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