LED TVs might have the advantage of affordability, but if you have a high enough budget, OLED TVs might well be worth considering instead. The higher cost of manufacturing OLED panels for TVs means that they are still premium offerings that are limited to just a handful of brands, but they aren't quite as expensive as they used to be. Today, it's possible to consider buying a decent OLED TV for less than Rs. 3,00,000, which isn't something that could have been said even a year ago.
One of the foremost names in the OLED TV space is Sony, and the TV we're reviewing today is the 2019 Sony A9G. Priced at Rs. 2,99,900 for the 55-inch variant and Rs. 4,19,900 for the 65-inch variant, the A9G sits at the top of Sony's current lineup in India. This new 4K TV range comes equipped with smart connectivity, support for HDR content, and OLED panels that promise superior picture quality. Is this premium TV worth the high asking price? We review to find out.
Sony A9G OLED Android TV design and specifications
The minimalist look of this TV is one we quite like, and the Sony A9G gets the aesthetic right. There are thin borders around the screen on three sides, while the bottom has a slightly thicker border and a small, easy-to-miss Sony logo. The bottom also has a single white LED which illuminates when the TV is on, and a smaller orange one to let you know when Google Assistant is listening for commands (more on that later).
A flat stand is available with the Sony A9G, which barely raises the TV above the table it's placed on. The stand itself is compact, and has a convenient footprint that means it's easy to place the Sony A9G on even a small table. You can, of course, wall-mount the TV if you prefer, with a standard Vesa 300mm x 300mm mount.
The back of the Sony A9G OLED TV has a block-like shape, except near the edges where it gets extremely slim. Nonetheless, the TV isn't very thick overall, and won't be too far away from the wall if you use a low-profile wall mount. There is one set of ports facing towards the left, and another facing downwards. The sales package includes some panels that can be used to conceal the ports for a clean look, but we preferred not to use them during our time with the TV.
Sony is known for properly equipping its flagship TVs, and the Sony A9G OLED TV is no different. You get four HDMI ports (one at the side, three at the bottom), three USB ports (two USB 2.0 ports at the side, one USB 3.1 port at the bottom), a headphone jack, an Ethernet port for wired Internet connectivity, optical audio out, and a composite 3.5mm input for older audio and video devices. Interestingly, there are also speaker inputs so you can use the TV's speakers as a centre channel, as part of a multi-speaker package. You obviously get Wi-Fi connectivity as well.
The Sony A9G OLED TV has an Ultra-HD resolution screen with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. 4K content can be displayed at a refresh rate of up to 60Hz, while full-HD content can go up to 120Hz. The TV is HDR-enabled, with support for the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.
For sound, the TV has a total rated output of 60W, with two 20W actuators and two 10W subwoofers. Dolby audio formats up to Dolby Digital Plus are supported, with Dolby Atmos support slated to be added with a future firmware update, which we didn't receive during our time with the Sony A9G.
Powering the Sony A9G OLED TV is the same X1 Ultimate picture processor that we saw on the Sony X95G series, which we recently reviewed. You also get built-in Chromecast functionality, similar to other Sony smart TVs.
The remote of the Sony A9G OLED TV looks like any ordinary remote, and fans of minimalism will probably think it has too many buttons. It's a bit long, but it's light, feels good, and looks great thanks to a metal upper surface. This is a Bluetooth-enabled smart remote, and HDMI CEC support on the TV means that it can be used to control compatible connected devices; it was able to control most of the functions of an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K that we connected to the Sony A9G.
There is also a microphone on the remote for voice commands, which can be used if you keep the hands-free Google Assistant mode switched off. The TV has its own far-field microphones for hands-free use of the Google Assistant, and if you keep it active, the microphone on the remote doesn't need to be used. Additionally, there are hotkeys for Netflix and Google Play on the remote.
Sony A9G OLED Android TV software and interface
Although ‘Android TV' once referred to the specific stock version of Android developed by Google for TV and media devices, it has taken on a wider definition and now refers to any software for TVs developed on top of the Android framework. That said, Sony's version of Android TV still uses the vanilla UI that Google develops and maintains, with full access to the Google Play Store for TV apps, as well as other services attached to the platform.
The Sony A9G OLED TV therefore feels exactly like the X95G when it comes to the smart TV interface, with the same apps, features, and settings in the same places. Apps such as YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video support content at up to 4K with HDR. If you have the top-tier Netflix plan, you'll be able to natively stream 4K and Dolby Vision content on the Sony A9G.
Before starting our review, we did need to tweak a few settings and calibrate the picture quality to our preferences. We did need to pay particular attention to some settings — enabling high-definition content on the specific HDMI port where the connected device was being used, for example — in order to enable proper 4K playback on our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, and the process was admittedly more complicated than with most 4K HDR TVs we've used in recent months.
An interesting feature of the Sony A9G is Netflix Calibrated mode, which works with the built-in Netflix app. When activated, the TV automatically sets and locks the picture settings when using Netflix. Settings are adjusted so that the picture quality is purportedly as it was intended by the producers of a TV show or movie. It didn't seem like settings were being adjusted according to specific content, and rather felt like it was a single picture setting that was meant for universal use. We quite liked the calibration — it leaned more towards accuracy than boosting colours and sharpness.
Another key feature is the hands-free mode for Google Assistant on the Sony A9G OLED TV. When the TV is on, it can accept Google Assistant voice commands completely hands-free — you don't need to press a button or speak into the remote to trigger it. The TV has far-field microphones to be able to pick up voices even across a room, and the feature worked well for us. We were able to give voice commands to pull up specific content on the TV itself — it worked with Netflix, YouTube, and other supported apps — and were also able to get regular responses from Google Assistant.
