the mandatory four HDMI ports, two of which are compatible with HDMI 2.1 4K120 and VRR. Unfortunately, one doubles as the eARC port so you have to choose between connecting an external sound system / soundbar or a HDMI 2.1 game console – or accept limitations for the game console. The TV comes with multiple panels to hide cables and ports for a more streamlined look in case the back of the back of the TV is visible in your living space. There is not much space behind each panel so it is not much possible store a USB hard drive or a media player, only a USB stick.
A95K is also equipped with a built-in microphone in the lower part of the frame for voice assistants. Since the TV features Sony's integrated Acoustic Surface speaker system, it can be placed completely flat on a surface. Sony's tabletop stand is a heavy piece that can be installed in one of two ways depending on how you want the TV to look. In our photos, the tabletop stand is facing the viewer and the TV can be moved close to the wall behind it. If you flip the stand to make the supporting part face the wall you get a cleaner look from the front of the TV and more space behind the TV. In this configuration, the TV will slightly lean back. The stand does not allow you to place the TV on a piece of furniture that it narrower than the stand as it must be supported from below in all four corners. In my opinion, the plastic surface on the stand looks a bit cheap. It is probably meant to emulate leather but it is not very decorative. On the other hand it does not reflect light from the screen. Another detail worth highlighting is that there is no way to fit a soundbar underneath the TV no matter how the tabletop stand is installed. For the last few years, we have reiterated our view on OLED reflections because all previous OLED TVs are based on LG Display's panel with only small variations from generation to generation. It is different this year with Samsung's QD-OLED as does not use the same kind of anti-reflective filter as LG's. In a dark room, A95K has a more reddish tone in reflections which can be seen in the side-by-side photo of my own Sony A9F, which hangs on the wall behind A95K. The screen may appear a bit more reflective but nothing worth highlighting.

