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The Smart TV segment in India has registered a robust growth in the past two years. As per the reports, the residential vertical is the highest contributor to the growth in the smart TV market. Some factors that attributed to the growth in Smart TV sales are- increasing internet penetration, growth in income level and the trend of adoption of new technology standards by Indian households. And while Xiaomi is leading the budget Smart TV segment in India, there are only a handful of brands that are aggressively producing the premium 4K Smart TVs. Among these brands, Sony, LG and Samsung sit in the top bracket and offer some really expensive but brilliant big-screen TVs for the cinematic TV-viewing experience.
Sony recently stepped up the game with company's much anticipated Master Series A9F BRAVIA OLED TVs. Sony sent us the 55-inches A9F TV that as per the brand meets the strict criteria of Sony's top engineers to turn beautiful images a reality. The kind of multiple proprietary technologies this TV pack in makes it a viable option even for creators who can see their vision reproduced at home on a big screen.
I got to test it for over a week and I have to say that the A9F is a different game altogether. It produces super vivid picture quality and excellent audio but at the same time also asks a hefty amount for the performance. The 55-inches variant comes at a whopping 4 lacs that only a handful of people would be ready to spend. So if you are in the market to buy an absolute premium Smart TV, this review is for you.
Specifications and Features
The heart of the new A9F MASTER Series is the newly developed, next-generation Picture Processor X1 Ultimate. This chipset has the ability to detect and analyze each object in the picture through Sony's new ‘Object-based Super Resolution' mechanism for best-in-class accuracy and detail. As for the panel, the A9F comes in two screen sizes- 55-inch and 65-inches. Sony has used BRAVIA OLED screens that have over 8 million self-illuminating pixels individually controlled by the new Picture Processor X1 Ultimate. The 55-inch panel offers a resolution of 4K HDR (3840x2160). The TV is HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatible for video and DTS Digital Surround compatible for audio. There's 16GB of onboard storage with an expandable storage option.
The TV runs on Android TV 8.0 Oreo that allows you to take a great use of the Android ecosystem on big-screen. The A9F comes pre-installed with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Biglix and Sony Liv. For sound, the TV comes with Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology that makes up for a 3.2 channel sound delivery on the 55-inch variant. The TV requires a power voltage of AC 110-240V and consumes 380W of power in operation mode. The TV weighs 23.8 kgs without the TV stand and measures 1228 x 711 x 86 (8.1) mm (without stand). You get a standard Voice Remote Control with IR Blaster. Sadly, there's no Air remote in the package. Some other notable features include On/Off timer and sleep timer support.
Work of Art?
Sony has put a lot of efforts in designing the Master series A9F televisions. Built on the ‘Soft Minimalism' approach, Sony wants the Master series televisions to come out as a meaningful asset instead of just a physical object placed in your living room. The A9F presents a neat and minimal outlook. The big 55-inch panel has a nearly bezel-less appearance which makes the TV viewing experience extremely vivid and beautiful.
The TV is shipped with what Sony calls a BRAVIA stand. It is designed as a simple structure of square with metallic bars that come into contact with the underlying surface at individual points. The material used in constructing the stand is very sturdy and the inverted V-shape ensures stability while placing the TV a table. When placed on a table with the help of BRAVIA stand, the 9F looks just brilliant. This is the reason I wanted to place it on the table but due to space constraints, I had to mount the TV on the wall. Nevertheless, it still looks stunning. Overall, the new Master series A9F TVs from Sony is by far the best looking TV I have come across till now. The A9F has a solid premium visual presence and it also blends into the surroundings easily.
Lean back stand that doubles up as a sound chamber
The 55-inches A9F is made out of a single slate- the big 55-inch panel at front, and the entire structure only has a stand in the back to hold it up. Unlike any other television in the market, there's a lot more going in the stand placed at the rear panel. The stand does not just support the big slate; it also works as a sound chamber and connectivity hub. It houses the actuator and subwoofer and is covered with a fabric to maintain aesthetics. The TV frame is quite heavy, even without the stand and feels extremely robust. I mounted the unit on the wall and it looked just the best looking 55-inches TV I have reviewed so far. The bezels are extremely thin and all you get to see and experience is the endless OLED panel which is full of lively colors.
