One of the biggest surprises of Sony's newly announced 2023 TV range is that it doesn't include any new OLED models smaller than 55 inches. When I asked at the launch event why that might be, I was told that the company has decided to keep the 42-inch and 48-inch A90K in the lineup for an extra year.
In some ways, that isn't entirely surprising – 2020's A9 model (the A9S in the US) had a two-year shelf life as well – but it is rather disappointing.
Not that the A90K isn't an excellent TV, because it is. In fact, both versions of it (the XR-42A90K and XR-48A90K) received five-star ratings in our extensive reviews. It's just that it's too expensive to provide a serious challenge to the LG C2, which dominates the market at this size and is soon to be replaced by the seemingly very similar C3.
That's an intentional move on the part of Sony, of course. The company has greeted the arrival of small OLED panels by offering super-premium TVs at sizes that have been without such an option for years. The A90K is essentially designed to be a baby A95K, though with a standard OLED panel rather than a QD-OLED.
It's a laudable approach – why shouldn't someone who has fairly limited space for a TV not have the option to go for a seriously high-end one?
I get the feeling, though, that there just aren't enough people out there with the small spaces, big budgets and demanding tastes to make a TV such as the A90K a huge seller. I could be wrong, and I confess that I've not seen any of the sales figures that might back this up, but in the forums and subreddits that I frequent (what a rock 'n' roll life I lead), everyone's buying small C2s and there's very little interest in the A90K.
The disappointing thing about this is that Sony already has a step-down OLED TV in its range: the A80K, soon to be replaced by the A80L, goes toe-to-toe with the C2 at larger screen sizes, so why not expand the range to include 48-inch and 42-inch models?
The latter, in particular, appears to be a hugely popular size, not least because a 42-inch OLED can make for a great gaming monitor. And who wouldn't want a 42-inch Sony OLED TV to go with their PS5, assuming the price was right? The problem is that the A90K is financially out of reach to most of the people to whom that must sound heavenly – so they just end up buying the C2 instead.
Of course, Sony is packed with brighter minds than mine and it almost certainly has its reasons for not going down the small A80L route. Perhaps the feeling is that it just wouldn't be able to compete on price with the smaller C2/C3 models, even without some of the A90K's more premium bells and whistles.
Whatever the reason, I wish Sony would figure it out. The C2 is a fantastic TV but it needs more competition, particularly in the US, where the only OLED rival to the 42-inch C2 is the A90K. At least in the UK there are 42-inch Panasonic OLEDs available, and Philips is launching one (with Ambilight) here this year...
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