Thanks to a healthy dose of flair and some imaging magic, the Sony A95K QD-OLED is right up there with the very best TVs you can buy
- Fantastic SDR and HDR images
- Excellent sound quality
- Sleek and stylish design
- Only two HDMI 2.1 ports
- No HDR 10+
- Stand will divide opinion
The Sony A95K is the brand’s flagship 4K TV for 2022 and uses a new OLED panel based around quantum dots to deliver purer colours and brighter highlights, along with the usual benefits of perfect blacks and pixel precision.
Although Sony doesn’t manufacture the new panel itself, the Japanese giant adds its usual processing expertise to deliver exceptional image accuracy, saturated colours and fantastic HDR. Google TV is slick and comprehensive, the gaming features are extensive, and the Acoustic Surface sound system is very effective. There’s no HDR10+ support and only two HDMI 2.1 inputs, but otherwise this awesome OLED TV is hard to fault.
Sony A95K OLED review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||55in XR-55A95K|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Audio enhancement:||Dolby Atmos, Acoustic Surface Audio+|
|HDMI inputs:||2 x HDMI 2.1, 2 x HDMI 2.0b|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||No|
|Tuners:||Terrestrial, satellite, cable|
|Gaming features:||Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), 4K at 120Hz|
|Wireless connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast|
|Smart assistants:||Google Assistant built-in, works with Amazon Alexa|
|Smart platform:||Google TV|
Sony A95K OLED review: What you need to know
The Sony A95K is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart TV that uses Quantum Dot OLED (QD-OLED) technology. It forms part of the Bravia XR Master Series of OLED TVs and offers two screen sizes: 55in and 65in. Sony provided the 55in XR-55A95K for this review.
The A95K’s panel uses a blue OLED to self-illuminate each pixel, with quantum dot layers creating the red and green sub-pixels. This eliminates the problem of faster blue decay compared to red and green but also results in brighter images and more precise colours.
The picture is powered by Sony’s Cognitive XR processor, and it runs the latest iteration of the Google TV operating system. Along with a host of processing features, there’s support for HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, but not HDR10+.
This OLED TV boasts Sony’s usual stylish design, with a stand that can be used in two different positions, along with Acoustic Surface Audio+ that uses the entire screen as a speaker, and support for Dolby Atmos. There’s even a Bravia Cam included for picture and sound optimisation.
Sony A95K OLED review: Price and competition
The 55in Sony A95K costs £2,199, while the 65in A95K retails for £2,899. This is more expensive than the competing Samsung S95B, which uses the same Samsung-made QD-OLED panel. The Samsung OLEDs have recently enjoyed a significant price reduction, with the 55in S95B costing £1,179, while the 65in version retails for a very reasonable £1,699.
If you’re looking for an alternative, LG offers a high-end OLED TV that uses the more traditional WRGB panel design but can achieve brighter luminance levels thanks to the addition of a heatsink. The LG G2 OLED evo range has an impressive selection of screen sizes with 55in (£1,500), 65in (£2,100), 77in (£3,800) and 83in (£5,500) options.
If you’d prefer a non-OLED alternative, check out the Samsung QN95B. This 4K Neo QLED range-topper features a Micro LED backlight, Quantum Dot tech and neural-network processing to deliver an impressive visual and audio performance. It has an extensive smart platform and gaming features, and includes Samsung’s One Connect box, along with beefed-up sonics thanks to Object Tracking Sound Pro. There’s a choice of 55in (£1,499), 65in (£1,999), 75in (£2,699), and 85in (£3,799) screen sizes.
Sony A95K OLED review: Design, connections and control
The Sony A95K benefits from the brand’s usual stylish and, in this case, minimalist design. In fact, this OLED TV is essentially just a screen, which is fitted flush to a very narrow metal bezel. The build quality is excellent, and the matte black rear uses a grid pattern to add some texture, while removable panels allow for clutter-free cable management. In terms of dimensions, the 55A95K measures 1,225 x 43 x 714mm (WDH) and weighs in at a hefty 21.2kg without the stand.
The stand offers two different styles: one where it’s at the rear and all you can see is the screen; and another that places it at the front, allowing the A95K to be positioned up against a wall. The stand is probably going to divide opinion because the rear configuration places the screen at a slight angle, while both styles leave no clearance for a soundbar without it blocking the screen. You can also wall-mount it using a 300 x 300 VESA bracket.
