Sony’s 2021 TVs, introduced in the early days of CES 2021, run the gamut from big-screen 4K LCD to 8K and OLED sets that promise to double down on the brand’s reputation for excellent picture accuracy and advanced sound positioning.
This year’s lineup consists of the smartest TVs ever made by Sony, boasting what the company calls “cognitive intelligence” with an all-new processor that mimics human thinking to deliver the most attractive picture optimizations ever while also delivering the director’s intent. Sony has introduced a new sense of equity to its lineup, too: Every model gets the latest chip and baseline 4K 120Hz picture, plus a transition from Android TV to the Google TV platform.
But not all sets were created the same. Here’s everything you need to know about different models and the major changes coming to Sony TVs in 2021.
Sony Bravia XR: Smarter than ever before
At the core of all of Sony’s 21 TVs is the Sony Cognitive Processor XR, the latest and greatest video processing chip Sony has to offer. For several years Sony has emphasized the importance of faithfully delivering the creator’s intent when displaying movies and TV shows, while also tweaking the picture and sound for optimal viewer enjoyment. With the Sony XR processor, Sony’s latest attempt goes further than ever, with AI driven texture enhancement, color recreation, signal and data processing and more.
The secret sauce, according to Sony, has less to do with signal processing technology and everything to do with cognitive technology, mimicking the ways the human mind sees and hears to identify the focal point of any picture or scene and optimizing a whole range of elements to make every frame and pixel look it’s best.
Sony is bringing a number of XR branded enhancements to their 2021 TVs, using the new processor to power motion processing, upscaling to 4K or 8K resolution, boosting contrast and color, and optimizing picture and sound for whatever environment the TV is in.
Additionally, several of the new Sony TVs will see features carried over from the 2020 lineup, with features like Netflix Calibrated Mode and IMAX Enhanced content support.
The next big improvement is HDMI 2.1 compatibility, including support for eARC, 4K resolution at 120Hz and features like Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which all rely on HDMI 2.1’s expanded bandwidth. Sony has offered some support for HDMI 2.1 in the past, but these features will now be available on all Bravia XR TVs.
Finally, all of the models announced also have built in NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) compatibility, with tuners that can handle the new 4K-capable broadcast standard.
Welcome to Google TV
The other major change coming to Sony TVs is the transition from Android TV to its successor Google TV, first introduced last year on the new Chromecast with Google TV.
While the lines dividing Google TV and The Android Smart TV operating system are a little hazy, Google TV is the latest attempt by the search giant to be competitive among smart TV platforms like Roku, LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen OS. For some time Android has been the only brand-agnostic competitor to Roku, and with Google TV the software shifts focus from apps to content recommendations.
While our own reviewers had mixed feelings about it on the Chromecast, Sony’s implementation of Android TV in the last year has been better than ever before, and we hope to see similar improvements as they move to Google TV in 2021.
One of the major features of Google TV is an emphasis on Google Assistant and Google Home voice interaction. Sony steps up this capability by introducing hands-free voice control for several of its 2021 Google TVs.
That means certain sets use far-field microphones that listen to the room around it for the “Hey Google” activation phrase and subsequent instructions. TVs that listen to the world around them have received mixed reception from users in the past, but now that smart speakers have normalized this technology it’s likely that many TV shoppers will welcome the feature they once shunned.
See also: 7 CE Predictions For 2021
In any case, the hands-free capability and Google TVs enhanced Google Assistant integration will make it easier than ever to search for apps and shows, control smart home devices and search for information on any topic.
And if you’re not sold on Google’s built-inch interactive features, the new sets will also work when paired with a Google Home Smart speaker as well as Amazon Alexa devices. Apple users aren’t left out either, with support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Apple Home Kit.
Sony 2021 models announced
As part of CES Sony is announcing six new members of the Master Series and standard Bravia model lines.
At the top of the food chain is the new Sony Master Series Z9J 8K LED TV. It’s the only 8K model announced at this time, and Sony will offer the set in 75- and 85-inch screen sizes. Defining features include all of the XR processing and Google TV capabilities mentioned above, along with Acoustic Multi-Audio technology, which delivers a sound from screen effect for more immersive listening and sound positioning that matches sound effects and dialogue to the objects and actors on screen.
The next step down is the Sony Master Series A90J OLED TV. Available in 55-, 65- and 83-inch sizes, Sony’s newest OLED model promises beautiful picture quality with XR OLED contrast enhancement that adjusts the brightness for higher brights and deeper blacks, as well as XR triluminos pro for a wider color gamut and more realistic color palette.
The Master Series A90J also has a three-way stand that can be positioned for use with or without a soundbar. We’ve been seriously impressed with Sony’s OLED TVs in recent years, and we expect the A90J to live up to that reputation as one of the best TVs on the market. We’ll have to wait and see when it arrives.
It’s not the only OLED Sony is offering, as the Sony A80J OLED TV is also coming soon. The A80J also uses the three-way stand, which offers a smaller footprint for use on smaller TV stands, as well as a standard wide position option and an elevated stance for accommodating a sound bar.
Both the Master Series A90J and the A80J OLED models feature Acoustic Surface Audio+, Sony’s superb sound from screen technology. By using the OLED glass pane as the vibrational surface for creating sound it literally delivers sound directly from the screen, and the effect is pretty incredible.
Finally, Sony is offering three 4K LED models, starting with the X95J. Available in 85-, 75- and 65-inch sizes, the TV features a minimalist design with Sony’s Seamless Edge bezel, that shrinks the borders around the screen down to a fraction of an inch. A three-position stand gives you several options for set up with or without a sound bar.
With Acoustic Multi-Audio technology the sound tracks to match the position of objects and actors on screen, and ambient optimization adjusts the picture and sound to match the lighting and audio environment it’s placed in.
The second 4K LED model is the X90J, which features many of these same features, But with a regular one position stand. However, Sony ups the ante with more size options, starting with a 50-inch set and ranging up to 75 inches.
As with all the other Sony TVs slated for 2021, this set boasts Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound along with HDMI 2.1 compatibility, a next-gen TV tuner and Google TV. However, it is worth noting that the X90J does not have hands-free capability or the room-listening mics that feature entails. If you’re looking for a slightly less invasive smart TV, this is the one to get.
Closely related to this is a whopping 100-inch big screen model, named the X92J. It’s similar to the X90J in most respects, but omits Acoustic Multi-Audio.
Sony has not announced pricing for any of the above sets, or dates for retail availability but these details will be announced in spring of 2021, suggesting these models will go on sale sometime in the early part of this year.
This article originally ran on tomsguide.com.