Sony Bravia XH90/X900H TV Updated At Long Last
Important gaming functions added, upgrade to Android 10, still some limitations
Just as millions of consumers who bought Sony's most affordable "PS5-ready TV" back in 2020, the Bravia XH90/X900H, were starting to lose faith in the Japanese giant - some had already done the rather risky thing of installing on that TV the software of a different TV, this year's Bravia X90J - the company vindicated those who believed that it would come through… eventually. Sony's Chinese official website now offers a new, extremely important update for the XH90/X900H that seems to address almost all the requests owners of that TV had, although there's still room for improvement.
The update - number PKG6.1288, although it will probably be different in other regions when it becomes available - enables VRR and ALLM, the two most important functions of the HDMI 2.1 spec that gamers need in order to make the most of entertainment systems such as the PlayStation5 and the Xbox Series S|X. It also upgrades the operating system of this TV from Android 9 to Android 10 (but not to the new Google TV OS which the 2021 Sony Bravia XR models sport), making a number of changes to the user interface along the way. A few other additions are of lesser importance but, truth be told, even if this update just enabled VRR, owners of the XH90/X900H would be happy.
Sony has had a rough ride because of this update since August 2020, when it became apparent that this particular TV - promoted as the perfect companion to the PlayStation5 - would not offer VRR and ALLM in time for the latter's launch. Since then rumors have run rampant about the TV not getting the updates Sony promised, forcing the company to reassure consumers on several occasions while not providing a solid timeline as to when those updates were coming. The release of this software upgrade for the Chinese market means that the American and European markets can't be too far behind - chances are that it will be offered worldwide before the year is out.
Part of the reason why many consumers were beginning to doubt Sony's promise had to do with Mediatek's controlling chipset for the HDMI 2.1 ports: this is still thought to be not as capable as what other manufacturers are using and, based on initial impressions of XH90/X900H regarding the new upgrade, it seems to be true. There are already three limitations users have discovered and/or verified. One: consumers cannot have VRR and Dolby Vision enabled at the same time on this TV (this we practically knew already). Two: consumers cannot enable VRR and local dimming at the same time (so picture quality in games will be unavoidably diminished for those that prefer smooth motion and accurate control). Three: the half-resolution issue that occurs when consumers play games in 4K/120Hz, resulting in a blurry image, seems to be non-fixable on the XH90/X900H (but not on the 2021 Bravia XR models that sport a co-processor for that reason).
So this software upgrade - despite not being perfect - allows Sony to claim that, even 16 months after releasing the XH90/X900H, kept its promise of offering those important game-related functions. Now that this has been more or less resolved, the Japanese giant might follow with the 2021 Bravia XR models: the mid-range X90J LED/LCD, the top-tier A90J OLED, the top tier X95J LED/LCD, the more affordable A80J OLED and this year's 8K model, the Z9J. It will be interesting to see whether the software upgrade for these models will come with the same limitations or Sony will be able to avoid those since the 2021 models are superior to the XH90/X900H.
PlayStation5 owners must also be kind of excited about this development: now that Sony offered VRR to its TV that was most heavily promoted as "the perfect companion" for the PS5 last year, maybe it's time to do the same for the new PlayStation itself. The company's most powerful entertainment system had its own hefty software upgrade a few weeks back but VRR is still the most important function missing from its arsenal. Rumors making the rounds indicate that Sony has already developed VRR for the PS5 and that it's been in testing for some time now (it was not tied to a questionable chipset like Mediatek's after all and the Xbox Series S|X that is based on the same AMD chipset offer VRR since day one). If true, then it would probably make sense to release that update alongside the software upgrades of the 2021 Bravia XR models. So... during October or November? Cross fingers!
Update: 01/10/2021: Sony clarified to FlatPanelsHD that this software upgrade is not actually finalized as far as VRR functionality is concerned and that two more updates will follow in October in order to offer the best possible experience. The company also promised that updates for all five of its 2021 Bravia XR TV models series will be available before the year is out, adding VRR functionality to those as well. Good news all around, then. Now if Sony went ahead with the PS5 VRR update too…