Sony A95K test

User experience & features

In 2021, Sony switched from Android TV to the new Google TV user interface, which we examined and detailed in our review of Chromecast with Google TV. Most of the TV setup can be done with the Google Home app, which is more convenient for entering login credentials. It would be helpful to have a "transfer to new device" function for Android TV and Google TV devices but unfortunately you still have to take the full tour. After setup, you TV is ready to be connected to your smart home, including Apple HomeKit. Like last year's Google TVs from Sony, A95K still runs Android 10 and is equipped with the same SoC (MediaTek MT5895, also known as MT9950) so neither hardware nor user experience has changed. For me personally Google TV's content recommendations are a little more relevant than what I get on webOS 22 in LG's 2022 models (see LG G2 review), but for this type of interface and system to be useful all content providers must be included. I get recommendations from Disney+ and HBO Max but not Netflix which is still stubbornly rejecting all attempts to move recommendations to a unified interface. In 'continue watching' I also see content from Apple TV+ but all featured VOD movies (buy/rent) are of course from the Google Play Store – not iTunes. The same goes for the 'Library' tab, which for some reason assumes that all of my movies were purchased through Google. One of the new features is the Bravia Cam which is included in the box with A95K (an optional purchase for some other 2022 Sony TV models). Sony has plans to expand the Bravia Cam's capabilities through a software update later this year but at launch functionality is unfortunately quite limited. The camera is designed to detect people in the room and warn children if they get too close to the TV (is this still a real concern?). It will also let the user operate the TV with hand gestures and make video calls. The latter function is working at launch with, for example, Google Duo. The camera's image quality is not great, though.
In 2020, Sony launched its Bravia Core movie streaming service which for a limited time provides access to 5 or 10 premium movies, depending on which TV model you purchased, plus some catalog titles from Sony Pictures. Streaming quality can go as high as 80 Mbps (Sony refers to it as PureStream) but since a stable internet connection of more than 100 Mbps is required, it is possible only with a WiFi connection as the TV's Ethernet port remains limited to 100 Mbps – a weird mismatch. Only a handful of new movies have been added to the catalog since last year and since most movies are available for 2 years only from the time of adding them to your collection, the expiration date is getting close for owners of existing Sony TVs. Sony has not announced future plans for Bravia Core. We have no complaints about picture quality and the few movies that you can watch will not leave you disappointed in this regard. One thing to keep in mind (or ear) is that the audio track is DTS since it is part of Sony's partnership with IMAX / DTS and this may require some adjustment on the TV or your external sound system to play properly. During the test, we paired A95K to both Sonos Arc and Sony HT-A9 and the former needed some adjustments for DTS to be decoded correctly. It is 2022 so it is a shame that the TV still does not DTS:X and Bravia Core movies are not delivered with DTS:X or Dolby Atmos. HDMI eARC worked as intended in A95K but as mentioned in other reviews HDMI eARC can lose connection at times, which requires you to power cycle the devices for the HDMI handshake to work again. When we tested Sony A90J last year we experienced issues with multi-channel output but this has been fixed and is no longer affecting A95K. A95K also supports Dolby Atmos and while the effect is very limited with internal decoding for the speakers – the TV does not have the speaker hardware required – the big advantage is that TV identifies to streaming services and other sources as an Atmos capable device. This lets you output the Dolby Atmos signal to external sound systems. An extra feature in A95K that you also find on Samsung's TV, for example, is that sound systems from Sony enable an extra menu option that can be placed in the bottom bar of the TV's interface to let you make quick adjustments, as seen in the picture below with Sony's HT-A9 speaker system connected.
Like previous Sony OLED TVs, A95K is equipped with Sony's Acoustic Surface system where the speakers are embedded into the actual OLED panel which also lets the TV rest flat on the surface underneath as the sound does not need to escape the TV from underneath. Actuators behind the OLED panel use it as a speaker diaphragm while the subwoofer is located on the back of the TV. This produces direct sound as if voices are coming from the people on-screen but the system lacks some fullness and depth. You get better than average TV sound but it is not quite there yet. During the test we paired A95K to Sony's HT-A9 sound system which lets you set up the TV as a dedicated center speaker channel. In this setup it was clear that A95K's Acoustic Surface system lacks potency to enter into a more powerful speaker setup. Our usual recommendation stands: A high-end TV such as A95K deserves to be paired to a proper sound system for movies, series and games. Personally, I would not use A95K as a center channel with HT-A9 and I don't think a cheap soundbars is not the right choice either. Sound can be calibrated to your room conditions using the microphone in the remote control. It is a nice improvement that takes your viewing position into account but while it may improve things in some living spaces, it is not a silver bullet as the main limitation remains the hardware. Speaking of the remote control Sony has changed it a few times in recent years. The company has for a long time been hesitant to remove the many redundant buttons. Maybe Sony has listened to some of the suggestions for improvement because this changes in 2022.

Sony A95K test

This year's new premium remote control has significantly fewer buttons. The numeric buttons are gone, replaced by an on-screen menu that can be called up on request – much like Samsung. The same goes for the four colored buttons. Sony has not had the courage to remove the sponsored app buttons and the Bravia Core button may come with an expiration date unless Sony announces an extension of the Bravia Core streaming service. As such, our concerns about the user experience and the number of remote buttons stand – even if it is a step in the right direction. The remote control itself feels good with feedback in the buttons and decent weight overall. The front of the premium remote that comes with 'Master' series models is made from metal and should, according to Sony, be more dirt-repellent than ever. The buttons are backlit and turn on in a dark environment and a new feature this year is the 'find my remote' function that lets you ask Google Assistant to find it. The remote then plays a sound. The same feature can be engaged manually with the push of the button on the side of the TV.

