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Sony Bravia 9 TV First Look: Sony Wants You to Ditch OLED and Join the Mini-LED Party

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Sony’s latest TVs are getting updates in all the expected and the least expected ways. Sony’s televisions are easily some of the best we’ve seen, but compared to competitors like Samsung, its latest screen update feels more significant than the average refresh. There’s also a lot of talk about new drivers that are supposed to give you the best color accuracy, but Sony’s also comes with a name change. Gone are the serialized letter and number naming conventions. All of Sony’s home entertainment is being lumped together under its “Bravia” monicker. More than that, Sony’s big, expensive flagship TV this year isn’t a QD-OLED refresh; it’s a mini-LED screen.

We’re used to the biggest television suppliers pushing OLED as the top-of-the-line TV. The organic light-emitting diodes are often the biggest and baddest of each pack of new releases, and tech reviewers already assume they have supreme color contrast. Sony isn’t staying with the pack on well-worn roads. It’s not even taking a rarely-used trail. It’s laying its path like a wayward hike, taking a monster truck through a well-mapped forest. The top-of-the-line mini-LED Bravia 9 wants to entice you with claims of showing the most movie-accurate picture of any TV on the market.

So does it? Well, Sony seems to think so. Gizmodo partook in an expensive tour through its new Bravia TV and soundbar lineup, where we didn’t just get to see the TVs and get a glimpse inside them to see why Sony is suddenly so proud of its mini-LED technology. Hearing them tell me it is all about the brightness and color accuracy.

Does Sony’s New TV Drivers Do Anything for Color Accuracy?

Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

Sony trotted out its professional studio grade HX3110, the kind of monitor that sells for 10s of thousands of dollars and is used by movie professionals to get the most pixel-accurate renditions of their shots. That machine is capable of brightness up to 4,000 nits. Can the Bravia 9 do 4,000 or 10,000 nits of even more high-end monitors? No, and not even close to the latter, but Sony says the mini-LED screen can emulate those brightness settings. The company claimed its Bravia 9 is 50% brighter than its previous top-end mini-LED X95L. It’s also supposed to contain more than three times as many dimming zones as the previous model, and the company took the lid off its latest TV to show us how.

All those different zones are the drivers that make the TV show picture accurately. Sony compared the Bravia 9 to last year’s Samsung QN90C, a 4K QLED. All those drivers are supposed to result in better color and brightness accuracy, though in-person it becomes more a difference of color saturation. The Samsung QLED applied deeper colors than the Sony mini-LED, though an eagle’s eye might be able to spot the solid color gradients of the Bravia 9. Part of the color performance on Sony’s new TVs is also due to the XR chip introduced last year. Is it fair to compare last year’s $2,800 MSRP TV from Samsung to Sony’s flagship, which starts at $3,300? Maybe not, but at the very least, in our demos, the Bravia 9 could put out some impressive color performance, and there was little distortion on different viewing angles, which can often be a problem with mini-LED.

Sony’s demo of their new mini-LED drivers compares Samsung QN90C, left, and a Bravia 9, right.
Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

But that’s not to leave all the other Bravias behind. The Bravia 7 is the more affordable mini-LED TV, and Sony says this TV should be 30% brighter than its previous X90L LED that the 7 is supposed to replace. The Bravia 8 is the OLED of the new line and could be compared to the A80L from last year’s slate, though with a small brightness bump. All of them support Dolby Vision for HDR. They also come stock with Sony Pictures Core Calibrated Mode (renamed from Bravia Core, for some reason), Netflix Calibrated Mode along with a new Prime Video Calibrated mode, which should offer better pictures specifically for Prime Video viewing, so long as you can ignore all the new ads. As usual, they’re certified IMAX and DTS audio.

We didn’t get to do brightness testing on any of the new TVs, so we’ll need to take the time to conduct our tests. Whether the mini-LED takes you in or you still prefer the deeper blacks of OLED remains a question each buyer needs to ask themselves, but in any case, Sony is still holding up last year’s A95L OLED as a solid choice, even equivalent to this year’s flagship.

The Bravia Naming Scheme Makes a Lot of Sense, Yet is Still Confusing 

From left, the Bravia 8, Bravia 9, Bravia 7, and Bravia 3. Why not order them from highest to lowest? Who knows.
Gif: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

The new Bravia naming scheme is Sony’s plan to make TV shopping easier for the layperson. TV-obsessed folks have long gotten used to serialized product names that only make sense if you’re in the know. Last year’s models included the X95L and X93L mini-LED, while the regular A80L OLED and A95L QD-OLED stood at the top of the pile. If you haven’t caught on yet, the “X” in the name denotes LED, while the “A” points to OLED models.

And in that way, the A95L is still very much around. Indeed, Sony has repeatedly told us that it doesn’t see the Bravia 9 replacing last year’s QD-OLED flagship; instead, it is sitting alongside it. So in today’s new premiere TV lineup, you have a Bravia 3 LED going for $600 at 43 inches, the $1,900 Bravia 7 min-LED at 55 inches, a Bravia 8 OLED that costs $2,000 at 55 inches, and the premiere $3,300 65-inch Bravia 9. But wait, stick the A95L at the top, too, and suddenly Sony says the choice for the best of its TVs in 2024 is between the Bravia 9 and the older QD-OLED.

So what happens next year if the next big TV is an OLED? Sony’s leadership told us that things are still working out and that it will eventually refine their rebranding. That’s fair enough, and to be completely honest, I agree with their decision to ditch the old naming convention. Shoving a bunch of numbers in front of any brand name doesn’t help anyone make a better buying decision. I’d go so far as to argue that a long string of numbers on TVs and monitors obfuscates exactly what people are buying when all they want is a damn television that falls in their price range.

But I’m unsure how the new names will do in such a saturated TV market. For now, it’s an adjustment period, and I imagine we’ll all have to make another adjustment in just one year.

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