Sony Master Series A9G OLED IMAX Enhanced TV Review

The Sony Master Series A9G OLED is among the finest 4K TVs you can buy. It is a technological tour de force that delivers stunning picture quality with a seamless Android TV experience. It’s a shockingly thin, modern, minimalist expression of the state-of-the-art in TVs. The A9G is an IMAX Enhanced TV, offering picture quality that makes the most of HDR 4K content. And with its unique Acoustic Surface Audio+ sound, it does not need speakers because the screen itself is a speaker.

This is Sony’s top OLED model, featuring its X1 Ultimate processor that handles a wide variety of picture quality enhancing tasks. From upscaling to motion processing to noise reduction, more processing power translates into better picture quality. This power is put to good use on the wide variety of video formats this TV can play, everything from broadcast TV to IMAX Enhanced 4K HDR. The A9G is available in 55″, 65″ and 77″ screen sizes; this review features the 65″ model.


Features and Specifications

This is Sony’s flagship OLED. As far as TVs go, this is a certified “thing of beauty” with its minimalist, ultra-slim design. My wife said it’s the nicest looking TV she’s ever seen, which counts for a lot!

The panel is 1.59″ thick near the bottom and much thinner on top. When resting on a stand, the A9G sits on a compact pedestal base that leaves no room for a soundbar. Whether freestanding or wall-mounted it looks slick with its ultra-thin bezel border measuring only 0.31″.


Sony Master Series A9G OLED

OLED is emissive which means each and every pixel can be turned off to produce pure black. The result is spectacular picture quality that LCD TVs cannot match, especially when the lights are dimmed. All the better to enjoy IMAX Enhanced content.

Not only do you get optimized 4K HDR video, you can enjoy optimized IMAX Enhanced sound delivered exclusively using DTS audio technologies.

Support for HDR includes HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision formats, which covers the bases for all the major streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.

This TV handles a wide variety of resolutions and refresh rates. It’s able to show 4K/60p with 4:4:4 chroma, making it suitable for use with a PC. It’s also able to show 1080p and 1440p at 120 Hz, which is great for gamers who need to keep up with fast action. However, this TV does not have VRR (variable refresh rate) or ALLM (auto low latency mode) so gamers will probably want to program an input accordingly and dedicate it to gaming.

This TV comes with picture presets, with Cinema and Custom modes offering an accurate picture right out of the box.

Sony’s Master Series A9G supports eARC (via HDMI 3) which, when used with compatible AV hardware, lets you send 3D immersive sound (DTS:X and Dolby Atmos) to the audio device. eARC works for both DTS and Dolby forms of lossless immersive audio.

Acoustic Surface Audio+ is one of the coolest features of this TV. It uses the screen itself as a speaker and has the ability to serve as a center channel in a full surround sound system. The result is voices come from the screen itself, just like in a movie theater. It’s a unique feature that really works to put you in the movie. This feature is ideal for enjoying IMAX Enhanced content through a 7.2.4 3D immersive sound system.

As for specs, rtings.com measured a frequency response of roughly 70 Hz to 20 kHz which means it’ll work fine as a center channel in an AVR-based system with bass management. The main limitation is output if you like your sound extra loud then you’ll want a dedicated center. For “normal” viewing the A9G offers around 93 dB max SPL. Overall, the built-in sound of the A9G is one of its best features, regardless of how you use it (for all the audio or as a center channel).

If you put the A9G on a stand, there’s a clear aesthetic benefit to not having to put a center channel speaker under the TV.

See the full feature set and specifications of the Sony A9G OLED on Sony.com as well as rtings.com.


Unpacking and Setup

Setting up the Sony A9G OLED can be performed with the new relatively sleek remote control Sony packaged with this TV, or else using a compatible phone or tablet. I opted for the latter since it eliminates the need to use the remote control to enter passwords and other info.

I recommend using the Google Home app (standard on Android, available for iOS) to set up the TV.  I said, “OK Google, set up my device” and without really having to do anything else, I was presented with a verification code that I confirmed. Voila, the TV is connected to a world of streaming content including IMAX Enhanced movies through the FandangoNOW app and the Sony exclusive Privilege 4K app that lets A9G buyers view Hollywood titles in IMAX Enhanced.*

My first change was to switch from the default Standard picture mode to Custom mode. That simple adjustment offers much more accurate color than Standard mode. If you want to set up your A9G using Custom mode, we suggest trying these settings from rtings.com. If you’re interested in getting the absolute most out of your TV a professional calibration is the way to go, but it is not a necessity with this TV.

This TV features a Netflix Calibrated mode that is activated when you stream Netflix using the built-in app. This feature assures that content streaming through Netflix appears accurately and is free of unwanted motion processing, all without the viewer needing to do anything.


Performance & Picture Quality

The performance of OLED makes it the TV technology of choice for videophiles who appreciate the incredible contrast, wide viewing angles and rich color of this emissive screen technology. And even among OLEDs, the A9G represents the cream of the crop thanks to Sony’s advanced video processing. This is pointed out in online reviews, which universally praise the A9G’s performance. Moreover, the Sony A9G won the 2019 TV Shootout held during CE Week in NYC.

