In 2017, Sony will first and foremost support Dolby Vision and introduce its first large-size OLED TV - the Sony A1. All 4K TVs will feature the Android TV platform and Sony will, as the first company, introduce HDR-capable Full HD models. 3D is almost out and curved TVs are gone. FlatpanelsHD brings you the full overview of Sony’s 2017 TV line-up with prices.
Sony’s 2017 TV line-up may at first glance look like a continuation of the 2016 line-up but look closer and you will find important updates in most of the TV. The most significant change is that Sony will introduce its first large-size OLED TV, dubbed the A1. The Z9D LCD from 2016 will carry over into 2017 while the rest of the line-up consists of updated 80, 85, 90, 93 and 94 series.
The major themes are the same as last year. Picture quality improvements revolve around 4K resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range) that widens the dynamic range and expands the color gamut. The TVs are based on Google’s Android TV operating system, and the designs are classic Sony with the A1 OLED as the star. A1 looks stunning both on and off.
There are no curved TVs in Sony’s TV line-up this year
There are some other interesting points to make here. 3D is as good as gone. Last year’s Z9D will still offer active 3D but that is only because it is based on a 2016 LCD panel where 3D was still a “thing". The rest of the line-up will exclude 3D. Also, there are no curved TVs in Sony’s TV line-up this year.
Let us start with the most important subject; picture quality. Z9D and A1 will both represent Sony’s flagship TVs for 2017 with Z9D having classic LCD advantages such as high brightness and A1 having OLED advantages such as true black and pixel-level luminance/color control. From here we move down into the X94E and X93E ranges that, like last year, are full array local dimming and edge LED models, respectively. Interestingly, Sony has chosen to include a new X90E series that also feature full array local dimming for improved picture quality and better HDR reproduction. X85E will in 2017 switch to a VA LCD panel, which is great news considering how poorly the IPS LCD based X85D performed last year.
We have already seen the new A1 OLED on several occasions and it looks stunning. The OLED TV takes advantage of a unique speaker concept where two actuators send vibrations through the OLED panel to reproduce sound. This is possible because the OLED panel is made from only one layer. Additionally, it has a subwoofer built into the stand. This helps create the incredibly clean look of A1.
From the front Sony’s OLED TV looks like a piece of glass and that, in essence, is exactly what it is. OLED pixels can be deposited on a range of materials, including glass, plastic and metal, which makes it a very versatile display technology from a design point of view. The Sony A1 OLED will be available in 55, 65, and 77 inch sizes.
Sony still refuses to back the “UHD Premium" logo, likely because it is a Samsung-driven initiative. In general, Sony declines to communicate specifications, instead preferring to use terms like “Triluminos" and “X-tended Dynamic Range Pro". The former relates to the expanded color space that the HDR standards cover and the latter is Sony’s way of saying that a given TV has the required dynamic range to reproduce, well, HDR properly. Sony urges us to try to not get too caught up in specifications but it still feels strange to insist on using meaningless words to describe known things. Numbers are, after all, more meaningful.
Sony will support Dolby Vision on the X93E, X94E, A1, and Z9D series
So what has actually changed in the picture quality department compared to 2016? Well, we need review samples to confirm but Sony tells us that both the 93 and 94 series have higher peak brightness (for HDR) and a somewhat larger color volume. The A1 OLED will, of course, deliver the picture quality that only OLED can, and in 2017 this means close to 1000 nits peak brightness, close to 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, and of course pixel-level accuracy. Another significant technical update in 2017 is that Sony will support the Dolby Vision HDR format on X93E, X94E, A1, and Z9D. Dolby Vision will improve HDR picture quality in a number of ways but you obviously need content in Dolby Vision format.
That is why it is mindboggling that Sony has excluded Dolby Vision from its first consumer-grade UHD Blu-ray player, the X800. The model name implies that a Sony X900 player will arrive later in 2017 but that is just speculation on our part. X800 will deliver the Ultra HD Blu-ray experience, meaning 4K resolution and HDR, by using the HDR10 format. If you want Dolby Vision content you will have to stream content via Netflix or Amazon instead – or just buy a Dolby Vision-capable UHD Blu-ray player from another brand.
Sony will also include the third HDR format, HLG, in all of its 2017 TVs, and even push out a firmware update for late-2015 and 2016 models. HLG is a HDR format developed by UK’s BBC and Japan’s NHK for broadcast TV. It is unlikely to be adopted by major streaming players such as Netflix and Amazon but if you want HDR via broadcast channels ‘HLG’ is the initialism to remember.
