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10 Reasons to Think Twice Before Buying a Sony Bravia OLED TV

As a digital technology expert with over a decade of experience testing and reviewing consumer electronics, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the evolution of television technology. From the early days of plasma to the rise of LCD and now the dominance of LED and OLED, picture quality has progressed by leaps and bounds. But with so many options on the market at vastly different price points, it can be tough to know where to invest your hard-earned money.

One of the most hyped TV technologies in recent years has been OLED, or organic light emitting diode. These self-emissive displays have earned a reputation for unparalleled black levels, infinite contrast, and stunning colors. And no TV brand has been more synonymous with OLED than Sony, whose flagship Bravia models like the A95K and A90J consistently top critic‘s lists for the best picture quality money can buy.

However, as someone who has tested virtually every major TV release over the past several years, I‘ve come to the conclusion that Sony‘s OLED TVs are not the best choice for the vast majority of shoppers. Allow me to explain my reasoning and offer some compelling alternatives that I believe provide far better performance for the price.

1. You‘re paying a massive premium for diminishing returns

There‘s no denying that Sony‘s OLEDs look spectacular, especially in a dark room where their perfect black levels are most apparent. The A95K in particular uses the latest QD-OLED (quantum dot OLED) panel from Samsung Display that takes color saturation and brightness to a new level compared to previous OLEDs.

However, this cutting-edge display tech comes at a steep cost. The 65" A95K retails for a whopping $3,999 MSRP. That‘s over 3x the price of a high-end 65" TCL 6-Series mini-LED QLED model like the R655 at just $1,299. Having compared these two TVs side-by-side, I can confidently say that the TCL delivers 90% of the picture quality for less than a third of the price. To the average viewer, the difference in contrast and color is barely perceptible, especially with real-world content.

2. Burn-in is still a risk, however small

One of the inherent drawbacks of OLED display technology is the potential for burn-in over time. This refers to the phenomenon where static elements like a news ticker, channel logo, or game HUD become permanently etched into the screen if left displayed for too long. While manufacturers like Sony have implemented various measures to mitigate this risk, such as pixel shifting and automatic brightness limiting, there have still been reports of burn-in from normal use.

In fact, conducted a long-term burn-in test on LG OLED panels (the same ones used in Sony TVs) and found noticeable retention after just a few months of simulated "real-world" viewing. Compared to LED LCD TVs which are virtually immune to burn-in, there is still a small risk to consider with OLED, especially if you tend to watch a lot of the same content with static graphics.

3. Brightness takes a backseat

While OLED technology has made strides in peak brightness over the years thanks to advancements like the WBE panel structure and cooling systems, it still falls well short of high-end LED LCD models, particularly those with mini-LED backlights. Let‘s look at some hard numbers:

TV Model Peak HDR Brightness (10% Window)
Sony A95K QD-OLED ~1000 nits
Sony A90J OLED ~850 nits
Samsung QN90B Neo QLED ~1800 nits
TCL R655 6-Series mini-LED ~1400 nits

As you can see, the best OLED models from Sony top out around 1000 nits for small specular highlights in HDR content. Meanwhile, competing mini-LED QLED TVs can outpace them by 50-100% or more. This additional headroom makes a big difference in perceived HDR impact, with details in bright skies, flames, and reflections really popping off the screen.

What‘s more, OLED panels struggle to maintain bright full-screen images over extended periods due to heat and power constraints. Prolonged hockey, ski, or video game sessions with a predominately white screen can cause brightness to plummet within as little as 30 minutes to protect the panel. LED LCD does not suffer from this issue.

4. Image retention is a nuisance

Distinct from permanent burn-in, image retention or ghosting is a short-term artifact where static elements linger temporarily on screen as a faint "after-image". While not damaging to the panel itself, it can be annoying and distracting when you‘re trying to enjoy other content.

In my experience, Sony OLEDs are particularly susceptible to this when used as a PC monitor for productivity or gaming. The Windows taskbar, for instance, only has to be on-screen for an hour or two before it becomes noticeable when switching to a full-screen video. The effect fades over time, but it speaks to the need to be more cautious with an OLED TV compared to LED LCD where static menus are a non-issue.

5. Viewing angles are wider, but also weird

A hallmark feature of OLED is its extremely wide viewing angles thanks to the panel structure. Unlike LED LCD where the backlight can create a hot spot in the center, the light on an OLED emits perpendicular to the screen at any position. This means you can watch from almost 90° to the side with minimal color and brightness shifts.

However, this ultra-wide viewing also comes with some quirks, namely color fringing/shifting at more moderate angles. Many owners have reported seeing a purple or red tint towards the edges of the screen at normal seating positions. To me, this is actually more distracting than the subtle brightness dips seen on mini-LED QLEDs at the same angles. It‘s not a dealbreaker, but something to be aware of if you have a wide seating arrangement.