Hands-free voice commands only work when the TV is on, and you will still need to use the remote to actually turn on the TV in the first place. However, it is possible to make this hands-free, using a Google Home or another Google Assistant-enabled smart device which has an always-listening mode. This feature uses the built-in Chromecast in the Sony A9G to power on the TV with your voice, and it worked perfectly for us when we tried with a Google Home.
Voice commands do work well when you know what you want to watch, but for casual browsing when you're trying to find something new to watch, the remote works best. Nonetheless, switching the TV on and off with voice commands was a taste of the future of smart connectivity that we quite enjoyed.
Sony A9G OLED Android TV performance
OLED is one of the best screen technologies for TVs today, and naturally, we had high expectations from this flagship Sony OLED TV. The A9G didn't disappoint us at all, with good performance across resolutions, formats, and types of content. We tested the 55-inch Sony A9G OLED TV with a variety of content at resolutions going up to 4K, including HDR 10 and Dolby Vision movies and TV shows.
We streamed content from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar, using their native apps as well as an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. We also used our library of 4K and HDR test files to fully evaluate performance with high-quality video.
We started with 4K Dolby Vision content, watching Our Planet on Netflix. Picture quality was impressive even with the TV's basic preset picture profile, and improved significantly after we put in some effort to properly calibrate the picture. Colours were quite accurate, sharpness was proper, and motion was clean and smooth for the most part. We did see occasional artefacting in motion with certain content — fast-paced action movies that do typically depend on motion blur showed a few faults. Easy, light motion was as smooth as we could have hoped for.
Also particularly impressive were the black levels, which is something an OLED TV is known for. The ability to completely switch off individual pixels means that the Sony A9G had practically perfect blacks, and although there was a bit of glow visible around bright areas surrounded by black, it was mild and didn't affect the quality much. This made for a very immersive and distraction-free viewing experience on the TV. Dark films and TV shows, such as The Boys on Amazon Prime Video, were an absolute pleasure to watch.
As is the case with most OLED TVs, the Sony A9G isn't as bright as an equivalently priced LED-backlit TV. HDR and Dolby Vision content does boost peak brightness to near-LED-like levels, but standard dynamic range content is much less bright than on the equivalent Sony X95G TV, which is the company's premium LED TV for 2019. This could be an issue in very bright rooms, but we didn't have any trouble with this and sometimes even appreciated the fact that this TV wasn't uncomfortably bright.
That said, bumping up the brightness level all the way was, at times, not as effective as we would have liked. Sacred Games Season 2, which we watched in 4K (but not HDR) looked great for the most part, but some of the darker scenes didn't look quite as good as those in the The Boys, or the dark deep ocean scenes in Our Planet.
Brightness and colours were excellent with Dolby Vision, and decent with the HDR10 format as well. Dolby Vision worked particularly well with the excellent black levels and contrast of the OLED TV, offering a good combination of bright whites, realistic colours, and excellent interplay between light and dark areas in the same scene.
From a decent viewing distance, the 55-inch Sony A9G OLED TV was sharp enough, and we were happy with the picture quality. Viewing angles were pretty good, but not quite as good as with the LG SM9000 TV, which we also recently reviewed; colours did tend to look a bit odd from too far to the side of the Sony 55-inch A9G.
While 4K and HDR content was expectedly good, we were also quite impressed with the Sony A9G OLED TV's performance with full-HD, HD, and standard definition content. Comedy show Parks and Recreation and Oscar-nominated movie Get Out (both streamed in full-HD) looked great on this TV, and it handled bright and dark scenes with ease. The difference in resolution is possible to spot if you watch closely, but excellent upscaling meant that we were usually very happy with sharpness and detail even with lower-than-4K content.
Although 720p and standard definition content naturally didn't look as good as they would have on a smaller screen, the 55-inch Sony A9G does an impressive job with content at such low resolutions. We did notice some judder and artefacts while watching YouTube videos and NDTV news on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, but smooth motion and clean edges made up for this to a large extent.
For sound, the Sony A9G OLED TV uses Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology, which has two actuators firing at the panel, and two subwoofers at the back of the TV firing through separate ports. There is no visible speaker grille, and sound from the actuators is transmitted outwards directly through the screen itself. We quite liked this aspect of the design, since it felt as though sound was coming from the appropriate parts of the screen.
Sound itself was not very loud or even as clear as we'd have liked, although it was a lot more stable and evenly reproduced on this TV than on many others we've tested. The tuning is appropriate for movies and TV shows, and dialogue sounded decent. More aggressive sounds were just about average, including those in action scenes and strong soundtracks. The experience isn't cinematic by any means, but will suit users who aren't very particular about sound quality.
While there are plenty of high-end LED TVs that are excellent, we feel that spending so much money is only truly worth it when you get a new-age screen technology such as OLED or QLED. Sony has thrown its weight behind OLED screens, and the flagship A9G series are among the best TVs you can buy in India right now. This model is an excellent combination of everything you need from a TV, with the right features, specifications, looks, software, and performance.
Obviously, the Sony A9G isn't perfect; it isn't as bright as a good LED TV, and sound quality without external help is suitable only for users who are more interested in picture quality. Still, these are small complaints for a TV that is otherwise excellent for all kinds of content.
The Sony A9G is expensive, costing more than equivalent options from LG and Samsung, which is perhaps its biggest weakness. However, if you want an all-round package that gets everything important right, the Sony A9G is quite possibly the best TV you can buy today, and worth the price in our opinion.
Price: Rs. 2,99,900 (55-inch)