The Sony XR-65A90J is a large 65” 4K Ultra HD OLED TV that is as comfortable with home theater as it is with gaming. HDR-10, HLG and Dolby Vision compatible to make the most of HDR images, the Sony XR-65A90J is also compatible with 4K 120 FPS video streams on its two HDMI 2.1 connectors with VRR (available via a future update).
The Sony XR-65A90J 4K OLED TV is the successor to the Sony KD-65AG9 from 2020, which received an enthusiastic reception and numerous awards from the specialized press. It differs with its next-generation video processor with cognitive intelligence called XR Processor, which is supposed to offer an immersive experience and extreme realism, according to the manufacturer. Priced at €3,590, will the Sony XR-65A90J TV meet the expectations of lovers of beautiful images and surpass its predecessor?
Sony XR-65A90J: the brand
Founded in 1946, Sony was initially involved in repairing electronic equipment before experiencing strong growth during the 1950s thanks to the production of transistors. The Japanese company then became increasingly influential and in 1955 marketed the first radio receiver using exclusively transistors.
Sony has been a driving force in the audiovisual and consumer electronics industry since its inception. Among its major inventions, the Walkman, which was released in 1979, revolutionized our relationship with music and foreshadowed the success of the portable devices we know today. In 1981, Sony introduced the world’s first digital camera, the Mavica (Magnetic Video camera) and then the first camcorder in 1983 (the Betamovie, a portable camera in Betamax format). Sony is also at the origin of the Blu-ray disc which was launched in 2006.
Today, Sony is still a major player in the audio and video electronics market, both for professionals and the general public. Its expertise also covers many domains, including television (OLED TVs, UHD 4K TVs and UHD 8K TVs) and projection (UHD 4K projectors, UST projectors and HD projectors).
Sony is also a key player in the film industry, as it is involved throughout the entire production chain, from the capture of images to their distribution in cinemas and at home. Many of Sony’s monitors are used for film color grading in the brand’s production studios. The manufacturer uses this expertise to develop televisions that offer very high performance and flawless image quality, like the Sony XR-65A90J of this review.
With Sony Pictures Entertainment and its subsidiaries Columbia Pictures and Tri-Star Entertainment producing and distributing many blockbuster movies each year, the manufacturer is also able to offer an in-house streaming offer called Bravia Core on 2021 televisions equipped with XR Processor technology, which includes the Sony XR-65A90J.
Sony XR-65A90J: packaging & accessories
The large Sony XR-65A90J TV is delivered in an imposing box measuring almost 1.6m in length and almost 1m in height for a weight of 34kg. It is essential to be two people when it arrives as it is very large and not easy to handle alone.
Inside, the OLED panel, the TV feet and their screws as well as the remote control and documentation are meticulously packed inside polystyrene blocks. The packaging is robust and protects the TV very effectively.
Contents of the box
- Power cord
- Quick start guide
- Feet + screws
- Voice-controlled backlit remote control
- Batteries for the remote control
Sony XR-65A90J: presentation
The Sony XR-65A90J TV features a 65” OLED display that is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible and whose peak brightness has been optimized to take full advantage of wide dynamic range images, especially in the highlights. The other new feature of this Sony XR-65A90J OLED TV is its cognitive intelligence processor called Cognitive Processor XR. It is capable of analyzing the various elements that make up the image not individually, but simultaneously like the human brain, to process them in combination with each other and reproduce an ultra-realistic image. To offer viewers a sound quality that matches the image displayed by its OLED panel, the audio section of this Sony 2021 TV benefits from Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology. This technology uses the entire TV panel like a driver cone. The sound literally comes out of the screen, which results in a uniquely realistic sound.
This large Sony XR-65A90J TV takes advantage of the brand new Google TV interface that allows it to access all major streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video once their respective apps are downloaded. It natively integrates Google Assistant and can therefore be controlled vocally. Finally, the Sony XR-65A90J TV is eligible for Bravia Core, a streaming platform created by Sony Pictures in partnership with IMAX and DTS. Bravia Core is directly integrated into the TV and provides access to more than 300 movies from the Sony Pictures catalog, including Columbia Pictures and Tri-Star Entertainment productions.