Sony’s Master Series A9G OLED delivers a reference-quality viewing experience with IMAX Enhanced movies. Using the Privilege 4K app or FandangoNow, viewers may stream IMAX Enhanced 4K HDR and audio and enjoy fidelity previously associated with physical media formats. With IMAX Enhanced movies, it is now possible to enjoy a fully cinematic viewing experience at home, even when streaming is the source. You get dynamic sound thanks to DTS:X technology along with eye-popping visuals. The quality of the picture and the sound make for seamless viewing. Whether the source was streaming or Ultra HD Blu-ray, Sony’s A9G Master Series OLED easily reproduced the signature picture quality that makes IMAX Enhanced an elevated viewing experience.

With IMAX Enhanced, viewers get features like expanded aspect ratios on select movies with 4K HDR that’s mastered to maximize color and clarity. Recently, Spider-Man: Far From Home became the first Marvel cinematic universe movie released in IMAX Enhanced and it features 45 minutes of expanded aspect ratio. When streamed through FandangoNow, the resulting picture and sound is as good as it gets for streaming and competes with Ultra HD Blu-ray in terms of clarity and impact.

The current list of IMAX Enhanced titles is: Angry Birds 2, Alpha, Chappie, Ghostbusters:Answer the Call, Inferno, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Life, MIB3 (Men in Black III), Only the Brave, Pixels, Resident Evil The Final Chapter, Spider-Man: Far from Home, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Walk and Venom.

Using the Privilege 4K app, I watched Chappie, Life, Venom and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I also streamed Spider-Man: Far from Home and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse through FandangoNow, the rentals costing only $2.99/each. In each instance the movies looked “picture perfect” with no artifacts and tons of 4K detail. The HDR mastering looks totally natural yet adds a richness and depth that’s clearly lacking when queueing up the SDR versions of the same film (on Vudu as well as on disc).

Per rtings.com measurements, the A9G can reach peak brightness levels of about 600 nits with a “real” HDR scene and just short of 700 nits in a 2% window. Peak brightness levels for SDR content is lower, topping out at 281 nits with “real” SDR content and 347 nits in a 2% window. It’s really the same story as any OLED, when the room lights are dimmed (as they should be if you’re going to watch a movie) the contrast is simply amazing and makes up for any limitations in peak brightness (versus LCD-based TVs).

The IMAX Enhanced remastered 2002 feature Space Station is available on Ultra HD Blu-ray and it looks phenomenal on the A9G. OLED has great contrast no matter what, but outer space scenes are among the most dramatic examples of why OLED’s emissive pixels are so good at rendering high contrast scenes—each individual pixel can be made totally black if desired (and outer space is black) yet the pixel next to it can be illuminated at full brightness; this is why no other type of consumer TV does star fields and outer space scenes as well as OLED.

Of all the IMAX Enhanced movies I watched, the most impressive was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This animated feature is a visual masterpiece with astonishing artwork. The action moves fast, the colors are fantastical and the stream itself, seamless. I confess at times I did wish I was watching a 77″ TV (bigger screen = more of a good thing!) but that’s about it as far as “complaints” go. The Sony Master Series A9G OLED puts out a sublime picture and with the expanded aspect ratio of IMAX Enhanced, the bigger the screen the more immersive the viewing experience!

It’s fair to say the A9G did exceptionally well playing back “regular” Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, whether HDR10 or Dolby Vision. And even good old “regular” Blu-ray with its 1080p resolution and limited SDR color came across looking fantastic on this TV thanks to quality upscaling and the fact that OLED contrast (built on the foundation of pure black) works with any and all content, not just HDR.

I was also impressed with the fidelity of Netflix streams on the A9G. Netflix shows that stream in 4K Dolby Vision streamed at around 15 Mbps, enough bandwidth to avoid artifacts and present tons of detail. The TV switched to Netflix Calibrated Mode as advertised and what I saw was 100% reminiscent of how it should look after proper tuning. Kudos to Netflix and Sony for implementing this so well.

I’d be remiss if it did not mention how excellent this TV is for gaming. Simply put, the picture quality achieved by the A9G will flatter any PC gaming graphics you toss at it. 4K gaming on this OLED looks startlingly realistic, as I discovered while playing various games using an Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti card. And if you feed it 1080p/120Hz, you get the ultra-fast response needed for competitive gaming but also a picture that lets you pick out the subtlest details, including what’s going on in deep shadows.


Conclusion

The Sony Master Series A9G OLED is quite possibly the best 65″ TV you can buy today. It possesses all the positive qualities of an OLED and adds Sony’s excellent image processing plus IMAX Enhanced to the equation for unparalleled 4K image fidelity. Plus, Acoustic Surface Audio+ with TV center speaker mode brings real innovation to the audio side, allowing you to enjoy natural sound that comes from the screen.  The A9G represents the true state-of-the-art in consumer TVs today and delivers picture quality that its rivals cannot touch.

Whether you are shopping for a 55-inch, 65-inch or 77-inch TV, the IMAX Enhanced Master Series A9G OLED is the TV to get if you want the very best picture quality money can buy at these screen sizes. Sony’s A9G is a Top Choice selection.


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