Anyone who clapped eyes on the Sony A95K last year was pretty unanimously wowed. If you could afford its pretty sizeable price tag, there were few others that topped it for all round performance, despite a very competitive year in 4K TVs.
Now, we have seen its successor - the A95L. And given our experience last year, we were a little bit excited to see what it has in store.
We've only got to see a short Sony-controlled demo on a pre-production sample so far, but even so - we think the Sony's second stab at QD-OLED could be even better than its first. Here are our first impressions.
The A95K was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the A95L is showing all the right signs of doing that without issue. The brightness of the new panel should look fantastic with HDR content, and when combined with improved colour volume and enhanced detail and subtlety, there's a lot to look forward to when we get to see a finished sample.
- Superb brightness
- Punchier colours
- Improved detail retrieval
- Should sound great
- QD-OLED panel
- Available in 55, 65 and 77 inches
- Flexible stand design
- Bravia Cam included
Last year's A95K divided opinion on its design. Not the TV itself - that was as slick and near bezel-free as you'd expect from a flagship OLED telly - but the stand. For a start, it was big, bulky and heavy - not great from an eco perspective when it comes to shipping, but also quite difficult to accommodate too. It ran across the whole length of the TV - so if you had a 65 inch set, you needed a stand the same size. It also caused issues for people needing to put a soundbar on their stand, so it would block the bottom section of the screen.
This year, that's all change - to some extent. Slim aluminium feet sit at the very edge of the set, so they're near unnoticeable. The default position is to have it sitting flush to your stand, but this year it does offer the ability to raise it up, so you can fit a soundbar underneath. There is also the option to make the stand narrower by bringing it in towards the middle, but this is only available in the 77 inch version. Considering the feedback from last year's TV, that is a bit of a shame.
If you decide to wall mount instead, the Sony A95L arguably isn't the slimmest OLED on the block. While we're used to seeing OLEDs have a bit of a bigger bottom end, to hold all of the connections, this is extended further up the panel on the A95L. That's for good reason though. Not only does it hold the brains of this pretty smart operation, but it also holds what's needed for Sony's Acoustic Audio+, Sony's audio tech that uses the screen itself as a speaker to boost sound performance. While we haven't heard it this time round just yet, it's been a great addition in other Sony TVs and we've no doubt it will continue to be this year too.
Hardware and features
- Twice as bright as A95K
- Cognitive XR processor
- 4K/120Hz, Dolby Vision gaming
- Bravia Cam
It seems like Sony's A95L will use the newest QD-OLED panel in its A95L, produced by Samsung Display. That's because it is pushing the same sort of brightness improvements as Samsung is promising in its S95C, with Sony saying the A95L should reach twice as bright as last year's A95K.
That's quite an boost, considering the brightness improvements already present in the first generation of QD-OLED. We've seen it with our own eyes too and can assure you the difference is quite something - but more on that shortly.
This is all possible thanks to the use of a heat sink once again, with improved thermal analysis via the new Cognitive XR Processor. This enables the A95L to keep things cool and drive the panel harder, without impacting its lifespan.
This Cognitive XR processor also comes with a few more tricks up its sleeve, with several picture processing improvements. Included in these is XR Triluminos Max, which promises to extend the colour volume compared with last year's set, and XR Clear Image, which promises to remove motion blur and noise from source material, for an even cleaner, clearer image at 4K.
Sony's upscaling and motion processing is among the best you'll find, so we're expecting good things from this in use.
Gamers will be pleased at how well hey've been catered for on the A95L. For a start, it gets Sony's Perfect for PlayStation 5 badge, which ensures a better HDR performance through Auto HDR Tone Mapping and has the Auto Genre Picture Mode - ultimately the same as an automatic low latency mode (ALLM).
It's also the only TV in Sony's 2023 range to support Dolby Vision for gaming, and is capable of 4K/120Hz with support for VRR - though it does only have two HDMI 2.1 ports that will support this. This is down to the HDMI chipset the TV uses, limiting the number of 2.1 ports that Sony can include. Manufacturers like LG have found ways to offer the full four, though, which would've been nice to see here.
In 2023, Sony's TVs will come with a new gaming menu that offers a few options to help give you the edge. This includes the ability to easily turn VRR on and off, quick access to motion blur reduction, a crosshair functionality and a feature called a black equaliser, which lifts the brightness of shadow detail to help you find enemies lurking in the dark.
