Sony A9G 4K OLED Master Series TV review

Posted: 6 September 2019 5:22 pm
News

Sony's new flagship TV offers dazzling visuals and lightning-fast Android TV, but it will cost you.

Game of Thrones screenshot on a Sony TV

Quick Verdict:

The Sony A9G offers an ultra-thin design with crystal clear viewing at any angle, but is it enough of an improvement on the A9F that's less than a year old? Not for the average TV viewer.

Price:

  • 139 cm (55") – $5,199
  • 164 cm (65") – $7,199
  • 195 cm (77") – $14,399

Where to buy it: The Sony online store

The good

  • Ultra-thin design with a barely-there bezel
  • Fast and smooth Android TV
  • Built-in Google Assistant
  • Perfect blacks, vivid colours and near-infinite contrast
  • Acoustic Surface Audio+ delivers clear directional audio

The bad

  • Expensive
  • No significant upgrades from its predecessor
  • Can't fit a soundbar
  • Doesn't include wall-mounting bracket

Sony's new flagship A9G 4K OLED TV (known as the AG9 in Europe) is available in 55", 65" and 77" sizes. As part of the Master Series, Sony aims to reproduce video on your home A9G screen exactly as the creators intended it to look.

I got the chance to test out the A9G for a night and while it doesn't exactly offer a significant improvement on last year's A9F, it's still worth considering. If you want a superb Android TV experience and an ultra-slim screen that blends in seamlessly with your furniture, or if you didn't like the easel stand design of the A9F, the A9G is the way to go.
Screenshot of a scene from Arrested Development taken on a Sony TV

Design

  • Almost non-existent frame
  • Can't fit a soundbar
  • No wall-mount included
  • New remote design with Google Assistant

The Sony A9G 4K OLED TV is here to replace the A9F 4K OLED TV that was released less than a year ago. Like its predecessor, the A9G comes in 55-inch and 65-inch models, but there's also an additional 77-inch option for customers who prefer a bigger screen.

The most significant change from the A9F is the design, which looks more like last year's A8F 4K OLED. While the A9F had a unique easel stand that made the TV lean back away from the viewer, the A9G has a much simpler, minimalist design. The result is a simple black bezel that's less than a centimetre wide (0.8 cm to be exact). It gives the effect of the entire surface being made of glass and makes the TV blend right into your furniture or wall.

The A9G stands upright on a flat metal stand that raises the TV only 0.5cm above whatever surface it's on. It isn't adjustable, so you won't be able to fit a soundbar below the display. However, this isn't as big of a problem as it seems. As I'll explain later in the review, you won't need to use a soundbar for this one.

From the side, the A9G has a very shallow profile at only four centimetres thick. The main benefit of the thin design is how closely it fits to the wall, which is about twice as close as previous models. When wall-mounted, the combination of the slim profile and nearly invisible frame makes it look like it's floating on the wall.

In terms of wall-mounting, Sony has designed a new swivel hanging system (the SU-WL850) specifically for the A9G. However, the wall mount isn't included with the TV and I wasn't able to see it in action.

The back panel of the Sony A9G OLED TV

The back of the TV has a black matte plastic electronics box that makes up most of the thickness of the TV. It's smaller and neater than previous models and includes removable plastic covers that allow you to thread your cables down the middle for neater cable management.

The covers also hide a series of ports including four HDMI ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet connection and a headphone jack. All of the ports are on the left and bottom sides of the panel and won't be blocked if you choose to mount your TV on the wall.

The remote also has a new design. While the previous version was black and rectangular, the new one is slimmer and rounded with a more aesthetic metallic finish.

Sony hasn't gone the route of entirely minimalist remotes, so there are still all of the buttons you would expect plus dedicated buttons for easy access to Google Play and Netflix. There's also a microphone at the top of the remote and a Google Assistant button for easy voice control.

Another upgrade is that you don't have to point the remote directly at the TV anymore, as it now works using Bluetooth. If you prefer to use your phone to a remote, Sony offers the Sonymote app for smart devices, but you'll have to contend with ads to use it.

