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Review: Sony KD-55AG9 (AG9 series) Ultra HD OLED TV

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The KD-55AG9 (AG9 series) oled TV represents the best that Sony has to offer, the device therefore bears the “Master Series” label. It is the successor to the van handsome AF9 so our expectations are high. But on paper the specifications seem very similar: OLED, X1 Ultimate processor and Acoustic Surface. Where are the differences?

Sony KD-55AG9 – specifications

  • What: Ultra HD OLED
  • Screen size: 55 inch (139 cm), flat
  • Connections: 4x HDMI (1x eARC, 4x v2. 0a), 1x composite video, 1x stereo minijack, 1x optical digital out, 3x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphone, 3x antenna, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, Android TV (8.0 Oreo), Chromecast, USB / DLNA media player, dual DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + slot, voice control, X1 Ultimate 4K HDR processor
  • Dimensions: 1,226 x 714 x 223 mm (incl. Base) )
  • Weight: 22.3 kg (incl. Base)
  • Consumption: 132 / 0.5 watt (Energy rating B)
  • List price: 3,000 euros

A complete overview of all models that Sony brought to market in 2019, you will find here: top models high end middle class . Here you will also find the complete specifications per model.

Sony KD-55AG9 – design

A fine, black metal frame encloses the thin OLED screen, at the front you really see nothing but image. The frame is slightly wider at the bottom, which offers room for a discreet Sony logo.

Where the AF9 still had a striking, slightly reclining design, the AG9 opted for a more ordinary, upright design. The official Sony photos still show the screen leaning slightly backwards, but the screen is indeed perpendicular.

A small, rather shallow base plate is provided, so that you need minimal depth to set up the device. The construction is very solid. Please note, the device does not touch your furniture. So there is certainly no possibility to put a soundbar in front of the TV. The reverse side is decorated with a pattern of squares. The covers covering the connections are therefore virtually invisible.

Connections

The four HDMI connections are on the side (one piece) and at the back (three pieces). They are all equipped with HDCP 2.3, and are also all ready for Ultra HD HDR. Those who want the best quality for their external HDR sources, choose the “Enhanced setting” in the settings (Settings / Watching TV / External Inputs / HDMI Signal format). The HDMI3 HDMI support for eARC extended Audio Return Channel, but that is the only HDMI 2.1 feature on board. Also on this top model no gaming features such as ALLM, VRR or HFR, yet a strange choice for the manufacturer that also has a game console in its range.

On the side are two USB connections, and a USB 3.0 at the back. On the side there is also a headphone output and a composite video input. The digital optical output, network connections and rear antenna connections are all facing downwards. This is useful for wall mounting. Bluetooth is also provided if you prefer to use wireless headphones.

Sony KD-55AG9 – ease of use

The AG9 oled TV works with Android 8 (Oreo). Installation is smooth and easy, and you can avoid having to type in a username and password by using your smartphone and Google's 'set up my device'.

Remote control

The 2019 remote control got a new look and some layout changes. We are generally very satisfied with that. The design is somewhat slimmer, the top is finished in faux brushed metal, the bottom in black plastic with a rough texture. The remote uses traditional keys, no more rubber on top that also covers all keys. It is comfortable to hold and the keys are easy to press.

The circle with keys around the d-pad has disappeared. It has been replaced by regular keys, and other functions have also been chosen at those locations. For example, the inputs, microphone, and settings are now at the top, and the back button, TV, and Home at the bottom. That choice is a lot more convenient in daily use, especially since the microphone and inputs are accessible without having to move your hand. There are still direct buttons for Netflix and Google Play. Only the playback keys below are still a bit too small.

Finally, the remote works with IR, but also via Bluetooth (you have to activate that in the menus), so you don't have to aim. Only the power key always works via IR. In short, not a revolutionary new remote, but a good set of improvements.

Sony KD-55AG9 – features

Smart TV platform

The AG9 uses the same chipset as those in the ZF9 / AF9 (MediaTek MT5893 ), but in a slightly modified configuration. The quad-core ARM Cortex-A73 only received 2.5 GB RAM instead of the 4 GB RAM found on the ZF9. However, the other specs (Mali-G71 GPU and 16GB internal storage) remain identical. The chipset works a lot smoother than the previous one, but why Sony also equips its top model with less RAM than last year. For the time being, however, the choice does not seem to have any serious disadvantages.

Smart functions

Those looking for a handy overview of the possibilities of Android 8 (Oreo) can visit our Android 8 Oreo overview article . ]

The channels provide a convenient way to browse content from built-in apps, and also show the most recent TV channels that you visited. Chromecast will of course remain built-in. Nevertheless, Android TV remains less useful than the Samsung Smart Hub or LG WebOS.

