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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sony A95K QD-OLED Review

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I’ve been excited to lay my eyes on the new QD-OLED panel technology since I first heard about it in early 2022 and really let myself get hyped by the expectation. By the time the Sony A95K arrived, my expectations had reached a dizzying level that I didn’t think could possibly be met.

What Sony has produced here actually lives up to the hype, and the A95K is easily the most impressive 4K television I’ve seen this year across a variety of metrics. Not only is the QD-OLED panel exceptional, but the entire package Sony built around it matches that quality standard with just a small number of caveats.

Sony A95K – Photos

Sony A95K – Design and Build

The Sony A95K is a striking television to look at even before you turn it on. Sony’s design here mimics some of what its televisions have done in the past, but with a new spin on it. When you’re not wall-mounting it, which you certainly can do, the included stand can be configured one of two ways. The photos in this review will only show it in one configuration (because it is such a challenge to swap between them), but the stand can actually face either the front or, as I have it, hidden behind the display.

If you set the A95K on it as I have, the panel comes to rest on the console with only the small inch-tall bottom bezel visible. In a room, the television panel is absolutely the star and this configuration focuses your attention right on the screen.

When the stand is flipped around, it allows the A95K to rest flush with a wall, which means it is farther away from the prying hands of children and also makes it look more like a wall-mounted affair without actually wall-mounting it.

In either case, cable management is less of an issue than with other stand designs. While yes, Sony does provide a set of removable panels for the back that keeps it looking clean and well arranged, there isn’t a need to try and funnel all the cables down one route and hide them behind anything. No matter what kind of rat’s nest of cables you have back there, you can’t see it from the front.

This style of stand does have its drawbacks, however. Because the television display comes too close to whatever it’s sitting on, there is no room for a soundbar. In my household, this isn’t a big deal since I use a pair of bookshelf-style HDMI speakers called The Fives from Klipsch, but any center-arranged speaker is going to require placement somewhere other than the top of the TV console where it would normally be.

The other issue is that the whole arrangement is monumentally heavy: the boxed TV weighs 112.4 pounds, and half of that is in the stand. The package easily made for the heaviest television I’ve ever encountered. I can’t be sure if the stand is as heavy as it is for the sake of balance, but that is my best guess. The weight doesn’t really make the A95K feel any more robust, but I will say I am not concerned about it tipping over.

You should really have two people around to move the box and set up any television 55-inches and larger, but for the A95K, this is far more than a suggestion: it is a requirement. It’s actually not terribly hard to set up if you have at least one person helping you, it’s just awkward and cumbersome to get it up a flight of stairs. Once it’s in position, you probably won’t want to move it again either.

The A65K brings one USB port, an ethernet port, a digital audio output port, two HDMI 2.1 ports, and two standard HDMI 2.0 ports. It also supports Chromecast, AirPlay, Homekit, Bluetooth 4.2, and WiFi 5 (sorry, no WiFi 6).

Having two HDMI 2.1 ports that both support up to 120Hz and VRR gaming is nice, but it’s fewer than I would have preferred. One of those ports is also the eARC port, which means if you’re using an HDMI-out sound system (which you definitely should be) then you are left with just a single 120Hz port for either a Playstation 5, Xbox Series X, or PC. When LG is giving us four in the C2, it feels like one of the few missteps by Sony when it comes to the A95K.

Sony A95K – Remote

Praise be, Sony finally listened and gave us a much smaller remote for the A95K than in previous years. This new remote is downright petite and takes Sony from makers of my least favorite remotes and skyrockets it to the top with what is now my most preferred clicker.

The A95K remote has a brushed aluminum-like finish on top that doesn’t show fingerprints much and has all of the controls a modern smart TV will ever need. Gone is the full number pad, thankfully, and most of the buttons are minimalist in design. The only four that break with that are the quick launch buttons, which for me were for Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Sony’s Bravia Core service.

The bottom of the remote is plastic and also features a really nice to have feature: audio location. When paired with a smart assistant, this remote can emit a loud sound to help you find it when it gets lost in the depths of your couch cushions. This is a welcome feature that for some reason is not standard. I certainly hope more companies adopt it, and kudos to Sony for including it here.

Sony A95K – Software and UI

Like Sony’s televisions from last year, the Sony A95K runs on Google TV and the experience is pretty much the same as on any television that runs this rather ubiquitous operating system. I was pretty high on Google TV last year, but I’ve become a lot less fond of it in recent months after using it exclusively on my home system.

Basically, it’s fine and runs well for the most part, but even in an app-only mode it forces me to look at ads for content I’m not necessarily interested in and emblazons them in a banner at the top of my home screen. I wish there was a way to just show only a panel of apps, but these days that seems like too much to ask from anyone.

