Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: which Sony 4K TV is best for you?

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90 is a battle of the affordable 4K TVs, but what are the differences? We explain all

Sony A90J vs Sony XH90
(Image credit: Sony)

Chances are that if you’re looking for the best TV under £1000, you’ve probably come across Sony’s midrange offerings, and may be wondering about the Sony X90J vs Sony XH90, and wondering what the differences are. The XH90 is a model from 2020 that's received killer price cuts, and is now one of the best bang-for-buck TVs on the market. The new X90J is its replacement model from Sony's 2021 range, hence the similar name.

Choosing a TV in 2021 can feel like a very expensive 16:9 minefield – or is that a 16: ninefield? – with so many letters in names and acronyms and screen types, not to mention the not-so-small matter of bags of cash. Falling down a new TV rabbit hole can be somewhat terrifying, but we'll help to guide you to making a great buying decision!

As we said in our Sony XH90 review last year, “the Sony XH90 offers thrilling picture performance and great upscaling” and the good news is that it has been updated since launch with 4K gaming at 120fps. This earned it a slot in our best gaming TVs as one of the best budget ways to enjoy the HDMI 2.1 functionality of your PS5 or Xbox Series X. So should you go for last year’s model and its associated price cuts or shell out for the new one? Let’s break down the differences.

Sony X90J

The Sony X90J will be one of 2021's most popular TVs.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: Price and screen sizes

When it comes to price, the new Sony X90J is launching at a slightly cheaper price point than the XH90 did last year, and there’s a new 50-inch model for 2021 thankfully – the older model only came in 55 inches or bigger. 

That’s not to say it’s small change though. The 50-inch model costs £1,249/$1,099, the 55-inch is £1,399/$1,299, the 65-inch is £1,799/$1,599, and the 75-inch model, which will be along at a later date, is £2,299/$2,399. 

It’s worth noting as you climb to those bigger screen sizes that this is where the real difference between LED and OLED pricing becomes apparent. LG’s C1 OLED 77-inch screen is currently sitting at a cool £4,499/$3,799 so if you want something big and affordable, LED is still the way to go.

In comparison, last year’s XH90 has now had some serious price cuts. Retailers in the UK have now slashed the price of the 55-inch model from £1299 to around £800, and in the US, you’ll find it for less than $999. It’s also now possible to pick up the 65-inch version for less than £1000 from some retailers. You can check a full list of the lowest prices available below. But let’s get onto the differences in functionality before you pull the money trigger.

Sony XH90

The Sony XH90's direct backlight made it a big hit in our review.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: Picture quality

In our review, we praised the XH90’s excellent LED screen for its brilliant brightness and colour palette. “With some 4K Dolby Vision-assisted content up and running, the Sony looks vivid and detailed – images are loaded with information and very crisply described, but there’s nothing forced or unnatural about the pictures the XH90/X900H delivers.” 

The panel has great contrast, and the full-array backlighting means that there’s no inconsistencies across the screen, and contrast is impressive. The rich blacks of OLED aren’t quite there but the XH90 boasts brilliant performance for the price with its multiple Dolby Vision modes. 

When it comes to the Sony X90J then, the big difference this time around is Sony’s 2021 processor. The Cognitive Processor XR is all about understanding how the human eye works and adjusting the picture accordingly. As well as improved upscaling, the XR processor apparently constantly adapts to the picture on screen based on the focal point, putting more processing power into improving the part you're actually looking at. 

This XR processor also promises a wider colour palette and improved HDR imagery. There’s even an XR Contrast Booster to adjust brightness for even richer depth. So the XH90’s screen was already excellent but it sounds like the X90J is really going the extra mile to deliver an even better visual experience.

Sony X90J

The Sony X90J includes an upgraded sound system.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: Sound quality

In 2021 we’re quite used to immediately choosing one of the best soundbars at the same time as a new TV. A world that has long focussed on visual fidelity and ultra skinny panels has long left superior audio in the dust, but, as we say in our review, the XH90 can go “respectably loud without becoming simultaneously brash or edgy.” The XH90 can handle a Dolby Atmos soundtrack and not buying a soundbar straight away is absolutely a possibility.

Comparatively, the X90J is a step up in audio, boasting Sony’s XR Sound Position tech with two of what Sony calls Acoustic Multi-Audio Sound Positioning Tweeters. As well as the standard bass speakers, these Tweeters relay positional audio from the back of the TV to make sure you’re constantly aware of exactly what’s coming from where. 

It’s not quite as fancy as the Acoustic Surface Audio of Sony’s Master series, where the screen literally becomes the speaker, but it’s a big step forwards in creating an immersive soundscape. Add in what Sony is calling XR Surround to simulate a surround sound set up and you might not have to invest in a soundbar at all unless you really want to up the overall depth of the sound, or add more convincing surround.

Sony XH90

Both TVs have a simple but attractive design.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: Design & features

Features wise, the big draw for both screens is their gaming chops. The Sony XH90 was originally sold as ‘PS5 Ready’ but actually its HDMI 2.1 updates have only arrived on the scene gradually. The big one, 4K 120Hz support, landed late last year, but the XH90 is still waiting on a variable refresh rate (VRR) compatibility update, which we expect to land at the same time as VRR is available on the PlayStation 5 itself. 

On the X90J, two of the four HDMI ports are HDMI 2.1 compatible (same as the XH90) and again, while you’ll be able to play games in 4K 120Hz on both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, a VRR update will come after launch. According to the specs, though, both of these HDMI 2.1 ports will have support for both VRR and auto low latency mode (ALLM) at some point in the future.

In terms of smart TV features, both screens will give you access to all the streaming services you need with all the usual suspects, thanks to Google TV. Both also have functionality with Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa for all of your voice control needs, and both have built-in Chromecasts and Apple HomeKit compatibility for streaming from mobile devices.

Sony X90J vs Sony XH90: Conclusion

When it comes to features, there's not a huge difference here, but as combined visual and audio package, the X90J looks like a step up. The XH90 was already impressive enough, but Sony’s XR processor might be the reason to invest in the 2021 model. Add in the improved sound system that might just mean you don’t need a soundbar at the same time and buying the more expensive version might actually save you some speaker cash.

However, when it comes to pure TV value for money, the low price of the XH90 is almost impossible to beat at this point. There’s no wrong answer here, especially for new-gen gamers. It just comes down to price – the X90J is likely to be more future-proof by being newer, but then, for the same price, you could get the XH90 plus a budget soundbar and a PS5 to play on it…

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.