What better place to review a Sony A9G Master Series OLED
king-size TV than in a king-size bed replete with snacks in a cloistered suite at
the iconic Old Claire Hotel?
One of the perks we tech journalist get is an overnight stay
to review a TV. In this case, it was the 65-inch Sony A9G Master Series OLED. I
spent the night watching copious 4K, Dolby Vision (not Dolby Atmos – more later),
content from Netflix et al. A sci-fi binge delight.
What is the Master Series?
Let’s just say that Sony is trying to cement itself as a premium OLED TV provider. The Sony A9G Master Series in 55, 65 and 77-inches at $5,199/7,199/14,399 is the best it can offer.
Under the Master Series is 55/65-inch A8G OLED at $3,495/4,995. I could go on, but we covered the 2019 launch range here.
So, I will avoid the hyperbole until my summary. The suffix
‘G’ means 2019 model – F is for 2018.
In fact, we reviewed the A9F Master Series 2018 here scoring it at 4.5-out-of-5. It was Sony’s best to date, but we felt that it needed a little tweaking to take the ultimate crown.
On that note, both the Sony A9G and A9F use the same X1 Ultimate Processor and Android TV O upgrades since then have probably added a couple of points to the rating. So, if you see a lower cost 65-inch A9F (under $5,000) snap it up because the A9G is not a quantum leap – more a refined one. Is a bit slimmer, has a new remote and not too much more.
Note: some countries use the nomenclature AG9 – it is the
same TV but for a different region.
Sony A9G 4K video tests
Armed with 4K TV testing software – a greyscale generator, colour bars, tone generator and a few tests for DCI-P3 colour gamut I put the TV through its technical paces. Spoiler alert: PASS
As expected of any OLED with pixel-level control, it gave
good, rock-solid colour bars with clear definition between bars – no overlap.
There were no bands of lighter and darker colours that you see with many
LED/LCD TVs. PASS.
As an OLED with individually controllable light-emitting
pixels (as against various forms of edge-lit or backlit dimming in LED/LCD) it
theoretically has infinite contrast from pure black (pixel off) to 100% white.
SDR (standard dynamic range): The Vivid pre-set can reach
over 650 nits (momentarily), but the reality is between 150 and 500 nits
depending on the image. The more white on the screen, the lower the nits. This
is fine for free-to-air (FTA) TV and SDR content.
HDR (High dynamic range): HDR means more brightness and
contrast control (*but you need reasonable ambient light control of your
surroundings). If you drive the TV flat out, you can get 800nits. But again,
the reality with true HDR/HDR10/Dolby Vision content is from 125-650 nits. PASS
Greyscale and black
The Greyscale test is from pure
black to pure white in 2% increments. It
clearly reproduces all bars with a clear delineation between them. Most TV’s
tend to blur the first 0-10% black into more of a smoky black than five
distinct levels of inky blacks – ditto with whites. The screen easily
displays pure black and its absolutely inky. PASS
DCI-P3 and colour gamuts
DCI-P3 (movie) colour gamut tests require a colour calibration device. CalMAN have a Colour Calibration camera and software – alas, I did not have one at the hotel.
Sony state that the TV is factory
calibrated to 100% DCI-P3 and that other video pre-sets will produce accurate
gamuts like sRGB etc. There are also two custom calibrations (if you have the Calman
camera and software) per HDMI 2.0 port.
We later found Calman test results
(out of the box). These were 93% DCI-P3 with a Delta E of around 5 (below 4 is
best). Post-calibration this is 97% and a Delta E of 2.3 so you may need to
spend a few extra dollars if you want perfect colour.
Interesting is the Netflix
Calibration mode (also in the older A9F) that automatically calibrates for a variety
of Netflix content. For example, some Netflix content is Dolby Vision, some HDR
or HRD10 and some 4K, 1K or 720 standard definition – not to mention the impact
of internet data transfer rates. Sony uses Netflix’s metadata to deliver the best
image. It works very well although there can be a slight brightness drop
meaning this setting is best in a darkened room.
Sony’s objective is to create a
television capable of images that faithfully convey the content creators’ full
intent. PASS with caveats.
If you use Games mode (and that is only
for games) lag is about 26ms. Without that its closer to 100ms. Neither are
deal-breakers, but the LG C9 OLED is very much faster (13ms) in game mode.
Sony also only supports its PlayStation
HDMI EDID (External Display Identification Data) instead of the more industry-standard
ALLM (Auto low latency mode) that supports both Xbox and PlayStation. Xbox
user may have to look elsewhere.
