No other brand currently embraces both the LCD and OLED sides of the TV world as successfully as Sony. This isn’t just true of Sony’s flagship LCD TVs, either; happily its LCD talents also extend to its temptingly affordable mid-range sets. As comprehensively proven by the X90J range.
Despite their mid-range status and pricing, these 50, 55, 65 and 75-inch sets deliver all the features AV fans are looking for. A direct LED lighting system with local dimming. A powerful picture processor in the shape of Sony’s Cognitive XR system. A full suite of gaming features including 4K at 120Hz, variable refresh rates (via a promised but currently still awaited software update) and automatic low latency mode switching. Support for the Dolby Vision HDR system. Impressive brightness and colour range. An unusually strong sound system. Honestly, it’s almost as if Sony stole our TV wishlist and copied it onto the X90J spec sheet. Prices are very competitive now, with 50in at around £800, 65in at under £1100 and the 75in for around £1300.
In previous years Sony has used edge LED lighting in its equivalent models to the X90Js. For the X90Js, though, it’s not only switched to superior direct LED lighting (where the LEDs sit behind the screen), but also introduced a local dimming system.
This local dimming system is pretty limited, only running to 24 zones when some high-end LCD TVs run to many hundreds. Sony has history, though, when it comes to somehow getting startlingly good backlight results from limited dimming zone numbers, and it’s soon apparent that this knack continues with the X90Js.
Yes, there is occasionally some visible ‘blooming’ of light leakage around very bright objects that stand out against very dark backdrops. However, it’s not nearly as stark or common as you might expect – despite the X90Js hitting seriously HDR-friendly peak brightness levels beyond 800 nits when most mid-range rivals struggle to get beyond 500-600 nits.
In fact, it’s the X90Js’ love of brightness that most makes them so special for their money. Combined with an impressively far-reaching colour palette, the brightness unlocks much more of the joys of today’s high dynamic range imagery than any other TV in its class. Even better, it does this while also producing surprisingly deep black levels that make dark scenes look much more authentic than anything we’ve seen from Sony before at this price level.
The X90Js are extremely consistent with their brightness, too, avoiding the tendency to dim stand-out bright objects that some rivals exhibit.
With all this in mind, the X90Js’ occasional blooming artifacts are not only understandable but actually a remarkably small price to pay for the picture glories on show elsewhere.
Talking of which, the X90Js are also outstanding performers when it comes to handling motion, as well as sharpness and detail with both native 4K and upscaled HD images.
It’s important, finally, to sing the praises of Sony’s new Cognitive XR processor, which plays its part in all of the picture strengths we’ve just described, as well as living up to its core claim of making pictures look more natural – more as your eyes see the real world.
The X90Js carry what Sony calls an Acoustic Multi-Audio sound system. This combines a pair of Sony’s unique full-range ‘X-Balanced’ speakers with two so-called sound-positioning tweeters located fairly high on the TV’s rear. This creates a larger, more immersive soundstage with more accurately positioned audio details. So, for instance, voices seem to be coming from the correct part of the screen, or a vehicle’s noise can be heard tracking across the screen as the image moves.
The Acoustic Multi-Audio system proves particularly effective with a Dolby Atmos sound source, and is backed up with clean, rich dialogue and enough dynamic range and mid-range power to handle loud action scenes without sounding thin or compressed.
Bass isn’t especially deep and ‘present’ in the mix, meaning that dense scenes occasionally end up sounding a little thin and harsh. Overall, though, the X90Js’ sound joins their pictures in outperforming the vast majority of similarly priced rivals.
The X90Js are a little wider in their frames and chunkier at the back than many modern TVs – but not to an extent most people will find problematic. Handily, Sony has provided two separate mounting points for the X90Js’ feet: two under each corner for the most stylish look, and two nearer the centre of the cabinet allowing it to be placed on a narrow item of furniture.
The X90Js operating system is a little complicated thanks to a sometimes unhelpful relationship between the Google TV smart system and Sony’s set up menus, but you’ll learn your way around everything over time.
One last point is that the X90Js are best enjoyed with a little ambient light in the room, so you can still enjoy the benefits of their excellent brightness and contrast without being distracted by any occasional backlight blooming.
Their endearing, unapologetic love of HDR-friendly brightness and vibrant colour makes the X90Js pretty much the perfect living room (as opposed to dedicated home cinema room) TVs. Especially when you factor their aggressive pricing into the equation.
First Man, 4K Blu-ray
The stark contrast of First Man’s space scenes explode off the X90J’s screen thanks to its exceptionally consistent brightness and surprisingly effective local dimming.
It, 4K Blu-ray
The massive scale of the soundtrack during the scene where Pennywise attacks the Loser’s Club in a garage reveals how good the X90Js are at scaling their sound up when needed, and at picking out and accurately placing subtle soundtrack details, although the treble becomes a touch thin during the very loudest moments.
Inside Out, 4K Blu-ray
The X90J’s riot of brightness and colour makes it fantastically effective with animated HDR films. Inside Out, which features dream sequences where the colour palette was deliberately pushed beyond the usual standards, looks particularly gorgeous.
You should buy a Sony X90J because no other similarly affordable TV dares to go as bright with HDR as the X90J, resulting in vibrant, crisp and colourful pictures that leave most rivals looking as dull as dishwater by comparison.