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Sony 4K LED vs OLED TV Comparison
Sony 4K vs OLED TV Comparison
In this article, we compare the differences between Sony's LED and OLED panel technologies. Learn what makes Sony TVs such a good choice and how to find the best model for your space and budget.
Company & Product Overview
If you have been in the market for a new flat panel TV, you have probably noticed there are a few different types of TV technologies to choose from. When flat-panel TVs first arrived on the market around the year 2000, they were all of the plasma types. Later LED models came out that were more cost-effective, lighter, and in some cases had a better picture. However, many die-hard plasma TV owners still swore by the pure blacks a plasma TV could reproduce.
Later, OLED TVs hit the market with some offering black levels that rivaled or bettered those coveted high-performance plasma TVs. Initially, the OLED sets were very expensive but today, if you are looking for a better than average TV, you’ll be confronted with a few different choices of tech that use either OLED or LED technology in their panels.
We are going to take a look at both of these technologies from Sony, which is by far and away, our favorite video company at Audio Advice. First, we will get into the basic pros and cons of each technology, then we take a closer look at some of the individual models to help you make a better decision for your needs and environment. With new TVs that use QD-OLED, and Mini LED technologies, there are even more choices today, but this could make the decision about which one to buy more confusing.
So, we are going to take a look at both technologies plus the newest panel tech from Sony, which is by far and away, our favorite video company at Audio Advice. You may be wondering why the team at Audio Advice are such huge fans of Sony TVs. Obviously, there are other large video companies out there, but it comes down to the best picture quality and the best customer service.
Sony is the only company that makes commercial movie and TV cameras, professional video editing consoles, and the projectors used in the best movie theaters all over the world. They touch every single part of the process. Sony’s deep knowledge about the film-making process allows them to deliver a truly unique “Lens to Living Room” experience that is closer to the creators’ intent.
To our eyes, the picture on Sony TVs just looks a lot more natural than the other brands. We feel this is due to all of the great technologies Sony has developed to process the picture better. Some TVs may appear to be brighter or jump out more when you first see them, but if you watch for more than 10 minutes, you’ll notice they just do not look natural. We will get more into their video processing in the individual TVs, but they just do it better than anyone else.
The other aspect is customer service. Normally, you will never have an issue with a television. But there are those rare occasions where someone does. In our 30+ years of selling Sony, we can say they stand behind their products far better than the competing brands. There is just no comparison. If there is a problem, they make it right.
As a matter of fact, we recently had a prime example. One of our customers had a Sony TV that had failed within the TV’s limited warranty period, which was just highly unusual. We had another customer’s different brand break on the same day that interestingly enough was almost the same age.
Sony replaced the set for the customer within one week at no charge. The other customer waited 9 weeks to even get the brand to send a tech out to their house. We see this kind of thing a lot with the other brands, they just do not seem to care as much about the end-user as Sony.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Features & Technology
LED vs OLED TVs
LED-type TVs have a liquid crystal panel that forms the picture, but this panel does not create any light itself. That is the job of LEDs placed behind the panel. The first LED TVs used what was called “Edge-Lit” with LED’s surrounding all four sides, just the left and right side or top and bottom, or even just the bottom. Tiny dispersion lenses are used to spread the light evenly across the screen. This type is still made today and is the most cost-effective, but we do not feel it has the best picture.
Later “Direct-Lit” LED TVs came out where the LEDs were spread evenly behind the LCD panel, but they could not be individually controlled and usually there were less than 100. These offered better performance.
Full-Array LED TVs then entered the market with hundreds of LEDs behind the LCD panel. And better yet, this technology allowed for control of zones on the screen or even down to each LED. The models with the best control are called Full Array Local Dimming. This tech can produce a very bright and vivid image with excellent contrast. The very best Full Array Local Dimming displays use hundreds of LED light bulbs to create the light source behind the panel. Since there are so many LED bulbs in this type of panel, they can be turned on and off or even dimmed in various “zones” to control the bright levels better — giving you a very bright picture and a contrast ratio that will look great even if your room has a lot of natural light coming in.
Last year, all of the better Sony LED TVs used the XR Contrast Booster to control the backlight technology in this type of LED panel — but this year, only one Bravia XR model — the entry-point X90K series — uses this type of LED tech. The better models this year are upgraded to Mini LED technology controlled by Sony’s unique XR Backlight Master Drive processing algorithm which we will get into more later.