Sony has considerably adjusted its own menus, and we can be clear about that, which is an excellent improvement. The entries now appear in a ribbon at the bottom of the screen with large icons. You can also adjust the content via the tile on the right at the end of the ribbon. You can hide, add or display tiles automatically when they are connected. You can also add apps. The “Inputs” button thus becomes an alternative and fast way to start all your favorite TV functions. An excellent idea.

The settings menu has also been adjusted. This also now appears in a ribbon at the bottom, and you can also adjust this so that you have functions that you regularly use quickly at hand. The complete menu can be reached by selecting “settings” in the ribbon.

The TV key below gives access to the program overview and the electronic TV guide. The TV is equipped with a double TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2) but only has one CI + slot. Watching and simultaneously recording another channel is only possible with channels that are not encrypted. The media player is fairly complete, but refused our old Divx files. Install Vlc, Kodi or Plex as an alternative media player. The music player does not know what to do with ALAC, but with all standard music formats and tags.

Sony KD-55AG9 – Image quality

The AG9 uses a 2019 OLED panel.

Take this into account that OLED panels may be susceptible to burn-in . With normal use that would be no problem according to Sony. Never turn off the power completely, but leave the television in standby so that it can do the necessary work behind the scenes to prevent any visible effects.

Main settings

In our article about professional calibration from a TV you can read all about the possibilities to achieve the best image settings with a professional. If you want to get started yourself, go through our home cinema information guide . Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV. With the basic settings, we have come to the following settings for this TV:

General Advanced / Brightness Color Sharpness / Movement
Image mode: User
Auto Image mode: Off
Brightness : Max
Color: 50
Light sensor: on *
Brightness: Max
Contrast: 90
Gamma: -2
Black level: 50
Black adjust: off
Av. Contrast optimization: Off
Peak lighting: Middle
Color: 50
Color tone: 0
Color Temperature: Expert 1
Live Color: Off
Image sharpness: 50
Reality Creation: Auto *
Random noise reduction: Low *
Digital noise reduction: Low *
Smooth Gradation: LowMotionFlow: Auto, or flexibility 2, brightness Low.
Film Mode: Auto

Explanation of main settings; [19659068] The 'User' image mode provides the best calibrated start.

  • Reality Creation: improves detail display. The Auto mode is generally fine, whoever prefers the pure approach turns it off, or switches to Manual 20. For more detail, you can go up to 40, but avoid higher settings.
  • Activate both noise suppressions in the lowest position, especially if you set Reality Creation higher than 20. In that case we would even recommend “Middle”.
  • Motionflow: out for the purists, car for those who opt for the easiest solution. Manual tinkering is also possible. Set flexibility to 2 and brightness to low.
  • If you look a lot in strong daylight, then also try the Cinema setting.
  • General image processing

    Like its predecessor, the AF9, the AG9 is equipped with the top image processor X1 Ultimate. As we saw on the AF9 and XG95, it delivers excellent results. All film and video frame rates are recognized quickly. Comb effects, serrated edges or moire are therefore very rare. The noise reduction does a great job, both for random noise and compression noise (blocking). Keep both settings in the lowest position, so you do not lose any detail but you still remove some noise. Moreover, you can activate Reality Creation to give the image some extra sharpness and detail. “Flowing gradation” remains an excellent solution to avoid color bands. This setting is best left in “low”, higher positions also risk removing detail or making the image too flat. The “middle” position can be considered if your source contains many color bands.

    The motion sharpness of OLED TVs is very good. But to keep detail as visible as possible in action scenes or sports, you leave MotionFlow in the “Auto” position. An occasional image artifact with complex backgrounds cannot be excluded. An alternative is to choose manually, and set “Suppleness” to 2 or even 1. The “Brightness” setting controls the black frame insertion (BFI) technique. It is best to leave it on “Low”, in the “High” position you see the image flicker and it gets darker. Yes, the name is not intuitive: “Low” does indeed provide higher brightness.

    General image properties

    The AG9 suppressed a little bit of shadow detail in SDR. You can adjust the black level to 51 to solve that, but whoever wants to play on certainly leaves that setting undisturbed. The loss is very small and hardly bothered. We also noticed that the AG9 in our dark Game Of Thrones scene had some problems with the banding effects. The result is sometimes a somewhat disturbing effect of softly varying brightness in the image, but we did not see the effect on other image material, not even with similar color tones. This may therefore be a difficult but exceptional case. Anyway, there is still room for improvement in dark scenes.

    “Peak lighting” in a certain sense controls the maximum brightness, why Sony provides a separate setting for that is unclear to us. If you look at total eclipse, you can select the “Low” setting, but we found the “Middle” setting to be fine for all circumstances. With a lot of ambient light you can go one step higher.

