Sony’s new TVs take Mini-LED to the max: Here’s what you should know

From backlots to TV backlights, soundstages to soundbars, Sony held a premiere for its 2024 BRAVIA lineup and we walked their red carpet.
A Sony television with home theater set-up staged in a pretend living room.

Sony

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Sony launched its new TV and soundbar lineup April 17 with the tagline “Cinema is coming home.” But a month earlier, they invited me to travel far from home—from the East Coast to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif.—for a behind-the-screens preview of the philosophy and technology that went into the 2024 models. 

Ecto-1. Johnny 5. BRAVIA 9. Our two-day tour of the lot showcased applied science of the past and present. Movie props and filmmakers giving Sony engineers props. Classic characters and new naming conventions. I found myself in JEOPARDY! and on a holodeck. It was a soup-to-nuts, lens-to-living room look at mastering monitors, home theater setups, and the push to narrow the gap between creators and consumers.

See It

Seeing what we’re not seeing  

Sony’s new TVs include four models and two important acronyms: BRAVIA and HDR. The “Best Resolution Audio Visual Integrated Architecture” brand has been part of Sony’s televisions for almost 20 years but is now the unifying label for the BRAVIA 3, 7, 8, and 9 screens, as well as the BRAVIA Theater Bar 8 and Theater Bar 9. For anyone used to Sony’s sets like the X95L, X90L, etc., X no longer marks the spot except on the SKU. (The A80L is also gone—no more separate LED and OLED series—but that didn’t fit the last sentence’s wordplay as well.) 

The BRAVIA 9 is now the Mini-LED flagship, with the most expanded, authentic contrast, while the BRAVIA 8 is a 4K OLED alternative. The BRAVIA 7 is a premium but more approachable 4K Mini-LED, while the BRAVIA 3 is an entry-level 4K 60Hz Direct LED. Is making shopping simpler versus the previous system the rename of the game? Debatable, and it doesn’t help that the flagship A95L will remain on the market. At the very least, the new monikers make it clear that the BRAVIA 9 is the set Sony considers the true peak of this year’s innovations—peak brightness particularly.

On to that second acronym. The ability to turn off every diode independently allows OLED screens unbeatable black levels and contrast, given a low-light environment to show its best. But when it comes to HDR, or High Dynamic Range, the peak brightness levels achievable by a Mini-LED screen allow for more control over fine highlights and luminance that can stand up to rooms with more natural light. 

Sony’s brightest 4K TV to date (50% brighter with 325% more dimming zones), the BRAVIA 9’s High Peak Luminance sets out to narrow the gap with OLED’s pixel-level control while improving the ability to perform accurately wherever people want (or need) to set up their TV, not just in an optimized home theater or demo den. Sony hosted its product reveal throughout the studio lot, and invited directors and cinematographers to speak to us, to reinforce the part the company plays in every stage of the cinema signal chain—from professional Venice cameras used in aircraft on Top Gun: Maverick to Gran Turismo’s object-based sound design to color-grading monitors. And it’s Sony’s belief in the ability of HDR to preserve the detail and intent of every frame that explains why the first, foundational screen we saw was one none of us will ever buy.

The Sony BRAVIA 9's backlight panel

Shining a light on backlighting

The HX3110 is an if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it 31-inch 4K reference monitor with a dual-layer LCD panel capable of color grading up to 4,000 nits. To date, most films are mastered to 1,000 nits because of the limitations of previous monitors. With the NX3110, even the smallest highlights can be displayed without clipping, and 2,000/1,000 nits settings allow filmmakers to ensure details translate to any current display scenarios. And the gradients on display were compelling. But it’s that 4,000 nits future that informed the development of the BRAVIA 9’s local dimming and backlight processing. 

Handing out sunglasses, our hosts had us turn to the other side of the darkened room, draped in blackout curtains. On one table was a BRAVIA 9 without its LCD panel, with an intact TV on the floor in front of it. To the side were two sets from a competitor in an identical arrangement [see image below]. Can the BRAVIA 9 reach the brightness levels or shading of a tens of thousands of dollars professional monitor without clipping? No, but it did demo the response time and object recognition of the “XR Backlight Master Drive” and newly developed IC [LED Driver] system [see above], as well as show off the color volume and specular highlights, which emulated some of the HX3110’s vivid reproduction admirably. The naked backlight, well, illuminated the level of definition 22-bit channel control can produce. And a granular grasp of each component and current also means 20% less power consumption, according to Sony.

This will also come into play in one of Sony’s new partnerships. The BRAVIA 7, 8, and 9 will all feature Prime Video Calibrated Mode—announced at the event by BA Winston, VP, Technology, Amazon Prime Video. A Sony-exclusive feature (at least initially), this algorithm auto-adjusts picture settings for the content streaming (movies, TV, live sports, etc.), screen type, and the light conditions in the room. (Prime Video joins similar processing for Netflix and the Sony Pictures Core app.) IMAX Enhanced, Dolby Vision, HLG, and HDR10 support—plus 4K 120Hz, VRR, ALLM, Auto Tone Mapping, and other “Perfect for PS5” features for gamers—make sure all the picture mode boxes are checked. 4K X-Reality PRO, XR Clear Image, XR Triluminos PRO, XR Motion Clarity (120Hz native refresh rate), and X-Wide Angle with X-Anti-Reflection underlie upscaling, color mapping, etc.

