What is the Sony AG9?
The AG9 also features HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision high dynamic range formats along with dynamic tone mapping for static metadata systems and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG). There are a number of picture presets that attempt to produce accurate to the standards image quality out of the box, along with a Netflix Calibrated mode. Professional calibrators and AV enthusiasts with the correct equipment can also access the CalMAN for BRAVIA app and use AutoCal to calibrate the SDR performance of the AG9 OLED TV.
This review sample is a retail unit supplied by Crampton and Moore. They have kindly loaned us a brand new sealed TV from their retail stock so we can bring you an honest and in-depth appraisal of the model. Just like manufacturer-supplied units, Crampton and Moore have no input when it comes to the review and no influence on the results, they loan us the TV to support our unbiased reviews. If you want to help support us and are looking at buying a new TV, all we ask is that you consider Crampton and Moore for your purchase. The staff are happy to assist you with whatever products you might be interested in. Call Richard on 01302 365760 or email [email protected]
The Sony AG9 is also known as the BRAVIA A9G in North America and is available in screen sizes of 55-, 65- and 77-inches in the UK. We are reviewing a retail sample of the 55-inch model that retails for £2899 at the time of this review in August 2019.
Sony AG9 Video Review
Design, Connections, Control
The stand is flush with the bottom of the panel and raises it 5mm from your mounting surface, which makes it impossible to sit a soundbar directly in front of the TV.
As we have mentioned, the speakers of the TV is the panel itself with two stereo actuators vibrating the screen to create the higher frequencies and two woofers positioned on the rear of the set to create the lower frequencies. The effect of sound actually coming from the screen is a nice touch.
The rear of the panel has a 35mm deep section that houses the speaker woofers, electronics and connections. This is well designed with cover sections that can be added to hide cables and connectors for a 360-degree design effect. Cable management is also available on the rear of the TV stand with a cover to hide the cables.
All the HDMI slots are HDCP 2.3 compliant with 18Gbps support for 60P 4K 4:4:4 signals and Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10 support. There is eARC/ARC support on HDMI 3.
The remote control on the AG9 is a smart new design that fits with the price point and design language of the OLED TV. It has a brushed metal face with a new button layout that is still intuitive to use and it fits neatly in the hand, with a nice textured back section. The design is clean, clear and feels more expensive than the previous plastic affairs supplied with previous Sony flagship models. Well done Sony.
Sony AG9 Features
The AutoCal system is in its second year of use and it provides a level of automation to calibrating the AG9 using the correct equipment for SDR content. The set already has full white balance controls onboard, along with a new Colour Management System that is available on the X1 Ultimate TVs in 2019. Using the CalMAN from BRAVIA app also unlocks two further picture presets that can be used for day and night settings.
The AG9 also has a Netflix Calibrated mode and is a Netflix Certified TV. While it might seem like cheap marketing to the more cynical enthusiasts, we actually really like the Calibrated mode as it encourages users to actually watch content as it is meant to be seen. There is no secret sauce here; the Netflix Calibrated modes are just image presets set to the industry standards for accurate viewing. Switching between the accurate Custom mode and the Netflix mode shows no difference in image quality, as the Netflix modes are calibrated to the same industry standards. But we like the fact consumers will discover these and, after use, will hopefully realise how much more detailed and natural their viewing was in the accurate modes.
We also get some now-familiar Sony features with the AG9 such as the MotionFlow XR frame interpolation system, Dual database processing, Object-based Super Resolution, Object-based HDR remaster, 4K X-Reality Pro, Super Bit Mapping HDR technologies and more within the X1 Ultimate processor. The AG9 also has dynamic tone mapping for static metadata HDR10 content.
When it comes to HDR format support the Sony has Dolby Vision capability using player based profile, along with HLG broadcast and HDR10 static metadata systems. All that is missing is HDR10+ dynamic metadata playback, which does put the AG9 at a slight disadvantage when box-ticking against the Panasonic and Philips OLED TVs that feature both of the dynamic metadata HDR formats (in the UK).
