Sony surprised the market last year with the introduction of the world’s first QD OLED TV. This year they’ve taken considerably longer, but now the new top model A95L is almost ready, and is expected to hit the shelves in September.
We got a small glimpse of the A95L back in March, when Sony unveiled the full 2023 TV range, but that was just an early prototype. Now, the top-of-the-range model is finally “ready to go” and Sony invited us back to its headquarters in Weybridge, outside London, for an exclusive sneak peek.
Sony’s European headquarters is located close to the legendary Brooklands, the UK’s first racetrack and home to the Concorde. Mercedes also has a test track for cars and off-road vehicles here. But in this case, it was a TV we had the opportunity to test drive!
Notes: This was a Sony event, where the supplier provided travel, board and lodging. So this should only be seen as a preliminary report, and we will await the conclusion until we have done a full test of the A95L at home.
Sony received a lot of praise for the top model A95K last year, and it’s clear that its successor, the A95L, is also a model with high expectations. The flagship has been given a number of new features that are exclusive to this model.
In terms of design, the A95L has a slim design with a thin frame in brushed aluminium, with the image extending all the way to the edges. At the same time, the large and leaden plinth of its predecessor has been replaced with slim feet, which can be raised to provide more space for a soundbar. The 77-inch can also position the feet narrower to fit the TV stand.
Not surprisingly, it is Quantum Dot OLED technology that Sony has chosen to build on in 2023. The A95L uses the latest generation QD OLED panel from Samsung Display – just like the Samsung S95C that we have already tested. The new panel has better cooling, which contributes to higher sustained brightness. The Sony display is also available in a long-awaited 77″ screen size, in addition to 65″ and 55″.
The video processor is a Cognitive Processor XR that we already know, but Sony says that they worked specifically to further improve image processing from the 2022 models. The new XR Clear Image feature continuously analyses and improves the image, and is said to be particularly suitable for enhancing source material of varying quality (streaming, TV, Blu-ray etc) and upscaling to sparkling 4K.
These are claims we’ve heard many times before, so the question is how well does it work in practice?
Sony had set up the A95L in a darkened room for the occasion, alongside last year’s A95K and the fresh 2023 competitors LG G3 and Samsung S95C. Unfortunately, there was no Panasonic MZ2000 in sight, as it’s not available for sale yet. But they did have a Sony HX310 OLED pro monitor as a reference.
So here we had several of this year’s hottest flagship TVs side by side for comparison. Sony gave us free rein to choose different demo scenes, check and try out the settings on the different TVs. With challenging scenes from selected films, we were able to get an impression of the different screens.
Sparkling picture quality
With top models like this, we are obviously at a very high level in terms of picture quality. It takes some experience to discern the differences, but they are there. Firstly, it’s clear that the 2023 models have slightly higher contrast and brightness than the 2022 model A95K.
When we compare the LG OLED G3 against Sony and Samsung, it’s also clear that – despite impressive contrast – it lacks some of the huge colour saturation, volume and nuance differences that we achieve with the QD OLED displays. With the spectacular aeroplane scenes from Top Gun: Maverick, we can see that these have an even stronger glow and more seamless colour gradations across the horizon.
The most interesting comparison, however, was the “duel” between the latest QD-OLED displays for 2023. Since the Sony A95L and Samsung S95C use the same type of image panel, the biggest difference will be in the image processing. And here it’s clear that Sony has gone to great lengths. With demanding dark scenes from The Revenant and The Greatest Showman, we could see that the A95L had extremely low noise levels, and at the same time a special ability to dig out details in dark parts of the image. While both Samsung and LG had some black crush tendencies, the shadow details came out impressively well on the Sony screen.
We didn’t get any brightness measurements, but the Sony A95L seemed about as punchy as the Samsung S95C, which we’ve previously measured at around 1250 nits in a 10% window. Accurate measurements will have to wait until we’ve had the Sony screen on the test bench here at home.
Updated user interface
The A95L is a Google TV as we have seen before, with its usual main menu, with a good overview of a wide range of available apps. But Sony has also chosen to make some special updates for this particular model. Specifically, the menu system has been given an overhaul, making it easier to navigate through video sources and specific settings. There’s a clear and concise pop-up menu that can be operated without obscuring the entire screen and what you’re watching. We played around with the menus and got a positive first impression.
The A95L is also customised for use with the PS5 and other gaming consoles. It has the new gaming menu, with quick access and an overview of the relevant settings. Auto HDR Tone Mapping and Auto Genre Picture Mode are in place to ensure good picture quality for both gaming and streaming. Here you can make different choices and optimise for different game genres. The Black Equaliser feature enhances the detail in black/dark areas, so you can see any enemies hiding in the dark. The A95L also has a picture-in-picture feature (Multi-View) where you can watch YouTube guides in a separate pane while you play.
As usual, Sony has taken care of the sound. The A95L utilises the hidden built-in speakers we know from before (Acoustic Surface Audio+ with two actuators and two woofers), delivering a powerful, clear and rich sound. At the same time, there are several expansion options.
The TV speakers can also be used with Sony’s own soundboards (Acoustic Centre Sync). When connecting a soundbar such as the HT-A7000, you can choose whether the dialogue should be reproduced solely by the soundbar or in conjunction with the TV speakers, to enhance the sound image and provide a better connection to the action on the screen. By connecting wireless rear speakers, a full surround sound image can be achieved through 360 Spatial Sound mapping.
The A95L also has dual audio output, so you can, for example, connect a pair of Bluetooth headphones at the same time as the TV speakers are active. In this way, you and your partner can listen to the same programme at different volumes. Useful!
Positive first impression
As mentioned, these were just some first impressions of the Sony A95L, and we look forward to getting our hands on a test copy soon – hopefully in the new 77″ screen size.
The Sony A95L is expected in stores in September.