    The “User” mode provides the best calibration. The gray scale is slightly too cool (very light blue / cyan overtone). Color range and color reproduction are very beautiful, and result in natural images with pleasant skin tones. Together with the perfect contrast and excellent brightness, this provides a great viewing experience. If you mainly watch in daylight, choose the Cinema image preset, which is a bit more intense.

    HDR

    This Sony supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG, only HDR10 + is missing from the list. The 2019 OLED panels have not been fundamentally improved. The maximum luminance is therefore in line with the results of the 2018 AF9. Just like its predecessor, the AG9 achieves a slightly lower peak luminance than its competitors. We measure 614 nits on a 10% window (we achieve 720 nits on a 2% window) and 140 nits on a completely white field. The color range is excellent: 94% DCI-P3 and 68% Rec.2020.

    Sony forgot to add the word “HDR” in image modes, and you also get no message on the screen. The only way to see that you are actually viewing HDR content is to go to the full image menu. A detail, but still.

    The “User” image mode provides the best calibration. The brightness perfectly follows the EOTF curve. Black detail is all visible in HDR. The Sony apparently ignores the metadata and analyzes the image itself to provide a form of dynamic tonemapping. In contrast to the AF9 and XG95, however, white detail always remains hidden, the AG9 seems to exclude white detail above 2,000 nits. That is not a serious problem, the loss will always be very limited, but we are not sure why Sony adjusted this. Certainly on a screen that has the ambition to correctly display “director's intent.”

    HDR images are a pleasure to watch. They have a lot of depth and the rich colors are accurately used for an intense, vibrant experience.

    Reflections and viewing angles

    The viewing angle of the AG9 is excellent, a feature that it shares with all other OLED TVs. It handles reflections fairly well.

    Gaming

    In the ordinary image modes we measure a lag of 102 ms, which is too much for decent gaming. In lag game mode, the lag drops to 26.5 ms a very good result.

    Sony KD-55AG9 – Audio quality

    Acoustic Surface has been one of the distinguishing features of Sony OLED TVs for some time. Small actuators vibrate the screen to produce the sound. The screen thus serves as a speaker cone. The low frequencies are provided by two woofers that are built into the back. Because only the high frequencies come through the screen, there is no visible impact on the image.

    In 2018, Acoustic Surface on the AF9 was upgraded to Acoustic Surface Audio +, with three pairs of actuators and more power. However, Sony took a step back in the 2019 AG9. The third actuator on the screen was omitted and where the AF9 still supplied 98 Watts of power, that is on the AG9 60 Watts.

    Let's be clear, Acoustic Surface still offers very good audio quality, better than many other televisions. . Dialogs can be placed perfectly on the screen and sound crystal clear. There is sufficient detail and bass for music and soundtracks. But the reduced power is heard lightly. At higher volumes you hear that the sound loses some quality. The bass is pushed away a bit and the sound is less impressive. We are still satisfied with the result, but do not see the usefulness of the 'downgrade' well.

    Like its predecessor, the AG9 can be connected to your AV receiver thanks to the center speaker connections. That way you can integrate television into a more powerful sound solution. The AG9 supports Dolby Atmos passthrough via its HDMI eARC function.

    Review equipment

    We use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter for lag measurement. For all other measurements, we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze possible HDR problems.

    Sony KD-55AG9 – Conclusion

    On paper there are hardly any differences between the 2018 AF9 and the 2019 AG9. The most important change is a slightly less powerful audio solution. Acoustic Surface Audio + continues to sound very good, and the difference is probably not very big, but we think it is a remarkable decision. The TV can still serve as a center speaker if you use an AV receiver. On the plus side, the KD-55AG9 got the new 2019 user interface and remote control, which is a nice improvement. Whether or not you like the new design is a personal decision, but it is slightly less unique than the reclining design of the AF9.

    And what about the image? The differences with the AF9 are also very small there. The Sony hides a minimum of black detail in SDR footage and sometimes some white detail in HDR footage. The latter in particular is strange, since neither the XG95 nor the AF9 did this. But apart from that, the results are excellent. You get very sharp detail, natural but intense colors and a good calibration, straight out of the box, both in SDR and HDR. But at the end, we still have to consider whether the KD-55AG9 is worth its price compared to other models in the market, such as the LG C9, or compared to its predecessor, the AF9.

    Cons

    • Hides possible some white detail in HDR
    • Hides some black detail in SDR
    • Audio solution is less powerful than on the predecessor
    • Price

    Plus points

    • Image processing
    • Perfect OLED contrast, and sufficient black detail [19659105] Very good motion sharpness
    • Improved user experience (Android8 and remote)
    • Acoustic Surface Audio +

    Homecinema Magazine
    Review
    8.5 10 Eric Beeckmans product

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    Source: kieskeurig.nl

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    Source: kieskeurig.nl

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