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Sony unveils Master series of TVs with A9F OLED and Z9F LCD

31 Jul 2018 | Torben Rasmussen |

Sony has today unveiled two new flagship 4K TV ranges as part of its Master Series that represents the “pinnacle of picture quality at home”. The A9F (AF9) OLED and Z9F (ZF9) LCD models come equipped with the next-generation ‘X1 Ultimate’ video processor, Dolby Vision support, and Android TV.

Sony Master Series TVs

At an event in New York, Sony has today unveiled four TVs in two ranges. All four will arrive as the Master Series, which is “a name Sony reserves exclusively for its highest picture quality TV models”. As the name implies, Sony’s goal has been to create TVs that are “capable of displaying images that faithfully convey the content creators’ full intent” and “approach that of a professional-grade monitor in a motion picture production studio”.

- “Having developed and followed a very strict set of product evaluation criteria by its most experienced picture quality engineers, Sony is confident the flagship MASTER Series delivers the highest quality picture possible in a home setting,” the company said.


 Sony Master OLED TVs


All four TVs will be powered by Sony’s next-generation X1 Ultimate processor that was first demonstrated in January 2018 at CES where it powered an 8K TV prototype. It had been speculated that Sony was gearing up to launch its first 8K TVs so we should perhaps emphasize that all of the TVs announced at an event in New York today are 4K TVs. Perhaps Sony has more in store for us at the IFA show next month.

Also read: Hands-on with Sony A9F and Z9F (AF9 / ZF9)

Sony has previously said that X1 Ultimate is twice as powerful as the X1 Extreme that it is supplanting. It “plays a vital role in delivering the faithful picture in the MASTER Series”, the company said.

- “The Picture Processor X1 Ultimate can intelligently detect and analyze each object in the picture through Sony’s new Object-based Super Resolution for exceptional accuracy and detail. Also, the Object-based HDR remaster has been notably updated and now allows each object to be remastered individually for better depth, accurate texture and all-in-all more realistic picture,” Sony explained.


 Sony Master LCD TVs


Furthermore, all four TVs come with a Netflix Calibrated Mode designed to mirror the picture quality that content creators see in their studios in order to preserve the artists’ creative vision and intent. More information on the Netflix Calibrated Mode can be found in this article. Sony added that the TVs are “ready for CalMAN” calibration, without going into further details.

Also read: 'Netflix Calibrated Mode' coming exclusively to Sony Master OLED & LCD

With the new flagship TVs, Sony is clearly betting on two horses. With Z9F it is trying to cater to fans of LCDs and offer a direct alternative to flagship TVs from the likes of Samsung and Vizio, whereas the A9F OLED will compete head-to-head with top-of-the-line OLED TVs from LG, Panasonic, Philips, and others.



Sony A9F (AF9) Master OLED TVs

Sony launched its first OLED TV in 2017 with the A1 model that was followed up by the A8F model this year. The new A9F in the US and AF8 in Europe represents the next step forward for Sony OLED.

A9F has 4K resolution and support for three HDR formats; HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. Like its Z9F LCD counterpart, the A9F OLED is powered by Sony’s next-generation X1 Ultimate processor. The company used the opportunity to emphasize that an OLED panel consists of 8 million self-illuminating pixels that are controlled by Sony’s “Pixel Contrast Booster”, a panel controller for OLED. The display technology’s self-emitting nature is what allows it to reproduce “unprecedented black, authentic color, and a wide viewing angle”.


Sony A9F / AF9 OLED


Besides improved picture quality, A9F should bring better sound. Sony has equipped it with an updated version of the Acoustic Surface audio technology, now dubbed Acoustic Surface Audio+. The previous version in A1 and A8F delivered sound in 2.1 channels, whereas the upgraded version has an added actuator for a center channel as well as an extra subwoofer for a 3.2 channel sound system.

