I tested Sony’s X90L, and this 4K LED TV matches its mini-LED competition in 3 surprising ways

The Sony X90L LED TV
(Image credit: Future/TechRadar)

Sony’s X90L is the company’s mid-range LED-backlit TV for 2023, succeeding last year’s Sony X90K. In the Sony TV lineup, it slots in between the X77L and the X93L, a series with a mini-LED backlight. Two distinguishing X90L features are a full-array LED backlight with local dimming, something the cheaper X77L series lacks, and a 98-inch size option, which is the largest screen currently offered by Sony.

While most LED models on our best TVs list use mini-LED backlighting, Sony maintains that the X90L with its standard LED backlight can compete with pricier mini-LED models, and some of our initial measurements and subjective observations back that up. A full review of a 65-inch X90L is in the works, but for now, we have this preview to share that should give you a good idea of what to expect from Sony’s mid-range TV. First, let’s take a look at the features on offer:

  • Full array LED backlight
  • XR Triluminos Pro QLED display panel
  • Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG support
  • Sony Cognitive Processor XR
  • Sony XR Contrast Booster
  • Sony XR Clear Image processing
  • Sound positioning tweeters
  • Google TV smart interface
  • Hey Google hands-free control
  • Perfect for PlayStation 5
  • Game Menu
  • ATSC 3.0 tuner (US only)
  • 2 x HDMI 2.1 ports with 4K 120Hz, VRR, and ALLM support
  • Bravia Core movie streaming
  • IMAX Enhanced
  • Chromecast built-in and AirPlay 2 support
  • Works with Alexa and Apple Home
  • One Slate design with adjustable height feet
  • Slim aluminum bezel

The X90L series is sold in screen sizes ranging from 55 up to 98 inches. List price for the 65-inch model that Sony sent us to review is $1,399 / £1,699 / AU$2,395, though that has since dropped to $1,199 in the US and £1,499 in the UK , with the full X90L range seeing similar price cuts (98-inch model excepted).

Like other Sony TVs, the X90L series uses the Google TV platform, and it also has a built-in mic for hands-free control. There are several design improvements over last year’s X90K series, with the new TV’s One Slate design notably enhanced by a slim aluminum, as opposed to plastic, bezel. Like last year’s model, the X90L series features adjustable height feet (to clear space for the best soundbars) and an ATSC 3.0 tuner, which is necessary to receive next-gen digital TV broadcasts in the US.

Gaming features on the X90L series include two HDMI 2.1 ports with 4K 120Hz, VRR, and ALLM support. The new TVs are also Perfect for PlayStation 5, which means that both auto HDR tone mapping and an Auto Genre picture mode will kick in when input from a PS5 console is detected. New for 2023 on Sony TVs is a Game Menu that lets you adjust various game-related picture and control settings via a transparent pop-up menu when the Game picture mode is active.

Sony A95L QD-OLED TV screen with Game menu shown

Sony's new Game Menu provides quick access to key gaming-related settings (Image credit: Future)

Boosted brightness 

We typically expect mini-LED TVs to be the brightness champs, and for regular LED TVs like the X90L to provide a low to average light output. But this Sony surprised us when we measured its peak HDR brightness, hitting 1,225 nits on a white 10% window test pattern with the TV in its calibrated Custom mode. 

That’s a fairly substantial improvement over last year’s X90K, which managed 964 nits on the same test, and it also puts it on par with 2023’s best OLED TVs, which had similar performance when we measured them. The X90K’s peak brightness also beats the Samsung QN85C, a mini-LED model that topped out at 955 nits when we measured it.

Sony XR-X90L TV on wood TV stand with soundbar

Adjustable height feet on the the X90L series can clear space for a soundbar (Image credit: Future)

Infinite contrast 

Like the best LED and mini-LED TVs with local dimming, the X90L is capable of displaying deep OLED-like blacks by switching off the LEDs that comprise its backlight. This ability lets the TV display images with strong contrast – something that’s helped along by its above-average brightness. Not only does this Sony mid-range TV do blacks well, but shadow detail was also good during our initial testing – Sony says local dimming zones in the X90L have increased 60% over last year’s X90K – and backlight “blooming” effects were minimal as well. 

Good value

Even with the obvious improvements Sony made to its mid-range LED-lit model for 2023, the price is roughly the same as last year’s X90K. The 65-inch version we tested actually costs less than the Samsung QN85C, which is that company’s entry-level  ‘Neo QLED’ mini-LED model. Its launch price is also less than that of other budget mini-LEDs such as the TCL QM8, though that and the Hisense U8K are now seeing strong discounts. 

Given its impressive brightness and, from our first look at least, impressive all-around picture, at $1,199, the 65-inch X90L comes off as a good value. And with Black Friday TV deals on the horizon, it will undoubtedly soon become an even better one. Last year’s 65-inch X90K dipped below $1,000 during the 2022 Black Friday selling season, so there’s good reason to expect the same will happen with the X90L.

Will the Sony X90L end up being one of the best TVs of 2023? We’ll have more to say about that in our upcoming Sony X90L review, but for now it can be confirmed that this new Sony model improves upon its predecessor and in some ways matches its mini-LED TV competition. Keep an eye out for our full review to post in the very near future.

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Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.