Google TV also tends to run a bit more sluggish when you first fire up the television versus a few minutes later, and while this isn’t very noticeable with a brand-new TV, it gets progressively worse as time goes on. You can partially mitigate it by running the app-only mode, but just keep in mind that you might want to let the software “warm-up” a bit, so to speak, before trying to navigate to your desired streaming service.

None of this is really on Sony, and I do actually like that the company chooses to just lean on Google TV rather than build its own system that will no doubt be clunky and bloated like we see from other manufacturers like Samsung and LG.

I have a few other UI notes, but I’ve saved them for the gaming section since they dominantly affect performance and expectations there.

Sony A95K – Picture Quality

I’m not going to beat around the bush: The Sony A95K produces the best picture quality I’ve ever seen on any television and is easily the best I’ve seen this year. I’ll go into the details of these statements below, but for those who wanted the quick answer, here it is: you can’t beat this QD-OLED panel.

QD-OLED is a new type of panel that combines the benefits of OLED with Quantum Dots to create a panel that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Regular OLED displays start with a white panel of OLEDs, which is a combination of blue and yellow OLED material. This is then placed behind the color filter to create the colors we see on a TV. The primary difference between OLED and QD-OLED is that QD-OLED does not use color filters to create primary colors. QD-OLEDs use the same idea seen in QLED televisions, but instead of starting with a white OLED, they start with a blue one.

In short, QD-OLED provides significant benefits over standard OLED technology: they can get brighter, provide better color, and are more energy-efficient. Additionally, because QD-OLEDs require less power to achieve more brightness than a typical OLED, they won’t suffer from burn-in as easily since less power is being pushed through the organic pixels.

In practice, that means you’re going to see shades of colors on the A95K that you simply haven’t seen on a display before. The brightness of those colors and the range of color information that the panel can provide is well beyond what I or the majority of consumers have laid eyes upon in a consumer television, and it results in a display that is just gorgeous.

While it is not going to be able to compete in brightness with something like a Hisense U7G, it gets a lot brighter than standard OLED and does so without any color cast. You can expect a peak brightness of above 800 nits, but the apparent brightness is going to be beyond what the specifications show you because not only is it brighter, but the colors are richer.

I didn’t notice any stutter, judder, or artifacting of any kind on the A95K. What I did notice was some of the best dynamic range I’ve ever witnessed in a television. Blacks are truly black, as is the case for any OLED, but in addition to that, skin tones look more lifelike, landscapes look more real, and scenes look more true to how filmmakers intended them.

What I particularly like about the A95K is that it is able to adapt pretty well to whatever task you set in front of it. Normally, I would be able to perform a single test that shows how well the TV performs across the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts, but I couldn’t do that accurately here in just one test. The A95K can be set to prioritize which of these three gamuts you want to use it for (as well as BT.2020) and I tested each of those independently.

The result was 99.9% of sRGB, 91% of Adobe RGB, and 97% of DCI-P3 with an average Delta E of less than two. That is wildly impressive coverage for a television; I’ve tested creator-focused computer monitors that don’t perform as well as the A95K and I have no problem touting the color accuracy of this display as industry-leading.

Panel uniformity was another stand-out win for the A95K: it’s perfect. In a standard nine-by-five uniformity test, the display logged a “Recommended” tolerance from center to edge with an overall contrast deviation of less than 1% across the board.

One last note is on the display’s anti-glare which I can say works really quite well. It, mixed with the television’s brighter performance over traditional OLED, makes for a TV that is going to perform well in any circumstance outside of a bright window shining directly onto it. I currently have it set up in a room with two large windows off to the left and I was able to use the A95K in the middle of the day without issue. You’ll still see some glare when displayed content is intentionally dark, but it’s a lot better controlled than previously.

Sony A95K – Gaming Performance

All that high praise for color accuracy carries over to gaming where the A95K is an absolute dream. I tested it on my PlayStation 5 across a range of games from first-person adventures like Horizon Forbidden West to competitive shooters like Apex Legends and Destiny 2.

I am running out of ways to say that content looks spectacular on the A95K, so I’ll leave it at that: everything looks better on this television than on any other display in my house. Even though we lose a good chunk of color accuracy in Game Mode in exchange for higher framerates, on-screen scenes still look fabulous.

As you might expect, not only does content look excellent, it plays well too. Competitive games are smooth while action-oriented single-player adventure games are no less impressive. Games with strong cinematic lighting like A Plague Tale look particularly great as the play between lights and darks and colors dance across the screen to dazzling effect.

As mentioned, the A95K supports ALLM, auto game mode, VRR, and up to 120Hz for games that support it. What I will say is that while turning on my PlayStation did turn on the A95K, turning off my PlayStation doesn’t turn the TV off. These kinds of features are never high on my list of must-haves, but at least out of the box the experience isn’t exactly the same as with the LG C1 or C2, which tie directly to plugged-in peripherals a lot more directly.