The Smart TV system being used here is Android TV (8.0) and on the AG9 it was fast and stable, which was nice to experience having used previous versions that felt anything but fast or stable. We didn’t encounter any crashes in our time with this retail sample and speed was always fast enough to not draw any attention to itself. Finally, the Android system gets close to rivals for speed, stability and ease of use, but it still has some way to go to compete with Tizen or WebOS.
Finally, you have voice assistant compatibility with Google Assistant directly from the remote control and the AG9 also works with Alexa.
Sony AG9 Measurements
We used the Custom picture preset for this with white balance set to Expert 1 and gamma set for 2.4 dim room viewing. We also switched off all image processing and image manipulation features.
Moving to the Rec.709 HD colour gamut (top right) the slight blue push seen in the greyscale with the white point has moved some saturation points slightly towards blue. The majority of the saturation points from 75% and below are mostly in place with some small variance in hue in magenta and cyan. Again, our deltaE errors are under 2, which is well below the visible threshold, meaning the errors here are mostly invisible to the vast majority of viewers. Once again this is impressive accuracy out of the box on a retail consumer TV.
We did a fully manual calibration as well as an AutoCal pass to see what differences there are.
As expected, we ended up with reference level results for greyscale calibration (top left) doing a manual calibration before resetting and trying the AutoCal system and ending up with the same reference levels of accuracy with a deltaE of 0.26, which is miles below the visible threshold of 3. Of note is that the AutoCal system calibrates with a gamma of 2.2 and then uses the results to map the HDR calibration. You can set an alternative gamma of 2.4 after AutoCal.
Colour gamut results for Rec.709 (top right) were also reference level with average deltaE errors at 0.7 and a maximum of 1.9, which means no issues will be seen within actual viewing material. We expect a MASTER Series TV such as the AG9 to get to these types of results when it comes to SDR image accuracy after calibration.
Out of the box, the PQ EOTF tracking is slightly dark against the standard and peak brightness is 505nits, measured with the industry-standard 10% window in the accurate D65 white point mode. Obviously, as we keep stressing in our reviews and discussions in the podcast, peak brightness is just one factor to consider when it comes to HDR performance and any conclusion should be based on more than just this one measurement.
The Sony AG9 tone maps the same way with all static MaxCLL data it receives, so it doesn’t change its dynamic tone mapping for 1000, 4000 or 10000nits, rather it seems to work out its mapping on a scene by scene basis, where it tries to retain as much detail in the blacks, mid-tones and specular highlights before clipping. Brighter objects are more likely to be clipped by this approach, which retains the average picture level (APL) without the image getting too dark. However, it does track on the darker side of the industry standard PQ EOTF target and images are slightly darker when compared side by side with other OLEDs, but this is nothing to do with the peak brightness result, rather the tone mapping and PQ EOTF tracking.
Sony AG9 Performance
Blu-ray looks superb on the Sony with excellent motion for 24fps material and upscaling that is clean and sharp. Colour reproduction is also very good but the AG9 does have the WRGB white spectrum which is slightly cyan in nature, even with reference levels measurements and calibration. It is unseen in isolation but in side-by-side comparisons with the Panasonic GZ1500 there were differences in white balance, skin tones and colour reproduction in both SDR and HDR content.
Moving to HDR, the Sony AG9 produces a very compelling dynamic image that plays to the strengths of OLED technology with strong deep blacks, excellent just above black detailing and superb specular highlights within an image that is consistent in brightness and dynamic range. Colours are strong and well saturated without looking over the top or over-processed; indeed they look very natural, especially skin tones, which are realistic and lifelike. Added to excellent sharpness, panel uniformity and class-leading motion at 24fps, film watching is definitely a strong point with the Sony AG9.
We have a side-by-side video coming soon with the Panasonic GZ1500 and Sony AG9 but as part of this review, it is important to point out just how great these TVs are with a wide range of content.
It is also interesting to see the different approach to HDR tone mapping with static metadata HDR10 content. For example, a well-used scene in Pan has Tiger Lilly sitting on the edge of a cliff while the sun rises to the right of the frame. It is a 4000nit mastered grade which the AG9 treats the same as any level grade.