Lastly, regarding the design, the Sony XR-65A90J has two very discreet feet that can be mounted in two different ways, including a mode that raises the screen so you can easily place a soundbar underneath.
Sony XR-65A90J: key specifications
- Screen size (diagonal): 164cm / 65”
- Screen type: OLED
- Resolution (H x V, pixels): 3840 x 2160
- HDR compatibility: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
- Image processor: Cognitive Processor XR
- Supported video signals (HDMI signal): 4096 x 2160p (24, 50, 60Hz), 3840 x 2160p (24, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120Hz), 1080p (30, 50, 60, 100, 120Hz), 1080/24p, 1080i (50, 60Hz), 720p (30, 50, 60Hz), 720/24p, 576p, 480p
- Image modes: Vivid, Standard, Cinema, IMAX Enhanced; Gaming, Graphics, Photo, Customized, Dolby Vision Bright, Dolby Vision Dark, Calibrated for Netflix
- Audio output: 20W + 20W + 10W + 10W
- Speaker type: Acoustic Surface Audio+
- Speaker configuration: Actuator x 2, woofer x 2
- Speaker terminals to use the television as a center speaker
- Compatible Dolby audio formats: Dolby Audio, Dolby Atmos
- Compatible DTS audio formats: DTS Digital Surround
- Acoustic Auto Calibration
- Simulated surround sound: 3D Surround Upscaling
- Sound modes: Standard, Dialog, Cinema, Music, Sports, Dolby Audio
- Operating system: Android (Google TV)
- On-board storage: 16GB
- Voice search (integrated microphone)
- Integrated microphone switch
- Application store: Google Play Store
- Premium backlit remote control
- Tuners (terrestrial/cable): 2 (digital) / 1 (analog)
- Tuners (satellite): 2
- WiFi standard: Wi-Fi Certified 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Ethernet inputs: 1 (bottom)
- Supported Bluetooth profiles: version 4.2; HID (mouse/keyboard connectivity) / HOGP (Low Energy device connectivity) / SPP (Serial Port Profile) / A2DP (stereo audio) 2 / AVRCP (AV remote control)
- Built-in Chromecast
- Apple AirPlay
- Apple HomeKit
- HDMI inputs: 2 x HDMI 2.1 / 2 x HDMI 2.0
- Features specified in HDMI 2.1 : 4K 120 FPS / eARC / VRR (via a future firmware update) / ALLM
- HDMI Audio return (eARC / ARC)
- Optical digital audio output: 1
- Headphone output: 1
- USB ports: 3
Dimensions and weight
- Dimensions without feet (W x H x D): approx. 144.4 x 83.3 x 4.1cm
- Dimensions with feet (W x H x D): approx. 150.2 x 83.4 x 31.7cm (standard position)
- Dimensions with feet (W x H x D): approx. 144.4 x 90.2 x 31.7cm (soundbar position)
- Package dimensions (W x H x D): approx. 159.4 x 95.9 x 18cm
- Base width (standard position): approx. 150.2cm
- Base width (soundbar position): approx. 136.5cm
- VESA hole pitch (W x H): 30 x 30cm
- TV weight without base: approx. 22.5kg
- TV weight with base: approx. 24.6kg
- Package weight (net): approx. 34kg
Sony XR-65A90J: configuration
It takes two people to unpack this Sony XR-65A90J TV and safely mount its feet. Although the panel rests on a Styrofoam base that holds it in place above the floor during the operation, it’s safer for one person to keep it from tipping over. The assembly of the feet takes very little time. Two screws are enough to secure them to the panel’s chassis. The Sony XR-65A90J is then ready to be placed on a TV cabinet and plugged in.
Those who want to can also wall-mount the Sony 4K OLED TV using a 300×300 VESA-compatible TV mount like the NorStone Skye F3770-GC, a swivelling model like the Vogel’s Wall 3315 or even a motorized swivelling model specially designed for OLED TVs like the Vogel’s Next 7356 (see the Vogel’s Next 7356 review).
Once the television was installed, we plugged it into a wall antenna socket for DTTV reception and connected it to the Taga Harmony PF-1000 v2 filtered power strip. We paired it with the Pioneer UDP-LX500 4K UHD Blu-ray player for 4K Blu-ray disc playback and a Playstation 4 for video games, using two HDMI cables. The TV was connected via Ethernet cable to the local network and the internet for optimal bandwidth.