The connectivity is generally good, with four HDMI inputs, three of which face downwards and one of which faces sideways. One of the downward-facing inputs supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel), and all the HDMI inputs support 4K/60Hz, HDCP 2.3 and high dynamic range in the shape of HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+).
As is always the case with Sony TVs, only two of the HDMI inputs support 4K/120Hz, VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low latency mode). Since one of these inputs also supports eARC that means anyone with a soundbar and both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles will find themselves unable to enjoy the benefits of both simultaneously.
In terms of other physical connections there are aerial and satellite connectors with dual tuners, an Ethernet port for a wired connection, an optical digital output, AV inputs, a headphone socket and three USB ports. The wireless connectivity is covered by built-in Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast and AirPlay 2.
There’s a pair of included remotes: a basic zapper, and Sony’s more stylish controller with curved corners, a brushed metal effect and a backlight. It’s comfortable to hold, easy to use and has buttons that are sensibly laid out. These include navigation and playback controls, along with direct access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Bravia Core. There’s also a find your remote feature: press a button on your TV or ask Google Assistant and the remote will ring and flash.
The A95K comes with the Bravia Cam as standard, although its inclusion just adds to this OLED’s already high price. Aside from video calls, the camera tracks where you are in the room and adjusts the brightness and sound balance based on your seating position. There’s also an alert mode if your kids get too close to the screen and even the option for hand gesture control, but ultimately the Bravia Cam feels like an unnecessary technological throwback.
Sony A95K OLED review: Smart TV platform
The Sony A95K uses Google TV as its smart platform, and the result is a well-designed and slick interface with a homepage that serves up features and apps for easier access. It focuses on the things you want to watch, making recommendations and providing plenty of opportunities to customise the layout. All the main video streaming apps are present and correct, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, YouTube, the UK TV catch-up services and even YouView.
The platform includes voice search, which makes finding your favourite content easier, and there’s Google Assistant built-in. This turns the A95K into a fully functioning smart assistant, plus there’s support for Chromecast. If you prefer, it also supports Amazon Alexa, but whichever smart assistant you choose, they all offer a degree of hands-free voice control, in case you misplace the two provided remote controls. Finally, for Apple fans, there’s AirPlay 2 and support for HomeKit.
Sony A95K OLED review: Image quality
The Sony A95K defaults to the Eco picture mode, which is more energy-efficient but also has too much blue in the greyscale and oversaturated colours. Sony doesn’t offer a Filmmaker mode, but the Custom picture mode delivers excellent accuracy. Colours have a Delta E (error) of two, although the greyscale still has a bit too much blue, resulting in a slightly higher error of three.
Since these measurements are around the visible threshold of three, the accuracy can be further tweaked using the calibration controls, producing errors below one. The combination of an accurate image and the purer colours offered by the use of quantum dot filters ensures SDR images look amazing, with the deep blacks and extensive shadow delineation you expect from an OLED, combined with a nuanced richness to the colours that immediately captivates.
The other area where the A95K really stands out is in terms of its picture processing, an area where Sony is particularly strong. The Cognitive XR processor does an amazing job of upscaling lower-resolution content, bringing out all the fine details without introducing unwanted artefacts. The picture processing is also unrivalled, reducing compression artefacts and mosquito noise.
The motion handling is equally impressive, and another area where Sony is a class leader. The A95K displays excellent motion even without any extra processing being engaged, with images that appear free of judder or other artefacts. True Cinema improves the motion for movies without looking smoothed, while frame interpolation is useful when watching fast-paced sports action.
There are a couple of issues, although these relate more to the QD-OLED display technology rather than the A95K specifically. First, these new panels use an unusual triangular sub-pixel structure, with the green at the top and red and blue below, and as a result, you can see some minor colour fringing when up close. So it’s not ideal for use with a PC or for text clarity.
Second, there’s an anti-glare filter that’s effective when dealing with direct light, but when there’s a lot of ambient light in the room the blacks can look more like a dark purple/grey. So if you want to fully appreciate the full benefits of those inky OLED blacks, avoid using the A95K in a room with a lot of ambient light. Otherwise, the A95K is hard to fault from an image perspective.
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Sony A95K OLED review: HDR performance
The Sony A95K certainly benefits from the new QD-OLED panel when it comes to HDR, delivering an impressive peak luminance of 930cd/m² on a 10% window, and managing to generate 199cd/m² on a full-field pattern. These are excellent measurements for an OLED, and as a result, the Sony is able to reproduce 1,000 nits HDR content without resorting to unnecessary tone mapping.