There are two areas where I have to ding Sony a bit and both, unfortunately, affect gaming.

Out of the box and for reasons that I will never understand, Sony does not enable full HDMI performance. Instead, the company locks the full performance of its HDMI ports unintuitively behind multiple menu selections. By default, the A95K’s HDMI ports won’t support 4K at 120Hz or 4K HDR: you actually have to go turn that feature on. It’s hidden in the ports options menu and you then have to turn them from standard to “Enhanced,” which I argue is a totally unnecessary and convoluted step: this needs an “Auto” function, and it needs to be enabled by default.

It is incredibly irritating to plug a PlayStation 5 into a Sony television only to have the PlayStation tell you that the connected display doesn’t support 4K HDR or VRR because you didn’t know you had to actually enable these features on the TV. I’m in awe that a PlayStation, a Sony product, works more intuitively with an LG television than a Sony one. Sony would really benefit from getting out of its own way.

One other thing worth noting is that while Samsung and LG have created dedicated gaming menus that give specific control and visibility to attached consoles and computers, Sony does not. That is not to say that the television doesn’t support all the necessary gaming features – it totally does once you enable it – there just isn’t a way to set up multiple viewing profiles for different games or get real-time visibility into how many frames are currently being displayed at any given time.

The lack of a gaming menu isn’t a deal-breaker, of course, it would just be nice to see since Sony’s main competition offers it.

Sony A95K – Audio Quality and… Camera?

As is expected of modern televisions, the audio quality of the A95K isn’t great. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s actually not terrible considering how thin this display is, but it’s not going to impress anyone with its range.

Because it’s so thin, there just isn’t physically enough room to generate rich audio, especially on the low-end. It gets plenty loud, but soundscapes are always going to come across as a bit empty, hollow, or narrow.

I don’t expect anyone to defy physics and make a thin television sound as good as a dedicated sound system, but I do applaud what Sony is doing to try and make the lemonade out of lemons. Like other high-end Sony displays, the A95K uses the surface of the display as a speaker, so sound comes directly out from behind the panel. The TV also has both left and right subwoofers that fire backward to help create a more natural soundstage.

Sony says that it has tuned its virtualized sound to support Dolby Atmos and actually create 3D-sounding environments. It doesn’t quite get there and while it can do the left and right channels pretty well, the area between them is muddy – and forget about the top and bottom.

Still, I found my skin tingling a bit when watching films on the A95K. Sure, the audio is lacking when looked at through the lens of a discerning audiophile, but it manages to do just enough to keep up with the outstanding picture quality. I think that is worthy of praise and I know for a fact that all of my friends who don’t evaluate televisions and speakers for a living would be just giddy with what the A95K can do with regard to sound.

The A95K also ships with a Bravia Cam, which is a removable camera that plugs into a dedicated port at the top of the display. This camera can be used as a webcam to chat with friends and family, but Sony also uses it to enable a few other features: proximity alert, gesture controls, sound tuning, and power-saving modes.

Proximity alert allows it to see if someone gets too close to the television (like a child) and shut off. Gesture control gives you the ability to change channels and browse content with your gestures instead of relying on the remote. Sound tuning uses the camera to see where viewers are and tunes sound to best suit their location in relation to the television. Finally, the camera can tell if anyone is in the room and if not, will automatically power down the display to save power.

All of these features are, of course, optional and the camera can be easily removed from the television if you don’t want to use it. Additionally, there is a manual shutter on the camera so you can close it off from watching you if you don’t want to use it for any reason.

Overall, I think it’s kind of gimmicky but in a good way. These are some nice to have features for a television and it comes at no extra cost with the A95K.

Sony A95K – The Competition

Sony’s A95K doesn’t replace any current television in its lineup but instead stands alone as brand new thanks to its QD-OLED panel. Probably the closest competitor is the Samsung S95B which also uses the same QD-OLED panel and costs around $3,000 for a 65-inch set.

The A95K is extremely expensive and as such locks it away from a good number of people who might be interested in it. Its $4,000 asking price for a 65-inch display also puts it way above televisions like the $2,000 LG C2 which is another direct competitor even if it is using just standard OLED technology.

I wholeheartedly recommend the A95K for those who can find one and can afford it, but fully understand that this level of performance at this asking price isn’t for everyone.


Sony’s A95K is the best-looking television I’ve ever seen both from an aesthetic and picture quality standpoint. The television looks stunning in a living room even when powered off and will beg to be enjoyed the second it turns on. This magnificent display is a first look at the future of display technology, and it is one that is both literally and figuratively bright.

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