Sony XR-65A90J: our impressions
The silhouette and aesthetic of the Sony XR-65A90J are simple yet impressive. Its very large 65” (164cm) OLED panel has a very thin frame that leaves a maximum of space for the image. This is made possible by the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology the Japanese manufacturer has used in its OLED TV ranges for several generations. This technology uses pistons to vibrate the screen, which then behaves like a driver cone. This design frees the manufacturer from the need to integrate speakers at the base of the screen, which significantly streamlines the design at the front. The very discreet feet also lighten the visual footprint of this large Sony TV. Be careful, however, to provide a piece of furniture wide enough to install it: the feet are 1.5m apart at most and almost 1.4m apart at least! It’s a shame they can’t be mounted more in the center so the TV can be placed on a smaller piece of furniture.
As always with OLED TVs, the panel is very thin and it’s the electronics and connections housed at the back in the lower part of the chassis that add thickness. Although the panel is less than 5mm thick, the bottom part of the TV is a little more than 4cm thick.
Reflections on the screen…
In our opinion, this is one of the main weaknesses of OLED technology: the screens are prone to numerous reflections due to their glossy finish. This Sony XR-65A90J TV is no exception and doesn’t seem to show any improvement over previous years’ models, including those from the competition.
It must be said that our test conditions were unforgiving in our living room, which is south-facing and equipped with two large French windows. It was difficult not to be bothered by these reflections at some point during the day. The mirror effect on the Sony XR-65A90J did not seem less important than that on the LG OLED55CX that we tested in the same conditions last year.
On a daily basis, these reflections are mainly visible on the darkest parts of the image. With blackout curtains covering the windows, they almost completely disappear. In semi-darkness or darkness, they are almost non-existent, unless there is a source of light in the room, especially behind the viewers. As with all OLED TVs, it is therefore necessary to take care with the installation in order to optimize the viewing conditions and take full advantage of the image quality.
Basic and advanced settings
The Sony XR-65A90J is easy to set up. The first time you turn it on, you are guided through the main steps. Setting the DTTV channels takes only a few minutes, as does setting up your Google account.
Once the television is operational it is possible to access many parameters, notably to adjust the picture and sound settings. Like many manufacturers, Sony offers several preset image modes accessible via the basic settings menu on its TVs. However, those who wish to do so can change the colorimetric settings with several levels of expertise available. But be careful! If you are not familiar with these settings, it is best not to change them, otherwise you run the risk of deteriorating the image!
During our test we found that the standard picture mode and the movie mode were particularly well calibrated for their respective uses. The first one is perfectly suitable for daytime viewing, whether it is for TV programs or movies. It slightly accentuates color saturation, overall brightness and contrast to provide a very pleasant picture in the daylight. We also activated the ambient light sensor and set the brightness of the display to the highest level to fully enjoy the rendering of HDR programs.
The cinema mode offers “softer”, less flashy settings, more in line with what one can experience in a movie theater, adapted to a home theater session in a dark room. The Expert mode did not seem to offer a very different result from the cinema mode.
Backlit remote control
With the Sony XR-65A90J, Sony provides a backlit remote control to allow you to easily find the keys during a home theater session at night. In the dark, just hold it in your hand and it lights up thanks to its motion and brightness sensors.
Very appealing with its brushed metal cover, the remote control also has the advantage of controlling the TV by radio frequency and not by infrared. So you don’t have to point it precisely at the screen to change channels or change the volume. In addition, four dedicated buttons provide direct access to YouTube, Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video.
4K HDR movies
We were able to measure the qualities of the Sony XR-65A90J TV by watching the 4K HDR Blu-ray of the movie Ford v Ferrari directed by James Mangold. This movie with excellent cinematography features high contrast images (sunrise and sunset car races), bright colors (red bodywork of the Ferraris, deep blue of the Ford GT test car and pastel blue of the Le Mans race car) and a wide range of skin tones (pale Carroll Shelby/Matt Damon and most of the Ford bureaucrats, reddened skin of Ken Miles and the last Ferrari driver in the race).