However, if tone mapping is necessary the A95K is also highly effective, with an accurate greyscale and EOTF that maps the PQ target precisely. So regardless of whether an HDR grade uses 1,000, 4,000 or 10,000 nits, the creative intent is retained. In terms of high dynamic range, the Sony supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, with only the less common HDR10+ missing.
The use of quantum dots and Sony’s Triluminos technology allows the A95K to produce wider and purer colours with HDR. This is evidenced by the DCI-P3 coverage, which measures 100%, while the BT.2020 coverage hits an incredible 89%. Crucially, the saturation sweeps of DCI-P3 within BT.2020 are also very accurate, resulting in expertly rendered colours with HDR content.
This exceptional colour performance is immediately apparent when watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Pixar’s Inside Out, both of which have deliberately saturated colour schemes. The A95K handles them with remarkable skill, delivering accurate, controlled and nuanced images that utilise the wider colour gamut without ever looking over-saturated or unnatural.
The tone mapping with HDR10 content is equally impressive, with the A95K handling The Revenant’s challenging snowy landscapes without losing high-end detail. The brighter panel gives the white vistas real punch, while the tiny highlights of sunlight reflecting off ice are rendered with amazing precision. The result is an incredibly realistic visual experience that’s sure to delight film fans.
The vehicular mayhem of Ambulance looks fantastic in Dolby Vision, with a sharply detailed 4K image and precisely rendered specular highlights. The brightly lit LA streets are free of clipping or other artefacts, and the numerous cars really pop with deeply saturated primary colours. It’s a spectacular performance that fully demonstrates the potential of this superb OLED TV.
To test the Sony A95K we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
Sony A95K OLED review: Sound quality
The Sony A95K uses the brand’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology, which converts the entire screen into a speaker by employing rear actuators that imperceptibly vibrate it to generate sound. The addition of a brace of rear bass drivers boosts the low-end performance, and there’s sufficient juice to deliver a solid sonic presence that can go reasonably loud without distorting.
The overall sound quality is clean and detailed, with clear dialogue, a well-defined mid-range and a distinctly frontal delivery. The bass drivers do a good job of generating some low-frequency energy, although expectations need to be managed. The Cognitive XR processor also plays its part, delineating the music from the sound effects and placing the latter around the screen.
The inclusion of eARC allows the A95K to passthrough lossless audio, including DTS, which is something of a rarity these days. The audio from the built-in apps can also be sent to an outboard sound solution using ARC, but there’s also onboard decoding for Dolby Atmos soundtracks and an auto-calibration feature that optimises the sound quality based on the environment.
The Atmos decoding uses psychoacoustic processing to create a sense of immersion, so don’t expect miracles, but an audio input allows the A95K to become the centre channel in a multi-channel speaker system. If you own a supporting Sony soundbar, you can also partner it with the TV and its Acoustic Surface to reinforce the soundbar’s centre channel performance.
Sony A95K OLED review: Gaming
The Sony A95K is generally an excellent TV for gaming, although as mentioned previously, only two of the HDMI inputs support 4K/120Hz with VRR and ALLM. This shouldn’t be a major issue unless you own multiple next-gen consoles, and gamers are rewarded with bright, punchy and detailed images that benefit from Sony’s superior motion handling to deliver buttery-smooth movement.
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While there’s no handy game hub, the game mode delivers the goods by producing an input lag of 17ms with a 60Hz signal, which drops to a very impressive 9ms at the higher frame rate of 120Hz. Overall the gameplay is wonderfully responsive, so whatever your gaming preferences you’ll be pleased, although twitch-trigger first-person shooter fans will be especially happy with the A95K.
Sony A95K OLED review: Verdict
The Sony A95K is eye-catching from the moment you get it out of the box, with a minimalist design and premium build quality that help justify its price tag. The stand might frustrate some, and the Bravia Cam feels like a throwback, but the clever Acoustic Surface sound system produces a superior sonic performance to most ultra-slim OLEDs.
The new QD-OLED panel delivers on its promise of increased brightness and purer colours, but what really distinguishes this TV from the competition is Sony’s class-leading imaging wizardry. The Cognitive XR processor delivers exceptional accuracy, upscaling and HDR tone mapping, and the result is the kind of picture quality that sets a new bar for what’s possible with a consumer display.
The Samsung S95B remains the best QD-OLED for most people by virtue of how much cheaper it is than the A95K, but if you’re able to afford Sony’s flagship, you certainly won’t be disappointed by what it’s capable of in the image, audio and gaming departments.