Reflectivity and viewing angle
A characteristic of all OLED screens is a reasonably glossy
screen – it helps saturate colours more than a matte LCD screen. The Sony A9G
OLED is no exception although we suspect it is slightly better than the A9F.
*With OLED it is important not to have any strong or direct
light source coming from behind, beside or above you (when viewing). OLED is
best in the right controlled and darkened environment.
Off-angle viewing is excellent keeping colours and images
accurate to almost 70° off-angle.
Dolby Vision has won the race, and most flagship TVs (except
Samsung) now have it. It means that details should show in shadows or bright
areas – not lost as most LE/LCD TVs do.
Our test shows remarkable definition in the Klingon’s right
eye and the desert landscape. PASS
How is the 4K picture? 3840 x 2160
Sony provided 1080p, 2K and 4K content and I also watched a
variety of 4K Dolby Vision Sci-Fi shows from Netflix. Everything scales to 4K
regardless of its original resolution. Known as upscaling and this TV does it very
Upscaling increases the pixel count of a lower-resolution
image by adding the same pixel information on the four sides of an existing
pixel. Remember that the signal information does not change, so there is no more
detail. If poorly done, it can soften the image. Sony does it very well sharpening
the image from 1K to 4K upscale.
To do this it has a powerful X1 Ultimate Picture Processor (System
on a Chip) that with in-built databases (it detects hundreds of different objects
on-screen and intelligently enhances brightness, detail and colour) and its
pixel boosting technology (contrast) produces clear, crisp, colour accurate
images that are as good as I have seen. PASS
All 4K TV panels are native 4096×2160@ either 24/50/60/120Hz
frames per second refresh rate. There are two motion smoothing techniques
frame insertion (BFI) between frames (as Sony does)
Interpolation – looks at the before/after frame
content and creates a new frame between the two.
Sony’s Motionflow XR makes images look smoother by adding
BFI to a 120Hz refresh panel to give an equivalent 240Hz.
Rather than talk about ‘fake’ figures as many reviewers do
let’s say that all TV makers fudge motion figures and the proof is in the image
integrity in fast-moving scenes. Sony has the horsepower to handle motion BFI smoothing
with ease. PASS
Most will use the Vivid setting out-of-the-box as it amps up
brightness and contrast (that we all want) but sacrifices colour gamut accuracy
(that we don’t really care about). It is best for SDR free-to-air TV content.
The other options are for those who understand the effect.
HDR – Dolby Vision Bright, Dolby Vision Dark and Netflix
Dolby Vision (both modes) and Netflix calibrated (to a
lesser extent) enable HDR/HDR10/Dolby Vision clarity. They are useless on SDR
content and can reduce brightness if improperly used.
The moral of this is to ensure you select the correct SDR or
HDR mode as it is not automatic.
Sony A9G Sound – Acoustic Surface Audio+
The TV will natively process up to 5.1
channel linear PCM: 32/44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz in 16-20-24- bits, Dolby
Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS and downmix it to the 2.1 speaker system
(Left/Right/sub-woofer). We understand a software update for Dolby Atmos (we
assume up to 7.1.4) is coming soon.
Sony calls it a 2.2 system – two full-range x 10W Left/Right
actuators mounted under the screen glass and two x 20W rear-firing sub-woofers.
This helps produce ‘sound at the source’, e.g. where people are speaking or
things blowing up. You can set it to S-Force simulated surround sound.
Using a tone generator, we achieved 77dB maximum volume
(same as the A9F). That is a little below what I would have expected. Yet in a cavernous
hotel room, the volume was fine – more than satisfactory for movies. At full
volume it does distort a little – again depends on content.
The tone generator also reveals the native mid-centric speaker
signature, although it is pretty flat from 100Hz to nearly 20kHz. This is good
as you can +/- bass, mids or treble to get the sound that you want.
Then you have the Sony EQ pre-sets – Standard (flat), Dialog (more mid for clearer voice), Cinema (more bass for warm and sweet), Music (more treble for bright vocal), Sports (vocal focus), Dolby Audio (5.1 decoding to 2.1 channels).
Sony crows about powerful bass. With the Dolby Audio pre-set
there are hints of bass creeping in at 80Hz and finishing at 200Hz – adequate
but not room shaking!