The natural settings were extremely realistic, whether in Southern California (racing on the outskirts of the desert with very nuanced brown and ochre tones) or in Le Mans (bright colors of the advertising panels, deep green of the vegetation that borders the circuit). It was a treat for the eyes!
The HDR rendering of the Sony XR-65A90J TV was remarkable. Unfortunately, the pictures in this test do not do justice to the precision of the colors and the nuances of the lighting that we enjoyed during the movie. During the race scenes in California, on a circuit bathed in light, the image was rich with numerous reflections on the windshields as well as on the bodywork, without the whites being overexposed. The shots with backlighting were superb, with an extremely bright azure blue sky, very clear and nuanced, and dark areas that remained legible and detailed.
The same goes for the night scenes, where the OLED technology demonstrated its ability to offer intense blacks while maintaining a high level of detail and impressive contrast. When Ken Miles/Christian Bale was working on his prototype with an angle grinder, the intense light of the spotlight at the back of the workshop did not prevent us from enjoying the many details of the scene: sparks of flying metal, intense reflections on the bodywork and the sweat beading on the actor’s forehead. The colors remained well saturated and realistic, the lighting was beautifully rendered.
This is one of the most significant new features in the TV section at Sony for 2021: access to the Bravia Core streaming platform created by Sony Pictures in partnership with IMAX and DTS.
The Bravia Core service is directly integrated into the highest-end Sony 2021 TVs equipped with a Sony XR processor, including the Sony XR-65A90J.
The Bravia Core offer includes many older films and some newer ones from the Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Tri-Star Entertainment catalogs. Some movies have also been remastered to IMAX standards to offer a unique experience. With Bravia Core, Sony announces a picture quality comparable to that of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs thanks to Pure Stream technology. This technology promises a constant bitrate of up to 80 Mb/s, which is 2 to 5 times higher than competing streaming services. The result is supposed to be equivalent to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, which rarely reach a maximum bitrate of 100 Mb/s.
To test this service in the best possible conditions, we chose to connect the Sony XR-65A90J TV to our internet router via an Ethernet cable to make the most of our fiber optic access (maximum speed: 300 Mb/s downstream). We chose to watch Spider-man: Homecoming.
From the first seconds of the film, we were blown away by the quality of the image. The level of detail was very impressive, as was the management of light with phenomenal HDR rendering. Once again, the pictures in this test do not do justice to the image quality really offered by this TV, which handled this remastered version of the movie brilliantly. The finesse and detail of the skin texture on the close-ups were incredible. As was the handling of shadow and light, with a very wide range of nuances. The Bravia Core service easily competes with the result of the best 4K UHD Blu-ray players.
However, our enthusiasm was dampened somewhat due to two issues. First of all, the Bravia Core service requires a lot of bandwidth, which doesn’t cope well with many simultaneous connections on the same modem, even with a 300 Mb/s fiber access. We experienced a few service interruptions (image freezing) due to teenagers streaming videos while stuck at home. The solution might be to invest in a router that offers the ability to manually manage the bandwidth allocated to a particular device (QoS management on the Netgear XR500-100EUS router, for example) to support Bravia Core streaming on the TV. Secondly, we were a bit frustrated by the rather limited catalog which needs to be expanded to really be of interest. Let’s hope this is in Sony’s plans!
TNT & Upscaling
We also tested the Sony XR-65A90J to see how it performed with 1080i resolution TV programs.
Once again the Sony TV was particularly good, especially with recent programs where the images are smooth and well defined with natural colors. The standard mode is to be preferred to enjoy a pleasant image during the day. Of course, the image was not as detailed and precise as it was with 4K sources, but overall, the Sony XR processor ensures very effective scaling, provided that the source program is of decent quality. With old TV series or those shot with limited equipment, the Sony XR-65A90J does not work miracles. But neither do its competitors.
A major player in gaming with its line of Playstation video game consoles, Sony offers a model tailored for gamers with the Sony XR-65A90J. It features ALLM (auto low latency mode), VRR (variable refresh rate), which will only be available after a future update, and supports 4K content at up to 120 FPS via its two HDMI 2.1 inputs. It can therefore be connected to a Playstation 5, an Xbox Series X or a PC with a high-performance graphics card to enjoy video games with a high frame rate.
