LG has stood as one of the biggest names in OLED TVs, with its OLEDC9P most recently earning our Editors’ Choice. It isn’t the only name in the game, though; Sony also produces OLED models, and they’re just as impressive. Sony’s Master Series A9G OLED TV offers similarly excellent picture quality, with the added benefits of hands-free Google Assistant control and a terrific stereo sound system. It’s also more expensive at $3,799.99 for the 65-inch XBR-65A9G we tested. If money is no object and you want an incredible picture with loads of useful features, though, the Sony A9G deserves your attention, and earns our Editors’ Choice.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on testing performed on the Sony Master Series XBR-65A9G, the 65-inch model in the series. Apart from the screen size difference, the 55-inch $2,799.99 XBR-55A9G is identical in features, and we expect similar performance.
Stylish and Simple
Sony has dropped the striking-but-awkward easel design that made the A9E and the A9F so distinctive. The A9G embraces the minimalist, black simplicity of the company’s Xperia phones and Walkman MP3 players. The TV is a simple, black, bezel-less OLED panel with only a 0.3-inch black strip framing the active display. An additional quarter-inch strip of dark gray runs along the bottom edge, featuring an indicator light in the center and the Sony logo on the left. The screen is ringed with a slim band of black metal along the quarter-inch-thick sides.
The TV sits completely upright on a flat, brushed gunmetal stand. The stand is shaped like a rounded rectangle, providing the only notable curves on the A9G’s design. It’s flat enough that the bottom edge of the screen sits only 0.2 inches above whatever surface you set it on.
While the screen itself is just over a quarter of an inch thick, a rectangular black plastic enclosure on the back adds another 1.8 inches to the A9G. This enclosure holds all of the TV’s electronics, along with its physical connections along the left side and bottom. An HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a 3.5mm composite video input, a 3.5mm infrared receiver port, and, uniquely, a set of speaker wire connectors face left on the back of the TV. Three more HDMI ports, a USB 3.0 port, an Ethernet port, an optical audio output, an RS-232C port, and an antenna/cable connector face downward.
The A9G has a conventional design compared with the company’s previous OLED models, but one helpful feature carries over: Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+. Instead of conventional speaker drivers hidden somewhere on the TV’s casing, the A9G uses a pair of 10-watt actuators to resonate the OLED panel itself to produce stereo sound. The actuators work in tandem with a pair of 20-watt “subwoofer” drivers to produce bass, for a 60-watt sound system that produces a larger sound field with better imaging than conventional TVs.
The remote included with the A9G is leaps and bounds ahead of Sony’s previous TV remotes, which have consistently been plain, black, rectangular wands covered in similar-feeling rectangular rubber buttons that made identifying inputs without looking very difficult. The new remote is a slim nine-inch wand with a brushed aluminum face. The bottoms are flat and mostly circular, but varied enough in shape and position that they can be easily found under the thumb. A circular navigation pad sits in the center, flanked by menu buttons. A number pad, four color buttons, and two dedicated service buttons for Google Play and Netflix sit above. Two long volume and channel rockers and a series of small playback controls sit below. A pinhole microphone rests near the top of the remote, allowing access to Google Assistant by holding down the Google Assistant Button and talking into it, though it isn’t necessary for using Google Assistant with the A9G.
Android TV and Google Assistant
Like many of Sony’s other TVs, along with several Hisense TVs, the A9G uses Android TV for its interface and smart features platform. It’s a powerful system filled with useful features and plenty of streaming services. Most major names in video are present, including Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, and YouTube. For music, Google Play Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Tidal, and a slew of internet radio apps are available. There are also plenty of other apps, services, and games, for a wide selection of things to do with the TV without plugging anything into it.
Android TV also features Google Cast, so you can generally treat the A9G as if it has a Google Chromecast plugged into it and stream video from your phone or a Chrome tab on your computer. It isn’t quite as flexible as a Chromecast, but its limitations are very specific and not likely to be a problem for most use cases; the only omission we found was an inability to stream Oculus Quest video from a headset to the TV, when it can stream to a Chromecast.
More than apps and services, Android TV also features Google Assistant, and Sony’s integration here is one of the best we’ve seen in a TV. If you wish, you can press the Google Assistant button on the remote and speak into the microphone on it. You can also use Google Assistant completely hands-free with the A9G, because like the Z9F it has a far-field microphone array and can listen for the wake-up phrase (“Hey, Google”) to let you bring up the assistant with only your voice. This lets you control the TV and use all of Google Assistant’s various features, including smart home control, completely hands-free. It’s the Google Assistant equivalent to having an Amazon Fire TV Cube connected to your TV for hands-free Alexa.
