Sony has unveiled its Bravia 2021 TV range and, as with previous generations, the new range puts the emphasis on picture quality. Instead of introducing the latest advances in display technology, Sony has long believed in the makers’ intent to maintain image accuracy by not adding wild saturation or scaling, which ultimately brings more noise to the screen.
The Bravia 2021 family stays true to this calling card, but always tries to push the boundaries a bit. According to Sony, it is the world’s first television set with cognitive intelligence. From a layman’s point of view: These televisions not only enhance and scale content, but can now detect the focal length in the image.
For all the details on the new line, we spoke with Kazuo Kiy, who is Sony’s Representative Director and Executive Vice President for Consumer and Commercial Television. In an exclusive conversation, we talked about what cognitive focus means to you as a user and what Sony is doing to present a visual that kills.
As mentioned earlier, Sony is known for its precision and realism in creating content, which is closely related to the vision of content creators. For the year 2021, this means that cognitive intelligence will become more important. We are going to bring our new XR engine to five series, including 8K and OLED, says Kii. We concentrate on rendering the content of the image through proper analysis. This is a first, as Sony tends to reserve its latest processor for high-end models.
Whichever Bravia family TV you choose in 2021, you’ll get the most realistic display of visual effects. If the philosophy doesn’t change, the way Sony does it will change. We analyze the object in the image – any object can be analyzed in terms of color, contrast, texture, etc. For example, let’s take a picture of a family on the beach at sunset. Instead of focusing only on a radiant sunset, the XR processor can also work for the family. In other words: Each object in each image is produced cleanly.
The XR processor does not eliminate previous methods of scaling or enhancement, but adds a unique human layer. With the power of artificial intelligence, Sony determines what we humans will be looking at first. Essentially, these televisions analyze the tendency of the user. Kii cited our discussion as an example: In this conversation, we have a natural tendency to look at ourselves and focus on human expressions. The [Processor] can determine the user’s area of interest and focus the reading on that area. If this works, the image will be more appealing to viewers – emphasizing the brightness and color of our respective faces.
The XR processor, always in real time, now analyzes the image and quickly identifies focal points. During the demonstration of the technology, we were able to see a human face in the foreground and the background behind it via a histogram. It certainly has enough power to handle the task in real time, and talks about improvements on the CPU side, but we’ll have to test it in person closer to launch to see the real impact.
We asked Kii to explain Sony’s decision. As mentioned earlier, brands like Samsung and TCL are moving forward with a different panel choice: QLED with mini LED technology. In this regard, Mr. Kii emphasized that his team does not focus so much on a specific technology, but rather on what provides the best user experience. If I get more feedback, I want to change the nature of the panel. That’s why we continue to look at new devices, says Kii, who adds that there are currently no plans for QLEDs or mini TVs with LED backlighting. Clearly, he and his team are not trying to rush the new panel technology.
The focus is on what the XR cognitive processor can do to support and improve image quality. Yes, the main feature for 2021 is the additional analysis, but it can do much more than that. It can also scale content – converting the compressed image to 720p, 1080p, 4K and even 8K – so the content you stream from Netflix or Hulu is absolutely perfect. It’s the same with home movies. Kii notes that the processor performs very well when transferring images from 4K to 8K, as with the Z9J Master Series. But since this processor is in all Sony 2021 TVs, it will also work on the OLED A80J (the successor to our luxury TV) and the massive 100-inch X92.
All 16 models are equipped with Sony’s flagship Cognitive XR processor. But it remains to be seen how affordable they are. Line 2021 starts with the X90J (50 inches, 55 inches, 65 inches and 75 inches) with a full array 4K LED panel. This is an entry-level 4K LED TV, with backlighting and lots of features. Next up, the X92, is a massive 100-inch 4K LED model. Sony keeps the high-end 4K LED option in the mix with the X95J. And at the top of the list is the Master Series Z9J, a 75 and 85-inch 8K LED display that delivers Sony’s best picture.
The A80J and A90J Master Series are available for the 2021 OLEDs. Both stay true to OLED technology and offer incredible dark contrast and bright images. What’s really exciting though is the improved brightness of the A90J, which should offer higher peak brightness. We didn’t see much effect on the A8H 2020, our choice for the best luxury TV, but the OLEDs have darker panels. This type of panel produces a pixel-based image and generally cannot achieve the same brightness as a TV with LED backlighting. Instead, the standard LED cannot display dark or black colors.
Sony has not yet announced prices or availability of the 2021 models. We expect them to be marketed in the United States in the coming months, closer to spring.
In addition to the XR processor built into each model, Sony is improving the playing field with features. All of these TVs will support HDMI 2.1 in some way, which will greatly enhance the next generation of gaming experiences on these TVs. The difference is in the number of HDMI ports that the latest standard supports.
The cognitive processor takes the sound to the next level, and our conversation with Kazuo Kii revealed that it’s a deeper immersion into the content. Like Samsung, Sony will also match the sound in the room to where it appears on the screen. It’s safe to say that you will want to try it out and see if it really provides more benefits. Normally we recommend buying a TV in combination with a soundbar, but Sony is trying to change this.
The big news is the switch from Android TV to Google TV for the smart interface. All Sony 2021 Bravia TVs will use Google TV, the same software we fell in love with in late 2020 with the new Chromecast. It provides easy access to content and Google Wizard at all times. Most importantly, you have access to almost all major streaming services. And it reduces the need to buy an external broadcast box. These include the world’s first televisions with integrated Google TV.
As always, Sony doesn’t tie you to the platform. All of these TVs are compatible with Apple’s AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, Alexa and Amazon’s Google Assistant. I don’t want to impose a system on the users. Users already know which system they prefer, and we support that idea, says Kee. It’s a platform agnostic approach that we would love to see on all television. In fact, you don’t have to switch platforms or services to get a TV from Sony.
In summary, Kee is talking about line 2021: I want to provide our users with the best possible performance and experience. And to do this, they used a cognitive x-ray processor at all levels. 8K ? I’ll check it out. OLED? I’ll check it out. 4K SETODIUM ? You guessed it, look. It is excellent value for money and offers a level of performance comparable to that of the entire Bravia 2021 family.
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