For this test, we didn’t have a next-gen console or a powerful gaming computer to hand, so we connected a Playstation 4 to this Sony 2021 OLED TV. We were able to test several games, including Nier Automata, Ghost of Tsushima, Gravity Rush 2 and Bloodborne.
As soon as the console is turned on, it is detected by the Sony XR-65A90J which switches to game mode to optimize latency. Our test began with the game Nier Automata with its beautiful apocalyptic cityscapes. The excellent contrast ratio of this Sony OLED TV worked wonders, both on images with backlighting and on night scenes. During the fights, reactivity was excellent, while the combos of attacks followed one another without any lag in a festival of colors and visual and sound explosions.
In Sucker Punch’s flagship title of 2020, we were easily carried away by the atmosphere of feudal Japan by embodying Jin Sakai, the hero who alternates between the way of the Samurai and Ninjutsu to defeat the many enemies he meets. The landscapes were beautifully rendered on the screen and the haunting soundtrack by Shigeru Umebayashi was perfectly reproduced by the audio section of the TV. We were immediately immersed in the universe of the game and the actions followed one another with a beautiful smoothness, the screen being constantly very responsive.
The atmosphere is completely different with Gravity Rush 2, which disrupts our bearings during epic fights in levitation! The Sony TV kept its feet on the ground, however, and gave us a polished image with very impressive lighting effects around our heroine who twirled frantically without any display lag.
We ended our gaming session with Bloodborne and its dark fantasy universe inspired by Victorian scenery and Lovecraftian atmosphere and creatures. The Sony XR-65A90J wasn’t overwhelmed by the exuberance of the game’s scenery and beasts, which it masterfully reproduced on screen. We were impressed by the richness of the architecture and the lighting work that the OLED’s high contrast enhanced, with an excellent legibility in the dark areas. You don’t need to play in native 4K to enjoy the game on a console…
The Japanese manufacturer has used Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology for the Sony XR-65A90J OLED TV. This technology uses the entire surface of the screen as an acoustic membrane to produce sound, instead of the small dynamic drivers usually placed at the front under. Pistons are therefore placed directly behind the screen and are responsible for transmitting the micro-vibrations that transform it into a real driver. Completely invisible to the eye, these vibrations produce a sound that is much more immersive than the speakers usually integrated into televisions. This system is particularly effective with voices, which are perfectly audible and reproduced in a very realistic way, but also with sound effects that seem to follow the action on the screen. To reproduce the low frequencies, the Sony XR-65A90J TV uses two dynamic drivers placed at the back of the screen, which also prove to be quite effective.
From the very first minutes of the movie Ford v Ferrari, we were captivated by the soundtrack. The breath of Carroll Shelby struggling behind the wheel of his car was perfectly audible, despite the roar of the engine at each acceleration. The acoustic atmosphere in the pits was particularly well reproduced, as well as the dance of the cars on the racetrack. The Cinema mode seemed to offer the best sensations with this movie, with a particularly well produced soundtrack, as well as very convincing immersion and soundstage width.
Note that the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology of the Sony XR-65A90J allows you to use the TV to reproduce only the center channel of a multi-channel soundtrack. To do this, simply connect its dedicated terminal to the center speaker output of an AV receiver and set the audio output to Audio System instead of TV Speaker. The audio section of the TV then behaves like a loudspeaker, and the result is very impressive. Sony is the only TV manufacturer to offer this feature, which will delight home theater fans who don’t have the space for a center speaker.
During our gaming sessions, the audio system integrated into the Sony XR-65A90J television set proved to be perfectly up to par with the image. It allowed us to take full advantage of the very specific atmospheres of each game, contributing to effectively immerse us in the heart of these very different worlds.
For several years, Sony has been loyal to the Android TV operating system, and the Sony XR-65A90J incorporates the latest version with the Google TV interface. The main difference with the previous version of Android TV is the redesign of the home menu, which is much more user-oriented with a presentation that emphasizes recommendations.
Google TV groups content by theme (comedies, action, adventure, drama…) according to the user’s tastes and offers recommendations based on previously seen programs under the “For You” tab. These recommendations are transversal and therefore free from categorization according to sources. In the same row you will find content from different streaming platforms or VOD services.