OLED, which is short for Organic Light-Emitting Diode is the other major display technology. While the structure is simpler than an LED TV, the panels cost quite a bit to manufacture. With this tech, there is no need for backlighting by LEDs, since the diode emits its own light. The great side effect of this is when the diode turns off, you get pure black without having to rely on zones to control the levels of light being emitted. This means you also get what is an almost perfect contrast ratio.
Both LED & OLED technologies can produce amazing pictures, but as we said earlier, we feel a lot of the quality of the picture comes down to the video processing that occurs before the signal even gets to the panel — whether it is LED or OLED. Sony actually buys its panel technology from different manufacturers but then applies its own video processing for that wonderful Sony picture.
Last year, the XR processor provided the biggest picture improvement over previous models and it was a huge leap forward in technology. You can read more about the Cognitive Processor XR in our 2022 Sony TV overview.
Mini LED & QD-OLED TVs
This year, however, Sony has delivered the biggest enhancements to picture quality we have ever seen with new models featuring the latest and greatest advancements in LED and OLED panel tech. Along with a new Full-Array LED, and OLED models, Sony has introduced their first-ever Mini LED televisions — the X95K Premium Series & Z9K Master Series — plus, their first-ever QD-OLED — the A95K Master Series.
So, which tech is best for you?
We feel it will come down to five things: your environment, off-axis viewing, gaming, screen size, and price.
While OLED display-type TVs have increased their ability to throw out more light, they still do not have the ability to overcome a brightly lit room. LED TVs on the other hand can give you a great picture in a room that has a lot of light in the space.
So, if you are the type of person who wants the deepest blacks, best contrast, and watches TV in a dark or dimly lit room, you will prefer OLED. If your viewing is mostly going to happen with a lot of light in the room, or you just love the “pop” of a bright image, go with LED.
Both Premium Series & Master Series OLEDs in Sony’s 2022 lineup all have a new type of high luminance panel that works in conjunction with the XR processor to allow more light output. This makes OLED a bit closer to LED in light output, but we still give the edge to LED for pop and pure output. However, Sony’s new QD-OLED will give you an even bigger boost in color brightness of up to 200% compared to conventional OLED tech, which we will discuss more later.
OLED is the winner by far here. If you are sitting off-axis, there is not much change at all with OLED. The nature of LED sets and the LEDs behind the LCD panel mean they are designed to be viewed straight on. If you are 30 degrees or less off-axis, you’ll be fine with LED. For a steeper angle, you would prefer OLED. But remember, you do need a light-controlled room for the best picture with OLED. This, however, is not the case with the new QD-OLED technology, since color and luminance have both been taken to the next levels. This new technology does not rely on color filters, so color and luminance remain vivid and bright even when viewed off-axis. Super cool!
Most TVs these days have greatly improved input lag which used to be a big deal for gamers. However, OLED still holds an advantage in that it has a faster response time than LED. Since conventional LED sets are designed to be viewed straight on, many gamers may prefer LED types especially if they do not have a way to control the lighting coming into their room, which could cause some reflections on the screen while playing your game. You may not necessarily need the wider viewer angles of OLED TVs if you are someone who spends a lot of time gaming in a well-lit room directly in front of your TV — but the improved input lag and faster response time of OLEDs will likely give the most serious gamers a slight competitive advantage.
Whether you choose an OLED or an LED-type TV to game on, all of Sony’s best sets have at least two HDMI 2.1 inputs onboard this year. Not only can you connect two next-gen gaming consoles with the two inputs, but you also get the speed benefits of 48Gbps peak bit rate and 120 frames per second on 4K content. The great news is this reduces latency to as low as 8.5ms with Sony’s ALLM Game mode for a big edge in shooting, sports, and other games for instant on-screen action.
However, if you are going with OLED, this year Sony introduced a new Master Series OLED model that comes in smaller 42” & 48” sizes that will be great for gaming — there’s even a high-position stand available that turns the TV into a high-performance OLED gaming monitor!
The average TV size sold today is 65” and you will find many choices of both types in this size. However, once you go larger, there are no Sony choices in OLED and above 83”. So, if you are looking at a super large screen, you will likely go with an LED type, although we are happy to see new 77” Sony OLED displays positioned in the lineup for a great value.
Here is where things have gotten trickier for 2022. It used to be that OLED sets cost far more than the same size LED. They still do but have gotten a lot closer. For example, a 65” LED from Sony with their best video processor will be about 40% less than the same size OLED with the same processor. However, since TVs have dropped so much in price — that 40% is only a few hundred dollars. And remember, you will likely keep your TV for 10-15 years and use it every single day.