The GZ1500 is brighter across the image with more detail in the shadows and the rock face. She also stands out more with better definition in the Panasonic image with details in the shadows behind to the right. The Sony image brightness is reduced in comparison with less shadow detail in the rock face and she is harder to make out from the background. But looking at the right side of the frame we also see far more details in the specular highlights, with more colour detail and detailing in the clouds.
So in measurements and on-screen, the Sony might hint at being darker, but there is a difference to tone mapping static metadata. The AG9 is usually the more consistent and balanced image without obvious clipping in the brighter areas, but there is also a slight lack of detail at the lower end of the scale.
The Panasonic is a little more accurate with colour and skin tones, but it is very difficult to separate both TVs with the majority of content with each approach having both pros and cons - but at the splitting hair level of the scale. Both of these screens are stunning in comparisons and isolation and the slightly different approaches with static metadata are interesting, but far from deal breaking. You just wouldn’t see the differences in isolation.
With Dolby Vision content it was more obvious that the Sony wasn’t quite as dynamic as the Panasonic, retaining its slightly darker image tone.
However, as we have stressed throughout, all the modern higher-end OLED screens are so close to each other in terms of absolute performance, it really does come down to the slight differences in tone mapping and other attributes which makes separating them very difficult.
The Sony is a stunning OLED TV with superb SDR accuracy and extremely consistent HDR10 tone mapping with a decent Dolby Vision performance. It’s a shame that the AG9 doesn’t also have HDR10+, but this is probably also not a deal-breaker for many users. Overall, the picture performance is superb with excellent colour, motion and dynamic range.
- Good accuracy out of the box
- Reference calibration results for SDR
- Consistent HDR10 performance
- Dolby Vision and HLG support
- Superb motion and upscaling
- Acoustic Surface Pro+
- Netflix Calibrated Mode
- No HDMI 2.1
- No HDR10+ Support
- Expensive compared to the competition
Sony AG9/A9G (KD-55AG9) OLED TV Review
The MASTER Series ethos is achieved here with superb image accuracy and strong natural colour performance both out of the box and calibrated.
If we cover the slight issues first, it could be argued that the AG9 doesn’t really advance the image quality and features over last year’s AF9 model, although the design is perhaps easy to live with this year.
The other issue some consumers might also have with the AG9 is the pricing versus the performance. We compared the 55-inch AG9 with a 55-inch Panasonic GZ1500 at £2299.99 which is the same TV as the GZ950 minus the soundbar, and that is available at £1799.99. As we saw in the comparisons, the image quality was at the same level with some slight differences in HDR tone mapping performance, with the Panasonic being stronger with colour and skin tones as well as much better just above black. The Sony had better tone mapping for purists with a more consistent APL performance. Plus the Panasonic OLEDs also have Dolby Vision and HDR10+ on board. All this does make the £2899.99 price point of the AG9 a little expensive in comparison, plus, the 55-inch LG C9 is just as cost-effective as the Panasonic models, which leaves Sony at the top end of the price scale on their own.
SDR images look superb with excellent upscaling and motion with no obvious artefacts or issues. Image accuracy is stunning at times for SDR film content along with faultless 24fps motion and a presentation that looks incredibly cinematic.
HDR figures might at first look disappointing, but the proof is definitely in the pudding with the Sony applying superb HDR10 dynamic tone mapping that retains image fidelity and consistency. It also produces deep blacks, good above black details and decent highlights. The AG9 provides a nicely balanced HDR10 and Dolby Vision image.
Finally, looking at the user interface, the Android TV system is now stable and fast with a nice spread of apps, which also feature 4K HDR content. This is a big step up when compared to previous high-end Sony models. Plus, we like the new remote design that now fits with the design and price point.
When you get to this end of the OLED TV market it becomes incredibly difficult to find the one model that does everything perfectly, which is a common theme we keep coming back to. There is no such thing as the perfect TV.
The Sony has plenty of strong points with excellent video processing and image quality in both SDR and HDR, which does live up to their MASTER Series ideology and comes highly recommended. We would, however, wait for pricing to fall from current levels.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
HDR Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease of Use
Value for Money
SDR Picture Quality
Our Review Ethos
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