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OLED technology hasn’t yet said its last word. Some TV manufacturers, including Sony, seem determined to show us generation after generation that they are able to reinvent the wheel and squeeze a little more out of this well-established technology. Enter the Sony Master Series A9G (Check on Amazon.com)!
Sony Master Series A9G – Features
Sony, like other brands such as Panasonic and Philips, gets its OLED panels from LG. However, the panel is only one of the ingredients that determine the image quality of a TV. There are other components that are also determining factors, such as image processing algorithms, upscaling techniques or, in the case of LCD panels, the way in which backlight is implemented.
The Sony Master Series A9G uses an OLED panel with 10-bit color depth, 4K UHD resolution (3,840×2,160 points) and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. But, it is enhanced by what is currently Sony’s most sophisticated image processor: the X1 Ultimate. In fact, this is the processor that is responsible for the excellent image of the best Sony TV on the market, the fabulous and assuredly expensive Sony Master Series Z9G with 8K resolution. This chip is thus responsible for the excellent upscaling of standard resolutions to 8K and overcoming this challenge is by no means “a piece of cake”.
The other impressive feature is the Sony Master Series A9G’s compatibility with the most common HDR formats. This TV is capable of processing Dolby Vision (a proprietary standard that uses dynamic metadata), HDR10 (an open standard that uses static metadata) and Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG), but no HDR10+ (which is a shame).
In addition, the operating system is Android TV 8.0 (Oreo), which is leaps and bounds better than the previous versions. Especially when it comes to speed and responsiveness, which used to plague previous models.
Last but not least, the new design. The quality is up to what users can demand from a high-end model: impeccably machined aluminum in the base and frame, and good quality polycarbonate for the rear of the device. The previous model [Sony Master Series A9F (Check on Amazon.com)] featured an original easel-style kickstand, but, if I had to choose between them, I would keep this classic one.
Sony Master Series A9G – User Experience
Like all other Master Series TVs, this model is also factory calibrated. After using it for several hours with all kinds of content and using the Eizo Monitor Test, I realized that my unit could be even more finely tuned by adjusting the Gamma Correction and the Color Temperature, but it was also very enjoyable without touching anything. If you are a professional and demand 100% of its potential you can always use a colorimeter and the automatic calibration tool which is compatible with the CalMAN software.
Also, the Sony Master Series A9G, like other high-end Sony models, incorporates a calibration mode specifically tailored for Netflix. This mode only comes into action when we use the included app and intends to offer us a picture very close to that envisioned by the creators in the post-production phase. It’s hard to know if it really reflects the vision of the content creators, but the truth is that Netflix movies and series have better image quality, especially those that support Dolby Vision.
Android TV 8.0 (Oreo) is great this time around. The merit goes both to Google, that created a software that is now significantly lighter, than its previous iterations, and to Sony that uses a processor capable of handling it. The user experience is now more than satisfactory without the problems of the past (lag, crashes). Some may still find Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s webOS interfaces more stylized, more intuitive and less intrusive, but Android TV is still the most complete.
Sony Master Series A9G – Picture
The blacks are as deep as you can expect from a reference television with an organic panel (OLED), but what has surprised me the most is its ability to recover detail in the darker areas. Most OLED TVs perform in this test scenario way worse than their LCD counterparts with FALD (Full Area Local Dimming) backlight. A large amount of detail that the Master Series A9G is able to show in these darker scenes reflects the solid work Sony has done in fine-tuning the image processing algorithms.
Another section in which this model offers outstanding performance is the viewing angles. The color barely degrades even if we look at the TV from a very sharp angle, so it is a good option for watching sporting events with many friends.
The colors are also stunning. They are saturated when they should be, but without losing an iota of realism, and this balance is not easy to achieve. I found especially surprising the way in which this TV restores red colors, which have an unusual liveliness.
In addition, when the signal quality is up to par, the noise is absolutely imperceptible. And the level of detail? I was speechless. With 4K UHD sources both in physical format (Blu-Ray) and through Netflix, the detail is outstanding. And the same goes for 1080p content; there is less details, as expected, but still great. It is therefore evident that the processing algorithms, that Sony engineers have developed, are capable of extracting detail even in the conflicting regions of the most compromised frames.
HDR performance is more than convincing. The Sony Master Series A9G doesn’t have the maximum brightness capacity of most LED LCD TVs, but it still performs admirably. This lower peak brightness seemed to matter only in scenes that were covered in white, such as those in which large areas are covered with snow. But it is something inherent to OLED technology and something that most users won’t even note.
Sony Master Series A9G – Gaming
Before talking about the gaming performance it is important to note that the Sony Master Series A9G doesn’t have an automatic low latency mode or variable refresh rate, two very important features that have become standard on high-end LG and Samsung TVs.
Image quality in video games respects everything I’ve already said in the previous section. The picture looks great, even with Game mode turned on, which deactivates most of the image processing in order to significantly reduce input lag (just 27ms).
OLED panels also sport a very low response time, and this TV is no exception (just 2ms) and thus motion blur is completely imperceptible.
Sony Master Series A9G – Sound
Sony engineers introduced the latest implementation of their Acoustic Surface Audio technology, an innovation that uses small actuators installed behind the panel to make it vibrate imperceptibly to our eyes, but sensible to our ears. The speaker is the screen itself, and this approach has an important advantage: the sound really emerges from the TV panel, so it is clearly focused on the screen. Like in the cinema.
The lower frequencies, on the other hand, come out of two subwoofers housed behind the panel. The sound of this TV is balanced and detailed enough so that we do not miss a soundbar. For the best possible experience, you will still have to invest in a dedicated multi-channel sound system, but for the rest, this is the best sounding TV on the market.
Sony Master Series A9G – Verdict
The Sony Master Series A9G (Check on Amazon.com) incorporates the latest innovations developed by Sony engineers both in terms of video processing and sound reproduction. Its overall image quality, expertly calibrated from the factory, is outstanding and places it on top of our list for the best TV of 2019.
The two minor flaws are its incompatibility with HDR10+ content and its limited peak brightness.
The real dealbreaker is its price, but if you want the very best 4K TV money can buy, well, this is it!