Google TV also lists content by type under the Movies and TV Series tabs accessible at the top of the screen, similar to the menus of the various streaming services on the market. Finally, downloaded applications are accessible via a menu at the bottom of the screen.
In practice, Google TV proved to be practical and the interface responded instantly to the remote control’s requests, with perfect fluidity.
Sony XR-65A90J: compared to…
Like all OLED TVs on the market, the Sony XR-65A90J features an LG OLED display as the Korean manufacturer is still the only company to have mastered the manufacturing technology for large panels. However, the Sony TV stands out from LG C1 OLED TVs thanks to its video processing and its colorimetric accuracy, which produce an extremely realistic image. The HDR rendering is particularly convincing with a very nice contrast management, in the high and low lights.
However, the LG model takes the lead when it comes to gaming features with its four 4K 120 FPS compatible HDMI ports and support for VRR G-Sync (Nvidia) and FreeSync (AMD) technologies.
Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology is a step above the main competing audio systems, but does not offer as much width to the soundstage as LG’s AI Sound Pro mode.
Owners of a Sony KD-65AG9 may wonder if they should switch to this Sony XR-65A90J 2021 model. In our opinion, the differences between the two models don’t necessarily warrant it, unless you want to connect a Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X to play in 4K 120 FPS. The differences in image quality between the two are hard to pinpoint as the processors and video processing have been efficient for several years. A little brighter, the Sony XR-65A90J manages the highest lights in HDR better than its predecessor, but the differences are not extremely pronounced either.
Sony XR-65A90J: who is it for?
The Sony XR-65A90J OLED TV is aimed at all those who are looking for a cinematographic rendering of movies and series and want to enjoy a high-contrast image with rich and accurate colors. It will delight those who enjoy home theater sessions in a dark room: OLED technology has no equal when it comes to offering perfect blacks whose intensity adds to the realism of the colorimetric result.
The Sony XR-65A90J TV is also suitable for gaming, although more affordable OLED models with more comprehensive VRR compatibility can be found, notably LG TVs. It is also among the OLED TVs that offer the widest range of connected services thanks to its Google TV interface that provides access to a multitude of applications.
Sony XR-65A90J: conclusion
The Sony XR-65A90J TV seduced us with its outstanding management of HDR content which guarantees an unparalleled performance. The images are ideally contrasted, very realistic with vibrant colors. The level of detail in the dark and light areas is very satisfying, which contributes to the enjoyment of the viewers who immerse themselves very easily in the action. The Cinema mode is very accurate and works wonders for nighttime home theater sessions.
On a day-to-day basis, the result with DTTV programs is also very satisfactory with, in particular, great upscaling of HD sources to 4K, provided that the quality of the original image is not too poor.
Those with a high-speed Internet connection will be able to take full advantage of the picture quality offered by the Bravia Core streaming service, including remastered content from IMAX Studios that is as good as the best Blu-rays on the market.
We also really appreciated the sound with the Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology. The fact that the sound is emitted by the screen and literally comes out of the image reinforces the visual and acoustic immersion. Spatialization is effective, with a sound envelope that is mostly frontal, but with sound effects that are distributed horizontally and vertically in a very satisfying manner.
Lastly, the remote control with its metal finish is well designed. The different keys are easy to use, access to online video services is fast thanks to the dedicated keys and control in the dark is made easier by the backlighting that activates as soon as you pick it up in the dark.
The brightness of the OLED panel is the most important aspect that needs to be improved. In a dark room it is not really a problem, but during the day or in a bright room, it generates a lot of reflections that can frustrate more discerning users. The very wide feet on this Sony XR-65A90J TV can also be a problem if your TV cabinet is not at least as wide as the screen. Finally, while we were impressed by the picture quality offered by the Bravia Core streaming service, its catalog left us a bit disappointed.
- The picture with 4K HDR content
- The nuance and details in dark and bright scenes
- The Cinema mode’s excellently calibrated colors
- The very effective upscaling
- The image quality offered by the Bravia Core service
- The sound that comes out of the screen (Acoustic Surface)
- The backlit metal remote control
We would have liked
- An anti-reflection filter
- More range in the adjustment of the feet
- A more comprehensive Bravia Core catalog