As someone who gets to test more than half of the TVs released in any given year, I was thoroughly blown away by what I saw in 2023. The TV space has been at a full, roiling boil in the past 12 months as I’ve never previously seen it, with multiple products from many manufacturers captivating with either performance, price, or both. In short, trying to decide which of them is the “best” hasn’t been easy.
Of the TVs that came into our labs this year, I particularly thought the Samsung S95C OLED and LG G3 OLED were both near-revolutionary products. I was impressed by Hisense and TCL shoring up the lower end with some impressive offerings of their own. Heck, the LG B3 OLED — the last TV to arrive in the lab before we closed out the year — was stupendous, performing almost as well as some competitors despite being priced hundreds of dollars less.
So, given all this time in front of the best TVs in the lab, which one would I buy if I were shopping for a new TV? Assuming that I'm in it for the best possible picture quality with no limit on price, I would buy the Sony Bravia XR A95L OLED.
It's not cheap (it's around $3,300 for the 65-inch model as of this writing) but of all the TVs I saw this year, I didn’t encounter one with a better-looking picture or more compelling features in more areas than the A95L. I was in mourning when I had to box it up and send it back to Sony, and given how many TVs I’m regularly foster dad to, that’s really saying something.
Jaw-dropping performance is the default setting
What makes the A95L so remarkable? First, and probably most important, there’s that picture. Quantum dots and OLED are a heaven-made match to begin with, giving you at once vibrant colors, high brightness, and flawless blacks. But Sony’s array of integrated processing technologies amps up things even more.
I frequently turn to a scene in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part One, where Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides picks up a handful of Arakis sand; the A95L renders each glinting grain as razor-sharp and uniquely ked, transporting you to that barren, desert world. Then put on something like Avatar: The Way of Water, and you become enveloped in the blues and greens of Pandora’s underwater vistas, or you can travel first-class to the hyper-saturated color-blowout Mushroom Kingdom of The Super Mario Bros. Movie.
That's just how it is when watching the Sony A95L OLED: Everything always looks right, even when what’s on screen are aerial battles (as in Top Gun: Maverick), car chases or train fights (Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One), or the grimy Gotham of the black-choked The Batman.
Heck, the A95L made the cakes in The Great British Baking Show look more mouth-watering than their real-life counterparts often manage!
Paradoxically, the A95L’s lower brightness helps with this, preventing whites from nearing supernova and evening out colors to make everything look the way you expect it to. On lesser TVs, The Way of Water can look uncleaned-aquarium murky, and Caucasian skin tones can have the orange-ish cast of a fake tan.
There’s none of that here.
Because the TV still gets plenty bright (in Professional mode, intended to mimic a super-expensive reference display, we measured 1,215 nits on 10% of the screen, and other modes can well exceed that), and our logarithmic perception of brightness results in diminishing returns past a certain point anyway, the absence of the stratospheric brightness numbers is never an issue.
And, unlike many lesser TVs, the A95L can cut through glare to look every bit as good in a bright room as it does in a dark one.
And loaded with all the best features
Obviously, picture performance is important, but so is the sound, and Sony’s higher-end TVs also have the best built-in audio I’ve heard, thanks to an integrated system that turns the screen itself into one of the speakers.
With the A95L you get superb clarity, as well as pristine basses and trebles, no matter how high you set the volume, and this is true of anything you listen to, whether music, movies, or podcasts. When I paired the Sony HT-A5000 soundbar with the A95L, I was shocked that the main thing it did was raise the volume ceiling. The sound quality was already top-notch; there was no higher for it to go.
Beyond that, the A95L uses Google TV, the ultrapowerful smart interface that links you with your entire Google Search ecosystem, making moving back and forth between apps and devices effortless.
Sony TVs also have the most robust game mode out there, with all the usual capabilities (such as Auto Low-Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate), plus various PlayStation 5–specific features, support for Multi-View and Dolby Vision for gaming, and an intriguing “screen resizing” feature in the works.
Plus, you get 10 free credits to spend on Sony’s high-bitrate proprietary streaming service, Bravia Core, which is limited to titles in and around the Sony Galaxy, but serves up some eye-poppingly good video when you find something you want.
Sony’s compact, stylish remote is also one of my favorites, too, its backlighting something I wish could be found on more models (including in Sony’s own catalog). The A95L also comes with a Bravia Cam, which adds intriguing (and, compared with the last generation, much-improved) features like video conferencing, on-the-fly picture and sound adjustments, and gesture controls. You don’t need these, but they’re really nice to have, all at no extra charge.
Nothing in 2023 beats the Sony A95L
Combine that best-in-class picture and sound with all the cutting-edge technologies and everything else, and you get a TV that nothing else quite compares with. I
f you’re on a tight budget, 2023 delivered a lot of terrific options that will remain enticing into 2024 and beyond (see my colleague Nick Pino's review of the Hisense U6K or my review of the Roku Plus). But for a TV that both earns my money and its place on my Fantasyland entertainment center, nothing beats the Sony A95L.
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Matthew Murray is the head of testing for Future, coordinating and conducting product testing at Tom’s Guide and other Future publications. He has previously covered technology and performance arts for multiple publications, edited numerous books, and worked as a theatre critic for more than 16 years.
Interesting article. What about if you were looking for the best over 80" TV (since the Sony only goes up to 77")?Reply