The cutting edge of television technology will cost you seventy large. Sony has settled on a price of $69,999.99 — they couldn’t round up? — for the 98-inch Sony Master Series Z9G 8K HDR OLED TV. This will be the 2019 flagship of the Sony television line and it ships in June. The Z9G measures 86.75 inches wide by 55.0 inches tall by 4.38 inches deep. For a cleaner look, it can be bracket-mounted to any wall that can support 208 pounds.
Sony will be offering seven OLED TVs coming to market in May and June, two of them 8K OLEDs. If you’re on a comparative budget and opt for the 85-inch Masters Series Z9G 8K HDR TV, you’ll pay just $12,999.99. You retain 87 percent of the diagonal screen size and pay 19 percent of the price of the flagship. (Or to be fairer, you retain 75 percent of the screen area for 19 percent of the price.) A 77-inch 4K OLED is $8,000 compared with 75-inch LCD TVs at $2,000-$3,500.
Unless you buy into the Tiny House concept and live life so small you can’t fit a decent TV, the cost of a few months of cable dwarfs the cost of most consumer TVs. Last we checked, FIOS, Comcast and Spectrum don’t discount if you watch on a 37-inch TV. Only two of Sony’s 13 TVs announced for mid-2019 are under 50 inches (43 and 49 inches). As for this year’s Sony TVs, there will be six series (levels). Each will run Android TV and, via a summer update, support Apple AirPlay2 and Homekit. Five will be OLED sets, meaning they have the brightness of now-departed plasma TVs but you can use them in day-lit rooms, not just at night or with the drapes closed.
Organic light emitting diodes — OLEDs — are another technology developed by Kodak that didn’t keep the company from shrinking to a tenth of its peak size. OLEDs emit their own light and beat liquid-crystal display (LCD) TVs for brightness, contrast ratio, darker dark areas of the picture, and refresh rate. LCD TVs require the light from cold cathode fluorescent lamps or LEDs to illuminate the liquid crystals. If a TV is sold as an LED TV, that means it’s an LED-illuminated LCD TV. Sony’s first OLED TV, the XEL-1, had an 11-inch diagonal display and quarter-HD resolution, or 960 x 540, and cost $2,500 in 2008. Sorry, $2499.99. Today, Sony, Samsung, LG, and Vizio sell OLED TVs.
The two pricy Z9G models will be 8K, meaning 7,680 x 4,320, or 33,177,600 pixels. (It also means the TVs are not 98 and 85 inches, only 97.6 and 84.6 inches diagonal, but Sony notes it in the fine print, so hold off calling in a class-action lawyer.) To push all the pixels around, both TVs include an 8K-modified version of the Sony X1 Ultimate processor, or upconverter, to turn HD (1920 x 1080) and 4K / Blu-ray (3840 x 2160) into 8K images, as there isn’t much 8K content available, let alone widespread 4K content other than shiny discs and streaming material.
True 8K content is mostly a future thing. It was only in 2018 that some Super Bowl cameras were finally 4K. If you want the brightest picture at more reasonable prices, Sony also has three high-end 4K OLED TVs for a lot less, in Master Series A9G OLED sets: 55 inches, $3,500; 65 inches, $4,500; and 77 inches, $8,000. A lesser A8G 4K OLED series sells for $1,000 less than the A9G 4K OLEDs, also in 55- and 65-inch viewing sizes. One difference: The costlier TVs use Sony’s Picture Processor X1 Ultimate over the lesser-featured X1 Extreme upscaler.
Sony’s TVs also use an Acoustic Surface Audio technology that, in the company’s words, “creates sound from the entire screen, providing pictures and sound in perfect harmony … a perfect unification of picture and sound that conventional TVs cannot deliver.” That or you could buy a decent soundbar. If you’re buying this much TV, you really should invest $1,000 to $2,500 in a 5.1 surround system — three front speakers, two rears, and one subwoofer that is the dot-one part — either on or in the walls. You could also spend $50,000 on something like this.
Sony also makes traditional 4K HDR TVs, including an 85-inch X850G for $3,500, a 75-inch X800G 4K TV for $2,000, and a 65-inch model for $1,200 — the last less than your annual cable bill in many cases.
In the years of standard-def TV, there were rules about the proper viewing distance, such as two times the screen diagonal or three times the height. That means for the mondo 98-inch Sony, you’d be sitting 16 feet away, minimum. In the 1960s-1970s, TVs emitted what we now know were unsafe levels of radiation, and even after that, if you sat too close, with standard def you’d discern individual pixels. If you played a standard-definition program on the big Sony without using its upconverter, each pixel would be about an eighth of an inch on center.
With 4K or 8K material, the how-close-do-I-sit limit is being able to take in the entire image at once. That puts the minimum view distance for a 98-inch TV at 8-12 feet for 4K or 8K, 12 to 16 feet for HD (1920 x 1080) material that isn’t upconverted.
As for why Sony calls its biggest and best TVs the Master Series: It’s a snap to buy the 98-inch TV if you’re Tiger Woods, and you took home the $2,070,000 winner’s paycheck and green jacket at the Masters golf tournament. In fact, every one of the top 31 players at the Masters — down to Bryson DeChambeau, Charley Hoffman, and Louis Oosthuizen tied for 29th and took home $78,200 each — could afford the big Sony with that one check. Tiger may want help bringing the TV home. He weighs 185 pounds; the box with the TV, table stand and floor stand weigh in at a total of 394 pounds.
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