Sony Electronics introduced Thursday its 2021 BRAVIA XR TV lineup, which continues Sony’s strategy of offering 4K and 8K Full-Array LED LCD and 4K OLED models, with all stepping up image, sound and brightness-handling processing through the use of a new XR processor employing Cognitive Intelligence image and sound analysis.

The Cognitive Processor XR advancement is an improvement on the X1 Ultimate picture and sound processor from last year. In addition to AI processing enhancement it adds Cognitive Intelligence to better analyze both incoming pictures and sound to help the AI processing present an experience better suited to human perception for a more emotional experience.

For background, in past years the company sought to achieve “Kando” (or human emotion derived from a product) around the faithful delivery of the creative intent reproduced on its television sets.

This year, Sony believes Kando is being elevated through a package of audio and video enhancements in each of its BRAVIA XR series by utilizing “human cognitive intelligence” to read and learn key elements of a picture in a way that closer matches how the human eye and ear perceives the world, with the end goal of creating something that is “both faithful” to the content creator’s vision, as in previous years, and more beautiful and exciting to the experience of the viewer watching it.

“We don’t look at these as conflicting ideals, but more as complementary,” said Rob Brennan, Sony’s North American product technology manager, in explaining the relationship between AI processing and Cognitive Intelligence picture analysis technologies.

Brennan said that the Cognitive Intelligence XR processor provides “an improved cross analysis, multi-element process that happens at the input level to have a better understanding of what is happening on the screen and we then pass that through the technologies we’ve developed over the past several decades including artificial intelligence and machine learning, while taking into consideration the human perception focal point. We then ensure everything is presented as fast and accurately as possible.”

Brennan said “the cross-analysis approach allows us to look at contrast and color simultaneously instead of in a vacuum. Ultimately, it enables us to achieve better results for both in an innovative way.”

For upscaling, particularly in upscaling HD to 8K, the Cognitive Intelligence XR processor uses this deeper level of analysis as well as the addition of a new texture reproduction database to present much more accurate-looking results, he said.

The deep analysis also enables more accurate reproduction of different types of objects in an image to better differentiate between, for example, fur and stone. The technology provides the tools to present the right texture and detail for each element, even when presented one on top of another. This can be particularly difficult for other televisions to do in streaming content where noise and compression artifacting is prevalent, Brennan said. The technology allows better reducing the unwanted noise in the picture while preserving the detail in the primary objects on the screen.

Instead, today what commonly occurs in noise reduction systems is an over softening of everything on the screen.

Brennan said the Cognitive Intelligence processing technology is also effective at presenting images optimized to Sony’s different display technologies — OLED and full array with local dimming LCD LED backlighting — that are fundamentally different in how they present contrast.

With full array TV models processing dark scenes requires removing noise in addition to compression artifacts like MPEG block noise while simultaneously identifying and preserving shadow detail. At the same time the system enables correctly using Backlight Boosting with excellent color management to deliver contrast in a way that presents a more beautiful and impactful image.

Cognizant of the how important faces are at a conveying a story, the new technology also improves the way faces are displayed so as not to distract from the story.

Improved Brightness Performance

2021 Sony Full Array LED LCD TVs

In the top full-array LED LCD TV series — 8K Z9J, and 4K X95J and X90J — this year, Sony is offering its XR Contrast Booster 15, 10 and 5 systems, respectively, for backlight control to adjust lighting for different levels of peak luminance, brightness and color volume, depending on the model series. Sony explained that the different XR Contrast Boost version numbers do not reflect any actual degree of brightness or luminance elevation, but are used just to give consumers a better sense of performance ability from one to another.

2021 Sony OLED TVs

Specific to the A90J flagship OLED series this year, Sony is elevating panel brightness while better handling heat dissipation to preserve panel longevity. To do this, Sony adds an aluminum sheet lamination to the backside of the panel to better manage thermal temperatures and dissipate heat more efficiently. This is done in conjunction with real-time temperature distribution mapping to know how the panel is behaving thermally at any given time.

Along with better thermal control, Brennan said the technology enables boosting peak brightness of red, green and blue phosphors, and not just the white OLED backlight as is typically done with today’s WRGB OLED TV panel technology.

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Without giving brightness measurements, Brennan said the technology allows for “a significant improvement” in peak brightness in the A90J models this year over the A9 from 2020 as well as the A80J step-down model in 2021.

In the A90J OLED series, “You’ll see better peak brightness as well as all around increase in luminosity, which translates to color volume,” Brennan said. For high dynamic range (HDR) this year’s models continue to support HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG profiles.

HDMI 2.1 Compatibility:

All BRAVIA XR TVs this year will feature HDMI 2.1 compatibility, including 4K 120fps, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and e-ARC, supporting higher resolutions and frame rates ideal for next-generation gaming. The number of inputs with the highest level of support will vary by model series.

Sound Processing

In addition to better picture processing, the Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR is used for better audio reproduction in Sony’s “Sound From Pictures” technologies this year. In fact, the company believes that the experience of Kando is delivered most impactfully through audio in a television.