For most people serious about getting a great picture, it will come down to their viewing environment. However, this year, now that Mini LED and QD-OLED TVs are on the scene, the bigger differences are getting harder to distinguish. If you can control the lighting in your room, OLED will still be the best choice for not that much more in cost if you are considering a 55” or 65” TV. As you get larger in OLED, the price does start to jump up.
However, Mini LED and QD-OLED panels offer significant improvements and advantages over conventional LED technology and we will discuss these more as we go over each new model in this year’s lineup.
2022 Sony Model Line Up
We are going to bypass the lower models that do not have full local dimming and only look at the entry-point into Sony’s Full-Array LED technology.
Full-Array LED Models
This year, there is one main Full-Array LED model to focus on. Since we are all about the best quality at Audio Advice, we will focus on just the BRAVIA XR TV models — starting with the entry-point into Sony’s great XR processing power — the X90K Full-Array LED series.
Sony XR-X90K 4K Full-Array LED TV Series
The entry-point X90K series replaces the X90J from last year and this delivers a full-array LED backlight that provides precisely localized lighting across the entire screen. You also have a host of sizes to choose from with 55, 65, 75, and 85” models available.
As the entry point into Sony’s impressive XR tech, this model gets you a lot of features that just a few years ago were only found in the top-of-the-line Sony models. These all have Sony’s powerful XR video processor, which offers a host of picture improvements. These include XR Triluminos Pro, XR Motion Clarity, XR 4K Upscaling, and more.
For 2022, you also get XR Contrast Booster 10, which is improved over last year's models of XR Contrast Booster 5. The XR Contrast Booster 10 produces a dramatic picture with bright highlights and great black levels. Sony's XR Triluminos Pro further enhances the picture by reproducing a wide color spectrum for excellent textural detail and natural skin tones.
You also get Sony’s Bravia Core app which lets you download 4K content from Sony’s vast library of IMAX Enhanced content. If you use the built-in Google TV app, you also can take advantage of the calibrated for Netflix mode. That is certainly a mouthful of technical terms, but each and every one of them is about bringing you the best picture possible.
Extreme gamers will like the two HDMI 2.1 inputs on board with a dedicated Game Mode that delivers an input lag as low as 8.5ms. It supports Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), 4K at 120Hz, and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) out of the box. Also, high-end video enthusiasts will appreciate Dolby Vision and IMAX Enhanced modes.
We feel these models represent the best values on the market in full array LED sets with the great new enhancements to the XR Cognitive Processor on board.
OLED TV Models
OLED TVs have always appealed to video purists as they can deliver perfect inky blacks. When you couple a great OLED panel with Sony’s XR processor, you get an even more amazing picture. With the light output improvements Sony was able to get using the new high luminance panel tech and enhancements to the XR processor, you will find more choices in OLED models for 2022.
All of the models this year use the XR processor which they also use to improve the built-in audio performance. Their OLED TVs actually use the surface of the screen as a speaker which makes the smaller models, especially great for bedrooms where light is usually totally controlled.
Sony Bravia XR-A80K 4K HDR OLED TV Series
The A80K models come in 55”, 65”, & 77” sizes and replace the A80J models from last year. They include most of the same great Sony tech mentioned previously, including a new high luminance OLED panel combined with Sony’s new XR OLED Contrast Pro engine to produce purer, deeper blacks with an increase in brightness compared to last year’s model.
All three of these have a stand option that allows you to have the TV close to the top of your TV stand or raise it up to accommodate a soundbar.
At Audio Advice, we just love the pure picture of OLED — and pairing this new OLED panel with Sony’s special XR OLED Contrast Pro really boosts the color and contrast even in rooms with a lot of ambient light coming in — so you get deep, inky blacks with an increase in brightness that will be like an LED panel. When you pair up the OLED panel with Sony’s XR Cognitive Processor, you better color reproduction and an image that is just so lifelike.
If you can control the light in your room, there is no question in our mind, the A80K models provide a lot of value for an affordable price.
Sony Master Series OLED Models
Sony's flagship MASTER Series OLED is consistently one of the most highly rated TVs available — and yet, somehow, they always manage to improve it.
This year, they've got a few surprises, including smaller panel sizes that will be great for gaming — plus the first-ever QD-OLED TV. Carrying over from Sony’s 2021 TV lineup, the A90J OLED remains their largest OLED ever.
