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Can Sony’s flagship Z-Series 4K TVs give LG’s OLED 4K display a run for its money?

by on September 26, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – September 26, 2016

With the Sony 2016 Z-series 4K TVs which are the real flagship models of this year’s Sony lineup, we might finally have for the first time ever a type of LCD television which really comes “close” to giving LG’s OLED TVs and their technology a run for their money in terms of black level and local dimming performance.

As we’ve covered in our guide to the differences between OLED and LCD TV technology, OLED is the absolute king of black level performance and local dimming since an OLED TV, unlike an LCD model, is capable of two key things no LCD TV has ever matched: For one it can create perfect total black levels on the dark areas of the screen and for another thing, it can shut off or activate all light in each individual pixel of its display. In 4K OLED televisions this means pixel-perfect local dimming with, in effect, 8.29 million individual local dimming zones at work.

Not even the very best LCD TVs to-date have come close to matching this, not even Vizio’s Reference Series 4K HDR televisions which offered several hundred local dimming zones in their LED arrays behind the LCD panels of these models.

Now however, with the Z-Series HDR 4K TVs of 2016, Sony has developed a technology they call Backlight Master Drive, and though we ourselves haven’t yet gotten a hands-on look at one of these models, viewing by digitaltrends has indicated that their black level performance comes “dangerously” close to imitating the sort of quality you’d see in an OLED television like the LG E6 or flagship LG G6 model for 2016.

Now, Sony is still staying very tight-lipped about the hard details of how Backlight Master Drive works but the essential benefit of the technology, which puts it above all other LCD display systems in existence, is that it offers many more local LED dimming zones in the full-array LED backlight panels of the new 4K TVs it’s installed in. Sony also won’t tell anyone just how many dimming zones there are in total in any of the Z-Series TV models but the company is making it understood that the number is extremely high, at least in the hundreds and possibly in the thousands.

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Sony’s Z-Series 4K TVs deliver nearly single LED-level local dimming for each of their thousands of LEDs.

If this is the case, it would mean that possibly even each individual Backlight LED can be activated or deactivated by itself and then made to focus light to a very small group of pixels, resulting in a level of full-array LED local dimming which almost exceeds the definition of the technology as it’s always been understood so far in premium 4K TVs.

Now of course even if Sony has made their LCD/LED technology this precise in the Z-Series models it still doesn’t really compete with the single PIXEL (not mere LED) local dimming/brightening of OLED. Even thousands of local dimming zones across the displays of the 100 inch, 75 inch or the very smallest 65 inch Z-series model don’t come close to matching 8.29 million single pixel dimming zones in any OLED TV on the market.

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The monster Sony Z-Series 100 inch model, which retails for tens of thousands of dollars.

However, even if the Z-series don’t really quite match OLED-level dimming precision, they come extremely close as far as the human eye is concerned and given their other qualities, this could indeed make them superior to OLED technology overall. You see, aside from that extreme precision local dimming, what makes the Z-series models even more dangerous for their OLED competitors is that while coming close to the OLEDs in total reduction of halo and stunning contrast, they completely outdo OLED technology in terms of peak brightness. As a result, color volume and saturation are also both greatly enhanced and what you get is a 4K TV which delivers the closest we’ve yet seen to the best of both worlds: black performance that nearly matches OLED to a casual viewer and brightness that’s absolutely top-shelf by LCD TV standards. And since OLED technology today can’t even come half way to matching the brightest LCD TV display capacity we’ve yet seen (in the Samsung KS9800 flagship 4K TV), then the Sony Z-Series really do fall into a class of their own in terms of display performance.

So far, among the 4K HDR TVs we’ve reviewed in 2016, the Samsung KS9800 and the Sony X940D both come very closely matched as two of the best 4K LCD TVs we’ve ever seen so far. Both models offer full-array LED backlighting and remarkably precise local dimming technology with well over 100 local dimming zones behind their LCD panels. Furthermore, both are capable of HDR10-level peak brightness well above 1300 cd/m2. For comparison, the very brightest OLED 4K model we’ve yet looked at, the LG E6, reaches up to “only” 650 cd/m2 in peak brightness capacity. Thus even against the existing “normal” LCD models of 2016, the OLED is a dimmer performer, for which it compensates by being a notably superior TV for black level and color quality.

In contrast, the Sony Z-Series models apparently blow even the X940D and KS9800 out of the water for sheer local dimming precision, black depth and brightness. This doesn’t bode well for OLED, at least in its 2016 version.

The one downside to all this exquisite flagship LCD 4K TV performance? The new Z-series TVs are also amazingly expensive, beating even most of their OLED rivals. The 65 inch model costs $7000, the 75 inch version over $10,000 and the 100 inch giant goes for an undisclosed retail price which we assume is well above $20,000.

Story by 4k.com

4 comments
 
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  • Alex S
    September 27, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Yeah but, the Oleds are only going to get brighter I’m sure as time goes on. I’m sure (hoping) that LG and Panasonic reach the 800 nits in it’s 2017 models. I think 800 nits of peak brightness is good enough. If the only thing Sony has about this Tv is it’s brightness over Oled, I don’t need or want sunglasses to watch television. If LG can somehow squeeze out at least 100-150 nits more so there’s no clipping of the picture in dark scenes, and somehow, some way, get better motion handling in their 2017 Oleds, I AM ALL IN !

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  • Jacob
    September 28, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    With those prices and lack of features (Dolby Vision), and the fact that they can’t take full advantage of the panel themselves because the lack of bandwidth for the display ports, because they decided not to incorporate the readily available Display Port 1.4, they’ve already lost before they came out gunning. Fact is, to Sony, his is to win some awards, not to make a profit, or dent into the high-end market.

    Reply

  • Gustav
    October 19, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Actual OLED TVs may produce about 800 nits in a small, full white, 2 % window of the screen. But brightness drops rapidly under 300 nits in a 50 % window and down to 150 nits with a full white screen. By this way the effect of the “Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL)” becomes clearly visible.
    By this way content with a higher level of brightness, e.g. winter sports, often looks dull in comparison to an actual LED/LCD, at least when watching TV in a moderately illuminated showroom or by daylight. UHD Premium Alliance has defined HDR requirements for OLED displays but has missed to indicate, how intense peak levels should be depending on the total screen illumination (APL). So actually 540 nits peak (upper HDR definition) can only be achieved when the major part of the screen is dark. So, to my opinion, not “peak brightness” is the major challenge for OLED displays but clear attenuation of “ABL” in brighter scenes.

    Reply

  • Gustav
    October 22, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Actual OLED TVs may produce about 800 nits in a small, full white, 2 % window of the screen. But brightness drops rapidly under 300 nits in a 50 % window and down to 150 nits with a full white screen. By this way the effect of the “Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL)” becomes clearly visible.
    By this way content with a higher level of brightness, e.g. winter sports, often looks dull in comparison to an actual LED/LCD, at least when watching TV in a moderately illuminated showroom or by daylight. UHD Premium Alliance has defined HDR requirements for OLED displays, but has missed to indicate, how intense peak levels should be depending on total screen illumination (APL). So actually 540 nits peak (upper HDR definition) can only be achieved when the major part of the screen is dark. The emerging paradoxon is: The stars in dark space are depicted brighter than the sun in the sahara.
    So, to my opinion, not “peak brightness” is the major challenge for OLED displays but clear attenuation of “ABL” in brighter scenes.

    Reply

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