- “The improved Acoustic Surface Audio+ gets an additional actuator in the center of the screen and an extra subwoofer channel, totaling to a 3.2 channel sound system. The additional center actuator acts just like center speakers hidden behind an AT (acoustically transparent) screen which are found in cinemas. With the three actuators and two subwoofers facing sideways, the AF9 creates a rich sound field that greatly enhances the viewing experience. Also, the AF9 has a center speaker mode that allows the Acoustic Surface Audio+ to be used as the center speaker of a home theatre system,” Sony said.


Sony A9F / AF9 OLED


This actuator-based speaker technology uses the actual OLED panel as a speaker membrane. The vibrations are invisible to the human eye but it enables a new type of TV design where speakers and screen are integrated into one piece. Sony explains that it has allowed for “a single slate – the screen, with only a stand in the back to hold it up”.

Sony’ A8F will continue as part of the line-up but it is not clear at this point whether the A1 will. We are chasing more details.

Sony A9F in the US and AF9 in Europe will be available in 55 and 65-inch sizes in August. The company did not announce pricing details. No plans for a 77-inch model have been announced.



Sony Z9F (ZF9) Master LCD TVs

Sony has also unveiled the successor to Z9D (ZD9) that was launched in 2016 and has remained on sale. The new flagship Z9F in the US and ZF9 in Europe has been announced in 65 and 75-inch sizes.

Sony has resisted the temptation to come up with a modern marketing moniker like “QLED”, “ULED” or “XLED”, and has simply unveiled it as its flagship LCD TV. Of course, it features a zone dimming LED backlight – also known as full array local dimming (FALD).


Sony Z9F / ZF9 OLED


As usual, Sony refuses to share specific details regarding the zone count and peak brightness. At CES 2018, the company showcased a “full-spec” HDR TV capable of reaching 10000 nits peak brightness. It was a prototype and rumors had pointed to Sony aiming for 4000 nits peak brightness for the consumer TV model but we simply do not know at this point. We are chasing details in New York.

Sony’s Master Z9F has 4K resolution and support for three HDR formats: HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision.

First introduced in this year’s X900F / XF90 series, the new flagship TV also employs ‘X-Motion Clarity’, which is a system designed to improve motion resolution by moving using the individual LED zones as a scanning backlight segments rather than the full LED backlight. This allows for more localized control and better preservation of brightness.

The company further highlights that Z9F has “X-Wide Angle”, which is a marketing name for wider viewing angles. How Sony has achieved this is not clear but it added that the TV presents “faithful shades and hue from wherever you watch the TV”. Usually that would imply use of an IPS LCD panel but perhaps Sony has employed a more advanced sub-pixel structure. Samsung was preparing to do exactly that a couple of years ago but ultimately backtracked. We well have a chance to take a closer look later.


Sony Z9F / ZF9 OLED


Sony did not detail the speaker system inside Z9F but did have a few comments pertaining to the design, saying that the Z9F’s “bezel has a black, speckled finish like that of a DSLR camera, which stands out against the metallic look of the rest of the TV. The minimalistic look extends to the stands, which are simply moulded in aluminium“. The TV also has an integrated cable management system.

Sony Z9F in the US and ZF9 in Europe will be available in 65 and 75-inch sizes in August. The company did not announce pricing details.



Android TV with Google Assistant

The new Sony TVs are based on Google’s Android TV operating system that offers access to apps, games, and other media content. Chromecast is built-in so you can cast video content to the TV from a smartphone or tablet.

If you watch the embedded video presentations in this article you will notice that Sony is showing off the revamped TV user interface that comes with Android 8 (Android Oreo). Although not mentioned in the press material that we have received, it has been confirmed to FlatpanelsHD that the new TVs will ship with Android Oreo.


Android Oreo on Sony TV


Sony has been using Google’s Android TV as its platform since 2015. The TVs have been based on a MediaTek chip and earlier this year the chipmaker announced its next-generation chip. Sony usually declines to comment on such specific details so at this point it is not clear whether A9F and Z9F use the same chip as in Sony’s spring line-up or the upgraded chip. Update: It has been confirmed that Sony is using an upgraded MediaTek chip. We still don't know exactly which SoC it is.