Sony has been delivering the concept of sound from pictures using OLED panel-vibrating actuators for the past several years, and varying combinations of front, side and down-firing speakers in LED LCD TVs. Both approaches are being enhanced this year with the addition of Cognitive Audio processing to present a more impactful experience from the different types of hardware approaches as well as taking less robust sound tracks like two-channel stereo, for example, and presenting them in a more immersive fashion.

Many models this year build in support for Dolby Atmos object-oriented surround sound.

New Google TV Interface

Sony’s 2021 TV models upgrade from last year’s Android TV 9 platform to the new Google TV smart TV user interface that is more content specific in presenting suggested movies and programs. The previous Android TV only platform was more concentrated on apps. Specific models this year will offer Google TV with hands-free voice search capability to simplify the task of finding titles and making search entries. The new overlaying Google TV interface rides atop the Android TV OS.

In addition to linking with Android mobile devices, the platform will continue to provide easy connectivity to most other devices as well, including Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.

Hands-Free Voice Function

Hands-free voice control will be built into most of Sony’s BRAVIA XR model series with Google TV. Users can set aside the remote and speak commands to perform searches for entertainment, get answers to questions from the Internet, and control the TV and smart home devices. The sets also offer smart speaker compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa enabled devices, in order to cast and control videos from YouTube with Google Nest speakers or change the channel or volume with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa enabled devices.

Calibrated and IMAX Modes

The 2021 BRAVIA XR models will continue to deliver the creator’s intent with Netflix Calibrated Mode, offering studio-quality Netflix content, and IMAX Enhanced, which features IMAX remastered picture and sound, as well as IMAX
Enhanced Mode — fully optimized for playback of cinematic content. Models are also Calman Ready for automated calibration using Portrait Displays Calman calibration software, and compatible light/color meters and test pattern generators.

All of the BRAVIA XR Series models in 2021 will incorporate NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) tuners to pick up the nation’s new TV broadcast platform.

BRAVIA Core Video Streaming Service Unveiled

Sony announced Thursday that it is launching on all of its BRAVIA XR TV models a new BRAVIA Core video streaming service developed specifically for the new TV lineup. The power of the Cognitive Processor XR allows higher quality “lossless” UHD video streaming with bitrates of up to 80Mbps (near UHD Blu-ray quality) through new PureStream technology. This includes support for IMAX Enhanced titles with DTS surround sound support. The service will carry the best of Sony Pictures newest releases along with the studio’s “all-time classics,” including some 100 IMAX Enhanced titles in the Sony library. BRAVIA Core will deliver to BRAVIA XR sets a remastered IMAX picture

2021 Sony TV Model Series

All of the following models this include HDMI 2.1 inputs (number varies by model) supporting 4K/120 Hz, and have native 120 Hz refresh rate panels (in LCD TVs). Suggested retail price and retail availability will be announced in spring 2021.

Z9J Master Series 8K Full Array LED LCD TV

At the top of the 2021 Sony Master Series lineup is the Z9J 8K full-array LED with local dimming LCD TV series (takes the place of both the Z9G and the Z8H last year). This is available in both the 85- and 75-inch screen sizes and includes the 8K Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR with Contrast Booster XR 15 offering the brightest picture of Sony’s LCD products this year. The smart TV system switches to the Google TV over laying interface with hands-free voice search that rides on top of the Android TV OS.

Other features include the latest XR Motion Clarity technology cross-analyzes data to ensure action stays smooth, bright and support includes 4K 120fps, VRR, ALLM and e-ARC.

A90J Master Series 4K OLED TV

The top-of-the-line OLED TV series is the Sony Master Series A90J (replacing the A9G from last year) including the 4K/120 Hz
Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR, the XR OLED Contrast Pro high brightness system offering the brightest OLED picture of a Sony OLED TV to date, Acoustic Surface Audio+ and Google TV with hands-free voice search. The series will offer the new 83-inch screen size in addition to 65- and 55-inch models.

A80J 4K OLED TV

The step-down 4K/120 OLED series is the A80J, with 77-, 65- and 55-inch models. These include the Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR with XR OLED Contrast, Google TV interface, and Acoustic Surface Audio+ system.

X95J 4K Full Array LED LCD TV

The top of the 4K/120 full array LED LCD TV line is the X95J series with 85-, 75- and 65-inch models, Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR with XR Contrast Booster 10, Acoustic Multi-Audio and Google TV with hands-free voice search. Also features is X-Wide Angle technology that provides strong color, contrast and brightness from a wider angle of view.

X90J 4K Full Array LED LCD TV

The step-down Sony 4K/120 Full Array LED LCD TV series includes the 75-, 65-, 55- and 50-inch screen sizes. These models have the Cognitive Intelligence Processor XR with XR Contrast Booster 5 backlight system, Acoustic Multi-Audio and the Google TV user interface. The series’ XR Motion Clarity technology uses cross-analysis data to ensure action stays smooth,
bright and clear with no blur. The series also includes a minimalist bezel design Ambient Optimization technology with a light sensor that automatically adjusts picture and sound to viewers’ environment.

Sony said it will also offer a 100-inch model in the X92 series, featuring most of the same features as the X90J series, minus the Acoustic Multi-Audio system.

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By Greg Tarr

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