Sony puts their highest grade components and best build quality into these sets. Then, after each panel comes off the production line, every single one is individually calibrated! When you want the best picture quality on the planet, choose the Sony Master Series.
Sony Bravia XR-A90J 4K HDR OLED
We love the image an OLED panel can produce, but until the A90J was released in 2021, if you wanted a bright image, you had to go with LED. The A90J models come in 55”, 65”, & 83” sizes and remain in 2022 as one of Sony’s top-of-the-line OLED TVs.
We are just super excited to see these sets still in the current lineup as they were the brightest OLED TVs we had ever seen until this year. Sony uses a combination of special software and mechanical tech to get a much brighter image. A special heat sink is laminated to the rear of the OLED panels.
The XR processor analyzes the incoming signal with its XR OLED Contrast Pro engine and a heat map of the panel using the heat sink to better drive the OLED panel to higher output levels. It really is a very clever idea they could not have done without the XR processor.
These also have a special color sensor that not only looks at the light levels coming into the room but also the color temperature to adjust the white balance.
This OLED has won several awards throughout 2021, so if you want an 83” OLED panel, then this is one of the best OLED TVs available. The picture you will see from these Master Series sets will give you the best of OLED and LED for all but the brightest rooms. In our minds, if you are going to use a flat panel for a small home theater room, these are the ones to get!
Sony Bravia XR-A90K 4K HDR OLED
The A90K models come in 42” & 48” sizes. These include all of the same great Sony tech mentioned previously, but the two compact sizes make this a great choice as a gaming display or for general use in smaller rooms — there’s even a high-position stand available that turns the TV into a high-performance OLED gaming monitor.
The high luminance OLED panel combined with Sony’s XR OLED Contrast Pro engine gives this one a big boost in color and contrast even in brightly lit rooms with a lot of ambient light coming in, so you get peak brightness with those deep, inky blacks only a great OLED panel will deliver.
Overall, there’s no doubt, that this OLED is ergonomically designed with the highest build quality and engineered with the highest-grade tech available for a stunning picture that is full of depth and detail. Gamers who want the best OLED TV to pair with their PS5 will appreciate Sony’s special Auto HDR Tone Mapping tech that will give you more accurate detail and color reproduction.
Sony Bravia XR-A95K QD-OLED
The Bravia XR-A95K uses a new panel with a completely new QD-OLED (Quantum Dot layer) technology. As a completely new technology, this QD-OLED panel is only available in 55” and 65” sizes, but the boost in brightness is huge.
With the A95K, you get a big boost in color brightness of up to 200% compared to conventional OLED tech — and when you compare this new tech to the panel used in Sony’s best OLED TV ever — the A90J — there is less image retention sometimes found with conventional OLEDs and the picture on the new A95K QD-OLED is just incredible.
You get all of the same great Sony features and tech as the previous models, but with the QD-OLED panel, you’ll get the distinct advantages of brighter saturation of colors. The A95K delivers vibrant colors and realistic texture at any brightness level, along with the great contrast that made OLED TVs famous.
Sony's XR Triluminos Max technology squeezes every last drop of performance from the new panel to give you the best color reproduction and a very bright picture. With XR OLED Contrast Pro, the A95K adjusts brightness for peaks in glare and shadowy blacks so that the image is not too washed out or too dark to see.
The A95K's XR processor also contributes to a richer, more involving sound. Instead of the small and often down-firing speakers that you’ll find in most TVs, the XR-A95K uses actuators on the back to send vibrations through the screen to produce sound from its entire surface.
The television can even function as your center channel in a traditional home theater setup with a separate receiver using Center Speaker Mode, which allows dialogue, effects, and music to come directly from the screen. Pretty cool!
Mini LED Models
This year, along with the new A95K QD-OLED, Sony’s LED tech has further evolved with thousands of significantly smaller LED lights with their first-ever Mini LED models — the X95K 4K Mini LED and the flagship Z9K Master Series 8K Mini LED TVs.
A Mini LED is a lot smaller than a traditional LED. Instead of hundreds of LEDs, Mini LED-based TVs use thousands of tiny, miniaturized LEDs to power the backlight — illuminating what you see on the screen — and since you have more LEDs in a Mini LED panel, you can control the black levels better than a conventional LED.
With conventional LEDs, there are some challenges manufacturers have to work around, but not every brand has done nearly as well as Sony has. One of the most common challenges is “blooming” — also known as the “halo effect.” Blooming happens when the light from brightly lit objects on a screen “bleeds” into the darker surrounding areas, creating a “halo effect” around the object, hence the name.