There's also a pretty unique ability to shrink your gaming screen down, if big-screen gaming isn't for you. You can shrink it to as much as 30 per cent of your display, allowing you to more easily take in everything that is happening in every corner of the screen.
Returning this year is the Bravia Cam, which sits on top of the TV and is included in the box with the A95L. Sony says it has bolstered the offering from the Bravia Cam this year, and while we weren't too sold on what it had to offer when we tested it last year, we'll be interested to see what it can offer this time round. Expect video calling, as you can see in the picture (not demoed on the A95L and we've had to obscure the demo handlers number), but there should also be the option for automatic picture and sound tweaks depending on where people are sitting, and power saving modes for when the camera can tell no one is in the room.
As ever, with these things, the camera and its mic can be switched off if you prefer, or you can remove it entirely.
We were invited along to Sony's headquarters to take a first look at the A95L and even though it was an early prototype, we were already able to get a good idea of its performance, with some short picture demos to show off some of this year's improvements.
Due to it being a prototype, we were only able to see the TV working in Vivid mode. This wouldn't be our picture mode of choice, ordinarily, but it does at least do the job of showing just how much brightness the TV is capable of.
Sony did what other manufacturers do in these demos, in that it had the A95L up against the last year's A95K and also the S95B - Samsung's QD-OLED TV from 2022. How it performs against last year's Samsung is something of a moot point, as this year's Samsung TVs will come with improvements too, but it's the comparison we have until we can get our hands on finished samples.
Immediately, we could see the brightness improvements compared with both of last year's TVs, although the boost on last year's A95K was the most stark. We watched test footage rather than a real movie, but the overall brightness was clear, as well as having enough left in the tank for extra punch in highlights when required.
Some video of a bride in a white dress showed the panel is able to hold onto details in those brightest areas too. The scalloped edges of her veil looked sharper and the subtleties in her dress were crisper in their definition and easier to pick out than in last year's tellies.
Colours are also better handled, with greater punch and saturation than we could see on last year's A95K. Of course, this was in Vivid mode, so the colours weren't necessarily the most accurate, but arguably they also weren't completely unbelievable either. A bouquet of brightly coloured flowers had both punch and realism, with an added sense of depth that gave it the edge on last year's TV too.
Finally, there's a new coating on this year's screen, which takes the edge off the reflections and means the A95L will be more forgiving in brighter rooms.
We didn't get to see much more than that, but it was enough to leave us wanting more - in particular we're excited to see this year's picture processing at work with real world content, and how that added brightness adds to the HDR movie experience.
- Acoustic Surface Audio+
- 2.2-channel sound
- Dolby Atmos-compatible
We didn't get to hear the A95L at all during the demo, but as we mentioned above, we do know it will have Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio+ and that - on paper at least - it doesn’t sound like it'll be hugely different to what we heard in the A95K.
That means there's a 2.2-channel setup (that Dolby Atmos compatibility is purely the ability to process it, not necessarily produce it), which uses actuators to vibrate the screen panel from behind and create sound, all supported by a couple of woofers for bass handling.
Going on our previous experiences with this setup, we don't expect we'll be disappointed. It's one of the better sound systems - if not the best - that you'll find built into TVs, and we love how direct the sound is when it comes at you from the centre of the display.
If you decide you would prefer to go for a soundbar, this TV - and a lot of Sony's 2023 line up - can make use of Acoustic Centre Sync, more new tech from Sony which combines the sound from the bar and TV together, to give a richer, fuller and more focused sound.
We certainly found this to be the case when demoed briefly on the new A80L with the excellent A7000 soundbar. A demo of Lady Gaga singing in When a Star is Born was lifted back to the panel, from the soundbar, so you felt like her voice was coming directly from her. The sound was obviously bigger and louder too, and had a better sense of space and detail compared to the soundbar alone. It definitely makes a compelling argument for keep your AV purchasing within the Sony family in 2023.
The A95K was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the A95L is showing all the right signs of doing that without issue. The new brightness of the panel should look fantastic with HDR content, and when combined with improved colour volume and enhanced detail and subtlety, there's a lot to look forward to when we get to see a finished sample.
There could be a wait on that - while some of Sony's TVs premium Mini LED TVs are expected in the first half of this year, Sony has told us to expect the A95L in the second half of the year. Prices are still TBC too, but if last year's are anything to go on, you may want to start your savings fund now if this is the TV you have your eye on in 2023.