In addition to the remote, the TV comes with batteries, an AC power cord, a user manual and the tabletop stand.

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Performance

  • Fast and smooth Android TV experience
  • Built-in Google Assistant
  • Perfect blacks, vivid colours and strong contrast
  • Acoustic Surface Audio+ delivers clear directional audio
  • Wide-viewing angles
  • Quality is not as good in a bright room
  • Netflix Calibration Mode

Video

Sony's A9G delivers on bright colours and superb details for both 4K and upscaled content. The A9G uses the same X1 Ultimate processor as its predecessor. It individually controls more than eight million pixels and has a pixel contrast booster to offer near-infinite contrast and better clarity in bright areas – something OLEDs generally struggle with.

Not only does 4K content look crystal clear, but SD and HD content also upscales remarkably well with more detail and clarity in both dark and light scenes. There's also no lag or blur on fast motion, though my photos don't do this justice.

As part of the Master Series, it's designed to show colours as they are and as the creator intended, so it's no surprise that the A9G displays vibrant, vivid colours. Like most other OLEDs, the blacks are true blacks, but the A9G doesn't lose any nuance in the shadows.

Screenshot of a scene from Game of Thrones on a Sony TV

I tested it out on that infamous Game of Thrones episode and saw details in the battle that I've missed on repeated viewings. The episode was undoubtedly still dark, but the darkness set the mood instead of obscuring pivotal scenes, delivering on Sony's Master Series promise.

It also has a wide viewing angle so you can watch from any perspective without colours fading or distorting. I tested this out from just about every possible angle in my hotel room and the colours never faded, even at extreme angles.

Every TV in the Master Series is calibrated before it leaves the factory, but that doesn't mean you won't have to play around with the settings. One of the featured settings on the A9G is the Netflix Calibrated Mode. It's designed to give viewers the ultimate experience for Netflix originals by accurately reproducing the creator's vision, although it can be used across all Netflix content.

Screenshot of a scene from Stranger Things on a Sony TV

I tested this out on a few Netflix originals, including season three of Stranger Things. While at first it seemed to dim the TV to an almost unwatchable degree in my bright room, it's designed to be used in a dark room.

Once I turned off the lights, there was a noticeable difference in the setting that set the mood of the show and made me feel like I was right there in Hawkins. However, while it was fun to play around with, I wouldn't buy the A9G for Netflix calibration alone.

In other A9G settings, you won't lose too much detail in a well-lit room, but the picture excels in all settings when you turn off the lights. With the lights on or the curtains open, there's a bit of light reflection but not too much glare, especially when compared to other OLEDs.

Audio

With Sony's history of high-quality audio products, I have high expectations for Sony products to deliver on sound. While the A9G doesn't offer any innovations, it still performs better than average TV speakers. Whether I was trying to decipher the Brummie accents in Peaky Blinders, or blasting Lizzo at (almost) full volume, I could hear everything cleanly and clearly.

Screenshot of a Lizzo music video taken on a Sony TV

As with other Sony 4K OLEDs, the A9G uses Acoustic Surface technology to turn the entire screen into a speaker. This means the screen vibrates to touch, but the vibrations aren't noticeable when you're watching it.

What is noticeable is the directional audio that makes it seem like the sound is coming from wherever it appears on the screen. You can even hear the audio subtly ping-ponging back and forth between the actors speaking from either side of the screen during conversations. If this sounds like it could be distracting, it's not. If anything, it created a more immersive experience than any other TV I've listened to without additional speakers.

However, to accommodate a thinner design, the A9G has a new speaker configuration which is somewhat of a downgrade. While the A9F has a 3.2-channel system, the A9G only has a 2.2-channel system with two actuators and two subwoofers.

Sony claims the actuators and bass drivers have been upgraded to create a wider sound field and enhance the overall listening experience. I wasn't able to test the A9G side-by-side with a 3.2-channel system so I can't say for sure that this was the case. What I can say is that if there is a difference, it's not significant.