Calibration

We are happy to see that Sony has conceded to some extent and redesigned its remote control. However, when opening the picture menu you are still met by a chaotic mess of picture profiles. If you connect to CalMan and use AutoCal, you get an additional two picture profiles. Only in Dolby Vision mode is the number of picture modes reduced to three, one for bright and one for dark environments as well as 'Vivid'. We use Sony's 'Custom' mode as a starting point for our calibration. If you want to calibrate remember that A95, like other recent Sony TVs, will transfer picture settings from a SDR picture mode to the corresponding HDR picture mode. Only a few tweaks to the blue primary were needed in terms of color balance. In our calibrated profile (and our suggested picture settings) we use maximum 2-point color adjustments. The TV lets you further fine-tune things if you want to calibrate your own sample or get someone to do it for you. As documented before, consumer OLED TVs come very close to reference quality and luckily the introduction of Samsung Display's QD-OLED panel does not change this fact. The SDR picture on A95K conforms to the reference. Switching to HDR is where it gets more interesting as it QD-OLED quickly reveals that it has a little more to offer than LG Display's WOLED panel type. We measured coverage of the BT.2020 color gamut to 83% (1931 xy definition, which we normally report) / 88% (1976 uv definition) while DCI-P3 easily hits 100%. This is a bit of a leap compared to WOLED. With the right HDR content, this improvement should be visible to the naked eye as QD-OLED covers a larger percentage of the color gamut defined in the HDR standard. One thing that our graphs do not show is the intensity of the primary and secondary colors. We have not reported these measurements in the past since there was only one OLED panel type (WOLED). One disadvantage with LG Display's WOLED is the lack of brightness in color, meaning anything other than pure white. QD-OLED does not have the same limitation and in fact A95K delivers twice the brightness for both primary and secondary colors as compared to the latest WOLED panel in LG G2. This is another boost in terms of HDR picture quality.
Sony A95K vs. LG G2
Luminance intensity in primary and secondary colors
Note: The software version in our Sony A95K sample has a bug in the menu system that affects Sony's HDR brightness. A new menu option for adjusting tone-mapping is supposed to favor either brightness or gradation, but at its neutral 'Off' setting A95K currently outputs an EOTF that is visibly incorrect and far too dark overall. We have been in contact with Sony to discuss the matter and Sony has confirmed that the setting option is wrong and that a software fix will be made available to fix the issue. In our recommended settings we recommend that HDR tone-mapping must be set to 'Off' which is correct after the fix has been applied (expected to be available around the time this review is out). However, before the fix gets applied A95K's tone-mapping should be set to 'Gradation preferred' to get a correct EOTF for HDR.

Measurements

In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here. Note: Starting last year, we implemented a new method for measurement of average power consumption in SDR and HDR, meaning that earlier measurements are not 1:1 comparable. Power consumption in 'Calibrated' SDR mode is measured with the screen to approx. 100-110 nits to normalize the measurement across TV models (our recommended calibrated picture settings may differ). The new method will be used in all TV reviews going forward. Note: We include calibration settings only for SDR, not HDR. For our calibration we have deactivated the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight setting according to your environment. You may prefer to have it enabled.
Sony A95K test