The effect is very noticeable in rooms with all the lights dimmed. When trying to watch your movie in a completely dark room, you may have noticed the effect around very brightly lit objects that are isolated against dark backgrounds — such as a street light, stars dotting the night sky, or even subtitles.
While Sony has achieved incredible contrast ratios with conventional full-array local LED dimming, Mini LED technology takes everything Sony knows about high-performance image processing and squeezes every last drop of performance from the panel tech to give you the best of both worlds — so you get the deep, inky black levels like an OLED, plus the brightest colors possible of a traditional LED panel.
Sony Bravia XR-X95K 4K Mini LED TV
The already stellar performance of Sony’s LED tech has been further evolved with thousands of significantly smaller LED lights allowing an even more crisp, bright image. The X95K models are the top of the line for 4K LED models and replace the X95J Full-Array LED from last year. We feel this series is a pretty big jump up from the X95J. These come in sizes of 65”, 75”, and 85”.
The super-dense Mini LEDs paired with Sony’s XR Backlight Master Drive deliver incredibly precise light control with exceptional contrast. Sony’s XR Contrast Booster 15 delivers brighter highlights, more natural mid-tones, and deeper blacks by dimming some areas of the screen while boosting others.
Not only does this new technology reduce the “blooming” you will often see around brightly lit objects on dark backgrounds, but the X95K also features Sony's X-Anti Reflection and X-Wide Angle technologies to help you keep enjoying a beautiful picture if you watch your TV off-axis too. The X95K models have what Sony calls their X-Anti Reflection surface that reduces glare on your screen. This is great if you have light spilling into your room and onto your TV set.
Interestingly, it’s the same surface tech Sony uses on their top-of-the-line 8K Mini LED panels too. So, we feel these models represent the best values on the market in Mini LED sets with the great new enhancements to the XR Cognitive Processor on board.
Sony Bravia XR Z9K 8K Mini LED TV
At Audio Advice, we are really excited about the cool tech in this new flagship 8K model. While there is not much in the way of 8K content on the market, there are still big reasons to consider an 8K panel. With the XR Processing power and thousands of tiny densely packed 8K Mini LEDs, the Z9K upscales any content close to 8K resolution, allowing you to see the fine details and textures on an immersive 75” or 85” screen!
As Sony’s top-of-the-line Mini LED television, the Z9K tops out the 2022 models in terms of peak brightness and provides better color reproduction. Sony’s XR Backlight Master Drive precisely controls each and every one of those densely packed Mini LEDs for exceptional contrast, so you get very bright highlights and deep, inky blacks on a glorious 75” or 85” screen.
To see an 85” picture upscaled to 8K is super impressive. And we just can’t wait to see how good the IMAX Enhanced content on Bravia Core looks on these great new 8K models!
As the flagship Mini LED, this model is the second model in the 2022 Master series lineup to bundle Sony’s new Bravia Cam with the TV. Sony’s innovative frame tweeter design allows the TV’s frame to produce sound and can be projected vertically or to the side and positioned where the source of a sound appears on-screen.
This cool acoustic tech also combines with Sony’s new Bravia Cam, which can detect your proximity to the screen or sense your motion that will adjust the sound coming out and even the brightness based on the axis of your seating position. Super cool!
The picture you will see from these Master Series sets will give you the best of OLED and LED for even the brightest rooms. In our minds, if you are going to use a flat panel for a small home theater room, these new Master series Mini LED sets are the ones to get!
We love the fact that with the new Sony models, you can choose the technology that will deliver the best picture for your viewing environment and budget.
As a rule of thumb, LED-type TVs with full-array backlighting deliver a very impressive picture and typically cost a little less than an OLED TV of the same size. This type of TV can deliver more light output and is better suited for a room where you can not fully control the lighting.
OLED TVs generally offer the best blacks and contrast but require a darker room to fully experience these benefits. If you want the very best picture and your viewing occurs in a dimly lit or a dark room, OLED is traditionally the best choice if it fits your budget. However, now that new panel technologies are on the scene, if you can step up to the cost of the new OLED, QD-OLED or Mini LED Master Series models, light becomes a bit less of an issue.
Every year it seems like Sony takes their video processing to another level and takes what was their best and puts it into more affordable models, which is just fantastic for people who want a great picture without breaking the bank. This year, with all the cool enhancements to their XR Cognitive processing, they hit the ball out of the park!
When you combine their amazing picture with the best service in the industry, there is just no other choice in our opinion.
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