6. You‘re limited in size, design, and ports

Since all OLED TV panels are currently manufactured by LG Display, brands like Sony are somewhat restricted in the configurations they can offer. The A95K QD-OLED comes in just 55" and 65" sizes, while the older A90J OLED adds a 42", 48", and 83" option.

If you want something in the popular 75-77" size or a massive 85-90"+ model, you‘ll need to opt for an LED LCD or a much pricier 8K resolution OLED. Models like the TCL 6-Series are available in sizes from 55" up to 85" to fit any room.

Design-wise, Sony‘s OLEDs are also a bit chunkier than competing QLED models due to the panel structure and need for additional cooling. The A95K has a uniform thickness around 2" and weighs nearly 70 lbs for the 65" model. A comparable TCL R655 is just 2.8" at its thickest point while weighing only 54 lbs and with a slimmer bezel. And the newer TCL Q7 flagship is even trimmer at just 0.98" thick.

Port selection is another area where Sony OLEDs lag behind. Most models are limited to just two HDMI 2.1 ports, which is quickly becoming insufficient in the era of 4K 120Hz gaming. The TCL 6-Series, in contrast, offers double the HDMI 2.1 ports and adds a side-facing input for convenience. More overall HDMI ports mean you can connect more devices without an external switcher.

7. Not the best for next-gen gaming

While Sony naturally touts the advantages of its OLEDs for PS5 gaming, the reality is that competing mini-LED QLED models now offer virtually identical gaming features and performance. The A95K and A90J support 4K at 120Hz, auto low latency mode (ALLM), and variable refresh rate (VRR) for stutter-free gaming just like the TCL R655.

However, TCL pulls ahead in a few key areas. First, its higher peak brightness makes HDR games look more impactful and "next-gen". It also maintains this brightness over longer play sessions without risk of dimming. Additionally, the R655 accepts a 4K 120Hz signal on all four of its HDMI ports, while the Sony reserves one for eARC and limits the other to 4K 60Hz.

Input lag is another critical spec, and one where the best LED LCDs have caught up to OLED. In my tests, the R655 measured just 6ms of lag at 4K 120Hz, edging out the A95K‘s 8.5ms. Unless you‘re an esports pro, this difference is imperceptible. And if you are, an OLED is arguably a poor choice anyway due to the aforementioned burn-in risk.

8. Google TV is a laggy ad machine

Sony has adopted the Google TV platform on its latest models. While it‘s an improvement over the previous Android TV interface, it still has some notable drawbacks. Chief among them is the cluttered home screen that‘s loaded with sponsored content and pushing Sony‘s paid Bravia Core service.

The UI also feels slow and jerky on the A95K compared to snappier platforms like Roku on TCL sets. Navigating menus quickly becomes tedious as the animations stutter and stick. And the content-forward approach means your favorite apps can get buried among promoted shows and movies and you have little ability to customize it.

9. You‘re better off with a soundbar anyway

A big selling point of Sony‘s OLEDs is the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology that uses actuators to vibrate the screen itself and produce sound. The A95K ups the ante with a true 2.2 channel system including side-facing subwoofers.

And while this implementation is certainly better than your typical down-firing TV speakers, it still pales in comparison to even a basic discrete soundbar. Voices can sound hollow and thin, and there‘s minimal bass impact. The vibrating screen also creates some noticeable distortion and buzzing at high volumes.

Ultimately, if you‘re spending this much on a premium TV, you‘d be better served by budgeting for a separate audio system and choosing the best panel for the money. A TCL 6-Series paired with a $200-300 Dolby Atmos soundbar will outperform the A95K‘s built-in audio while still saving you thousands overall compared to the Sony.

10. You can get 90% of the performance for 1/3 the price

To bring things full circle, let me reiterate my core contention: for the vast majority of people, in the vast majority of viewing situations, a high-end mini-LED QLED TV like the TCL R655 will look nearly identical to a Sony OLED for a fraction of the cost. It‘s simply a far better value.

Don‘t just take my word for it. Here are some quotes from other professional reviewers:

"With this level of performance, the TCL R655 is an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get an excellent 4K HDR TV without breaking the bank. It has few overall weaknesses, delivers picture quality that comes very close to the industry-leading LG OLED and Samsung QD-OLED models, and costs a lot less." – PCMag

"It‘s not quite at the level of an OLED, but it comes remarkably close for a lot less money. With the 65-inch selling for $1,299, it‘s less than half of what you‘d pay for a premium OLED TV, making it an incredible value." – CNET

"The TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R655) is one of the best values in the TV world, offering a mini-LED backlight and QLED color at an affordable price. It‘s an excellent choice for gamers with a 120Hz refresh rate and four HDMI 2.1 ports." – Tom‘s Guide

Ultimately, it‘s your money, and if you have your heart set on the absolute best picture quality at any cost, then by all means spring for the Sony A95K QD-OLED. But if you want the best bang for your buck – which most people do – then I strongly recommend checking out the competition from brands like TCL that deliver incredible performance for a lot less.