In late 2018, after its success with the AF8, Sony introduced the new AF9 OLED from the Sony Master Series. Sony advertises the AF9 with the confident slogan “the king of screens.” And with a minimum price tag of CHF 3500, this is undoubtedly the king in terms of price. We took a closer look at Sony’s flagship TV over a two-week period so that we could tell you whether the hype keeps its promises and is worth the upgrade.
The AF9 looks extremely sleek. Compared with the AF8, this TV does not stand straight up on its support leg but leans slightly back so that the folding stand firmly supports it. But you really can’t see much of a difference from the front apart from the display. In my opinion, it’s an elegant solution for hiding everything else, even if it creates problems with TV furniture that’s too narrow. The support stand now also incorporates two side-mounted subwoofers, which do an effective job of amplifying the sound (see below). The AF9 has four 4k/60p HDMI ports as well as an AV minijack input and an S/PDIF, an Ethernet, and two USB outputs. The remote control, though, is a standard Sony soft-button remote control and consequently doesn’t fit with the utterly elegant standard that Sony otherwise set for the AF9.
Android 8: User-friendly TV OS
For years, I’ve actually only been using my Apple TV for watching TV. It’s connected to a network-attached storage device (NAS), and I’ve also installed Teleboy, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. A lot of televisions struggle with an interface that’s simple and appealing at the same time. But this time Sony succeeded at this with its integration of Google’s Android 8. The Android TV OS, long favored by Sony, was totally frustrating in its earlier versions. In the new Oreo version, though, it’s been heavily revised and simplified, making it easy to use and giving it a clean look. The only drawback is that you can’t pair the TV with a smartphone so that you can use the keyboard to enter your Google login info more quickly and easily.
Sony also repeatedly surprises me with its sound. While my normal set-up includes two Apple HomePods combined with an AppleTV, Sony has now for the second time made it possible for me to simply deactivate this combination. The sound from the AF9 is clear, and thanks to Acoustic Surface technology, the sounds come from the center of the screen instead of emanating from some indefinable place behind the TV. The screen turns into a vibrating sound box that, together with the side amplifiers and woofers, provides an amazingly rich sound experience. There’s no comparison with loudspeakers, which either transmit the sound from the side or through the sound reverberating off the wall from behind.
I could now furnish you with some abstract figures that support the superior image quality, but there’s actually only one thing you can say about it: the AF9 is sensational. All of OLED’s strengths, like the perfect black and vivid, rich, realistic colors, display at the highest standard. The HDR mode does a brilliant job of supporting HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision, and even using the regular HD setting, Sony’s new XI Ultimate chip delivers high contrast and delicate detail as though that was the easiest thing in the world. That always makes it fun to watch movies and TV shows on the AF9. One feature that I personally find exciting applies only to Netflix for now, where Sony is using preset screen settings specified by the manufacturer of the film or series, which means that the show appears the way the producers envisioned it.
If you’re thinking about getting an AF9, you’ll also have to ante up the required change. Although Sony’s flagship TV has gotten a bit less expensive by comparison with its forerunner, the AF8, at a minimum of CHF 3500, it’s absolutely still at the high end of the televisions on the market. But it’s also unbelievably good.
As with the AF8, I’m also happy with its successor, the AF9. In my opinion, the design has significantly improved now that they’ve done away with the classic TV support stand. I like the new Android 8 (Oreo) a lot, and it’s easy to use. Unfortunately, there’s no WiFi connection option that, for example, would allow you to log in with your smartphone. Otherwise, the AF9 is impressive, with its brilliant picture and convincing sound. But if you already have an AF8, there’s no need to rush out and upgrade to an AF9, given its enormous price tag. Before buying, you should also make sure that you’re able to set up this visually stunning device in your home since it’s important to have enough space, especially in terms of depth.