Picture Quality- One word- Excellent
Powered by Sony's latest chipset- X1 Ultimate, the Sony A9F produces most lifelike visuals on the OLED panel. Everything you see on this TV looks simply brilliant. The videos are full of contrast, clarity and true deep blacks that ensure best-in-class vivid colors. The chipset controls over 8 million self-illuminating pixels resulting in excellent detailing, depth and life-like textures in the scenes you are watching. For instance, I was able to see the most accurate and dramatic textures of leaves in Jungle Book, the fabric of Superhero's suits in Marvel and DC movies, and everything else in the most vivid representation that you could imagine watching on a big TV.
The mind-blowing contrast on the OLED panel can be attributed to the Pixel Contrast Booster, which is Sony's original panel controller for OLED. It also does the job of maximizing the dynamic range making the TV a great screen for playing rich graphical intensive console-level games. Sony in conjunction with Netflix has also added a new picture mode called ‘Netflix Calibrated Mode'. The mode presents the visuals in exactly the same way that an artist wants to show to the audience. It does add depth and detail to the visuals but also adds a slightly warmer color tone to the overall scene. The color hue will not be much of a problem as you have tones of picture settings to customize the scene output as per your requirement. Besides, the 4K HDR and Dolby Vision make everything just brilliant on this TV. With so much tech working in the background, the end result is the stunning and the most realistic and vivid movie viewing experience on a TV.
Audio performance: You won’t need a home theatre system
The audio performance on the new Master series BRAVIA TVs is much better as compared to the company's previous Sony X9000 series TVs. The Master series TVs come equipped with Multi-Dimensional Sound with Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology. The TV also has an additional actuator in the center of the screen and an extra subwoofer channel that creates a 3.2 channel sound system. There's a ‘TV Center Speaker Mode' that when enabled ensures you won't need an external home theatre system. The mode allows the Acoustic Surface Audio+ to be used as the center speaker of a home theater system, which enhances the overall audio clarity during dialogue delivery and instrumental audio playback.
The audio setup also creates a cinematic sound delivery by converting the OLED panel into a sound chamber with the help of actuators. What you get as an end result is a powerful sound that reaches out to you in absolute sync with the object in the video. As a result, the audio sounds fulfilling and immersive. The bass levels are good and dialogues sound clear. You can make dialogues sound even better by tweaking the audio settings. Combined with the Netflix calibrated mode, the movie watching experience on A9F is simply unparalleled. The effective HDR capabilities and brilliant contrast levels of the TV make it perfect to watch horror flicks which usually are mostly shot in the darker environment. The Acoustic Surface Audio+ created a multidirectional audio environment that made the ‘The haunting of the Hill' horror series worth every minute. Overall, Sony has produced its best-sounding TVs in the form of A9F Master Series TVs.
User Interface: Android TV 8.0 Oreo Operating System
The Master Series A9F BRAVIA OLED TVs run on Android TV 8.0 OS. The familiar Android TV UI on new Sony TVs feels faster, easier and more intuitive to use. There's no lag whatsoever and you can easily navigate throughout the UI despite the fact that the TV does not ship with an Air mouse. As the TV runs on Android, you can explore Google Play Store; install apps and even games to play on big OLED screen. The bundled remote control has a dedicated ‘Hands-Free Voice Search' button that speeds up the navigation process. Press the button and command the TV to search or play the content of your choice. The whole process works seamlessly as the built-in microphone on the TV is quite powerful and gives back results instantly. The remote also has a dedicated Netflix button. Overall, I did not experience much trouble while using the TV with the bundled remote; however, I would still want to see an Air remote with Sony's smart TVs in the future.
Sony has delivered a masterpiece of premium Smart TVs in the form of BRAVIA A9F OLED. The new TVs offer supreme picture quality and brilliant audio performance. The TVs run the Android 8.0 UI and are quite easy-to-use, plus the Netflix calibrated mode makes the A9F TVs just perfect for today's movie streaming content. If you have the kind of bank balance to spend the hefty amount of Rs. 4 lacs on a TV for yourself, the 55-inch A9F will simply leave you spellbound. These newly launched models will be available in Sony Centers and major electronic stores across India.