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Sony Explains Dolby Vision Problem In Its 4K HDR TVs, Partly Blames Others

by on January 23, 2018
Stephan Jukic – January 23, 2018

As we recently posted, Sony’s 2017 Premium 4K HDR TVs, consisting of the X930E, X940E, OLED A1E and ultra-premium Z9D LCD TV lineups all finally got the Dolby Vision HDR support firmware update last week that Sony had promised for them since the beginning of last year. However, with this piece of good news, there was a major catch.

Essentially, support for Dolby Vision in whatever 4K content came with it is only available for these content selections if they were streamed from the apps built right into the 4K TVs themselves. All sources of Dolby Vision 4K movies and shows feeding into these TV models from external, HDMI-connected media players, streaming devices and 4K Blu-ray players or gaming consoles would not play back in Dolby HDR on the TVs in question.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about streaming media devices in one page, our comprehensive guide

In other words, say you’ve bought yourself a shiny new and rather expensive Apple TV 4K set-top streaming media box to go with your awesome new Sony X940E HDR TV (and it is awesome indeed, we reviewed it here and loved its performance). Well despite the fact that the Apple TV gives you access to iTunes and its remarkably large selection of Dolby Vision 4K movie titles, you can’t watch any of them on the X940E in their best possible HDR format because of Sony’s little screw up. As you can see, this is quite a little problem and especially annoying one for Sony fans who’d bought their TVs at the beginning of last year and have been waiting almost a year to finally use them for today’s best possible home theater visuals.

Also Read:
Our In-depth Review of the superb but pricey Apple TV 4K HDR set-top box
Our complete list of ALL 4K HDR & Dolby Vision movies, shows and documentaries on iTunes for Apple TV 4K

Naturally enough, Sony TV fans complained and the internet took notice. Now Sony has finally responded clearly to these complaints.

According to reporting from the website (which mostly covers TVs for European markets), Sony Europe has gotten back to their own inquiries with the following statement:

“Select Sony TVs will support Dolby Vision with the software update to be rolled out in Europe within February, 2018. After the Sony TV receives the software update, devices with Dolby Vision playback (such streaming media players and UHD Blu-Ray players) that are connected to the Sony TV by HDMI will also require a software update to support Dolby Vision playback through the device. For more info on the timing of an update to a particular player, please contact the player’s manufacturer.”

We assume that the same solution applies to U.S models of the affected Sony premium 4K HDR TVs and have contacted Sony U.S.A for clarification, though we’re still waiting for a response.

To clarify just a bit further, Sony’s statement above refers to the method by which the company decided to handle Dolby Vision support in its select televisions. Unlike other TV makers whose models support the Dolby Vision HDR standard, Sony implemented a modification to Dolby Vision support by which most of the processing for playback of content with this kind of high dynamic range formatting is offloaded to the device from which it came from instead of being done inside the TV itself. Thus the need for complementary updates from streaming device makers. Why Sony chose this approach is still unknown but it could be because they wanted to make their Dolby Vision update as lean and easy to implement as possible.


Overall, while it’s good to see a relatively quick response from Sony on this fairly important problem, the quote above also does sound at least a little bit like a case of the company dropping the trash off on the neighbor’s yard. Sony is essentially implying that it has done its job and that the problem is most the fault of all these streaming device makers for not being quick on the uptake.

Maybe it’s a valid excuse but you’d think that a company with so much expertise in making such high quality 4K HDR TVs would know how to make sure they support Dolby Vision from all these external media devices without having to lean on special third party software updates. After all,  LG, Vizio and TCL all seem to have managed including Dolby Vision support in almost all of their TVs (including the budget models) for externally sourced Dolby-mastered content without screwing up and then blaming external media device manufacturers after the fact.

The bottom line here is that while Sony has at least responded and explained, the problem hasn’t gone away quite yet. Some device makers like Oppo have promised to add their own complementing Dolby updates for Sony’s premium TVs but others like Apple haven’t said anything at the time of this writing. Considering how much owners of Sony’s best and priciest 4K HDR TVs have paid for some of these models, it’s understandable if they stay pissed off for a little while longer.

On a final note, for those of you who might not be so familiar with the different HDR standards and are wondering what makes the inclusion of Dolby Vision so special. Well, it’s basically the best and most vividly detailed high dynamic range standard in existence right now. Dolby mastering of content makes the more common HDR10 format look pale in comparison if you can view Dolby HDR video on a 4K TV that supports it fully.

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  • Dave
    April 7, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Dolby Vision is made for 12 bit panels that have around 4000 nits of brightness. TV’s today have 10 bit panels and the highest brightness goes to around 1600 nits. Converting the 12 bit colour doesn’t work as the colour gamut is not wide enough on current TV’s. So what you get is simulated colours which can cause more banding as it doesn’t fit in the current gamut. The only TV’s that can take advantage of the higher mastered brightness is the Sony TV’s ironically, as they are the only brand that can sustain the peak and 100% window (especially the x930e & Z9D). The other brands drop brightness dramatically after even a few seconds. Dolby Vision doesn’t improve clarity, detail or give you a better picture because there is no difference in resolution or contrast. It’s just about colour difference and brightness which almost all TV’s now don’t have the capability of showing.


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