Picture quality

For the last few years, it has been quite repetitive to review OLED TVs as there has only been one panel type on the market with few changes made such as minor improvements in peak brightness. With QD-OLED we finally get the first real alternative with different panel characterists. QD-OLED introduces a different pixel structure and primary colors are no longer derived with color filters. For a little background: LG Display's WOLED places color filters in front of an OLED stack to produce the three primary colors (red, green, blue). The disadvantage with this concept is that the brightness of red, green and blue each decreases significantly as compared to white, so bright highlights in HDR content in everything but white are produced at reduced luminance. LG's approach to increase peak brightness was to add a white sub-pixel to the mix, i.e. WRGB. The result is higher peak brightness but only for white as pure red, green and blue get washed out at higher luminance levels. This affects HDR content. QD-OLED works differently as the primary color is now blue. Red and green are generated from the blue OLED via color conversion – not color filtering – in the quantum dot later, hence QD-OLED. The advantage of this technique is that you do not lose luminance as a result of colors being filtered so the three primary colors have more luminance intensity, which also affects secondary colors (colors that are a combination of the two primary colors, respectively). White light is no longer required to increase peak brightness to satisfactory levels.
Let us look initially at pure white because here A95K does not really move the needle. We see about the same high pixel-level peak brightness of approximately 900 nits as on LG G2. However, when you dive deeper you will see that primary and secondary colors, as highlighted in the calibration section, deliver approximately twice as high brightness on QD-OLED as compared to WOLED. What it means is that bright highlights in HDR pictures no longer have to look white or washed out. Combined with a panel that covers a larger percentage of the Rec.2020 color gamut you get deeper colors with more punch and vibrancy than ever before on an OLED TV.
LG G2 (left). Sony A95K (right)
It is of course impossible to demonstrate such color improvements in a photograph as both the camera and your screen are incapable of capturing and displayed it. As always our photos are meant only to help the reader understand and to support our findings. They should not be taken too literally. Above you see LG G2 and Sony A95K compared side-by-side and our real-life tests supported our measurements. It is clear that A95K delivers a larger color gamut and higher color luminance. Examples of where the extra color help elevate the HDR experience are bright explosions in for example Mad Max: Fury Road or scenes in the The Greatest Showman. As more content gets graded on better HDR monitors, creators get a chance to work more effectively with the colors beyond DCI-P3. In Mad Max: Fury Road there are sequences with bright red and yellow and sometimes I caught myself in rewinding and fast-forwarding just to see scenes in a "new light" . One might fear that more saturated color capabilities in a panel would make the picture be perceived as unnatural or in other ways wrong, and while that is certainly possible if the TV maker does not adhere to the reference, this is not the case with A95K. It is also worth noting is we are not talking about completely monochromatic colors here similar to what laser projectors can deliver. The shift from WOLED to QD-OLED is not as dramatic as the numbers may suggest.
Let us move on motion. In this regard the panel does not bring about big changes as compared to LG Display's OLED panel which is only natural as the principle is the same. The ultra-short response time of QD-OLED tends to produce a similar stroboscopic effect with low-frame rate material such as 24fps movies, which is inherent in the content and will require a change in the way movies are shot, produced and mastered. Sony's MotionFlow system still ranks among the best in reducing this affect while keeping picture artefacts at a minimum. Although some movie makers still consider any form of motion smoothing sacrilege, know that movie techniques were never designed based on OLED displays' capabilities, but rather projectors that have high levels of inherent motion blur that help counteract the 24fps stutter / stroboscopic effect. With OLED TVs, I prefer to set MotionFlow on step 1 due to this effect. In addition to a change in how colors are created and derived, Samsung has changed the pixel structure. In WOLED there are four WRGB subpixels (white booster plus red, green, blue). QD-OLED is a more traditional RGB-like sandwich but instead of an RGB stribe layout Samsung Display has arranged the three subpixels in a triangle, as seen below, where the green subpixel is placed on its own row and takes up a little more space than the other two subpixels. FlatpanelsHD asked Samsung Display to comment on its decision for triangular pixels and you can find their comments here. This special triangular pixel structure can cause high-contrast picture elements to exhibit a type of chromatic aberration effect, similar to something you might have experienced from time to time in camera photos with colored edges. On Sony A95K the side effect is most commonly seen on white text (i.e. subtitles or menus) where you get green edges at the top and violet edges at the bottom (red + blue) since either one or two primary colors are missing in the transition from white to black. Since the issue is limited to one row of pixels you have to sit relatively close to the screen to spot it during normal use. We tested the 55-inch A95 and from our typical seating position 3.5 meters away it was not a problem but if you buy a larger QD-OLED, a QD-OLED monitor, or just move closer to the screen for gaming or other activities, you may want to check it out yourself before you hit the buy button. For text editing you have to be quite tolerant not to be bothered by the effect.
Applying quantum dots in the way that it is applied to QD-OLED as opposed to "QLED" LCD TV has one disadvantage as not only blue OLED light excites the QD layer, but also light from other sources such as your viewing environment. This means that if the screen is hit by light from your surroundings the quantum dots in each pixel will start to emit a little bit of light. First of all, you will notice that the screen looks more grey as compared to LG Display's WOLED when turned off. That does not necessarily have to be a problem – plasma screens exhibited the same effect when turned off – but specific to OLED you must remember that OLED creates pure black by simply turning off the diode, which means that the same effect occurs even when the screen is turned on in case you viewing environment is bright. The slightly too sensitive quantum dots in the first generation QD-OLED panel also tend to convert a little light from adjacent pixels. This type of light pollution spill into, for example, black bars while watching movies or around subtitles. It is almost reminiscent of blooming that you see on zone-dimming LCD TVs, although in a very faint form on Sony A95K. The phenomenon is very difficult to capture on camera as we have capture small variations in full black in a brightly lit environment that cannot be darkened, but I gave it a shot in the photo below with the help of flashlight. In your own living space you will most likely experience the effect from time to time when watching TV during daytime. It gets less and less pronounced the darker the room becomes. Is it a dealbreaker? No, I don't think so. Would I rather have A95K in my living room instead of my current Sony A9F (our previous reference TV)? Yes. In a dark room QD-OLED will deliver a picture with deep blacks and excellent shadow detail. Most high-end Sony TVs deliver relatively smooth color and grey tone gradients and A95K is no exception. Another interesting aspect of QD-OLED is that it seemingly has excellent panel homogeneity. Our grey tone patterns looked almost perfect. We hear similar reports based on Samsung's own QD-OLED TV (S95B) so perhaps QD-OLED in general delivers better homogeneity than LG OLED, which is also consistent with our findings on Sony A95K in the area of very low brightness (shadow details).
As mentioned in the introduction, Sony A95K is equipped with two HDMI 2.1 ports that support 4K 120Hz and VRR, but unfortunately one doubles as HDMI eARC / ARC. Lucky for me, I have only one next-gen game console in my living room but it is not a smart move by Sony to limit its ports in this way. Since last year, Sony has finally introduced VRR support in both PS5 and their TV models. A95K comes with VRR baked in – no firmware update required – and on A95K we did not spot the same issues with raised blacks when VRR is engaged as we have on other OLED TVs based on LG Display's WOLED panel. At this time our measurement equipment cannot trigger 120Hz or VRR, but with a 60Hz input signal A95K comes in at just over 16.5 ms in its 'Game' mode. It is slightly higher than the competition but 120Hz and VRR should improve things further so console gamers should be satisfied with what they get on Sony A95K. It is also worth emphasizing that Sony A95K – or the QD-OLED panel – maintains its picture capabilities for both SDR and HDR while gaming, as opposed to high-end zone-dimming LCD TV that must significantly scale down systems to keep input lag to a minimum. OLED in general has over the years become more resistant to burn-in but the nature of a self-emissive panel means that the risk cannot ruled as the millions of diodes that make up the screen can age at varying rates. This applies to QD-OLED too. Sony A95K behaved nicely during our tests and there was not much retention to spot after our lengthy calibration sessions. What we have observed so far looks promising but it is impossible at this time to determine the long-term risk and lifetime of the panel. Time will give us an answer. Lastly, we should mention viewing angles on QD-OLED as there are nuance differences as compared to WOLED. On the latter, you may notice a slight shift in color tone from extreme angles. This is not observed on QD-OLED so while OLED in general has extremely wide viewing angles, QD-OLED is just a tad better.