As for the BRAVIA 8 OLED, it’s 10% brighter while being 30% slimmer than 2023’s A80L. The BRAVIA 7 is 790% brighter than last year’s full-array LED X90L but lacks the flagship’s precise lighting and peak management. It’s the BRAVIA 9 that’s an upgrade from every angle—including the viewing angle, which exhibited low off-axis desaturation. I look forward to testing one to bring all the shadowy details into the light.

Two televisions displaying their LED capabilities.

Elevating more than brightness

Obviously, Sony believes Mini-LED has a … bright future. But what’s cinema without being equally saturated in sound? Whereas the BRAVIA 9 operates under a mantra of more is more, the BRAVIA Theater Bar 9 makes a statement that less isn’t less. The 2024 soundbar, which replaces the HT-A7000 [a Dolby Atmos soundbar that impressed our reviewer], is 36% smaller with no decrease in capability thanks to its 13-driver array and 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology filling in the virtual channels for spatial audio. Integrated with a BRAVIA 9 TV and augmented by wireless SA-RS5 satellite speakers and the SA-SW5 subwoofer, the Theater Bar 9 delivered 7.1.4 channels and plenty of energy. Thanks to AI-powered Voice Zoom 3 and “Acoustic Center Sync,” which uses the BRAVIA 9 as the center channel (and the TV now has up-firing Beam Tweeters and Frame Tweeters), dialog stayed anchored and audible even as action swelled. The demo was dynamic, despite the challenges of being in an acoustically treated recording studio full of irregular surfaces. (The Theater Bar 8 offers similar soundfield features but with 11 drivers within a slimmer, less powerful footprint.)

The real surprise was the BRAVIA Theater Quad system, which maximizes minimalism with four fabric-wrapped panel-like powered speakers with four drivers each (tweeter, mid, woofer, and up-firing). The wireless speakers self-calibrate to adjust volume and create 16 phantom channels based on their placement (and they’re purpose-built to be wall-mount friendly but also stand-suitable). They’re also wireless subwoofer compatible. Flanking a BRAVIA 9 hung a touch above eye/ear level, with the other two Quad components behind the sitting area, the Theater Quad system delivered an even more immersive experience than the Theater Bar 9, with audible overhead effects. Flexible positioning plus fluid sound? Yes, thank you. Speakers that stand out by blending in are so hot right now.

Individual parts of Sony's soundbar displayed on a table.

There was one last stop on our tour of Sony Pictures and Sony products, and that was to Pixomondo—a virtual production company/LED soundstage. Combining a modular wall of 1,400 display panels with infrared motion-tracking cameras to render perspective changes in real-time, Pixomondo allows directors to film free-flowing action in virtual environments (like, say, a starship). It also allows journalists to take pictures of the TVs and soundbars staged in multiple suites of varying moods, all without leaving one space [as shown below]. Placed against a towering crescent of monitors, the new BRAVIA setups were visually eclipsed yet still stood out. Colorful screensavers cranked, it was quite the contrast(s) … talk about heightening the experience.

Sony's new televisions staged in a large indoor room.

BRAVIA TV and soundbar models and prices, once available 

BRAVIA 9 Mini LED

  • 85″ Class (84.6″ diag): $5,499.99 USD MSRP
  • 75″ Class (74.5″ diag): $3,999.99 USD MSRP
  • 65″ Class (64.5″ diag): $3,299.99 USD MSRP 

BRAVIA 8 OLED

  • 77″ Class (76.7″ diag): $3,899.99 USD MSRP 
  • 65″ Class (64.5″ diag): $2,799.99 USD MSRP  
  • 55″ Class (54.6″ diag): $1,999.99 USD MSRP 

BRAVIA 7 Mini LED

  • 85″ Class (84.6″ diag): $3,499.99 USD MSRP
  • 75″ Class (74.5″ diag): $2,799.99 USD MSRP
  • 65″ Class (64.5″ diag): $2,299.99 USD MSRP
  • 55″ Class (54.6″ diag): $1,899.99 USD MSRP

BRAVIA 3 LED

  • 85″ Class (84.6″ diag): $1,799.99 USD MSRP
  • 75″ Class (74.5″ diag): $1,299.99 USD MSRP
  • 65″ Class (64.5″ diag): $999.99 USD MSRP 
  • 55″ Class (54.6″ diag): $849.99 USD MSRP
  • 50″ Class (49.5″ diag): $699.99 USD MSRP 
  • 43″ Class (42.5″ diag): $599.99 USD MSRP

BRAVIA Theater Quad has a suggested retail price of $2,499.99 USD 

BRAVIA Theater Bar 9 has a suggested retail price of $1,399.99 USD 

BRAVIA Theater Bar 8 has a suggested retail price of $999.99 USD 

BRAVIA Theater U has a suggested retail price of $299.99 USD