As I mentioned, the A9G can't be used with a soundbar. It has a decent punch for the bass, but if you're an audiophile, no TV speaker system is going to cut it. If the speakers aren't enough for you, you can set up the A9G as the centre speaker in a surround sound system.

Smart TV

One of the biggest updates in the A9G is the improved Android TV performance. It's significantly smoother and faster than previous versions. It's also easy to use and intuitive, especially with the addition of Google Assistant and built-in microphones for hands-free use.

Though Google Assistant only launched on Australian Android TVs last year, it already feels like an essential component in the A9G. All you have to do is push the microphone button on the remote and then state a show, movie or youtube video you want to watch and the system will automatically scan all available apps to give you options of how to watch it.

It uses a far-field microphone so if the remote isn't in reach, you can still control the TV (when within range). A few times the TV had trouble understanding my American accent, but I won't blame that on Sony.

Scene from Jurassic Park on a Sony TV

Sony's Android TV supports a vast range of apps from Google Play for streaming content, including YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, Stan, Foxtel Now and the Kayo Sports app. While using the Foxtel Now app, I encountered several issues and kept getting sent back to the home screen while in the middle of watching Chernobyl. However, I didn't have this issue while using any other apps so it could be an issue with Foxtel Now.

I also had a few issues connecting to Wi-Fi and got disconnected quite a few times, but that's more likely due to the hotel Wi-Fi I was using than the actual TV. Keep in mind, if you regularly stream video, you'll want more than a decent connection.

If the app selection doesn't offer everything you want, you can stream content directly from your iPhone, iPad or Mac with AirPlay 2. This will give you access to anything from iTunes, your video apps, and your music library and allow you to view your photos on the TV. You can also sync the TV with AirPlay 2 speakers to play music around your home.

The A9G includes HomeKit, which lets you control smart lights and other smart-home products using your TV without having to buy a dedicated smart speaker. If you already have a smart speaker, such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo or Sony's own LF-S50G, you can use it to operate your TV.

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Verdict

  • Powerful performance
  • Vibrant visuals
  • Minimalist design
  • High cost

Sony's A9G 4K OLED is more than solid. As part of the Master Series, it delivers what you'd expect from a high-end OLED in terms of visuals. It also offers a smoother Android TV experience and seamless Google Assistant integration. But is it innovative enough to replace the A9F after less than a year?

It depends. If you already have the A9F, it's not worth the price tag unless you're after the 77" model (which isn't available for the A9F) or you particularly hate the leaning easel design.

However, if you're looking to upgrade an older TV and you've got the money to spend, the A9G is an excellent contender.

How to compare OLED, QLED and LED TVs

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Specifications

KD-55A9G KD-65A9G KD-77A9G
Screen size 139 cm (55") 164 cm (65") 195 cm (77")
Display type OLED OLED OLED
Resolution 3840x2160 (4K) 3840x2160 (4K) 3840x2160 (4K)
Dimensions (without stand) 1226x710x40 mm 1447x834x40 mm 1721x996x49 mm
Dimensions (with stand) 1226x714x255 mm 1447x838x255 mm 1721x1001x302 mm
Weight (without stand) 18.7 Kg 21.2 Kg 35.3 Kg
Operating system Android Android Android
Wi-Fi Certified 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Certified 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Certified 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Chromecast built-in Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth profile Version 4.2 Version 4.2 Version 4.2
Ethernet ports 1 on bottom edge 1 on bottom edge 1 on bottom edge
HDMI ports 4 (1 on side, 3 on bottom) 4 (1 on side, 3 on bottom) 4 (1 on side, 3 on bottom)
Smartphone connectivity Chromecast built-in

Video and TV SideView (iOS/Android)

Chromecast built-in

Video and TV SideView (iOS/Android)

Chromecast built-in

Video and TV SideView (iOS/Android)

Power consumption 491 kWh/year 626 kWh/year 780 kWh/year
Voice search Yes Yes Yes
Built-in mic Yes Yes Yes
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Images: Sarah Brandon

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