We test TVs using a Klein K-10A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN software with methodology based on Imaging Science Foundation’s calibration techniques. As an OLED TV, the A9G displays predictably perfect blacks, meaning black pixels emit no light regardless of what other pixels are doing and giving the TV “infinite” contrast.”
When displaying our standard 18-percent white field test pattern, the A9G shows a peak brightness of 504.27cd/m2, making it dimmer than LG’s C9P (667.89cd/m2) and E9P (633.56cd/m2) OLED TVs, but still satisfyingly bright. No OLED can reach the brightness of many LED TVs; Sony’s Master Series Z9F LED TV blasts out 1,677.49cd/m2 with an 18-percent field, and even the much less expensive Hisense H8F shows a 796.84cd/m2 peak brightness. Of course, the trade-off is that LED TVs don’t display perfect blacks levels, letting light come through black pixels on the panel.
The above chart shows color measurements taken on the A9G in Cinema picture mode and set to the DCI-P3 color space, with measured color levels as dots and DCI-P3 color levels as boxes. Out of the box, the A9G shows come impressive color performance, though not the most immediately accurate. Reds, greens, and blues all reach the DCI-P3 levels, coming close to but not quite hitting their marks. Whites are a bit cool, and secondary colors skew quite a bit—cyans and magentas run cool, while yellows lean a bit red. This performance seems to be fairly typical for modern OLED TVs; LG’s C9P shows similarly cool whites and skewed secondaries.
Fortunately, the A9G has extensive calibration settings for tweaking color performance. We don’t recommend tinkering with those settings yourself, but for a high-end TV that costs nearly $4,000, we do recommend spending the extra few hundred dollars to have it professionally calibrated.
Despite the color issues, the A9G produces an excellent picture, which can be seen with BBC’s Planet Earth II. In the “Islands” episode, the greens of leaves and the blues of water look vivid and natural. Fine details like tree bark and fur are crisp both under direct sunlight and in dark shade, thanks to the TV’s excellent contrast. It’s a clean, detailed picture that faithfully shows off the content.
The OLED-powered contrast of the A9G looks impressive when viewing The Great Gatsby. The TV’s ability to display perfect blacks and bright whites in the same frame enables plenty of shadow detail to come through, preserving the texture and cut of black suits and hair. Skin tones look natural against the harsh blacks and whites of the party scenes, while letting the bright oranges of dresses and the teal of pools appear nicely saturated.
Forza Horizon 4 on the Xbox One X also looks excellent on the A9G. The Lego Speed Champions DLC combines nearly photorealistic cars and environments with Lego vehicles and obstacles, and the TV accurately reproduces both visually disparate categories of objects accurately. The muted browns and greens of dirt and trees look natural, while the much more colorful Lego foliage and roads are true to their bright, cheery toy palette.
Input lag is the amount of time between when a TV receives a signal and the display updates. Using an HDFury 4K Diva 18Gbps HDMI matrix to test for it, the A9G shows an input lag of 101.5ms in Cinema mode, which is unacceptably high. Switching to Game mode, however, cuts that lag down to a much better 18.9ms, which puts it below the 20ms threshold for us to consider the A9G one of the best TVs for gaming.
The Diva is a new piece of testing equipment we’re currently evaluating, so we also tested the A9G using the Leo Bodnar lag tester, which showed an input lag of 26.5ms in Game mode. We are noting both devices’ measurements as we develop our testing methodology.
A Premium Picture for a Price
The Sony Master Series A9G TV is another excellent example of the superlative contrast and sleek design OLED technology can produce. It’s strikingly slim and minimalist, without the awkward easel design of the previous A-series, and its Acoustic Surface Audio technology produces better sound than most built-in TV speakers. Adding Android Audio with hands-free Google Assistant voice commands to the mix further sweetens the deal, which needs to be quite sweet to justify the high price. While the A9G is slightly more expensive than the LG OLEDC9P line, its more powerful Android TV platform and superior sound edge it past LG as our Editors’ Choice for high-end TVs.
Ultimately, you can’t get perfect black levels and infinite contrast unless you invest in an OLED TV, and the A9G sits at the top of the list. But if you don’t want to spend nearly $4,000, you can avoid OLEDs altogether and get a solid LED model. The TCL 6-series and Hisense H8F lines offer surprisingly strong contrast and color performance for a fraction of the price, and the Hisense also features Android TV like the A9G (but without hands-free Google Assistant).