Sony is ratcheting up the performance of its flagship 4K Ultra HD TVs with its first Bravia Master series of OLED and LCD TVs, all featuring an industry-exclusive Netflix Calibrated Mode that optimizes video quality for Netflix content.
In the Netflix mode, the new Android-powered TVs reproduce streamed content with the same picture quality of a movie studio’s post-production reference monitors, the two companies said during a press event this week.
The A9F OLED TVs will be available in the fall in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes along with the Z9F LCD TVs in 65- and 75-inch sizes. Prices of the smart TVs weren’t disclosed.
For the “very first time,” TVs will deliver “studio-quality picture mastering to the living room with Netflix Calibrated Mode,” said Scott Mirer, Netflix’s device partner ecosystem VP.
'Lost in Space' on Netflix
To prove it, Mirer brought in “Lost in Space” executive director Zack Estrim to vouch for the image quality.
In a product demo, his Netflix series was rendered “exactly” as intended, he said. “It was the first time where I really felt there was no compromise.”
Mirer added: “Before, consumers could fiddle with controls to try to get what Zack intended.”
Now, with just the press of a button, they “know with confidence” they’re viewing what the director intended them to see.
More than a Pretty Netflix Picture
Estrim explains that a perfectly rendered visual is more than just a nice image. Accurate color, high contrast, and resolution “can really affect storytelling,” he says.
Content creators should be heartened by the new Sony displays, which showcase “the full experience that we do” on a mastering monitor.
The user-selectable Netflix Calibrated Mode is intended for use with any of Netflix’s HD, 4K and 4K HDR content, whether produced by Netflix or by other studios. When the mode is activated, the displays change their settings “to match the studio-monitor setup,” says Robert Brennan, Sony’s senior product technical trainer.
Although prices weren’t revealed, as a reference point, Sony’s current top-end A8F OLED TVs, new for 2018, are priced at $2,799 for a 55-inch model and $3,799 for a 65-inch model.
The current Z9D flagship LCD TVs, launched in late 2016, are priced at $2,999 for 65 inches, $6,999 for 75 inches, and $59,999 for 100 inches.
The 55- and 65-inch Z9D TVs will be retired to make room for the new flagship LCD TVs, but the 100-inch Z9D model will continue to be available, a Sony spokesman says.
Sony did not say whether the Master Series would be expanded to additional screen sizes in the future.
First Sony Displays with CalMAN for Install Pros
For professional A/V installers, the Master Series TVs are Sony’s first CalMAN-ready displays. The technology can reduce picture-calibration time to as little as five minutes from one or more hours when using CalMAN calibration software running on a laptop, Brennan says.
The technology, from Portrait Displays, adjusts picture quality with adjustments that are finer than those available from a TV’s built-in menu, and it compensates for the effects of the viewing environment.
CalMAN takes into consideration ambient light levels, lighting type, room color and other room characteristics in its calibration process.
CalMAN-ready TVs are already available from Samsung and LG.
Powerful New Processor, Triluminos WCG
Also improving color, contrast and resolution is a new, more powerful processor for the four TVs.
Sony’s new X1 Ultimate picture processor delivers twice the processing power of the X1 Extreme processor used in some of Sony’s current premium OLED and LCD TVs, including the Z9D LCD TV series and A8F OLED series.
With the extra power, the TVs identify every object appearing in every frame on the screen, reference them to an internal database of objects, and then reproduce each object with more accurate contrast and resolution, says Sony’s Brennan.
In contrast, Sony TVs with the previous-generation X1 Extreme processor identify up to 16 unique objects in a frame. In the case of X1 Ultimate, each individual grape in a bunch of grapes would be treated as an object rather than the whole bunch being treated as a single object, Brennan explains.
The new LCD TVs also feature Precision Full Array local dimming and boosting LED backlights to deliver near-OLED off-axis color-viewing angles, exceeding the off-axis viewing angles of the current Z9D flagship LCD TVs, according to Brennan.
The LCD TVs continue to feature Sony’s Triluminos wide color gamut (WCG) display technology, eschewing quantum-dot technology because the extra layer of quantum dots reduces overall brightness, Brennan notes.
In the OLED models, Sony added Pixel Contrast Booster technology to maintain color accuracy as the picture gets brighter.
Other Master Series Features
3 HDR Options
All four of the new Sony models feature HDR 10, Hybrid Log Gamma, and Dolby Vision, the latter via a firmware update. Sony didn’t reveal the TVs’ color gamut as a percentage of the DCI P3 standard nor reveal the TVs’ brightness range in nits.
First with eARC
All four Master Series models are the first Sony TVs with HDMI eARC. The output steps up bandwidth to pass through high-resolution soundtracks – including Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master, and eight-channel 192kHz/24-bit PCM – from the TV’s HDMI-connected sources to eARC-equipped audio products such as sound bars.
Sony plans eARC firmware updates in the future for its current soundbars, the HT-Z9F ($899) and HT-X9000 ($599), which decode high-res soundtracks along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based metadata.
Sony didn’t say whether some of its current TVs are capable of getting eARC via firmware updates in the future.
‘Acoustic Surface’ Sound
For the Master Series OLEDs, Sony is introducing 3.2-channel Acoustic Surface Audio Plus technology, surpassing the performance of 2.1-channel Acoustic Surface Audio technology appearing in other Sony OLED TVs.
Both technologies enable voices to emanate from the relative on-screen positions of the people speaking and pan sounds across the screen to track moving on-screen objects.
Acoustic Surface Audio Plus enhances localization via three behind-the-screen actuators to vibrate the OLED panels, enhanced by two woofers firing off to the sides. That’s up from two actuators and one woofer in the previous version of the feature.
The new TVs also feature a center-channel speaker input to turn the TVs’ array of actuators and woofers into a dedicated center-channel speaker for use with separate left, right and surround speakers in a home theater system.
Oreo OS, Google Assistant
Like Sony’s other 4K smart TVs, the new models run on Google’s Android TV OS and feature Chromecast built-in. The new models will ship with the latest Android TV OS, called Oreo. Other select Sony smart TVs will get Oreo as a firmware update at a later date, Brennan says.
The new models also feature built-in Google Assistant to enable voice control of TV functions, smart-home products, and Google services via an included voice-capable remote.