Sony Master Series A9G 4K OLED TV review: Premium performance for a price
Note: This article was first published on 10 Feb 2020.
For some background, Sony’s OLED TVs are divided into two ranges — the regular series and the Master Series.
It’s easy to differentiate both from just the model names: the regular series goes by the name A8, with another letter after it to tell you its new-ness (e.g., A8G is launched in 2019 and A8H is coming in 2020).
On the other hand, the current Master Series is called the A9, and the model that's in wide availability now is the A9G. Available in 55-, 65- and 75-inch screen sizes, Sony will continue to sell this 2019 flagship model through 2020. Sony has announced an A9S at CES this January, but this is only available in a 48-inch screen size.
What makes a Master Series?
To paraphrase Sony marketing, the Master Series is designed to convey as best as possible the creator’s intent. This is largely achieved through Sony’s trademarked Sound-from-Picture Reality tech, which as the name suggests, is a speaker implementation that creates the effect that the sound is coming straight from the screen. We've covered in great detail about the Master Series when they were first launched, but here are the main points relevant to the current Master Series A9G:
1.) Acoustic Surface Audio+
Long story short, instead of lining speakers at the sides like most other TVs, Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ uses two actuators and two subwoofers on the TV’s back to send sound through the screen. It’s a tad different from how it’s done on the 2018 A9F, which I’ll talk about more in the next page.
Anyway, the Acoustic Surface Audio+ is the greatest difference between the Master Series A9G and the regular A8G. The latter has Acoustic Surface Audio (no plus!), which uses less powerful actuators.
Additionally, the A9G has a TV Centre Speaker Mode that lets you use the TV’s speakers as one big centre speaker with your external speakers. This ensures that you don’t lose the sound-from-screen effect in a multi-speaker setup that usually requires you to place the centre channel under the TV.
On a related note, when table-top-mounted, the bottom of the TV almost touches the surface, which means there’s no way to put a soundbar under the screen without blocking the picture. On the other hand, the A8G, which doesn’t have this centre speaker mode, has a stand that you can rotate 180° to elevate the TV so that there’s clearance for a soundbar.
2.) Picture Processor X1 Ultimate
The Master Series uses a different processor than the other Sony OLED TVs. Called the X1 Ultimate it’s more powerful (roughly 2x) than the X1 Extreme, handles high brightness and frame rates better, and processes more objects to produce a more detailed picture (Sony calls this feature Object-based Super Resolution).
There’s also Pixel Contrast Booster, which is used to enhance colour contrast at high brightness.
3.) Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Both the A9G and A8G support Dolby Vision, standard HDR10 and HLG HDR formats but only the A9G supports lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio because it has an HDMI port (port 3) that supports eARC. This is a plus if you’re serious about audio and want to pipe Atmos or DTS:X signal to an external receiver.
4.) Netflix Calibrated Mode
The A9G also has this Netflix Calibrated Mode to, once again, preserve the creator’s vision and intent.
So, A9G or A8G?
I’ve more to say about the TV’s performance in the next page, but in a nutshell, unless you must have the A9G-exclusive features listed above, the difference between it and the A8G isn’t night and day. Not to mention both run Android TV, so the software experience (Google Play store, voice search, built-in Chromecast) is largely similar. Yes, the A9G has a slightly better build and offers a slightly better picture quality, but I think most people won’t be able to tell these two OLEDs apart.
And here’s the SRPs for the TVs:
- 55-inch — A9G: S$7,999 | A8G: S$6,499
- 65-inch — A9G: S$11,999 | A8G: S$10,499
- 77-inch — A9G: S$27,999 | A8G: NA
Unless you’re going for the 77-inch model (like our test unit), which only the A9G has, the price gap between the two series is about S$1,500. To be clear, these are Sony's suggested retail prices, which means street prices will be lower.