Will Sony’s 2019 Master Series 4K & 8K UHD TVs Fix The Flaws of the 2018 Versions?
Stephan Jukic – January 09, 2019
At this year’s CES 2019 event, Sony unveiled their 2018 Master Series A9F OLED 4K HDR TV and Z9F 4K HDR LCD TV models in New York in August of 2018, and then released them both for sale to retailers and consumers as of October of the same year. Well, maybe the company rushed things just a bit in creating these founding Master Series models because they weren’t without their flaws. Despite its steep price, the A9F OLED model proved itself to be little different from Sony’s own A8F OLED released just a few months earlier in the same year and the Z9F LCD Master Series edition was, while a lovely 4K HDR TV by any normal measure, also a complete disappointment on how much contrast and peak brightness it can deliver. Even in the color department, the Z9F didn’t quite match what Samsung’s Q9F QLED from earlier in 2018 was able to pull off.
Thus, maybe with the weaknesses of their first Master Series models in mind, Sony has already unveiled its surprising 2019 Master Series lineup, which almost makes us feel sorry for the 4K TV-buying fans of Sony televisions if they’ve been hoping to get the best they can from the brand.
The 2019 Master Series TVs are not only a surprise for simply having been unveiled so soon after the late 2018 Master Series editions, they also surprise in a couple other ways.
First among them is the Z9G successor to the Z9F, and unlike its predecessor, this newest Sony flagship LCD TV comes with full blown 8K resolution, completely bypassing by 2x the sharpness that all previous Sony TVs could ever reproduce. The Z9G model will for now come in huge 85 and 98 inch editions and both of them will be insanely expensive in case you’re already dreaming of grabbing one for yourself.
Next, we have the A9G OLED Sony TV, which will be Sony’s third 4K OLED television release in just under a year. The A9G is the much more conventional choice of these latest Master Series models because it “only” offers 4K ultra HD resolution and because its size range is fully within normal paramaters for most people. The A9G will come in 55, 65 and 77 inch editions, substituting the early-2018 A8F for the 77 inch range since the A9F Master Series of late 2018 only came in 55 and 65 inch versions.
Both of the new Master Series models come with exactly the same new cutting-edge Sony Picture Processor X1 Ultimate Engine as the 2018 Master Series models and Sony is claiming that this picture processing system has already been specially calibrated for handling 8K resolution in anticipation of the 8K Z9G model. According to Sony’s own words, the Picture Processor X1 Ultimate engine “has a unique algorithm specially developed for 8K that can intelligently detect and analyze each object in the picture, resulting in exceptional detail and contrast for a more realistic picture that represents the creators’ intent.”, Going into further detail, Sony elaborates that for the Z9G TV’s Processor X1 Ultimate in particular:
“Completely new dedicated 8K technologies have been developed for the Z9G series, including a Backlight Master Drive feature with full-array local dimming and 8K X-tended Dynamic Range PRO. The Backlight Master Drive on the Z9G has ultra-dense LED modules that are independently controlled, delivering unprecedented contrast with punchy brightness and pitch blacks. To optimize this backlight system, 8K X-tended Dynamic Range PRO uses the saved energy to intelligently boost the brightness in the areas where it needs to be boosted.”
Sony has stated that it uses a proprietary algorithm to pull off upscaling of the Z9G’s non-8K content (everything that gets fed to the TV in today’s consumer content marketplace) to nearly 8K quality thanks to an “8K database” that this TV’s internal processing algorithms refer to for more precise upscaling.
Now, we’ve heard Sony make quality promises before and then have its TVs fall a bit short of the hype. This was definitely the case with the Z9F, which disappointed slightly on several key picture performance specs (disappointed relative to Sony marketing hype, not to any normal standard of quality because the TV really is great). Thus for the Z9G, we’ll have to see how well it actually delivers during review testing. Furthermore, how well the Z9G upscales non-4K content from 1080P or even 720P and SD content sources of the kind that make up the vast majority of today’s home entertainment options is something we’re really curious to see under uncontrolled conditions.
Both the A9G and the Z9G will come with enhanced native audio technology. The A9G pulls this off by sporting a slightly beefed up version of its OLED predecessors’ Acoustic Surface Audio technology, which creates sound through speakers and woofers inside the TV display itself. The Z9G for its part does something similar by having four front-facing speakers which are geared towards projecting content audio as if it’s coming from this TV’s giant screen itself. Both TVs also fully support Dolby Atmos sound, in case you want to install that really badass surround sound speaker system you’ve always wanted to try with either model.
On a final note, Sony has integrated more specialized picture enhancement technologies like Netflix Calibrated Mode, IMAX Enhanced, and Dolby Vision HDR into these 2019 Master Series TVs. Netflix Enhanced Mode, which we had demonstrated to us for the A9F and Z9D Master Series editions, looks good but the key performance issues with these TVs will be their general specs for brightness, contrast, color delivery and how well they handle resolution in games and content.
Sony has not yet publicized release dates or price tags for either of the 2019 Master Series 4K HDR TVs but we’re expecting them to start going for pre-order well before summer arrives and we definitely don’t expect the Z9G to be anything close to a reasonably priced UHD TV by the standards of most consumer budgets.