Conclusion

A95K is Sony's first QD-OLED TV, based on Samsung Display's panel, and the latest member of Sony's Master series. QD-OLED delivers an expanded color gamut and markedly improved color luminance as compared to LG's WOLED panel type. Combined, these contribute to more lush and accurate colors and places A95K at the forefront when it comes to HDR picture quality and experience. After calibration, colors hit reference level. The triangular pixel structure results in colored contours around text and some other objects in high contrast scenes viewed from a short distance. A95K will not work as a monitor but we think few people will notice it from their typical TV viewing position.
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Sony A95K comes preinstalled with Google TV running Android 10. It is the same software and SoC as in last year's models – no improvements here. On the other hand you get a redesigned and simpler remote control, which is a step forward. In terms of features, A95K comes with VRR built-in – no firmware update required – but having only two HDMI 2.1 ports, of which one doubles as eARC, pose limitations. Despite its excellent picture quality which is maintained during gaming, A95K is therefore not the obvious choice if you already own or are planning to buy more than one HDMI 2.1 game console. The addition of the Bravia camera is mostly a gimmick for now but it may prove useful once it gets its promised features via firmware update. A camera in a TV is not a new concept. A95K's 'Acoustic Surface' speakers deliver better than average TV sound. QD-OLED is not a revolution but it brings enough improvement to move Sony A95K to the forefront and if you want the best picture quality for movies, series, games and more you should definitely take a look at QD-OLED. Unfortunately, QD-OLED is available only in 55 and 65 inches at this time. Sony A95K receives our Reference Award.

Price and retailers:

US retailer
UK retailer
DE retailer

Reference picture quality
Expanded color gamut
Panel homogeneity
Decent TV speakers
Motion system
Improved remote control


Black levels suffer in bright rooms
Pixel structure results in colored contours around text






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