At CES 2019, Sony has unveiled its first 8K TVs in the form of the super-sized 85- and 98-inch Z9G (ZG9). The ’Master’ series TVs feature full array local dimming, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and IMAX Enhanced.
Sony’s first 8K TVs
Sony is joining the 8K movement with Z9G in the US and ZG9 in Europe. 8K comprises over 33 million pixels, which is four times as many as 4K. TVs also include the Japanese company’s latest LCD technologies, some of which has been developed specifically for the ZG9 series, the company said.
- ”Completely new dedicated 8K technologies have been developed for the ZG9 series, including Backlight Master Drive with full-array local dimming and 8K X-tended Dynamic Range PRO. The Backlight Master Drive on the ZG9 has ultra-dense LED modules which are independently controlled, delivering unprecedented contrast with punchy brightness and pitch blacks. To leverage the most out of 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 explained.
The super-sized Z9G 8K TVs are part of Sony’s ’Master’ series that was introduced in the second half of 2018. The company says that the TVs have been designed to respect the creator’s intent. The initiative also covers an ’IMAX Enhanced’ mode and a ’Netflix Calibrated Mode’.
The LCD TVs also offer some of the technologies that were introduced with high-end 2018 TVs. The ’X-Wide Angle’ uses a special combination of filter and optics to improve viewing angles, while ’X-Motion Clarity’ can improve motion clarity by applying black frame insertion techniques in the individual dimming zones.
Sony claims that the 8K TVs can deliver ”20 times the contrast of conventional LED TVs” but refrains from commenting specifically on peak brightness. However, Sony’s wording suggests that these TVs will be able to hit quite high levels. In the past, Sony TVs with +1000 nits peak brightness have been promoted with “6 times the contrast of conventional LED TVs”. So, are we talking 4000 nits here? We hope to learn more soon.
The 8K TVs support HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision but Sony continues to disregard Samsung’s HDR10+ format, arguing that it can achieve the same result with HDR tone-mapping.
Like Samsung, Sony has implemented an 8K upscaler that can enhance images in real-time. The company explained that it is using a database with 8K reference material to determine the upscaling approach for that particular scene and that the processor can ”detect and analyze each object in the picture”.
Upscaling is required to present full-screen images on any 8K TV but manufacturers also like to emphasize the systems due to the dearth of 8K content. The UHD Blu-ray format is currently limited to 4K resolution and streaming providers such as Amazon and Netflix have yet to announce plans for 8K streaming.
So what about HDMI 2.1? Sony did not comment on improved bandwidth or HDMI 2.1 features such as VRR or eARC. Some of Sony’s previous TVs already support eARC so it would be surprising if this was not included in these 8K TVs but the more important matter is of course improved bandwidth to allow for 8K video input. FlatpanelsHD is chasing answers at CES.
Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos
Dolby Vision was already implemented in high-end Sony TVs so it is no surprise to see it return in Z9G. Later this year, Sony will add Dolby Atmos support to the mix via a firmware update. Atmos support has been announced for select 2019 Sony TVs.
For the full Dolby Atmos experience you need additional speakers but Sony has also made it a priority to improve built-in sound.
- ”To deliver the Sound-from-Picture Reality experience, the new Acoustic Multi-Audio on the ZG9 utilises four front-facing speakers; two on the bottom and two on the top – to deliver a faithful sound position. Viewers will hear the sound coming from the screen, and not where the speaker is located. In addition, the ZG9 has a TV Centre Speaker Mode for those who have a home cinema setup – the TV becomes the centre speaker.”
There is no mention of DTS:X support, which is a little curious considering that ‘IMAX Enhanced’ that is now supported was created by IMAX and DTS. Like new TVs from Samsung and LG, select Sony’s 8K TVs will support Apple Airplay 2 and HomeKit.
- ”Sony Android TVs will be compatible with Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. AirPlay 2 lets you effortlessly stream content from your iPhone, iPad and Mac right to your Sony TV,” the company said. ”TVs can be added to the Home app and included in scenes or automations with other HomeKit accessories. For example, users can create a “Movie Night” scene in the Home app to easily turn on their smart TV and dim the lights, and simply ask Siri to launch the scene.”
Lastly, the TVs come with version 8 (Oreo) of the Android TV operating system built-in as well as Google Assistant and Chromecast. Sony is furthermore highlighting a new “slimmer, more rounded” remote control and a new processor for “quicker response of launching apps, powering on the TV, and more”.
Sony Z9G in the US and ZG9 in Europe will launch later this year. Exact availability and pricing details were not announced. The TVs will be showcased for the first time at CES 2019 so stay tuned for our hands-on impressions.
Sony Z9G / ZG9 8K TVs - specifications
MASTER Series Z9G / ZG9 8K HDR Full Array LED TV (98” and 85” models) - Sony’s 8K bringing the creator’s intent to life with truly authentic experience by combining the brilliance of 8K HDR with Sony’s unique MASTER Series philosophy. - Features Picture Processor X1™ Ultimate and 8K X-Reality PRO; pictures are sharpened and refined in real time, and images are upscaled closer to true 8K quality using Sony’s exclusive 8K database. - Features Backlight Master Drive, full-array LED backlight technology that combines an ultra-dense, independently controlled LED modules tuned for 8K, to deliver incredibly deep black, dazzling lights, and more vibrant colour. - Features 8K X-tended Dynamic Range™ PRO that ensures 20 times the contrast of conventional LED TVs. - Features Acoustic Multi-Audio by four front-facing speakers; with Sony’s Sound-from-Picture Reality experience, action and sound are precisely aligned and viewing becomes so much more immersive. - Features a TV Centre Speaker Mode; use the TV as the centre speaker in a home cinema setup. - Features X-Wide Angle that minimises the colour change when viewed from the side; view faithful shades and hues from wherever you watch the TV. - X-Motion Clarity keeps fast action clear and smooth; moving images are precisely controlled to minimise blur and even during fast-moving scenes, pictures stay true with no loss in brightness. - Features Netflix Calibrated Mode that brings the creator's vision directly to the TV. - Features IMAX Enhanced that brings a fully immersive at-home entertainment experience to the TV taking full advantage of IMAX Enhanced content. - Dolby Vision™ brings scenes vividly to life for authentic viewing, while Dolby Atmos™ fills the room with immersive surround sound. - With the Android TV platform and the Google Assistant built-in, you can quickly access entertainment, get answers and control devices around your home. Find the latest blockbuster, check the score of the big game or dim the lights – all with just your voice, no remote required. (Google Assistant availability depends on region.) - Hands-free voice search: find your favourite entertainment by simply talking to the TV. - Easy to control smart remote; connect set-top boxes and other devices via HDMI to the TV and control them all using one smart remote (depends on region); a slimmer, more rounded design with a built-in voice control microphone and an enhanced button layout for ease of use. - New processor for stress-free usability; quicker response of launching apps, powering on the TV, and more.