Speaking of Netflix and Amazon brings us to Android TV. Sony started using Google’s TV operating system in 2015 and has since then iterated on it. Sony declined to comment on the matter but it appears that this year’s models will use a faster MediaTek SoC than last year’s models. The 2017 TVs will run Android version 6.0 at launch but later receive a software update to version 7.0 (Nougat). This will bring new features to the TVs and hopefully make the platform more stable. It is no secret that Sony has had its share of issues with Android in the past but the company hopes that its persistence will, in the end, pay off.
The Android TV platform offers access to apps such as Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, HBO, Hulu, and many others. You can rent movies from the Google Play Movies store and download games from the Google Play store. There are media streamer apps such as Kodi, Plex, and VLC, and tons of other things to explore. You control everything with Sony’s TV remote that has a built-in microphone for voice search. Unfortunately, Sony has not made any significant updates to the very cheaply-made remote control.
Having the Android TV platform also means that Chromecast is integrated. From your phone or tablet you can wirelessly push over videos to the TV. The TV will take over the connection to the streaming server so you can use your phone for other tasks. Think of it just like a Chromecast – just built-in.
If you live in Europe and still prefer the old-fashioned channel viewing experience you can also enjoy Sony’s twin-tuner capabilities from the XE85 series and up. This allows you to record one channel while watching another. You can also schedule recordings and do other neat things. All it takes is that you connect an external USB hard drive.
Android TV will be available in all of the 4K models but none of the Full HD models
Android TV will be available in all of the 4K models but none of the Full HD models, meaning all models from X80E and up.
The HD line-up has been greatly reduced and includes only three ranges. Sony says that all three will be compatible with HDR content and the W75E range will even include the Triluminos system that expands the color gamut. However, these are low-end TVs so do not expect HDR to excel. Sony has created these “world’s first" HD HDR TVs as an affordable way to explore HDR via PlayStation 4. In addition to games, Netflix and YouTube’s HDR will also be available. Our advice? If you want to experience true HDR, be willing to spend more.
What else? There is the usual suite of “smaller" features. The faster “ac" type WiFi is built into most TVs. All models from the 6 series and up also feature Miracast if you for some reason prefer this over built-in Chromecast. All 4K models come with 4 HDMI ports and 3 USB ports whereas the HD models have only 2 HDMI ports. All models can be wall-mounted with standard VESA brackets, says Sony. Europeans that receive channels over satellite should know that XE85 and above have built-in DVB-S2 tuners.
Sony’s 2017 TVs will start shipping in March. The A1 OLED will be added to the line-up this summer. We will update the overview as we receive and confirm more specific details. You can tell 2017 TVs apart from previous years’ models by the letter “E" in the model name; for example X93E (in the US) and XE93 (in Europe). XE = 2017, XD = 2016, XC = 2015, XB = 2014, XA = 2013.
Sony A1 OLED
A1 will be one of the two 2017 flagship TVs from Sony. It will also be the company’s first large-size OLED TV that delivers true blacks and stunning picture quality. A1 features a unique speaker system as well as Dolby Vision and Android TV.
Z9D was added to the line-up in 2016 and will carry over into 2017 as Sony’s LCD flagship model. It is equipped with Sony’s Backlight Master Drive technology and will get a firmware update that adds Dolby Vision.
X94E is positioned just below the Z9D and will, like last year, feature a full-array local dimming system meaning that it can control the backlight in zones for better HDR performance. Compared to last year’s X94D it has higher peak brightness. It will be available only in 75".
X93E is an extension of the X94E model with the major difference being that these utilize edge LED with much more limited zone control. Sony says that it has increased the number of zones compared to last year and improved peak brightness.
US prices: 65" 65X930E - $3,999 55" 55X930E - $3,299
UK prices: 65" 65XE9305 - £3,200 55" 55XE9305 - £2,400
DE prices: 65" 65XE930 - €3.699 55" 55XE930 - €2.699
X90E is an interesting model. Instead of edge LED Sony has equipped it with a full array local dimming system. This will make the TV thicker but at the same time it markedly improves picture quality and HDR reproduction.
X85E is a mid-range series with 4K resolution but more limited HDR capabilities. It does not feature local dimming as the more expensive TVs but still features Android TV. In some European countries it will be available in design variants named XE8577 and XE8599.
US prices: 75" 75X850E - $4,999 65" 65X850E - $2,499
The 6 series will, in some regions, be available in 66 and 61 variants. These TVs also claim HDR compatibility but the panel do not support wide color gamut, which severely limits any HDR picture effect.