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – starting a to creep in at 70hz
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat but not solid
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat
Treble: 4-6kHz – flat
High Treble: 6-10kHz – flat
Dog whistle: 10-20 – flat to 18kHz
Sony has developed an excellent sound signature and pre-sets
that cover most bases. But no matter what the content the TV speakers still
present as 2.1 channels.
If you are buying a Master Series TV reserve a few extra grand to get a full Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 (or 5.1.2) receiver or soundbar.
Interestingly the TV can become the centre front (clear vocal speaker) with a companion Sony 7.2 or 5.2 Dolby Atmos receiver and four/six external full-range speakers and two sub-woofers for 9/7 speaker channels. The benefit of the Sony AV receiver system is the dual sub-woofers can produce deep, room-shaking bass (35Hz up to 200Hz).
Hearing-impaired – take note
Sony is one of the few TVs that can support Bluetooth
headphones at the same time as the TV speakers (but not an external audio
system). PASS with caveats – you need an external system to get Dolby Atmos.
I have a late model Sony LCD TV with the latest version of Android TV, so it’s the same interface as the review TV.
Let’s just say that over the past two years, Android TV has
gone from more experimental to well-polished, and it’s Google Assistant
integration is flawless. It also has the most extensive range of apps of any TV
OS, and you can attach a BT keyboard and mouse for added productivity.
You can either use the two far-field mics on the TV or press
the remote button to access OK Google. Amazon Alexa comes via the Amazon Prime
One interesting new feature is the ability to live stream
FTA TV without the need to connect to a TV antenna. Streaming content requires
a 25MBps or more NBN connection and unlimited data is almost mandatory.
It also has Chromecast to allow Android and iOS to cast to
the screen. Apple’s TV app, AirPlay 2, and HomeKit will come via a later
Sony A9G Design/build
Like the previous A9F, there is no room under the desktop
stand for a soundbar – it is as if Sony expects you to wall-mount it, Sony does
not supply its excellent VESA 300×300 SU-WL850 telescopic mount or its lower
cost SU-WL450 wall mount in the box.
The screen has very narrow bezels and being OLED means it is
essentially just a glass pane attached to the electronics box at the back.
The back is fully enclosed, but you can remove panels to get
to the main ports. Heat is not an issue at all – after a few hours, our Kestrel
Drop sensor recorded 38° at the back and 33° at the front.
Other brands of TVs can reach 45°, and prolonged exposure
to heat can damage paintwork etc.
Sony build quality is superb, and even though the TV is
‘half’ glass you feel confident of picking it up and moving it.
The new remote is slimmer and lighter and connects via BT to
the TV. It has a microphone button and dedicated Netflix and Google Play.
Size: with Table-Top Stand
77A9G: 1,721 × 1,001 × 302 mm x 39.7kg
65A9G: 1,447 × 838 × 255 mm x 24.8kg
55A9G: 1,226 × 714 × 255 mm x 22.3kg
Standby is .3W, and max power 55/65/77 is 373/469/653Wh or
from 13 to 30 cents per hour (depends on tariff). This is typical of a 65-inch
OLED or QLED panel but about twice that of a standard LED/LCD edge-lit panel.
eARC (enhanced audio return channel) on one HDMI
Three x HDMI 2.0 ports
Two x USB-A 2.0 x 5V/.5A
One USB-A 3.1 x 5V/.9A
Video in (3.5mm to RCA)
Wi-Fi AC dual-band (for 4K streaming)
Antenna (for Digital TV)
Centre speaker In (wired from the Sony AV
Please note that USB recording is no longer available. USB
playback is fine.
There has been some criticism that the HDMI 2.0 ports are not
the new 2.1 standards. This is patently rubbish as 4K@60Hz does not need that –
it is happy with 1.4 standards. HDMI 2.1 is more about 8K TV and perhaps
4K@120fps, neither of which this TV is capable of.
Sony A9G price (as these are new models there are no street prices yet)
GadgetGuy’s take – The Sony A9G Master series is one of the best
This is a TV that videophiles would be happy with. While
Sony calls it a Master Series, we cannot say it is the best OLED – but its
damned good. Its video and audio performance are very close to last year’s A9F with
just a few subtle refinements.
The other competitor in this space is LG. It has a top of the range ‘wall’ 65W9 at $9999 or the 65E9 (stand or wall) at $6529 or the entry-level 65C9 (stand) at $5829. Thomas Bartlett gave the 65C9 4.7-out-of-10. Feature for feature the Sony and LG 65C9 (not its more expensive E/W9) are almost identical, but the LG edges slightly ahead. Our score is 4.5 – same as last year’s A9F.