Sony’s top-of-the-line visual entertainers of 2019 are not 8K. The Indian market it not ready for them, believe the Japanese. The Koreans have a conflicting point of view. Samsung launched their beautiful, mammoth and exorbitantly priced 8K TVs in June, while LG refreshed its AI ThinQ range of TVs last month with resolutions maxing out at 4K. It’s all very confusing. Do we need 8K, or not?
To cut the long story short. Most of us don’t. In the absence of any real 8K content out there, Samsung TVs can scale up regular content to mimic 8K quality using AI. It’s not the real picture, but a very compelling upgrade for the early adopters who wouldn’t mind spending upwards of Rs 10 lakhs (for 75-inches and above). The rest of us who can settle for a slightly less immersive TV viewing experience for half the price, there are 4K QLEDs from Samsung and 4K OLEDs from Sony and LG, two premium technologies that produce deep blacks with great contrast and colours.
“There’s even time before 4K is completely adopted,” says Sunil Nayyar, the managing director of Sony India. Even Netflix and YouTube have very limited content originally produced in 4K.
It’s clear that 8K is not the buzzword for TVs this season. The focus is on smart, aesthetically pleasing large screens that seamlessly blend with modern interiors. And Sony has launched two series with these attributes, along with a few aces up its sleeve.
Their flagship Master Series, modelled A9G Bravia OLED, has bezel-less 55- and 65-inch screens priced at Rs 2,69,990 and Rs 3,69,000, respectively. They run on the X1 Ultimate, the company’s best picture processor yet. The chip controls its 8 million self-illuminating pixels, which can be dimmed and brightened individually to make blacks deeper and colours more vibrant. The TVs, much like premium TVs from Samsung and LG, can also scale up standard and high definition content to 4K-like picture through AI.
Audio is where the differentiation begins. The A9G series comes with what Sony says is a 2.2 channel Acoustic Surface Audio+. It essentially means that the screen vibrates to produce sound, which then appears to be coming directly from the screen. You can just use the TV’s combined audio output of 20W+20W speakers and 10W+10W subwoofers (hence the nomenclature 2.2) or pair it with additional speakers with the screen acting as the centre speaker. We are yet to review the TV, but I believe the sound output will suffice for a medium-sized living room. The A9G series also comes with Dolby Atmos, which creates a good, surround sound experience, but you will need a 5.1- or, better yet, a 7.1-channel home theatre system for anything better than that. The TVs support eARC HDMI input to connect to the latest audio devices.
The new line-up also has a never-heard-before Netflix Calibrated Mode specially designed for Netlfix Originals, which claims to reproduces the picture quality “as creators intended”. More on that when we test the mode out for ourselves.
The Android TVs support Google Assistant, Alexa, AirPlay 2 and HomeKit (also Apple). All external devices connected through its HDMI ports can be controlled using a universal remote that comes along with the TVs.
The A9G series also improves on aesthetics by introducing TVs that have a slimmer profile. But what makes them better is the Flush Wall Mount. It makes the TV stick to a wall like a painting but also allows it to be extended and moved sideways to adjust the viewing angles. It’s a really simple but exceptionally cool value addition that I hope is replicated across all TVs of the future.
Sony has also introduced a more affordable collection of TVs in its A8G Bravia OLED 4K range, priced at Rs 3,19,990 and Rs 2,19,990 for the 65-inch and 55-inch TVs, respectively. It’s powered by the X1 Extreme processor, which is one below the X1 Ultimate and, therefore, deliver a slightly inferior video and audio quality. These Android TVs just support Google Assistant.
While the A8G is already selling at Sony retail stores and its online and offline partners, the premium A9G will be made available from August 1, 2019. Sony says TVs bigger larger than 65 inches are also slated to be launched soon.