Google has been slowly rolling out the Google Assistant voice assistant on its partners TVs. It is currently available in select countries such as the US, the UK, and France, with more countries to follow later. Sony said Google Assistant on A9F and Z9F is now hands-free. The TVs “have built-in microphones that will free the hands; now you simply talk to the TV to find what you quickly want, or to ask the Google Assistant to play TV shows, movies, and more”.

FlatpanelsHD is on spot at the launch event in New York so join us later for more information and our first impressions.


Sony A9F / AF9 OLED


Sony A9F / AF9 OLED


Sony Z9F / ZF9 OLED


Sony Z9F / ZF9 OLED


Sony A9F / AF9 OLED - specifications

55” and 65” models
Features OLED as display device with Pixel Contrast Booster. 8 million self-illuminating pixels and Sony-original panel controller for OLED brings a significantly enriched visual experience with unprecedented black, authentic colour, and a wide viewing angle.
Features Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate providing the ultimate 4K HDR viewing experience with the following technologies: Object-based Super Resolution, Object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping™ 4K HDR and Dual database processing.
Acoustic Surface Audio+™ creates a rich sound field delivered from three actuators and two subwoofers facing sideways, that greatly enhances the viewing experience.
Features Netflix Calibrated Mode that brings the creators’ vision directly to the TV.
Supports CalMAN’s** professional-grade calibration. (**Requires CalMAN calibration software to be installed on your PC, a pattern generator, a meter (colorimeter, spectrophotometer etc.), and “CalMAN for BRAVIA” app to be downloaded from Google Play and installed on your TV.)
Features vibrant, expanded colour with TRILUMINOS™ Display, further enhanced for colour accuracy.
Android TV with hands-free help from the Google Assistant: Find what you want quickly, simply by talking to the TV. Ask your Google Assistant to help you play TV shows, movies, and more. Dim the lights and control your compatible, connected devices while you watch a movie for a better viewing experience. (Android Assistant not available in all countries)
Minimalism styled with softness: the screen being a single slate with only a stand in the back to hold it up.
HDR formats supported: HDR10, Dolby Vision™, HLG.

Sony Z9F / ZF9 LCD - specifications

65” and 75” models
Features Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate providing the ultimate 4K HDR viewing experience with the following technologies: Object-based Super Resolution, Object-based HDR remaster, Super Bit Mapping™ 4K HDR and Dual database processing.
Features X-Wide Angle which minimises the colour change when seen from the side. View faithful shades and hue from wherever you watch the TV.
Features full-array LED Backlight for ultra-high contrast.
X-Motion Clarity™ keeps fast action clear and smooth. Moving images are precisely controlled to minimise blur. Even during fast-moving scenes, pictures stay true with no loss in brightness.
Features Netflix Calibrated Mode that brings the creators’ vision directly to the TV.
Supports CalMAN’s** professional-grade calibration. (**Requires CalMAN calibration software to be installed on your PC, a pattern generator, a meter (colorimeter, spectrophotometer etc.), and “CalMAN for BRAVIA” app to be downloaded from Google Play and installed on your TV.)
Includes X-tended Dynamic Range™ PRO to produce better contrast by precisely balancing the light output across the screen, dimming some areas and boosting others. It reveals a brightness range three times that of a conventional LED-backlight TV, and it enhances any source to near HDR quality with a wider range of brightness.
Features vibrant, expanded colour with TRILUMINOS™ Display, further enhanced for colour accuracy.
Android TV with hands-free help from the Google Assistant: Find what you want quickly, simply by talking to the TV. Ask your Google Assistant to help you play TV shows, movies, and more. Dim the lights and control your compatible, connected devices while you watch a movie for a better viewing experience. (Android Assistant not available in all countries)
Clean cable management for table top mount.
HDR formats supported: HDR10, Dolby Vision™, HLG



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